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Small Islands Voice Global Forum

Controlling population growth

I think it is important that the peoples of small island nations, when considering the human factor and what present and future generations of islanders aspire to, think carefully about the population pressure issue and how that can be their downfall or their salvation, depending on how they deal with it writes Alina Szmant (USA) in responding to the article about saving for the future.

The critical issue small island nations must address in sustainable development is how to achieve stable human population size. More roads, more hotels, more agriculture all destroy the natural habitat that is needed to sustain tourism as an industry. Continental visitors value beautiful rain forested mountains, clean pristine beaches bordered by jungle, and clear waters when they consider spending their vacation dollars on travelling to a remote island nation. They don't want lots of glass and concrete, which is what they are surrounded with at home! With a stable human population size, development can mean improving established agricultural enterprises and tourism properties so that they yield good salaries for the island residents. If the resident human population keeps growing, then more land must be cleared for housing, food production and more business development. This is not sustainable development. I actually despise the term sustainable development because it implies that if you do it right, you can keep on developing forever. Development cannot be sustainable when it is based on converting undeveloped, natural lands to other uses. Land is a limited resource, and land development carries with it an irreversible loss of natural beauty. Once developed it is almost impossible to restore to the original condition. The human problem with sustainable development is that we don't know when or how to stop ourselves. Every piece of undeveloped land looks like dollar signs in the minds of politicians and developers. The first world countries like the USA are suffering unrestrained development all along their coastlines. Wetlands, marshes, mangroves all fall to people wanting homes and hotels with an ocean view. Most small island nations have limited land resources and can't take too much of this kind of pressure before turning into some sort of concrete jungle (take a look at Grand Cayman).

Writing on the same theme, Dulph Mitchell from San Andres (Caribbean) says: Today the Archipelago of San Andres, Providence and Santa Catalina, a part of Colombia, is experiencing the uncontrolled migration and continuous residence by citizens from mainland Colombia, and displacing us as a people from our own homeland. This has been ongoing since 1953, when our territory was declared a free port, and is resulting in an alarming increase in population; in 1952 there were 5,675 inhabitants, in 1973: 22,989, in 1992: 75,000+; and in 2005: 100,000+. With all these people living in an area of 27 square kilometres, we have one of the highest population densities in the world. It goes without saying that there is also the unceasing erection of enormous cement buildings which serve only to destroy the natural beauties around us, without forgetting our being pushed out from our rightful place by the people who are coming in and buying up the lands, creating in this way a tsunami of overpopulation. Today, in the face of this lamentable condition my questions are: (1) Can someone quickly help us to find out what is the carrying capacity of our territory? (2) Is there some way in which this can be determined? (3) At this alarming rate of population growth, how long will it take for our small islands to sink and disappear completely from existence? Help! Help! Help! A solution is needed urgently.

Messages In This Thread

Saving for the future
newspaper article -- Tuesday, 21 June 2005
Controlling population growth
D. Mitchell and A. Szmant -- Wednesday, 6 July 2005
Balancing people and resources
G. Leys, C. McMurray, O. Santos, Vernon -- Thursday, 21 July 2005
Education is key to coping with population growth
I. Economides, V. Jackson, S. Tusa, T. Wilson -- Tuesday, 2 August 2005

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