The word ‘sustainability’, like the phrase ‘climate change’ tends to get so overused that one could be justified in wondering if, like the concerns over the environment, it too faces a threat of extinction.
However, with ‘sustainability’ factored into almost every facet of modern life, permanent, irreversible damage, if not an extinction-level threat, is indeed a clear, present and long term danger.
And that goes hand-in-glove with concerns about climate change.
Conventional wisdom suggests a balance between development and preserving the environment. It’s a worthy ideal.
If there’s no environment, there’s no development; neither the built environment or the more crucial human development.
The simple point is this; the price of development should not be the sacrifice of the environment.
Development and the environment have become the defining issues of our time.
How much development is enough development, and at what point is development determined to have reached its saturation point?
The challenge for governments and their electorate the world over is in making that determination…and distinction.
In this context the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) listed by the United Nations are crucial.
From poverty to partnerships they all revolve around a central theme; the environment.
In the pursuit of development, especially towards acceptable and affordable standards of living, external factors are inescapable.
This is particularly notable in small societies exposed and dependent on the outside world for trade, specific skills and expertise, investment and other forms of funding.
Each country and society aspires to global standards of living for its citizens and residents.
Governments across the globe place their political fortunes on their promises and commitments to better the lot of their constituents.
But that must come with an equal focus on preserving the environment.
While the built environment is an indicator of development - and a requirement in many respects - the natural environment is the lungs, lifeblood and filter of a society.
That makes environmental impact assessments so critical.
Cold, hard, indisputable and often-times uncomfortable facts which stand in the way of a developer’s dream and a government’s goals must be balanced against the long-term sustainability of a society.
The Caribbean along with the est of the world is littered with well-intentioned projects gone awry with costly corrective environmental recovery bills, or in some instances where the damage is irreversible.
The threat to the natural environment including wildlife habitats has to be balanced against the pressures and demands of development.
It’s a delicate balance and a delicate dance.
But when the two converge and this delicate dance is meticulously choreographed, the result is just awe-inspiring ‘trippin’ the light fantastic’.
More importantly, it benefits both ‘development’ and the environment.
The Cayman Islands could be on the cusp of that with the new cruise pier project.
It’s just a matter of getting the balance right in the dance between development and the environment.