Dominicans are strange people: we ignore issues that affect our future
On April 22nd hundreds of millions around the world observed Earth Day, the date that the United Nations has set aside for communities to clean up litter, plant trees, or simply reflect on nature and to bring greater attention to the severe issues affecting our earth.
But not a sound was heard about Earth Day in the "Nature Isle of the World", the country that has set itself the extremely-hard-to-reach target of becoming the first climate resilient nation in the world. That is strange.
But doubly strange is the fact that the 2019 theme for Earth Day was "Protect Our Species", a theme that should resonate well with Dominica because we are currently trying to save from extinction at least two major species- the Crapaud and turtles.
But we should not be surprised. Dominicans have indeed become a strange people who seem to care little about important matters such as electoral reform, the quality of governance in our fledgling democracy and where do political parties, that have not held even a barbecue sale or a village raffle, get the money to stage so many lavish political rallies. We are a strange people indeed.
In case you have forgotten in 2002 the Dominican Mountain Chicken (Leptodactylus fallax) was a critically endangered amphibian that had to be saved from extinction due to a deadly attack from a fungal disease called the amphibian chytrid. The Mountain Chicken frog, known in Dominica as the Crapaud, was a cultural symbol that forms part of the Coat-of-Arms and is used as a logo by several very important Dominican institutions such as the National Bank of Dominica. Eighty percent of the population of the Crapaud was wiped out within 18 months. Other threats to the crapaud population included habitat destruction and hunting.
In addition, the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization (DOmSeTCO) reported recently that the Dominica Sea Turtle population is in sharp decline due to a combination of climate change, plastics and illegal hunting. Nevertheless, DOmSeTCO says that in spite of the decline "it is not too late to rescue Dominica's sea turtles but action must be taken immediately, including prosecuting those which illegally hunt the endangered species". So we do have issues pertaining to endangered species.
But as we stated in an editorial two years ago, if Dominicans are as passionate about the environment as they say they are, why do they continue to ignore Earth Day? After all we are the Nature Isle whose Coat of Arms proudly declares: "Apres Bondie C'est La Ter', (After God the Earth) to remind us of the importance of the soil and the environment, in other words our earth, to the future prosperity of Dominica.
In fact, Dominica's national anthem, written by W. Pond, acknowledges the importance of the environment. The first stanza states: Isle of beauty, isle of splendour/ Isle to all so sweet and fair/All must surely gaze in wonder/ At thy gifts so rich and rare/ Rivers, valleys, hills and mountains/ All these gifts we do extol/ Healthy land, so like all fountains/Giving cheer that warms the soul" As we have also stated we are puzzled by the Government of Dominica's as well as civil society's nonchalant attitude towards other international days on the environment such as World Environment Day (observed the world over on 5 June), World Rivers Day (observed on 25 September) and World Water Day (22 March).
In the past, we have suggested that the Ministry of Tourism should make World Rivers Day, for example, one of its most important calendar events simply because more that ninety percent of our tourisms sites depend on the state of our rivers. Undoubtedly, the Ministry of Tourism must have noticed that many of these water sources, that is our tourism product, are dead or near death. Many environmentalists have predicted that unless the trend is reversed urgently Dominica will have few water-based tourism sites in a couple of decades. But we are a strange people and a strange Ministry of Tourism.
Of all the notable days that we mentioned earlier, Earth Day has special significance for Dominica. Even if one argues that Earth Day is a global "feel good gimmick" that we do not need to be part of, billions around the world believe the event can be an opportunity to ensure that the next generation do not repeat the same mistakes as their parents. Earth Day, therefore, provides a moment of reflection to acknowledge our collective missteps.
As the Montreal Gazette Board stated in a recent editorial, instilling in youngsters a duty of stewardship toward the environment and encouraging them to live their lives in ways that leave the smallest possible footprint on the planet can indeed be an agent of change, albeit one that takes time to have an impact. Telling children why it's important to walk rather than drive, eat local, grow gardens, to reduce, reuse and recycle can form healthy habits from an early age. With any luck, these simple lessons may also rub off on parents trying to set a good example and put their words into action.
Significantly, on Earth Day three years ago, the landmark Paris Agreement was scheduled to be signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. But since then the United States of President Donald Trump has pulled itself out of the Agreement. But that's another story.
With the beginning of the 2019 hurricane season just around the corner, on June 1, bearing the threat of another Maria-type monster storm, we believe Dominicans would have been well advised to consider taking the message of Earth Day much more seriously.
But we are a strange people who continue to be so lackadaisical about the environment and other important issues that will affect our future.