Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Saving for the future
Saving for the future is something we all know about. Perhaps it means delaying the purchase of that new refrigerator or a better car till later so that we can buy those expensive textbooks and school uniforms for our children, or pay the bills to send them to college. Whatever form it takes, it is really about compromises now so that our children will have a better future. This is saving for the future on a personal level.
And when we talk about sustainable development, we are really talking about the same concept, but not at a personal level, rather at an island-wide or national level. So for instance in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small island country of about 100,000 people in the Caribbean, where tourism and agriculture dominate the economy, it becomes a question of whether to extend the airport so it can receive jet aircraft and expand the tourism market, or to build a cross-country road to open up new areas for development, agriculture and tourism. What is better for the country now as well as being more sustainable for the future? A difficult decision, which is complicated by personal ambitions, political agendas, foreign aid, market uncertainties and many other factors which all come into play to make the boundaries less clear and the choices harder to distinguish.
And then too, sustainable development is all about human resources. An article in the Fiji Times (4th August 2004) described the efforts of a prominent school in Fiji which was the first to introduce hydroponics classes (cultivation of plants using nutrient-rich water instead of soil), a dream of the school founder who felt that such a programme would improve the school’s finances. And indeed with hotels and resorts already placing orders at the school for supplies of lettuce and cabbage, this dream was turning into reality. Furthermore, besides grooming future doctors, lawyers and other white-collar workers, the school was also training future agriculturalists and entrepreneurs.
Sustainable development is all about using our human, natural and economic resources wisely so as to improve our standard of living whilst also leaving sufficient resources for the generations still to come. The following article (adapted from the Free News, Anguilla, 25th November, 2003) poses the question: Is sustainable development the way forward?
In many articles the phrase sustainable development is mentioned. It is in many cases a ‘buzzword’ used to explain the unexplainable. The question islanders need to ask is where will sustainable development leave the present generation? What can we realistically hope for now? If sustainable development is the way forward, should we want the same things as the developed world?
If the answer is yes, then should islanders also want the things that many persons in the developed world don’t like, such as motorways, genetically modified foods, industrialization, multi-national corporations and sky scrapers.
Development is usually taken to mean that the country has a great deal of freedom and all the material benefits of modern life. The problem with sustainable development is that it does not say that small islands can have the same. Sustainable development is an argument for restraint and compromise in order to preserve the environment, it prioritizes nature over human beings, advocates technology for developing countries that first world countries wouldn’t accept, denies ambition and promotes low expectations.
Small islands have to be careful that the unspoken assumption in the discussions about sustainable development is that people from the developing world are different from the people of the developed world.
In all this talk of a country’s development, it is also obvious that too much emphasis is placed on economic measures such as gross domestic product (GDP). Many small islands with a history of slavery and exploitation need to be measured by different indicators.
Small islands must come up with their own development strategy. And the emphasis must be on people. The real problem for policy makers is how to stimulate creativity and maximize the resourceful energies of island peoples. Any ideas……
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