October 11, 2018
Dear Sir or Madam,
Please allow me space in your newspaper to share my thoughts on the Lighthouse Point proposed development by Disney Cruise Line.
One of the reasons I am a marine biologist and environmental planner is because of the many hours I spent on the Bay in Savannah Sound, Eleuthera whenever I visited my grandmother, Lillian Culmer. I spent many summer breaks and holidays in Eleuthera. I consider it my second home. There are few places on this planet that are as beautiful with so many pristine areas.
Too often we only couch development in terms of mega-developments. Our government has signed on to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If they are truly committed to these goals and not just paying them lip service as they have done for so many issues since coming into office, they will move away from mega-developments like the one proposed by Disney for Lighthouse Point. And yes, it is mega-development, not because of the beach chairs, but because of the SIGNIFICANT dredging that will need to occur to accommodate the cruise ships and the sheer numbers of people that will descend on the site. Not to mention the emissions – solid waste, greenhouse gases and sewage.
As a Small Island Developing State, The Bahamas possesses a number of characteristics, including fragile ecosystems and dependence on foreign sources of finance. We need to seek to develop our country in such a way that considers these characteristics to improve our resilience, not make us weaker. Low-impact development that has minimal environmental footprint is key. Maybe you can replant trees, but it takes literally millions of years to achieve the diversity and size of some of the coral reefs found in The Bahamas.
Sustainability is not just about the environment. It is about the economy and social issues as well. We need to strengthen our economy and try to stop the leakage of millions of dollars leaving the tourism sector every day. Part of stopping the leakage is ensuring Bahamians have more ownership in the sector, that they run the businesses, including hotels, restaurants and services. We need to address our social issues, such as unemployment, but look to create jobs that are sustainable and profitable. Why work for $250 per week when you can own a business bringing in $1,500 per week? We also need to seek to increase equity in terms of the wealth in this country. That is not going to happen with the cruise ship model which has taken so much from so many countries and gives so little other than environmental damage and waste. We need to focus on attracting tourists who are going to stay overnight for days spending hundreds of dollars rather than ones that come for 2 hours and may spend $50. We need QUALITY not QUANTITY in our tourists. We have focused on numbers of visitors to our country’s detriment without focusing on attracting those who will spend with Bahamian businesses. Our government needs to say NO to the 3-for-$10 tourists for good.
Eleuthera means freedom. We need to free ourselves from these old, failed models of tourism to develop our country into one where our children own the wealth in terms of natural resources, culture and money.
Proud descendant of Eleuthera