COMMENTARY: A State of Self-Sufficiency

Taken from “Caribbean Sketches” by Roger Burnett

 

A State of Self-Sufficiency

In earlier commentaries, I have alluded to self-sufficiency. I will now risk getting into deep water by enlarging on my vision of what Dominica could aspire to. Let me warn you from the onset, my vision will not please everyone. Furthermore, it does not offer a quick-fix solution for the difficulties we face in the wake of Hurricane Maria. My vision is long term. It will take at least a generation to move from one mindset to another.

I know of no other equivalent place on earth that has the resources to achieve this elusive self-sufficient state. Perhaps this is why larger nations take an envious interest in us. We are potentially the world’s richest nation and yet we wallow in poverty and dependency. Why? Because we hanker after a lifestyle that Dominica is incapable of sustaining.

If you want street lights through the Forestry Reserve, my vision of Dominica is not for you. Likewise: houses designed for a temperate lifestyle rather than tropical living; large-scale manufacturing plants, mass tourism and vehicles of which 50% of the gadgetry, cost and fuel consumption is superfluous for the core task of getting you from one place to another. On the trajectory that Dominica is presently pursuing we will need an International Airport, but for my vision of Dominica, we don’t. There will be less toing and froing. We will be content to stay put and our visitors will be long-term.

My vision of self-sufficiency – which is in effect a true form of independence – goes beyond growing what we eat and eating what we grow. We have the resources to provide 80% of what a simpler lifestyle needs. By “simple” I am not advocating going back to the dark ages. Just as we have realised that black is beautiful we must also realise that the simple can be profound.

While the rest of the region pursues a “climate-smart zone”, by developing self-sufficiency, individually and as a nation, we will end up smarter than they are. Self-sufficiency equates to resilience, be it climate or anything else.

In my Self-Sufficient Building Code:

Each house will have a secure space that can shelter a family and their valuables in a hurricane. There will be no need to run to a community shelter and leave everything behind.

Each house will generate its own electricity, by wind, water or sun. There will be no need to carry mains electricity about on poles which, with our terrain and climate, is as un-resilient as you can get!

Each house will have its own cistern and not be reliant on piped water.

I am all for embracing technology. Two hundred years ago it was thought that the machine would free man from universal toil, whereas in fact it robbed him of his skills and made him a slave to the factory production line. Perhaps now, the technology that is embedded in the internet can go a long way to achieving that earlier goal. For a start, it could enable many to work from their home environment, rather than spending the beginning and end of each day commuting to an office.

The sketch of a banana plantation that illustrates this commentary is not meant to harp back to the days of “green gold”, but to look forward to even greater potentials that this crop could offer Dominica. In an earlier commentary, I wrote about my success in using the high cellulous content of banana stems for paper making. Even more valuable are the stem’s filaments: they can make a fabric finer than silk and have the strength to reinforce automobile tyres. Similar potentials hold true for what is presently discarded as trash from other crops.

In my vision of what Dominica could aspire to, citizenship will not be sold but it may be earned. Projects will be initiative led, not funding fed. Our education system will adapt to serve Dominica’s needs rather pursuing syllabuses prescribed by others. Creative thinking will be high on the agenda. We will re-learn skills and develop an awareness of beauty. While we laud this “Isle of Beauty” in our National Anthem, future generations may rightly accuse us of despoiling their legacy with insensitive development. Mistakes in concrete are difficult to undo.

If you consider my vision far-fetched, I can assure you that tens of thousands of highly educated professionals in the rest of the developed world have already subscribed to a simpler, self-sufficient lifestyle.

As a design engineer I need to be innovative and my task as an artist is to calm those who are disturbed and to disturb those who are calm. In other words, to get you seeing and thinking differently. I, therefore, make no apology to those I may have disturbed by visualising something radically different for Dominica.

Roger Burnett

Antrim, December 27th 2017

The drawing that illustrates this commentary is taken from my book “Caribbean Sketches”.

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13 Comments

  1. Roland Alan Mitchell
    December 28, 2017

    Dear Mr Burnett,

    Your ideas are great particularly:

    (1) Introducing solar energy in all houses. The local electric company is a monopoly, and has been fleecing Dominicans for many years.

    (2) Altering our priorities in the education syllabus, to suit the requirements of a agro based economy, is an idea I have always thought was most relevant to Dominica. How many doctors, lawyers, accountants,scientists, historians teachers, etc have been the end product of a Grammar school education. All these students ( myself included-1980), have left Dominica never to return. We are now economic migrants in Canada, USA and England. This has resulted in a brain drain from Dominica. the brightest and best students each year leave,never to return to Dominica. This cannot be good value for money for the ministry of Education! (Minister take note!).
    Mr Burnett, it sometimes takes a “foreigner” like you, to open our eyes, to see the waste we indulge in, in Dominica.
    Priorities need to be…

  2. KIP
    December 28, 2017

    I agree Dominica & the (OECS) is not poor , we are poorly managed.. Black people don’t like ideas we want instant gratification. How do you climb that mountain without technology.The Dominica you describe exists today. We need a new Da that can invent its own economic future.

