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GUEST COLUMN: Make environment more important

Mandy Fayne-Cleaver

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WORLD ENVIRONMENT Day 2010 was heralded by the tragic events of the BP oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico threatening the destruction of livelihoods, marine life all over the Gulf and the potential for greater damage in a wider arena.
If anything, this disaster has highlighted the delicate balance that exists between our need for energy reaped from our benefactor Mother Earth and our responsibility to protect her for future generations.
As the native American Indian quote states: “Treat the Earth well, it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
With environment month firmly under way, many activities are being held to encourage involvement in the beauty of Barbados. From the recently successful staging of the Consett Bay sustainable fishing educational exposition in St John, to coastal/gully hikes, to seminars on various aspects of environmental protection.
All these events have one purpose. To highlight that Barbados, like elsewhere in the world, is under threat; be it man-made through indiscriminate land development, pollution, global warming or natural disasters. The land, coastlines and reefs face a greater risk from the human race than ever before, and perhaps this is the turning point we must take to stop the damage before reversal is not possible.
Of course, protection of the environment is not the responsibility of one person, but must be a collective effort on a daily basis. This was echoed by Lionel Weekes, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage: “Every single citizen makes a footprint, therefore everyone has a responsibility to have a harmonious relationship with the environment to protect it for today and for future generations. The ministry would like all citizens of Barbados and visitors alike to be environmentalists in that sense.”
This underscores the fact that though Government and business have a duty to preserve and protect the environment through creation of laws, policies and practices, the ordinary citizen also has a significant role to play. For years activities such as illegal dumping in gullies and vacant lots have occurred because “that’s what we always do”. This must stop, because as knowledge increases we know the effect on the environment and the law prohibiting this and other activities must be rigourously enforced.
The Merrymen sang of Beautiful Barbados, and this is certainly true. There are many activities in Barbados that are based on and involve the environment for both citizens and visitors to enjoy. The growth of eco-tourism related projects is particularly encouraging as it shows concern for and care of the environment is growing.  
Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, said: “Barbados punches above its weight in several areas.” So it must do so with regard to the environment, from all levels of society. By adopting the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” Barbados must put the environment at the forefront of its attention on a daily basis.