By Charles Fawkes
"Earth Day is
when consumers can recommit themselves to the fight
for planetary rights."
HOUSE OF LABOUR: As
our National leadership considers the introduction of
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) into our economy and
environment and ponders what role The Bahamas can play
in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), it is
appropriate that consumers reflect on the lessons of
and purpose of Earth Day recently observed by local
and international environmentalist.
impact of FTAA on the environment in relations to
investments our national leaders should bear in mind
as pointed out in "Alternatives for the
Americas" that "Liberalisation of investment
and the opening of trade through the free trade
agreements signed to date, especially the North
American Free Trade Agreement, have had severe social
and environmental impacts on people and workers. The
peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean aspire to an
international and national economy based on different
principles - an economy that makes sustainability a
The problem with
classic trade and investment policy from an
environmental perspective is that it "externalises"
(does not account for) environmental and social costs,
while fostering more intense energy use,
over-exploitation of natural resources, and damage to
biodiversity, all of which erode the underlying basis
of the economy and society.
intensify the expropriation of genetic resources, the
destruction of natural ecosystems, environmental
deregulation, and the violation of the individual and
collective civil rights of generations present and
future. Environmental degradation has also had a
disproportionate effect on people living in poverty,
especially women, as these groups tend to live with
the impact of contaminated habitats and resources in
places where there is less political will to improve
conditions. Supporters of these policies view
components of sustainable development as limitations
to trade (e.g. food security, the protection of
collective wisdom about biodiversity, the sustainable
use of ecosystems and the existence of fair and
equitable ways of sharing the benefits of natural
resources). Governments for the most part, ours
included, have rejected these ideals, yielding instead
to international market pressures.
As for Earth Day
celebration in April each year consumers will have to
see this celebration as more that just a day to plant
trees and collect bags of garbage off the beach as
demonstrated by Ron Pinder and the U.S. Charge d'
Affaires Robert Witajewski and the Sandals teams.
In the decade after
the first Earth Day 34 years ago, many people planted
trees to fight smog, picketed toxic dumps, and slogged
through mud to clean up grungy river banks. Back then
being earth friendly meant giving $25 to save whales
or choosing unleaded gas at pumps. Bahamian
environmentalists may have to redefine what issues
from a Bahamian perspective that should take
prominence to our environment next Earth Day.
It is general
knowledge for consumers who are environmentally
conscious that as inhabitants of this Earth -Earthians,
we need a day to celebrate our global unity and
destiny. The observance of Earth Day will alert
concern and interest for our planet with its precious
treasure of living things. Earth Day is to remind each
person of his right and the equal right of each person
to the use of this global home and at the same time
the equal responsibility of each person to preserve
and improve the Earth and the quality of life thereon.
Earth Day is a
special day to remember Earth's tender seedlings of
life and people, a day for planting trees and flowers;
a day for cleaning streams and wooded glens and on
Earth Day the Earth Flag which portrays in its center
our "Beautiful Blue Planet", be flown to
encourage mutual respect for Earth and all its people.
importantly Earth Day is when consumers can recommit
themselves to the fight for planetary rights as
defined by John McConnell one of the founders of Earth
Day. His original vision of Earth Day is as follows:
"1. That all
men are created equally free and independent and have
among their inalienable rights certain fundamental
property rights during their sojourn on this planet.
2. That a
beneficent Creator has provided this Earth- home, this
nests in the stars, with an abundance of land and
natural resources; enough that with care and all
members of the family of man can enjoy cooperation a
3. That among the
equal rights of men is the right to an equal share in
nature's bounty; a right of each man (person) to his
planetary inheritance his share of land, water,
minerals of an appropriate equivalent in food, housing
or other benefits. No one can, by any compact, deprive
or divest their posterity, or any other man's
posterity, of the right to his portion of Earth. All
natural resources belong equally to every living
4. That steps
should be taken to compensate for, or other wise
adjust the differences in the present unequal
ownership of the gifts of nature. To this end each
nation should collect two percent royalty each year
for all use (including its own) of any land or other
natural resources. These royalties would be above and
apart from taxation for government needs, and be
distributed equally to all citizens through quarterly
payments, or other appropriate measures. In this way
within a fifty year life span there will be full and
just compensation to each person for the use of his
portion of Earth's natural riches.
5. That since the
benefits of nature's bounty can be realized through
man's constructive effort and the wise use of his
accumulated knowledge, each person's learning and
labour should be encouraged and rewarded. Therefore,
no individual, or group should be deprived of any just
benefits obtained from earth's available so long as
fair payment it made to the rest of mankind.
6. That the basic
raw materials of the Earth should be made available to
all on an equal basis, with due regard for the
requirements of conservation; the United Nations
should seek agreements to serve this purpose.
7. That steps be
taken by the United Nations to assure that the use and
exploitation of the sea and sea floor will be equally
available to people of all nations, subject to careful
conservation regulations and supervision; and that in
addition to fees for its services, the United Nations
will collect royalties for the use of the sea and sea
floor to be distributed equally among the ultimate
owners all the people of this Earth.
8. That as these
steps toward social justice and cooperation
demonstrate their advantage, all nations should seek
to adjust the remaining differences among them in
natural resources benefits through participation in a
natural resource Royalties pool, whereby equal royalty
payments would be paid each and every member on the
whole human family. Theses steps towards realisation
of global property rights will encourage cooperation,
individual initiative, and responsibility; they will
make feasible full production with ever-growing
peaceful progress as we explore the nature of man and
his place in the universe, and find new ways to
encourage and inspire his highest potentials.
Earth Day activists
in The Bahamas may have to ask question like where
have all the beaches gone and why consumers have no
access to them except from the shore lines? We may
have to scrutinise LNG investments or drilling rights
of our seabed to foreign companies. We may have to
take a second look at Bimini Bay and additionally we
may have to examine gated communities and future
Clifton Cays. Further, more environmentally conscious
consumers may have to face the biggest challenge yet.
Consumers will have to rise to the challenges of
global warming. In this new millennium planting trees,
cleaning beaches or keeping The Bahamas clean is not
enough. One of the planets most pressing problems is
global warming. This issue looks to be the most
tractable and frustrating to activists because their
challenge is how to get individuals to change their
attitude and behavior for a problem that looms so
large and is unlikely to be solved for generations.
then, consumers when considering the Earth Day pledges
* Check their job
out and see if it aids life more than it destroys.
advertisements and reject products that waste or
* Share cars,
newspapers, whatever you can.
* Recycle paper,
metal, glass, plastics.
* Repair and give
away what you no longer need.
* Love a little.
insulate you home, and build for good ventilation.
* Use your hands.
* Learn how a
person treats the Earth before you vote for him of
* Rejoice in human
* Use your legs.
* Grow some of your
* Inherit the
Earth; it belongs to each of us.
Charles Fawkes is
the President of the National Consumer Association and
organiser for the Commonwealth Group of Unions ,
Inside Labour columnist for the Bahama Journal ,
Editor of the Headline News, The Consumerguard and the
Worker's Vanguard . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
He can be contacted at his office in the House of
Labour at 326-6620.