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Diane Phillips: Three Bills, Hundreds Of Clauses, One Giant Step To Save The Bahamas

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Diane Phillips

By DIANE PHILLIPS

IN the 1960s, long before the Queen Conch was the subject of conservation debate, the mollusk was so plentiful that some considered it a pest.

“Go for a swim in Nassau harbour, stand for a breather and your foot could land on the pointy end of a conch shell. They were everywhere, so annoying and you had to watch where you stood,” recalled someone who now relishes a fresh conch salad and fears her grandchildren may never know the taste of the fresh sweet meat.

On Wednesday, conch along with the declining environment in which they once thrived, and the environment in which we all live, got the biggest boost in the history of The Bahamas.

Minister of Environment and Housing Romauld ‘Romi’ Ferreira introduced three environmental protection bills that together, once regulations and penalties are established, will revolutionise how the environment of The Bahamas is managed.

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Queen Conch - a pest in days gone by, now a rare treasure to be preserved for our future generations.

One of those bills, the 54-page environment Planning and Protection Act (I know bills seem boring, but please don’t stop reading now) may just be one of the most important pieces of legislation in our generation.

Rather than pointing fingers solely at a Carnival Cruise Line for dumping in Bahamian waters, or an Equinor Oil for an oil spill that we still have no idea how to measure, nor any of a hundred other offences caused by non-Bahamians doing business in The Bahamas, it assigns responsibility for the environmental to all of us.

In Clause 18 of its 77 Clauses, it tasks to everyone “a general duty to protect the environment”. Those few innocuous sounding words are leviathan in responsibility – assigning to every single man, woman, child, business, institution and organisation the awesome responsibility to protect the environment and to report any man, woman, child, business, organisation or institution that fails to do so.

We’ve said before in this column that it is a crying shame the environment is not sexy and climate change doesn’t arouse the senses like low lights and hot jazz, but the environment is all we have.

It’s the blazing sun, the blue sky, the crystal-clear waters, the white and pink sands and majestic trees, the brilliant flowers, the birds, it’s the very air we breathe. We just took it for granted for so long it never occurred to us it needed to be babied until years of violating its integrity resulted in its being despoiled.

We had to almost lose what we had before we understood how important it was to wake up, rescue and protect it. Storms like Irma, Joaquin, Matthew and Dorian helped to wake us from our slumber.

Recent warnings from the Prime Minister about the potential impact of climate change now send shivers down our back but where were we 30 years ago when the first warning signals were sent?

We are late entering the environmental protection arena, but we are finally there with proposed legislation that is comprehensive and futuristic. Kudos to Ferreira, the AG’s office and the team that assembled the long-awaited Bills that also call for a National Youth Environment Conservation Corps.

So even if legislation isn’t glamorous, it has its redeeming features for each of us. Once passed, and we urge soon, it means if I see someone destroying a mangrove, I am obligated to report the creep. Pardon the editorialising but honesty is important here because now the individual destroying that mangrove is not just a creep, he’s a legally reprehensible bad guy who will pay a price for his stupidity. And the fine he gets will go into the new Environmental Fund. Ferreira also took time to thank all those environmental groups and civic society organisations who contributed to the draft bills.

“History will judge us by what we have done today,” said Ferreira when he laid the bills on the table in the House of Assembly. I agree wholeheartedly.

Small things I will never understand

On the lighter side, you’ve got to wonder who in their ultimate wisdom designed those tiny pads that waitresses in places like truck stops and diners write your order down on.

You know the ones – 17 numbered lines on a recycled paper maybe three inches by four when everyone knows that writing two eggs sunnyside up, side of bacon, reg toast, hold the butter, takes half a page.

Or who, in this day and age of digital wallets, was the decision maker in one very popular bank in The Bahamas who voted that customers should still be required to use carbon copy paper in deposit books, as if handling paper money wasn’t dirty enough.

Carbon copies in 2019? That’s like trying to download an app on a rotary dial phone.

To its credit, that’s the same bank that is the most advanced when it comes to those up to the second account activity alerts.

So if someone is standing in line (like you) and making a deposit into your account, you get a signal on your phone and in your email instantly with the new account balance. But to check your phone, you have to do something about the ink from the carbon paper.

A tale of two ages with easy resolution, folks.

Thank you, Dr Bain and UK RescueGlobal

Bahamian-born veterinarian Dr Teja Bain’s Atlanta clinic became the central collection point for thousands of dollars’ worth of medical and food supplies for domestic pets that poured in for The Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian.

Dr Bain, the Atlanta vet of the year in 2016, was thrilled by the response. Freezers filled with penicillin and other medications that had to be kept at a certain temperature. Splints, sutures, bandages, and healthy choice foods, lots of it.

