The Systematic Dismantling of Paradise: A Preliminary Checklist


I get emotional about certain things. One of them is the destruction of the few relatively untouched areas of our planet, in the name of unsustainable “development.” Despite the recent warnings that the damage we human beings have already done is beyond repair, in terms of climate change, some among us relentlessly move onwards in pursuit of profit and perhaps economic domination. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a leaked draft report, noted a few days ago: “Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.”  But hey, they are probably exaggerating, say our “investors,” sweeping all before them. Let’s build another coal plant.

1798625_10152392126909561_265201958586349509_n-2

Here’s a little list I started – beginning with what is closest to our home, and one would hope, dearest to our hearts. You will notice a common thread in this list of destruction/planned destruction, I am sure.

CHEC equipment near Little Goat Island. They are doing test boreholes. (Photo: Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation)
CHEC equipment near Little Goat Island earlier this month. They are doing test boreholes. See savegoatislands.org for more information. (Photo: Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation)
  • Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands, Jamaica: Still a closely guarded secret, the Goat Islands area is the target of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), with whom the Jamaican Government recently signed a mysterious agreement. CHEC intends to build a transshipment port that will accommodate the mega-ships that are designed to pass through the expanded Panama Canal. “The Portland Bight Protected Area, including the Goat Islands and the adjacent areas, were protected under Jamaican law by the current Administration for good, scientific reasons and after considerable study,” says Diana McCaulay of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which is spearheading the campaign to save Goat Islands. Why the lack of transparency? What is really happening? For more information and to sign the petition, visit savegoatislands.org and the JET website and Facebook page.
The western bay at Little Goat Island is rich with seagrass. I have seen this for myself. (Photo: Kirsty Swinnerton)
The western bay at Little Goat Island is rich with seagrass. I have seen this for myself. (Photo: Kirsty Swinnerton)

 

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (fifth left), cuts the ribbon to officially open the Linstead to Moneague segment of the North/South Highway, today (August 5). Also participating are Opposition Spokesman on Infrastructure Development, Dr. Horace Chang (left); Regional Director for China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), Tang Zhongdong (third left), and Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (seventh left). (Photo: JIS)
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (fifth left), cuts the ribbon to officially open the Linstead to Moneague segment of the North/South Highway on August 5. Also participating are Opposition Spokesman on Infrastructure Development, Dr. Horace Chang (left); Regional Director for China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), Tang Zhongdong (third left), and Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies (seventh left). (Photo: JIS)
  • The Highway 2000 (Mt Rosser leg of North-South link) plus 1,200 acres: Built by CHEC and opened with great fanfare, ironically, just before Independence Day – with a huge Chinese banner and Jamaican women dressed in Chinese costume. Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies told journalists that in addition to the toll to be collected by the Chinese for the next fifty years, the Jamaican Government also agreed to give the company 1,200 acres – adding they have not decided “which 1,200 acres they want.” Take your pick! What if the land is native forest? What if it is an area of particular interest re: biodiversity? I understand the land will be “along the highway” somewhere. What will CHEC do with this land? Will they build a factory, a coal plant and if so, will they have to go through proper environmental approvals?
  • The huge Baha Mar construction in the Bahamas, two years ago.
    The huge Baha Mar construction in the Bahamas, two years ago.

    Baha Mar Resort, New Providence Island, Bahamas: Backed by China’s state-run Export-Import Bank of China and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corp., the huge 2,900-room Baha Mar Resort broke ground at Nassau’s Cable Beach in February 2011 with plans for four new hotels plus what had previously been the 694-room Sheraton Nassau Beach Hotel as well as a casino, a golf course and a convention center. It is trying hard to promote environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, although there have been major issues regarding its air-conditioning systems. It is scheduled to open in late spring 2015 and has provided employment for thousands of Chinese workers.

