Proof that talk and meetings trump real actions and performance?
Barbados made Ethical Traveler’s “Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations” list for 2011. The award has more than a few Bajan environmentalists scratching their heads in wonder considering that environmental protection is a big part of the judging criteria.
Bajans know that the majority of Barbados government “action” on the environment consists of talk, meetings and pounding the global warming drum in hope of receiving international funding. The country doesn’t even have basic environmental protection legislation – and the wholesale sacrifice of our natural areas to an onslaught of concrete gives lie to the phrase “sustainable development”.
So how could Barbados receive this award if Environmental Protection is a part of the judging criteria? Glad you asked.
The answer to the puzzlement is that Social Welfare and Human Rights are the other major criteria in ranking countries, and these are areas where Barbados does exceptionally well compared to many other developing countries.
“Every year Ethical Traveler conducts a study of developing nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, to identify the best tourism destinations among them. We begin our research by focusing on three general categories: Environmental Protection, Social Welfare, and Human Rights. For each of these categories, we look at information past and present so that we understand not only the current state of a country, but how it has changed over time. This helps us select countries that are actively improving the state of their people, government, and environment.”
Criminalization of Homosexuality, failure to address sex trafficking almost lost us this award.
One social issue where we scored poorly is in the area of human rights for gays and lesbians. Ethical Traveler says it was almost a “deal-breaker”…
“None of the countries on this year’s Ethical Destinations list is perfect, and four countries must include special caveats. In Barbados and Dominica, homosexuality remains criminalized. Normally this is a deal-breaker for us, but the laws do not appear to be zealously enforced. We sincerely hope that our vote of confidence will persuade these country’s leaders to repeal these backward laws. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland should do more to prevent discrimination against ethnic and sexual minorities while Costa Rica, Argentina, and Barbados have to step up their efforts even further to halt sex trafficking.”
Did Environmental Talk and No Action get us onto the 2011 list?
Barbados made the list once before in 2005 when Ethical Traveler lauded our country for social development, health care and education. The difference in the 2011 award seems to be in the area of Environmental Protection.
Says the report…
“We also applaud Barbados for organizing the Caribbean Green Economic Conference for 2011, to discuss opportunities and challenges to developing a green economy in the region.”
“Notably, three small island states are in the Top 10: Barbados, Dominica and Palau. One of the main reasons for their strong presence is their strong environmental efforts. These states understand that their islands will be affected the strongest by climate change in the short term and are trying to fight it as well as they can.”
And there, my friends, is the clue. Barbados was placed onto the list because Ethical Traveler equated meetings, talk, “concern” and “understanding” about global warming as “strong environmental efforts”.
This is the same phenomena that resulted in former Environment Minister Liz Thompson ending up with a prestigious position at the United Nations. One moment our late Prime Minister David Thompson was rightly castigating “all talk, no action” Liz for her monstrous failures in the environment and for building Greenland dump on unstable land in an environmentally sensitive area that was supposed to be Scotland National Park. Liz pushed ahead anyway until the project had to be abandoned with “several hundred million dollars wasted” according to PM David Thompson.
But when Barbados started getting some international grants and loans for saying “Global Warming small island nation at risk”, the Prime Minister pushed Liz for the UN post because he knew it would be good for our image and our treasury. And it’s true we need the money.
The same factors are in play now with the Ethical Traveler award.
Barbados environmentalists are wondering if the Ethical Traveler awards committee knew that there is a tremendous disconnect between the speeches given at international conferences and the reality on the ground back home…
– Barbados has no Environmental Protection Legislation because successive governments, including the current DLP government, never cared enough to make laws protecting the environment.
– Government policies resulted in walling off the west coast with condos, dumping raw sewage into the RAMSAR wetlands on the south coast and selling off public green space to developer friends.
– We have jet fuel in wells on the south coast because our governments never cared enough about the environment to pass a law requiring pipeline and holding tank operators to take daily measurements and immediately report leakage. The direct result of this neglect: Shell Oil put half a million gallons of poison into the water table before anyone knew what was happening.
– Barbados became a trash dump with no laws against chemical dumping or disposal of hazardous materials. Barbados politicians don’t like to pass laws that inconvenience companies that provide campaign donations.
– No mandatory recycling or local pickup.
– Barbados developed a public transportation policy of more cars on more roads for longer times – as if more autos were the answer to the problem of too many autos.
– Barbados is deliberately destroying the last mangrove wetlands so the majority of the surrounding watershed can be sold to developers. Previously protected environmentally sensitive land at Graeme Hall has already been re-zoned to allow development.
– Government support for citizen environmental initiatives is greatly dependent upon who’s involved rather than the environmental worth of the project. The government’s non-support for No Plastic Bag Day is an ideal example.
We could go on and on but that’s an illustration of the disconnect between public speeches and actual policies and results.
Will Barbados make the next Ethical Traveler list? There is a precedent for getting dumped…
For years Barbados attended and hosted conferences about halting sex trafficking. Successive governments said all the right things, and for a time that kept us high in the country ratings. Eventually though people caught on and this year Barbados was downgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List – one rating above the bottom.
You can only keep up appearances for so long before people demand performance.
Let’s see what happens next year when Ethical Traveler and their parent organisation Earth Island Institute come looking for environmental legislation, saving the Graeme Hall RAMSAR wetlands, mandatory recycling and policies and laws that favour public transit instead of more and more autos.
Soon the Ethical Traveler will learn that our government’s “actions” consist primarily of conferences, studies, publicity and hype at which they are experts. And nobody does it better than our current Environment Minister, Denis Lowe, who on World Environment Day held a press conference announcing that he would be giving a future press conference to announce a future environmental proposal.
Yes, that’s correct folks: Denis Lowe gave an announcement of a future announcement of a proposal.
Will Barbados be on the next Ethical Traveler’s List? We wouldn’t bet on it.