That single word describes the plan outlined by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to turn Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas into a regional model, sustainable island capable of withstanding threats from increasingly powerful storms and providing for its own power and clean water through renewable sources.
But brilliant plans are not always easy to digest for the very reason that they poke a sharp knife between what existed before and what is to come.
So it is very important that as we look to the future, we do so without dismissing the past and engage that part of the past that made Ragged Islanders the proud, independent people they are.
In short, the Ragged Island experiment which at the outset has bi-partisan approval is not a snap the fingers and guarantee success project. Careful steps must be taken to turn Ragged Island green without turning the people of Ragged Island against the idea.
The first step is to gain the support of those who call or once called Ragged Island home. The plan will not succeed if it appears that central government, no matter how well-meaning, is trying to force this in a noblesse oblige type of experiment. No Ragged Islander will accept the equivalent of a genetically modified lifestyle forced on them. But with adequate information and a public private partnership (PPP) in which Ragged Islanders all have a stake, the experiment could spark a movement as contagious as a yawn on a train, inspiring other small, low-lying islands to follow suit.
The first question becomes how to gain support.
We suggest that a straightforward, fact-based campaign be created and mounted. Images of Ragged Island in its heyday, the musicians, the liveliness. Images of Ragged Island in most recent years as population dwindled from 500 to fewer than 70. Image of a younger person or family packing, saying goodbye, sadness filling the scene as families separate, younger moving to Nassau or Abaco to earn a living, parting with the older members of the family left behind. Then images of Ragged Island ravaged by Hurricane Irma. Images of what scientists predict for future hurricanes as a result of climate change with a few words from Al Gore. Introduction of opportunity that will not only restore Ragged Island to the quality of life it once enjoyed that gave rise to the proud spirit, but will give birth to a new Ragged Island, that same pioneering strength leading the way in a green and sustainable world. If Ragged Island becomes the first totally green island in the region, the designation alone will make it an enticing eco-tourist destination, opening up economic opportunities for a revival of this island that was steadily losing population before Hurricane Irma hit.
Three other steps must take place as the plain facts campaign unfolds.
The first is developing what it will actually take to create a green island. Development of Requests for Proposal (rfp) with technical experts in the field rather than monetary experts reviewing the requests to ensure they are asking for appropriate materials and labour quotes. From solar energy design and installation to sea water desalination and distribution, from coastal line construction methods based on a stringent code held to higher standards and specific to low-lying, hurricane-prone areas to dock location in historically safest lee spaces and construction, the components of the plan must be thorough, transparent and accessible to all. We would argue that in the case of the Ragged Green Island experiment, preference be given to contractors with known experience as opposed to whoever comes in at the lowest cost. For instance, in solar, the rfp may specify that a company must be able to prove that it has successfully installed a minimum of 2 megawatts and its installation survived 150mph winds of Hurricane Matthew.
The next step must be the funding. A public-private partnership should be created with a boutique resort component. Ragged Island is only nine square miles. Its redevelopment must take place in a way that is sensitive to the fragile environment in which it exists. It must not follow the path of Bimini in which a high-rise resort dominates the otherwise quiet, laid-back island, gobbling electricity, sometimes leaving residents in the dark and overwhelming its surroundings rather than blending in. Land in Ragged Island must be assigned a value with that value being applied as shares in the PPP.
Finally, the plan should be rolled out in a way that generates excitement. The development process can generate great press and provide real time education material for classes at every level from basic primary school to marine biology, environment and sustainable development courses at UB where students could be involved in hands-on work and study as the plan takes on life.
What led to Ragged Island’s stature, posed for green island development, is a tragedy. But the devastation of nearly every structure on the island by Hurricane Irma also opened the door to new possibilities. The future that lies ahead could become a model for the region and re-awaken the pioneering legacy that made rugged Ragged Island so special and unique in the archipelago of The Bahamas. This is truly the opportunity of a lifetime.