Days before The Bahamas entered the first phase of a shuttered economy, award-winning civic leader and environmental advocate Joseph Darville predicted that when the world emerged at the other side of the deadly pandemic, Bahamians would discover that the new economy “lies in our own back yard.” “For too long, we in The Bahamas have existed on parasitic or artificial and ephemeral means of gaining wealth…ship wriecking, gun running, rum running, drug running, even people running or human smuggling,” said Darville, who was addressing participants at a 3-day conference on climate resilience at the University of The Bahamas.
“All of these fleeting elements opening doors to temporary wealth could vanish in a moment, and then how will you survive? You are blessed with a relatively small population, and with natural resources to create untold weath.” Darville, chairman of Save The Bays, a Director of Waterkeeper Bahamas and a certified climate change trainer, urged the audience to consider what was before their very eyes, especially in islands hit by Hurricane Dorian. “Are you mindful of the great treausre you can obtain from the thousands of acres of pines compromised in Abaco and Grand Bahama by Dorian?” the former educator and past vice-president of the Bahamas Union of Teachers asked the audience. “They are there for the easy harvesting to aid in your recovery and bring you necessary assistance for your future safety. What a ready-made industry at your doorstep. Quit thinking that all good things come from abroad. If a foreign land were more favourable, my creator would have placed you there. Why isn’t there use being made of our thousands of acres of palmento palms? Years ago, on our family of islands, these were the choice to cover the roofs of our homes and they are still the choice for the artistic creations by our many artisans.”
Construction of fine wooden homes with true craftsmanship and the use of Abaco or Caribbean pine will jumpstart an industry and generate jobs, he noted. Careful harvesting of crops of the sea from by-products of sand to marine life while allowing closed seasons for reproduction and obeying rules of marine protected areas that follow mother nature’s path can create wealth for every Bahamian. From sturdy pine for building houses and boats to fruits of the trees that provide nectars and natural medicines, The Bahamas, said Darville, is blessed with economic opportunities too often overlooked by a population accustomed to buying what someone else produced and shipped.
“Why can’t every citizen in this glorious archipelago be forever abounding in wealth and comfort?” he asked. And nothing, he said, was closer to “our own backyard in building wealth” than the sun, wind and water to generate power “We are blessed with year-round sunshine and yet we continue to use fossil fuels to generate power when much of the rest of the world, including countries with only a fraction of our bounty in sunshine, are moving toward 100% renewables,” said Darville, who trained under climate change pioneer former US Vice President Al Gore. “It is called fossil fuel for a reason. The oil that we extract from the earth is harvested by smashing through thousands of years of formation that includes the bones of human and animal bodies so when you think about turning on a light and that light is not driven by a renewable, I want you to stop and think about the bodies that created that power.”
Challenges like Dorian and COVID-19 open doors to opportunities and increased economic independence, said Darville, who predicted that more Bahamians will start backyard farming and he hopes that Dorian taught people on Family Islands the importance of learning to swim and the need to build boats. “We humans,” he said, “should learn from trees. When disaster strikes and a hurricane hits, the strong trees revive. We can emerge with a new economy built on what has been before our eyes for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Maybe it took Dorian and COVID to make us appreciate how important our own natural resources are to our future and our well-being as a people.”