Sunday, April 08, 2007

No Answers!

by Anne Hilton
Sunday Newsday
April 8, 2007

“No answer” seems to be the stern reply to the questions posed in last week’s Environment Watch column. The EMA — well, the less said about the Environment Management Authority the better, in view of the, to my mind, questionable decision to grant Alutrint what I understand to be a conditional Certificate of Environmental Clearance.

At any rate, to date neither WASA nor the Authority has felt inclined to tell us who is going to police the Water Pollution Rules, and how — with particular reference, as the late Dr Eric Williams was so fond of saying, to back “street garages” and “mango tree mechanics.”

Nor has WASA cared to reveal whether or not the proposed scale of charges for polluting our water resources are likely to cover the cost of dealing with those pollutants. And there’s another thing I omitted to mention last week.

Are those pollution charges written in stone — by which I mean, are they a part of the Water Pollution Rules that can only be increased to meet increases in the cost of living by Act of Parliament, so that, as years go by, polluters laugh at the paltry sums imposed for poisoning the nation’s water resources (NOT, I hasten to point out, supply)?

And here’s another point for your consideration as you applaud or condemn the EMA’s decision on the smelter issue.

Remember the old adage “Prevention is better than cure” or, as Henry of Bratton (Henricus de Brattona or Bractona wrote concerning the laws and customs of England in 1240, or thereabouts — I give you a rough translation of the words written in Latin) “it is better and more useful to meet a problem in time than to seek a remedy after the damage is done.”

We all, well most of us, know that it’s easier to stop developers ruining an environment before ever bulldozers or backhoes carve out roads, or blocks are laid and cement trucks line up to pour foundations, than to have them tear down a completed building.

If I remember the La Brea case rightly, hectares of bush were cleared in preparation for an industrial complex without so much as a “by your leave” to the EMA.

It’s happened already — and one gets the impression the EMA’s attitude is that now the damage is done industrialisation might as well go ahead. Nor is the La Brea smelter the only industrial development “in the pipeline.”

To the Alutrint smelter add the proposed new methanol plant, new ethylene plant, another steel mill, new urea and ammonia plants.
The prospect is frightening — it is for me, at any rate, following Jared Diamond’s warnings in his book Collapse, and Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

There’s no doubt in my mind that that smelter or (Heaven forbid) those smelters, those new methanol, ethylene, urea, ammonia plants and steel mill are bound to accelerate the process of global warming leading to sea level rise as night follows day.

Of course, it won’t be the natural gas-guzzling industries, the sleek, modern office buildings, the million dollar homes that will be swallowed up by the sea — at least, not at first.

As Jared Diamond pointed out when he described the end of the Norse settlement in Greenland, first to go, first to be engulfed by the Gulf will be squatters’ homes in Sea Lots and houses in the Beetham.

The up-market, high-rise towers at Cocorite and Westmoorings may only be accessible by water taxi but the more modest townhouses built, like the Beetham, on swampland could be inundated.

Sooner or later the luxury towers must yield to the waters, sooner or later even the richest of the rich are affected. But while they can enjoy all the good things of life at the expense of others, while they can ignore the signs of disaster, of things to come, we are all at risk.

Yet, perhaps, we could, if we would, turn aside from the reckless course charted by those who refuse to face facts.

We could take up Professor “Gus” Speth’s challenge in his book Red Sky at Morning, and Jared Diamond’s advice in “Collapse and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

It takes courage, it takes discipline, it takes self denial and a kind of re-birth to do what has to be done to save ourselves from the Inconvenient Red Skies of Collapse — which is a thought to ponder well this Easter morning.


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