But as the supplies grew so did her worries. Every avenue she tried for transporting the animal medical supplies led to a nearly impossible obstacle.

That was, until the UK based RescueGlobal.org team stationed in Nassau got wind of the challenge and used its connections to arrange a flight. Supplies and food arrived the following day.

Another example of the worst of times bringing out the best in people, even strangers who may never meet.

Comments

Porcupine 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Ms. Phillips, Kudos to your perspective that the environment is important. However, I must say most every bit of your optimism is wholly and childishly misguided. We live in a country where the only thing we seem to consider is our own immediate gratification. Great on the environmental bills being proposed. But, aren't there more enforceable laws on the books such as prohibitions on rape, murder, theft, speeding and so many other laws which are disregarded in wholesale fashion by the majority of our citizens? What should happen to this person who cuts a mangrove, when our own Prime Minister doesn't have the knowledge base or fortitude to ban any oil drilling, storage, or continued reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity for this nation? Can't even muster the brains to say so, and isn't one bit embarrassed in his blatant hypocrisy. And yet, has the audacity to stand in front of the global community to ask for help in dealing with climate change. What could possibly happen to the "creep" who cuts a mangrove when so many of our politicians and "leaders" are never held to account for their destruction of the social fabric of this country by their opportunistic behaviour? In case you haven't noticed, the majority of scientists focusing on our biological and climate crisis' are basically running around as if their hair is on fire. Sorry to say, but having focused on these issues myself, we are simply out of time and certainly have no time left to bring about the awareness needed by our citizens on these all important issues. I agree with you that we should have been listening to the experts who were warning us of the consequences, such as more intense and more frequent storms such as Dorian 30 years ago when they first raised the alarm. But, it is very clear to me that you have no clue as to the seriousness of what we are dealing with here. Your optimism regarding our Queen Conch is clearly misplaced and evidence of a lack of understanding of tropical marine biology and the stage we are currently in regarding this crisis. Look, I know that I should be more ebullient in getting people motivated to do better. However, I believe that there is no substitute for the truth and honest assessment for where we really are at this point in history.

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Porcupine 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Queen Conch are only one species of our marine organisms of which all are intricately connected in the web of life. There is, according to most honest and knowledgeable marine biologists, almost no good news on this front. We are witnessing the collapse of our living world, in our sea and on land. This is not news, except for those who have been totally focused on the hubris of modern humans. Tell me how to motivate a country that has been brainwashed into a Christian belief that God put humans here on earth above all other living creatures, as if we are not part and parcel of all life. And, the idea that when one species disappears God puts another one there for our benefit? What of a people who continue to believe that evolution is wrong and creationism is the truth? What of the idea that when a hurricane is coming they pray that it goes somewhere else, and then believe that God is punishing whoever was harmed for some earthly transgression? No, Ms. Phillips, I wish it were that easy. We are at best a generation or two, if we had the right teachers, in raising our country to a level which passes for mature and responsible. Currently, as judging simply by the metrics available for all to see, we are a nation of irresponsible, immoral and uneducated children. Did I really just write that? I did. Currently Ms. Phillips, there is much discussion among our most eminent scientists on how to deal with the sadness and grief that has beset those who are the brightest in these fields. What is now being discussed by those who are most in touch with the science and data streaming in weekly, is that we are facing near term human extinction. Think about this for a moment. These are not the kooks and conspiracy theorists. These are our most globally eminent scientists who are saying this. Shocking hey? Of course, I am sure you have been following these developments and can intelligently refute their conclusions.

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Porcupine 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Ms. Phillips, in as charitable fashion as I may put it, you haven't a clue. We are told that humanity must undertake radical and revolutionary changes in our way of life for this earth to be able to support life in the very near term. Humanity must make these changes in the next few years. This means that we must intelligently question most every aspect of our lives, from our religious beliefs, our economic system, our political system, our very relationships with each other. This will not be easy. I believe it is next to impossible. I also offer you a challenge. Please read, The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. It is recent, fact filled and objective to the word. While this is only one short book, in my estimation after having read hundreds of books on this subject, it is as clear and concise as to what we are up against. Correction, it is an indication of what our kids are up against. Most of us who are responsible for this mess will have died and gone to wherever, while our kids, in the said prime of their lives will spend the bulk of the rest of their lives trying to stay alive in a chaotic, unhinged, and cruel world. This is our legacy. Of this there is no doubt in my mind. Maybe this is where religion comes in. Believing in miracles. Sorry, I don't

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birdiestrachan 2 weeks, 1 day ago

And in the main time put a oil refinery in the East End of Grand Bahama called OBAN

what a disingenuous bunch of crap.

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