A wide swath of mangrove forest cleared on the north side of North Bimini, Bahamas. Save The Bays has been urging the declaration of a marine protected area for northern Bimini to preserve remaining mangrove habitats and some of the most treasured coral reefs in the world. (Photo: Dr. Kristine Stump)
A wide swath of mangrove forest cleared on the north side of North Bimini, Bahamas. Save The Bays has been urging the declaration of a marine protected area for northern Bimini to preserve remaining mangrove habitats and some of the most treasured coral reefs in the world. (Photo: Dr. Kristine Stump)
  • Bimini, Bahamas: These three small, laid-back islands, famous for their pristine marine environment and eco-tourism, are now under threat from the Genting Group, a Malaysian consortium, which wants to build a huge pier with mega-ferries bringing many thousands of tourists daily from Miami to the smallest (nine-square-mile) island, where it has already built a casino and resort. Marine biologists call the plans “an ecological and socioeconomic disaster.” (There is a world-famous shark research lab there). Please watch this beautiful short video from Bimini on the importance of mangroves: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/314266880221474431/ Source: Telegraph UK, Save The Bays
Some of Antigua's small islands from the air. (My photo)
Some of Antigua’s small islands from the air. I saw a lot of mangrove forest and coral reef. (My photo)
  •  A US$1 billion mega resort in Antigua, Barbuda and surrounding small islands (including Guiana Island) is to be built by the Yida International Investment Group. The new government signed an agreement with the Chinese the day after it was elected in June. Slated to be 50 per cent larger than the above-mentioned Baha Mar resort, construction on the “Singulari” scheme is slated to begin in 2015 on 900 acres of land in the north of Antigua and 700 acres of tiny islands (much of it previously owned by former “investor” Alan Stanford). It will include several luxury hotels, hundreds of private homes, a school, hospital, marinas, golf courses, an entertainment district, horse racing track and the Caribbean’s biggest casino. Little Antigua is about to turn into a mega construction site. I wonder how its lovely small resorts feel?  Source: Various websites
A picture of the planned Chinese mega-resort in Antigua.
A picture of the planned Chinese mega-resort in Antigua.
A tiny fraction of the deforestation in Guyana on the Kwakwani/Ituni trail by Bai Shan Lin. (Photo: Kaiteur News)
A tiny fraction of the deforestation in Guyana on the Kwakwani/Ituni trail by Bai Shan Lin. (Photo: Kaiteur News)
  • Our neighbors in Guyana are simply suffering from the depredations of a Chinese company, part of a group of 11 companies operating in Guyana. They are all part of the China Forest Industry Group. These companies have seven logging concessions in Guyana, covering a total area of 960,000 hectares (about 4.5% of the area of the country). The company has also ignored, on three separate occasions, a cease order for sand mining and is building a road illegally. The Kaiteur News has posted devastating videos of massive deforestation, taking place apparently without parliamentary approval.   Source: REDD-monitor.org, Kaiteur News and Mark Jacobs blog.

 

The proposed Nicaragua Canal route. (Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science)
The proposed Nicaragua Canal route will cut through nature reserves and the Bluefields wetlands as well as rainforest. (Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science)
  • And further afield… The planned Nicaragua Canal will cut a swathe right across the country and work is supposed to start this year. If completed, it is said to be the largest engineering project in history and will be much larger than, and a rival to the Panama Canal. According to AP, residents of the Brito region in south-west Nicaragua are alarmed and feel intimidated by groups of Chinese and Nicaraguans, accompanied by police and soldiers conducting a “census” to see if they can buy their land to build the canal. The Nicaraguan government has already granted the previously little-known HKND Group headed by Wang Jing of China rights to the canal, ports, highways and rights of way stretching across the country from The Brito River on the Pacific to Bluefields Bay on the Atlantic. Ometepe Island, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2010, is directly in the path of the proposed canal. It includes Lake Cocibolca, the biggest fresh water reservoir in the country; developers would have to dynamite their way through it. It also includes a “restless” volcano, unique elfin forest and is a special place for migratory birds heading to North America. Activities include agriculture, fishing and community-based eco-tourism. It is just beautiful.

