The truth and the spin behind Barbados Government’s Environmental Art Contest

Unregulated and hidden Political Funding destroys the environment

Environment Minister Denis Kellman made an excellent speech the other day at the announcement of the environmental collage art competition for students. The competition is called A Future that is Pollution Free – Join Hands to Protect our Caribbean Sea.

Unfortunately the government press release on the event is so full of double-speak and spin that you have to read it about four times to really understand where the truth stops and the spin begins – but that’s the way it was intended.

Just like a magician says, “Look at this bright red scarf in my right hand!” so you won’t look anywhere else, the press release and the environmental collage contest itself have a few purposes that may not immediately be apparent to those lulled to sleep by the Bajan news media.

For the Barbados government the environmental art contest has three purposes:

1/ To make Barbados and the government look good.

2/ To bring attention to certain environmental issues while taking our eyes off some other very nasty truths about Barbados and the environment.

And finally, the really big purpose…

3/ Show me the International Aid MONEY!

How about a cuppa Shell Oil jet fuel from a South Coast water well?

In truth, it is good to get young people and people everywhere talking and thinking about the environment – and an art contest is one of the tools in the box to teach and motivate. It’s just that in Barbados, we love to do the talking and thinking in a sort of shallow manner that allows us to ignore unpleasant observations and conclusions about the nexus between pollution, over-development, environmental abuse and a corrupt and unregulated political funding process.

Money in the form of political donations from polluters is a big part of why both the DLP and the BLP won’t crack down on environmental abuses.

Folks, after all these decades of nationhood, we don’t even have an Environmental Protection Act! We’ve been promised those laws for decades but companies like Shell Oil don’t want any of that environmental accountability or regulation so they provide political donations and the DLP and BLP don’t pass environmental legislation.

It’s really very simple. If the politicians say otherwise, then the DLP and BLP should publicly declare right now how much funding those political parties have taken from Shell and affiliated companies and individuals in the last twenty years.

Perhaps the DLP and BLP can explain why our only public transportation policy seems to be ever more vehicles on ever more roads. Could the political donations of the large auto dealerships have anything to do with transportation policy and funding? On an island like ours it would be entirely sensible to talk about limiting the number of 4 wheeled vehicles per household and diverting public funds from road widening to more effective public transit. Mr. Simpson and his auto industry friends may not agree, but we can’t continue to expand the number of vehicles and roads the way we’ve been doing. We just can’t. We’re killing everything about Barbados that made this island beloved by so many tourists.

So Minister Kellman and his government call a press conference and do a little dance to say “we care” about the environment, but they are not about to upset the big political donors – and the donations are all secret anyway so it’s no problem to avoid the inconvenient questions that would be raised if political parties had to produce a list once a year of all corporate donations and donations over $1000 from anyone.

And then we have that delicate little dance that the government does to receive international environmental grants and funding.

We love to promise to commit to those UN and other International Environmental Programmes and treaties because we get money for talking the talk. But ratifying the agreements and actually adhering to them? Hey… that’s something else.

Oh yes, we did the RAMSAR Wetlands talk to get the funding, but when it came down to actually protecting the Graeme Hall Wetlands, we pumped raw sewerage into the RAMSAR wetlands and destroyed the sluice gate that let the mangrove forest breathe. And, we tossed all the promises about agricultural buffers right into the garbage and rezoned vast areas of the wetlands to allow commercial and residential development.

Now Environment Minister Denis Kellman says that Barbados “will work to confirm ratification” on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Environmental Programme’s (CEP) Wider Caribbean Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol) Collage Competition.

You can bet that’s just a delaying action so we get more funding.

There’s no way Barbados will ratify that agreement and if that one in a million shot happens, like with RAMSAR there’s no way the government will strongly act to adhere to the agreement.

The government press release says…

“The LBS Protocol is one of three protocols of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region, also known as the Cartagena Convention…[which] is the only regional, legally binding environmental agreement for the protection and development of the region,”

“Barbados became a signatory of the LBS Protocol to the Cartagena Convention in October, 1999…since then, Barbados, through EPD has made several steps to reduce the negative environmental and human health impacts of land-based pollution to our marine environment.  In 2000, the Marine Pollution Control Act was proclaimed… [it] aims to prevent, reduce and control pollution from sources that are likely to impact the marine environment….based on the information collected through public consultation in 2004 and 2008, the Government of Barbados has evaluated the implications of ratification of the LBS Protocol and will work to confirm ratification in the 2011/2012 financial year,” the Minister revealed.

Ratification? Never happen, folks… But we’ll take all that international environmental funding, thanks very much!

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1 Comment

Filed under Barbados, Corruption, Environment, Politics

One response to “The truth and the spin behind Barbados Government’s Environmental Art Contest

  1. BA88/98

    Environmental laws are not the be-all and end-all, but they are the basic price of admission. Without environmental laws we have nothing, no power to stop the companies and people who abuse our country. Laws are the basic price of admission to an organised and civilised society. Barbados has no environmental law and that sets the stage for abuses.