A cleaner Barbados in 2016?


EMERGENCY911 block-1To my readers, please accept my best wishes for 2016. I wish you a safe, healthy, successful year; and may all of your wishes and dreams come true.

I do not believe 2016 will be the year the world finally reaches the brink of war –– even though there are many who are of the opinion the world is rapidly becoming a place of lawlessness and violence, as radical extremism continues to present its agenda with an orchestra of guns and bloodshed. Regretfully, only the people in the front row of this violent theatre are experiencing the real sound of death and sadness.

This is yet another year carrying the expectations of improvement and changes in all the things that have previously brought stress in our lives. But while we wish for new beginnings, there are many among us who will still drag last year’s pain and disappointments into the New Year, wishing for change but afraid of letting go of the past. This attitude of dragging last year’s pain into the New Year has always intrigued me.

Why is it that with the advent of the New Year we still use last year’s issues as this year’s foundation for living, while not correcting those areas that were directly responsible for last year’s troubles? Why do we start New Year’s projects using last year’s failed procedures and tactics, and be completely resistant to trying a new approach that might improve the end result of the new projects? What are we truly afraid of?

This year can be the vehicle that takes us anywhere we wish to go, regardless of the social, financial and political challenges that may present themselves during the next 12 months. We have every reason to stop fiddling, and extinguish the fires that are now burning Rome, for this island Barbados, is our home and we are quite capable of replacing Nero.

Let us look at 2016 and where it can take us. There are still many issues under the heading of Natural Hazard Preparedness that continue to linger and haunt both the Government and the homeowner which must be brought to closure. The question, however, is: who is ultimately responsible for improving hazard preparedness, response and recovery? Is it the Government, the private sector, the community, the homeowner, or a combination of them all?

This column will continue to focus on the preparedness and response challenges of various types that often affect communities and the residents of those communities. This column will maintain its intent to motivate a community’s passion to make a difference, no matter how small; and to assist in helping anyone in his or her ability to recognize and mitigate challenges that our everyday environment can present.

The question will once again be asked. Should we continue to hope that the Government and its varying ministries, departments and agencies, or volunteer first responders come and fix things for us?

If our community floods every time it rains, what can we, as a community, as a common people, do together to fix the problem? Why should we wait for “someone else” (Government) to come fix those things within our capability?

Why should we wait for a “fish” to be handed to us when there are people among us who can teach us how to “fish”? We may not have the materials needed to fix the roads torn apart by floodwaters, but we can unite to change those things within our power.

For Barbados, the 2015 hurricane season was uneventful as near misses once more supported the firmly ensconced habit of “last-minute preparation”. There is a long held theory that complacency is very much a part of our behaviour, as it would appear that Barbados still prefers to operate in “scramble mode”.

However, the Bahamas was not so fortunate, as a massive container ship was lost to the power of the sea from Hurricane Joaquin. In Dominica, floodwaters created history in this tranquil island as there were no near misses to talk about.

While the Government cannot legislate preparedness on individuals or a community, I would sincerely hope the pleas for preparedness by the country’s emergency management will be heeded before it is too late.

People are still dying on our highways. The year is only four days old and the accident rate seems intent on starting off with renewed vigour.

New designs have been introduced, which in the opinion of traffic planners will assist in managing the congested roads of this island. However, the question remains as to its ultimate effectiveness and technical capability to manage the behaviour of the island’s drivers.

Four-lane highways, additional traffic lights and more “roundabouts” cannot and will not improve the driving attitudes and behaviours of motorists themselves.

In my opinion, stringently enforcing our highway codes and legislation will be far more effective than Press conferences and media presentations. It is time this country started enforcing our traffic laws. Our streets are not drag-strips and our sidewalks are not parking lots.

The unbridled fears of an Ebola outbreak in the Caribbean appears to have subsided as the panicking of Caribbean residents, fuelled by the media headlines, are now at manageable levels once more. What is ironic is that as the panic levels subsided, so too did the health surveillance protocols which were rapidly put in place because of Ebola. In this regard, would it therefore be safe to say, or very presumptuous to assume, that there is now no need for any type health surveillance protocols at any of the region’s airports and seaports? I hope someone high in government administration will be able to provide us with an answer.

According to the World Health Organization’s end-of-year (December 29) report on the Ebola outbreak, the West African nation of Guinea is now free of Ebola transmissions. The WHO news report about Guinea was supported by the African Football Confederation (CAF), as reported by Reuters, in that Guinea had been cleared to host international soccer matches in 2016 after being declared free of Ebola transmissions.

The WHO also pointed out that while the affected West African countries were beginning to declare they were becoming Ebola-free, it did not mean another outbreak could not occur. The WHO was therefore still encouraging unaffected countries not to either reduce or discontinue the surveillance protocols established for the illness.

The headlines for the New Year have already highlighted a settled attitude of unconcern towards protecting our environment, as illegal dumping continues unabated regardless of what penalties are threatened. Barbados, as an island, is our home, and not our personal playground subject to our unwarranted and indiscriminate abuse.

Life is priceless; this island is precious; we must remain aware of how our activities permanently impact the natural environment as we dispose of our waste.

Human life cannot be given a dollar value but our contribution to our continued development can be assessed in the economic, physical, psychological and sociological values that define human existence. We need to treasure human life and live in harmony with each other and not against each other.

Let us welcome 2016 with a true respect for the values that have made Barbados great. Let this year be the year of positive change for everyone.

I wish you well in this New Year.

(Email rgw.rgw1@gmail.com)

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