Some time ago I used to write the articles for the Tip, a free publication in Dominica.
I am going to repost a series of my favourites for online consumption. Here is the first.
The environmentalists across the region are fighting a losing battle. It is not difficult to understand why they are losing but the level of honesty that must be practiced is extremely difficult for most to negotiate.
Let us start with a Caribbean fact that sums up the problem. Jamaica has the highest per capita churches of any country in the world. Jamaica also features the third most murders per capita in the world. What that statistic says is pretty much what one of our favorite quotes highlights. “Your religion is what you do when the sermon is over”. There are other huge contradictions between what Caribbean society projects and what it is, but let us make the linkage with Dominica and the environment.
Many environmentalists work with the assumption that Dominicans love the environment and want to preserve it. Like the fact that many moralists perceive the Caribbean to be a Christian society, the reality on the ground could bring a different conclusion. The massive migration outwards, the reaction of ordinary people to ‘development’ employment, and the hunting of whales is a clue to a harder truth.
Many( if not most) Dominicans do not care much for protecting the environment beyond random verbal support. Some will doubt our line on this but we would encourage self examination. How many people believe that without foreigners intervening that Dominicans would stop hunting turtles ? Indeed, the scarcity of turtle meat simply made it more of a delicacy. Political correctness has a whole generation of people claiming they love turtles, but the reality is, without laws to protect turtles, the turtle would probably be extinct. The simple reason being that the average Dominican does not see the big deal. And it tastes good, horror of horrors.
The losing battle on behalf of the whale watching industry vs Japans dollars forgets the reality on the ground. Dominicans in the main make no connection with their ordinary lives and protection of animals. On top of that, add in commercial incentives from one side, and it’s a battle lost. No matter that fishermen are still using the same methods they have always used and that the facilities themselves have not changed the culture of fishing.
Consider the average Caribbean, much less Dominican, treatment of pets, such as dogs and you get a clue as to difficulties faced. We have a functional view of animals, which can only be massaged by law or by funding. Again this viewpoint may seem harsh until you really think about it.
Given all of this what should be the approach for the environmentalists ? A just cause is one thing, but that cause needs to market itself not only as the moral cause (it doesn’t work for Caribbean people) but as a cause which will impact our lives beyond things like cleaner air and fresh water. Dominicans have shown a willingness to run to every polluted developed country on earth .Why should we be afraid of a polluted Dominica if the price is the very development we seem to crave?
It is time for the environmentalist movement and its backers to understand that the battle for hearts and minds begins with the pocket and the stomach. And this is a battle which they are losing, no matter how noble the intent and the cause.