That’s all for now. I could go on, but this list is long enough already, don’t you think?

  • Concepcion Volcano, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua,  a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve threatened by a planned canal project. (Photo: retirenicaragua.wordpress.com)
Rodolfo Molina, an 81-year-old retired mechanic, dries rice for storage outside his home where he has lived for 40 years in Rivas, Nicaragua. Rivas is the town where the first phase of an Inter-Oceanic canal is planned to be built in 2014.  (Photo: AP)
Rodolfo Molina, an 81-year-old retired mechanic, dries rice for storage outside his home where he has lived for 40 years in Rivas, Nicaragua. Rivas is the town where the first phase of an Inter-Oceanic canal is planned to be built in 2014. (Photo: AP)

21 thoughts on “The Systematic Dismantling of Paradise: A Preliminary Checklist

  1. seeing what ‘evolved’ man is doing to our planet often brings me to tears. when reading your post, i stopped/stalled at the photo of the destroyed mangroves.. how can that be legal – totally stripped away – they are the lungs of the planet and of the wetlands!

    what can be done to awaken those who are in their bubbles and can’t see what we’re doing to our planet. we’re on a runaway train.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your sympathy and for caring… I know you care so deeply, too. The destruction of the mangroves is especially frightening. Actually a Bahamian friend told me about what they were doing in Bimini (that photo you saw) and I looked it up. They must be in bubbles, or wearing blinkers. When the planet around them is completely destroyed and there’s nothing to eat and they can’t breathe… Then perhaps they will wake up!

      Like

  2. Thank you Emma for sharing this information, although it is frightening to zone in on the environmental destruction taking place in Jamaica and other parts of the globe. And because it is on such large scales, We the people, mostly feel like we are powerless to do anything or we disconnect ourselves from the situation until like you said… the devastation lands right on our doorstep. Environmental Education and Awareness is Key, enabling us to start making small changes wherever we are in the world; and to know that those changes will and are making a difference!

    As a mother of (2) I felt the need and heard the call to action and begun the process of making small environmental changes within my family structure & local community. This decision has become my vocation in life and is the vehicle that has lead me to become Founder & Director of a Not For Profit Social Enterprise registered in the UK with a vision to become a leading force in building Eco-Learning Centres; starting in Jamaica. Please visit our website for more information.

    We welcome your feedback…I have heard of this book Ishmael before…I too will be seeking out a copy…sounds very interesting…thanks Lisa for the reminder!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much, Annamarie. Indeed, I wrote it because we are “blind” to many of these things, whether through ignorance or because we choose to ignore them. Only when they arrive on our doorstep, we get upset!

      Like

  3. Dear Emma, certainly an important list. The message in the photographed placard – “If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money” – is a great summary of the dichotomy we face. Who put together the quote? That quote works even better than others of a similar vein, like: “we can fell the last tree, we can catch the last fish, we can pollute the last river, but we can’t eat money”; and “economy is a 100%-owned subsidiary of ecology, not the other way around”. So, great photography as well as text!

    Like

    1. OK, I just tracked down the quote. It’s by Dr. Guy McPherson, Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. He is apparently a very good public speaker. Here’s a bit more about him: He is the author or co-author of such books as “Living with Fire: Fire Ecology and Policy for the Twenty-first Century,” “Letters to a Young Academic: Seeking Teachable Moments,” and “Ecology and Management of North American Savannas.” McPherson speaks about the two primary consequences of our fossil-fuel addiction: global climate change and energy decline. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he organic gardens, raises small animals for eggs and milk, and works with members of his rural community. I agree with you – it’s really just about the best quote of all that I have come across.

      Like

      1. Many thanks. Sorry to have caused you extra work, especially when you are doing such great work for Jamaica and the planet.

