The global debate over development and the environment is being played out in the Cayman Islands in the court of law and the court of public opinion.
On the one hand, the debate is more about striking a balance between development and the environment than conversely, development versus the environment.
The other aspect is the place of a referendum, the true voice of the people, in this debate.
It’s ideally the best demonstration (note the context) of ‘vox populi, vox dei’.
If God is nature, meaning the environment, then most definitely the voice of the people resonates and should be given due heed.
Striking a balance between a new cruise pier and safeguarding the pristine marine environment was never going to be easy, especially for the Cayman Islands.
It’s a credit to Cayman that the airing of this crucial issue is being done in an ‘environment’ of openness and a non-confrontational manner.
While the territory compares admirably with the rest of the world in many respects beyond its status as a leading financial centre, its environmental vulnerabilities are also well-researched and documented.
At just 60 feet above sea level at its highest point, Cayman is fifth in the world for being vulnerable to sea level rises with the ensuing threat not only to its delicate biodiversity but its very way of life.
Shoreline erosion is a perennial concern and a threat to wildlife ecosystems.
Balancing that against the demands of development - as a previous editorial on this very issue noted - is a very delicate dance indeed.
The court ruling in favour of advocacy group Cruise Port Referendum Cayman allows a breathing space for the government and the pressure group to take stock and determine their next steps…or strategy.
Conventional wisdom preaches a balance between development and preserving the environment. While a worthy ideal, it’s easier said than done.
Striking, and maintaining, that balance takes skill, commitment and effort.
But, it’s a balance that must be struck especially in Cayman's case.
It’s a cold, hard fact of economics that the Cayman has to diversify its economy.
It today’s world, resting on one set of laurels is no guarantee of economic sustainability, especially for maintaining standards of an accustomed way of life.
With its almost total reliance on financial services and tourism, the Cayman needs to ensure that while it might very well have limited baskets in which to place its proverbial eggs, diversification and compartmentalisation within those few baskets is paramount…if only to keep the baskets intact.
As we noted previously, it’s a delicate balance and an even more delicate dance. Stepping on toes is not an option.
But when the two converge and this delicate dance is meticulously choreographed, the result is a win-win all around; win for the government, win for the investors, win for the territory, and win for the environment - which is the biggest win for the territory.