WEDNESDAY, JULY 25: A 30-page blueprint to balance a strong economy and environmental protection has been unveiled by green group BEST.
BEST, the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force, looks at Bermuda’s future — and recommends what it says is best policy for the protection of the island’s natural resources.
But the blueprint also lists recommendations on improving society and matching economic development in business and tourism to the fragile and limited resources available.
BEST, which is chaired by Stuart Hayward, suggested that Bermuda should look to redevelop brownfield sites instead of new development on open land — and urged “a tightening of Ministeral discretion” so that the overturning of Development Applications Board decisions and weakening of zoning protection can only happen when a development is of national importance and to the benefit of all Bermudians.
The report also calls for an integrated Environmental Strategy Plan to protect areas like Bermuda’s vulnerable reef and cave systems, as well as for more research funding to assess risks to the environment and health.
BEST said that the existing Bermuda Plan of 2008 potentially put conservation areas at risk and called for better controls on development.
The report said that Bermuda generated more waste per head than most developed countries — including the US – and had problems disposing of it. In addition, it highlighted “limited” opportunities for recycling.
And the report added that the Tynes Bay waste incinerator was already out-of-date and due for expansion or replacement despite being around 20 years old, although Bermuda has “done little to legislate against the importation of cheaply-made and highly-disposable goods” or encourage products which impact the environment less.
But BEST praised Government’s Energy White Paper, which was designed to lessen the island’s dependence on imported oil – which also increases energy costs.
And it called for energy saving electrical appliances, better energy management in businesses and a move to smaller, greener cars to help cut down on pollution.
The report added that proper environmental impact assessments should be carried out for large-scale developments to reduce the risk of damage to air and water quality.
The report also examined social sustainability – and called for more emphasis on family and the creation of a “village” feeling to help nurture and educate the young.
It also urged life skills classes to help people with parenting, finances and health care, as well as an emphasis on fair rents for existing properties rather than new-build projects.
On transport, it said that improvements to the public system could help cut down on traffic jams and fuel use and for the enforcement of emissions standards for vehicles.
BEST added that it believed cultural assets could be protected and used to strengthen the community — and attract tourists to the island’s historic sites and districts.
The report said that Bermuda’s population was increasing suffering from weight problems and diseases caused by lack of exercise and poor diet.
It pointed out that the nearly 20 per cent of household incomes going towards health care could be cut simply by better diet and the use and protection of open areas like parks and the railway trail to encourage exercise.
Population growth should also be carefully managed, BEST argued, to combat pressure on the environment and islanders already living in a densely-populated environment.
And it called for work to establish “an optimum carrying capacity”, even though total numbers are shrinking because of likely growth from “a rebounding economic cycle.”
The report also proposed a six-point business plan designed to encourage international business, improve opportunity for Bermudians and boost tourism.
But it also wants to see a stronger local economy, with more “entrepreneurship, self-reliance and community benefit” to reduce reliance on the two main industries of international business and tourism.
“Mini-towns” should also be promoted to fight urban sprawl and encourage healthy lifestyles and create sustainability.
BEST agreed that major building projects could bring benefits to Bermuda – but argued that every develppment had to be carefully examined and properly tendered for and managed.
BEST also called for a revamp of the public education in line with recommendations made in the Hopkins Report to ensure every Bermudian child can reach their potential – which the task force argues would cut down on gangs and violence as well as on the need to import labour.
And – despite a sometimes gloomy analysis – BEST was upbeat about the future of Bermuda, if careful planning was implemented.
The report concluded: “Best is certain that we can arrive at decisions that maximise the economic and social benefits for Bermudians while minimizing adverse environmental impacts.
“We look forward to a future in which Bermuda will be experienced and seen as a global example of environmental sustainability.”