  3. Zandoli
    December 28, 2017

    I hear you and respect your views, but this a pipe dream. This is not going to happen on any large scale.

  4. Real truth
    December 27, 2017

    This vision could only work if the “Politician” is out of the equation ……..but, here is the ultimate reality for this vision to come true,….first Dominicans need to go back to a natural, locally produced diet and foods, next, bring local Agriculture to the 21’st century, thirdly , start beautififying the roadways, highways, villages and towns with flowering plants and trees, such as Hibiscus and oleander, etc. Invest in dumpsters, street sweepers,…. Install proper sanitation codes and sewage treatment facilities in every village. Install fresh water catchment facilities/tanks to indipendently supply every village. Power every village with bio-diesel and vegetable oil generation power plants , or bio-gas……lets Pray……
    P

  5. RastarMarn
    December 27, 2017

    Very well said and inspiring, good to know there are individuals out there whom have this sort of thinking,,,

    RastarMarn prays that it may be sooner rather than later these political goons get their act together and bring more of these concepts to reality,,,

  6. December 27, 2017

    @Roger Burnett, I love your commentary! You are right about us, Dominicans, that we need to try to be self-sufficient people, starting from the home right into our outer environment.

    For example, I agree with you, 100% that we, in Dominica should not become stranded for water supply, come rain wind, thunder, and lightning; we have too much rainfall which can fill up a cistern, and to leave if full of water for a long, long, time to come–how can that be too hard to do

    Instead, we remain dependent on someone else or a certain group of people, for all of our needs; hence the reason Dominica’s economy is so much at the bottom lists

    The Government of a country cannot do everything, and perhaps that is why some people are labeling them as corrupt, and all the other ugly names that come with that label; for they are doing their best to please the whole of people of their Nation –but that is not possible

    Thanks to you again for a beautiful commenttary.

    • Irsim
      December 28, 2017

      This is real FOOD for THOUGHT. I wish more of us could adopt this kind of thinking. Outside of the box. Challenging the norm. Dominica’s landscape, population, climate etc makes our situation very different from many of the developed countries we try to imitate. Our fix cannot be a copy & paste strategy. We must be bold enough to do things differently.

  7. December 27, 2017

    That’s far in the future. This commentary is also hinting at possible anarchy. If every household becomes selfsuficient what will be the role of government? This plan for a perfect society might just see the breaking up communities.

    • RastarMarn
      December 27, 2017

      Without taking anything away from the author, your concept of government have been diluted over the years of brainwashing,,,

      The Role of government is not for a few to control the masses but rather for the masses to administrate there affairs through their representatives by agreed-upon legislation through Social programs for the good of all, and arguable speaking, to interact with the international community in the best interest of the Ones the “Government” represent,,,

      So whether or not you have self sustaining households should not impact the activities of the representatives whom are elected to represent the masses,,,

      Because of the misguided behavior of the Ones at the helm one would think the roll of Government is to control the people but do some reading and you will see that it’s the other way around, The People of a Nation are the members of That “Government”,,,

  8. Karen Sutherland
    December 27, 2017

    Yes AND I would add that long term self-sufficiency is dependent upon diversity and
    not just diversity in agriculture.

    Perhaps not every household should be an island unto itself. There is room for
    and benefit from simultaneous development of other models — such as cooperative
    neighborhood or village renewable power that would have advantage of being
    community building. Such highly localized cooperative arrangements could be
    envisioned for many needs and present in a diversity of forms.

    • Roger Burnett
      December 28, 2017

      Karen, I totally agree: diversity and community self-sufficiency are vital factors.

      Working together as a communities was once the hallmark of Dominica. Thankfully I see it re-emerging in the spirit and resilience of those that returned to Petite Savane. Incidentally, those villagers fared better than most during Maria.

  9. Nan
    December 27, 2017

    Love your vision and I am in total agreement

  10. Laiya Ominira
    December 27, 2017

    I share your vision word for word. Waitikbuli has enough food and land to care for its residents, but so much of that food goes to profit instead of into the bellies of those who are hungry. Sewage remains uncovered and unprotected in many parts of the island where people live, collecting garbage and always stifling itself. Homes are built for 1-3 families, instead of 4-10 so there could be less maintenance per family. The cultures of Black and Kalinago residents are being slowly migrated into American ideals as the youth abandons it for what is foreign. They leave the island in search for fun while the rich from other countries spend to have as much as a peek at paradise. The irony is that unhappy locals make less enjoyable tourism. There is enough work to be done to provide skilled and unskilled work to every resident of Dominica. With the destruction this hurricane season has brought, now is the best time to implement a new age of creation.

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