The lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song from the 1970’s, serve as a fitting lament to the derogation of Dominica’s natural environment for what is perceived as “development”.
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot,
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,
They’ve paved paradise and put in a parking lot.
My latest concern relates to the construction of a four-mile cable car route through the Morne Trois Pitons World Heritage Site.
The derogation of the world’s natural environment is nothing new. A century ago, the pioneering environmentalist, Sir George Stapledon wrote:
…the first thing to be decided is the priority of the innumerable claims that the modern state makes on its land surface. When a country is vast and the population is small, the question of priority of claims hardly arises: but in small islands the matter is of extreme urgency. If we take a long view of the case there is not an inch of land to spare, and it is an outrage to posterity to misuse a single yard of it.
Nearer to home, and closer to our time, Virgin Island poet Sheila Hyndman (1958-1991) while still a school girl, prophesized the future of her beloved homeland.
They will come with tools and machines.
They will bring to light your secret places,
They will demand your mysteries.
They will destroy, build up.
They will dilute your treasures,
And rob you of your chastity.
They will adorn you like ancient Jezebel.
My disillusionment of what is regarded as progress became acute when in I travelled the region in search of material for my book “Caribbean Sketches”. As with my earlier book, “Virgin Island Sketches”, I was working against the clock in attempting to capture each island before it degenerated into being the same as everywhere else. Cruise ship passengers step ashore to the same spurious scene at every port of call. We tend to forget that the individuality of places reflects the individuality of ourselves.
Our fundamental challenge is to re-evaluate the past in order to determine if what was originally considered “development” has in fact been in the best long-term interest of Dominicans. In connection with the airport, the Prime Minister has urged all citizens to, “reject the efforts of the enemies of progress”. But not all progress is necessarily beneficial to Dominica in the long term. And that is what those he labelled as “enemies” are concerned about.
Likewise, the Prime Minister has warned critics of the government’s national housing program that adverse criticism is not welcome because his work is guided by God… “I am basically an instrument…you will not be criticizing the Government; you will be criticizing God”. On the other hand, at last week’s press conference he stated that the lack of progress on the National Library was “because nobody wants to discuss that kind of debate”.
I can understand the frustration that the necessary checks and balances can cause. As Winston Churchill claimed:
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.
In relation to the cable car project, first and foremost on the list of checks and balances should be an Environmental Impact Assessment. To the best of my knowledge, this has not been carried out.
While we laud this “Isle of Beauty” in our National Anthem, future generations may rightly accuse us of despoiling their legacy with insensitive development. I am sure that returning Dominicans want to find some visage of the land they left behind and that tourists are willing to accept the “Nature Island” on its own terms.
I have read the tempting cable car hyperbole:
It will feature Dominica as a major tourist destination as many people will be excited to come and visit the second-largest boiling lake in the world…A feasibility survey revealed that the completion of the cable car project would result in a three-fold increase in the country’s tourism…The 10-passenger detachable gondola would provide visitors with a fast, reliable and comfortable means of visiting the national park in less than 20 minutes, etc.
But putting the hyperbole aside, it was this video: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6H5teLsseY that clenched my views on the inappropriateness of the project.
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Writer has good literary talent but it is very clear the obvious subjective perspective and intended impact…
Reminder of the Aerial Tram .I and many others who utilised it surely enjoyed the novel experience.
Any Development will gave impact,some less than others .That is exactly why EIA studies are part of such projects. Is he suggesting we use ropes a la Tarzan phenomena??¡¡¡.
It’s just anti-government bias masquerading as environmentalism. Majority of the people who comment here are opposition supporters with an axe to grind. A small vocal minority that give negative feedback to anything positive that the government does but can never seem to get enough support to even be relevant in elections.
Most people in government have never been to the Boiling Lake or Valley of Desolation. If they had, they’d realize instantly that such a proposal needs a detailed engineering and environmental study, not just a financial analysis. All of them behave like kids in a sweet shop – they just cannot resist. They don’t care that in the long run, it may rot their teeth. They just want immediate satisfaction. It’s an irresponsible and unprofessional attitude to government and the environment they like to sing about when it suits them. It’s an active volcano for goodness sake! Doesn’t that ring any alarm bells with these simpletons?
What company plans to build this? Concrete expanding in all directions of the rain forest suggests total disregard for Dominica’s environment.
It’s rather ominous that the video ends with the words ‘cable car project takes you on a journey to heaven’. Given it’s to be constructed on an active volcano, that’s what I’d be afraid of!
Very funny Lucas but that only works if you pass St.Peter’s scrutiny first …..and you might have to bribe him first better start here on earth bro. and find out which church he belongs too before you make your donation.
Thanks for promoting the video. If more intelligent people see how marvelous this concept looks they will understand why we need that type of development.
YOU do not really strike me as an intelligent person.
Amen to that Roger. You are spot on. Progress is not about cutting down trees but finding a way of living with them and nurturing them in harmony with nature. Whereas the world is chasing that ideal right now we are moving in the opposite direction and pretenting we care and are happy to solicit money from generous donors for sustainability and preservation at the same time. Do our authorities respect gullible friends like that. I don’t think so. Their attitude says otherwise.
Progress (King Austin)
Today, when I look around in the world, what do I see
I see footprints that man have left on the sand
While waking through times
I see fruits of our ambitions
Figments of our imaginations
And I ask myself, when will it end, when will it end
It is plain to see universally this land is not bountiful as it was
Simply because in its quest for success
Nothing stands in man’s way
Old rivers run dry, soon the birds wouldn’t fly
The mountains will be no longer high
And when I really think of it
I does wonder why, oh why
..as the savage hands of unscrupulous men defile everything pass by
Time is running out as we eat and
drink species at the brink of being extinct
And I think no one can deny that the price
of progress is high, real high
Whine and complain. While I’m not a big fan of foreign investment because it leads to foreign ownership of our resources, I am interested in Dominican people having jobs and the dignity they provide. I am also a fan of our majestic natural beauty, but if I cannot access it, it does not do me much good. I am not a fan of Roosevelt Skerrit either, but I wonder, what ideas do you have for job creation? How do you propose we monetize our resources? Do you have solutions or do you just like to complain? Aks I aksing.
If you search DNO archives, you will find that many of the commentaries that I’ve submitted over the years are about solutions to the questions you are asking.
Dominica is rich in resources but poor in initiatives.
Like a broken record, the Hon. Minister for Tourism touts her government’s resilient agenda to all who will listen. In the recent past, she has gone on record urging nationals to “take ownership of their resilient future.” One speculates whether the aim is to destroy the present to make make way for that resilient by and by. And, never mind if heritage becomes a fringe issue along the way. In the words of King Austin of T&T in his song “Progress” no one can deny that the price of progress is high, real high.
Juanita, I’m afraid she heard the church bell ring but has no idea where the clapper is. Typical example of the Peter principle whereby people are promoted beyond their their capabilities and scope of comprehension. Skerrit likes it so in order to secure their unquestioned loyalty but I does make our country look stupid though.