        Like

      2. Oh no, Stuart! Don’t apologize. I had been intending to look up this quote anyway, so glad I found out a little about the man who made it! Thank you so much for all your comments, much appreciated!

        Like

  4. Rape Repackaged:the Caribbean continues to be a site for the global plunder and exploitation of resources. Only this time, the banner of “development” obscures its insidiousness.

    Thanks for this info Emma. The lack of transparency is shameful, but unsurprising.

    Like

    1. Absolutely. A very good way of putting it, Rodje. One of the common threads (apart from the obvious “Chinese connection”) is the lack of transparency – hiding, one suspects, corruption. All in the name of that Great God of Development and JOBS! I will continue to follow up on these issues.

      Like

  5. This is such a depressing report of just how quickly and brutally Paradise is disappearing. I keep wondering about the acres China Harbour will be given and what they will do with them. Hotels? ChinaTown? Shopping centers? And I am shocked to see how deeply China has spread in the region’s tourism. Expect a lot of Chinese tourists soon, staying in Chinese hotels, of course. Thanks for the information Emma. Shaking my head.

    Like

    1. Yes, Barbara – it is brutal, isn’t it? I wonder about the 1,200 acres. There have not been many Chinese tourists in the Caribbean so far, so I wonder if these planned resorts will actually cater for that market. Certainly all these projects are providing thousands of jobs for Chinese workers. I am really not sure what we can all do about it, except keep raising awareness. So many of these “deals” seem to be kept under wraps, don’t they? Not only Goat Islands…

      Like

  6. Hi “Ms. Petchary” (I feel a little awkward addressing you by your actual name, as I’m unsure about proper blogging do’s and don’ts),
    Thank you so much for this post, and everything you do on this blog. Yes, what you report is depressing, and it is relentless – but it NEEDS to be heard. I was completely unaware of the extent of the ecological destruction occurring in the Caribbean; what can the average person (including someone like me who lives outside the region) do to help?

    Like

    1. Dear Lawrence: Thank you so much for your kind comments and your concern at what is happening in the region, despite not living here. I think the best thing you can do is share this information as widely as possible. You never know who may be listening who would be able to help (whether an organization or an individual). Also there is at least one petition to be signed and shared, and that is on the savegoatislands.org website operated by the Jamaica Environment Trust. I would suggest also perhaps writing letters to the local newspapers, asking questions and seeking answers from governments and relevant agencies. And write to the governments themselves – for example, to the President of Guyana, where so much destruction is going on. I agree – it does need to be heard. I would also say that, wherever you are, “do your bit” for the environment – volunteer for local clean-ups, etc. It all helps. We are inextricably entwined with our environment, more than ever. We must cherish it or I fear mankind will be lost!

      Like

  7. This is a devastatingly depressing article Emma!!! Like you, nothing makes me more upset than knowing that pristine and irreplaceable places of natural beauty that should be conserved for all to enjoy and use sustainably are getting destroyed in the name of “progress” and “economic development”—Humans are relentless in their quest for domination. I don’t believe these projects are the answer to jobs and poverty alleviation as decision makers often claim.

    I’m reading an excellent book right now called “Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit” by Daniel Quinn. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It provides a thoughtful explanation for our destructive ways and an alternative to our belief that the earth belongs to humanity.

    Like

    1. I actually did not enjoy writing this at all, Lisa – I had to force myself! But it was burning a hole in me, I had to write it because many of these projects (like Goat Islands) are lacking in transparency – almost under the radar. I wanted people to know what’s happening right in this region. The Earth is being raped and many people aren’t aware until it lands literally on their doorstep and like the Nicaraguans, are told to leave their family homes! Relentless is the word. But where will it all end? Our Finance Minister recently said (more than once) that “it is poverty that ruins the environment.” No, it’s not. Drills and concrete destroy it! That book sounds very interesting. I have made a note. Thanks for your comments and for understanding, Lisa!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.