Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Education is key to coping with population growth
In the long term, I think that a decent public education system is the solution to the population growth problem, or any other problem, writes Ioannis Economides, Cyprus (Mediterranean). Educated businessmen could utilize the competitive advantage offered by any location and create employment opportunities. An educated workforce could move anywhere in the world where there are employment opportunities. Educated scientists could focus their attention to more relevant opportunities and threats. Educated public officials could make better government policy choices. Educated parents could choose to have more or less children. Educated citizens could choose better governments, demand less corruption and more freedom in making choices for themselves. Educated societies can continue to learn and teach themselves.
Vaasiliifiti Moelagi Jackson from Samoa (Pacific) writes to share her own village news regarding population growth. We have two churches shared by three villages: Safua has a population of 360 people, Lalomalava being 813 and Vaisaulu 113 people. On Sunday we celebrated our Congregational Church Ministerís 60th birthday. According to the church records only 365 babies were born and baptised in the last 30 years. This decline in the birthrate has been quite visible with the continuous decrease in the Sunday School numbers every year. Apparently our three villages have been successful education-wise and development-wise: with the two hotels, a bus company, two village markets, various small businesses and progress in agricultural development. The only development, according to the Church Minister, that is not progressing, is the making of babies - everyone roared with laughter at this.
For islands wishing to move away from traditional economies based on agriculture and fishing and to provide new employment opportunities for their growing populations, there are fears and concerns. Sebastiano Tusa, from Sicily (Europe) writes: Many small islands around Sicily have poor transportation connections, frequently bad weather conditions close the harbours and only two of them have air connections, which are irregular during the winter. The main problem for these islands is their future. Agriculture and fishing are in deep crisis so the only future is based on tourism. But there is a huge danger that tourism will destroy the beauty of those islands because of buildings, roads and all the well known consequences of wide and uncontrolled tourism development. We are fighting to maintain intact the original features of those islands, but the war is uncertain and very hard.
However, tourism development does not have to be destructive, as Terry Wilson from Lord Howe Islands (Australia) writes: I enjoyed reading your article 'Saving for the future'. It provided a very typical development scenario for many small islands. Interestingly, here on Lord Howe Island, back in the 1970s there was a push to construct an airport to accommodate commercial jets. Fortunately, the geological nature of the lagoon was unstable and not able to cope with the engineering requirements. Eventually a smaller runway was constructed, which was not long enough to handle large jets but provided sufficient length to cater for twin turbo propeller aircraft which can carry up to 30 people. This smaller runway did not project out into the picturesque lagoon, and with fewer visitors, there was less pressure for development, particularly large scale hotel chains, as there were insufficient tourist numbers. The outcome was a smaller but sustainable number of visitors, far less intrusive environmental impacts, and the keeping of the values that people came for in the first place i.e. small roads, safe bike riding etc. Because of its uniqueness, visitor numbers have remained strong, and environmental values have been preserved. I appreciate the dilemmas facing many developing island nations, but resisting the pressures to over-develop will result in longer term economic security (keeping uniqueness) and sustainability regarding infrastructure (road network, waste management). I'm sure these factors assisted in having Lord Howe Island listed as a world heritage site in the early 1980s.
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