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THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE – Plastic paradise

Carl Moore

THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE – Plastic paradise

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EARLY ONE MORNING, in a rush of idealism or naiveté, or both, I tossed a wad of garbage bags into my car and drove up the Adams-Barrow-Cummins Highway . . . to pick up litter.
It happened during the first year of the ABC’s opening. I don’t think there was ever an official opening, after a certain expatriate engineer encouraged Barbadians to start driving on that stretch from Black Rock to Grantley Adams Airport before the go-ahead could be announced. 
That was in 1989, when the unruly behaviour of Barbadian motorists was just beginning to rear its ugly head.
The one-man clean-up resulted from seeing how quickly the new highway had started to look ugly strewn with plastic bags and cups, snack boxes and polystyrene plates. I couldn’t imagine that we could litter that highway so quickly.
Many walkers and joggers passed me, no doubt wondering who was that deranged fruitcake trying to embarrass the Sanitation Service Authority.
After two hours I had filled all the garbage bags the car would hold and had only covered half the distance between the Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott roundabouts.
I wrote a letter to the Editor about my exercise in futility, predicting that future generations would curse us in our graves if we continued “nastying-up” our environment. 
But the rebuke has already started, if you noticed the essays by Barbadian youth in this year’s Canada-Barbados environmental essay competition. Our future generations are calling us to account
.Young Kiara Smith, of Providence Elementary School, and Dudley Ellis, of Harrison College, won first prizes in their categories with essays titled Why Is The Environment Important To Barbados?
 There were several other essays worthy of note chiding Barbadians about the senseless destruction of our habitat.
Here are a few vignettes of wisdom from Kiara and Dudley:
• Remember that it is not all about you; it is about all our surroundings, including the animals, plants, trees and gullies. The environment provides a home for the animals and we shouldn’t litter or treat Barbados like a dump. It is our home, it is a tourist attraction and we need to protect it now and always for future generations.
• Dengue, tetanus, E. coli and pesticides in our water are some of the disastrous effects resultant from our neglect of the environment.
• If we dare litter in the sea or in the water, our fish could die. Also turtles would see our garbage and think that it’s food and may choke on it. 
• Barbados is our beautiful home. So if you are driving along and decide to throw your food and drink out of the window, what do you think will happen? Barbados would start to look like a dump. Sooner or later, no one would want to visit. The tourists would say “No way to Barbados!”.
• Hotels that pump their waste into our sea, farmers who overuse fertilizers and pesticides and squatters who choose to live in areas where they can directly affect the water are all writing a death sentence on our country.
Well said, children; but I’m not hopeful that Barbadians will change their dirty ways any time soon without strict law enforcement. If I were a magistrate, anyone coming before me for littering would have to copy those essays and present them to every school in Barbados. 
Look at the spanking new, colourful high-rise Country Park Towers just outside Bridgetown where litter has moved in ahead of tenants and freshly planted grass struggles for sunlight beneath a spreading layer of plastic. 
Kiara, Dudley and their contemporaries will soon find out – if they haven’t already – that Barbadians don’t give a second thought about the environment and how we will leave it for them and their grandchildren. 
But they must not stop at those essays; they must continue to shame all who are jeopardizing their future. 
I’m satisfied that most Barbadians simply do not like it here.
Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator.