Industrialization in Trinidad - A Realist's View
Posted: Friday, January 6, 2006
Posted By: Fred Fisher
It is very unfortunate that the press decided to categorize the people protesting the industrialization of the Southwestern Peninsula as "Environmentalists" calling their struggle an environmental protest.
The reality is that most of the residents of Cedros opposed to the petro chemical industrial mega complex at their doorsteps never even heard of the term environmentalist until the press started calling them environmental protesters and enviromentalists.
The reality is that when somebody is concerned about being driven from their home and forcefully pushed into the a murder a day environment of Northern Trinidad, they are not exactly staging an environmental protest.
The reality is that if a resident of Icacos who has a heart condition may not be able to get any medical help because there's an ammonia leak at the 'estate' that would not exactly be an environmental protest. There is only one road in and out of Cedros and the 'estate' will be occupying most of it. Realistically, that is a very dangerous situation when your estate traps an entire population like rats in a cage.
The reality is that if somebody comes into your neighbourhood to build 12 mega industrial plants right on top of the aquifer where your drinking water is coming from, you start worrying about your water supply. That does not necessarily turn you into an environmentalist. Do you know of any developed nation where people have six water tanks in their backyard? Just being realistic here.
The reality is that somebody worrying about getting gas for their car in the future while the official policy seems to be to get rid of it and to burn it up as quickly as possible that makes them a realist, not an environmentalist. We haven't developed any alternative fuels for our cars yet, so how about saving some for later.
When I worry about the future of my children, how would they live, where would they live, that does not make me an environmentalist, it makes me a realist. For the business editor of the Guardian to go so far as to call the creators of Pt. Lisas visionaries, well that makes me downright angry. Shortsighted would be a more appropriate term for such a development.
Which brings us to the question asked in that same Guardian article "What would Trinidad be without Pt. Lisas?" A realist's answer, it would be like Barbados or the Cayman Islands. To make the giant leap and proclaim it would be like Haiti is downright silly.
Let's look at the other Caribbean Islands, the one's that are not that "fortunate" to sit on a giant fault line that spits out oil and gas. Is the poverty level higher in Barbados, the Caymans or the Bahamas? No, the opposite is true. Are the roads worse than ours? No they are not. Is there less economic opportunity in a tourist oriented country? Not at all. Our own Tourism Minister proudly proclaimed that tourism is already generating more income and more jobs than all industry combined. The Cayman Island dollar buys you more than one US dollar. How did we get into the position where our money is worth 15 US cents? If we are raising our standard of living it is DESPITE OF Pt. Lisas, not because of it.
A realistic look at this so called Vision 2020 is that our vision is quite contrary to what is happening in any developed nation. All, and I mean ALL developed nations are decreasing their level of heavy industry. Even China stopped building any more smelters. The US made it their policy long time ago to export all their dirty industries to greedy third world nations where nobody gives a damn about the welfare of their citizens. But even the third world countries got smart eventually, take India for example. Bhopal was a wake up call for India and now they are a power house in software and information technology. Now that is Vision 2020. A realistic vision.
What do we have to conclude from the fact that ALL of the developed nations are getting rid of their heavy industries (The US hasn't built an oil refinery in many decades) The Trinidad view seems to be that the whole world is wrong, we are the only ones that have it right. Not a very realistic view now, is it?
A realist would wonder why the entire Cedros Peninsula Industrial park business is shrouded in secrecy. Do you know what is in that Memorandum of Understanding that the Gov't and Alcoa signed? Do you know what industries exactly are coming to these new 'unspecified' industrial estates? Do you know how many of these industries are actually outlawed in the developed world? Any nuclear weapons facilities? Chemical warfare? Do you know? How much does all of this cost us, the tax payers. Let's be realistic, the government is spending our money, not theirs. Are we paying subsidies to foreign companies? Why?
Alcoa is telling is that we have outdated information yet they have not provided one single bit of information on how their so-called new technology will be safer. Fact is that with 30 or so pages full of information on Alcoa and Smelters, not one single line of information published on the www.nosmeltertnt.com web site has ever been questioned or disproven by Alcoa.
We have heard concerns that this country is slowly turning into a US colony since our land seems to be sold of the foreign companies bit by bit. A realist would conclude, if we were a US colony, at least there would be laws against building this deadly chemical cocktail at our doorsteps. Just like the term environmentalist just doesn't fit the the Cedros people, US colony makes a point but it doesn't fit. Slave State would probably be a better term...just being realistic here.
I live in Cedros, I like driving my car, working in my air conditioned office, Satellite TV and all the modern conveniences. Progress to me would be a Cedros shopping centre, a good steak house, a bank, ABMs and maybe a Holiday Inn or two to provide FULL employment for everybody in Cedros who wants to work with no taxpayer's money needing to be spent whatsoever. To call me an enviromentalist is the furthest from the truth and I think that goes for most of my neighbours. I am not really too concerned about the Silver Hatchet fish, never ate one and it probably wouldn't taste very good without a lot of ketchup. I am concerned however about the people who live here, they are in danger of becoming an "extinct species" in Cedros.
But I am concerned about my quiet, clean and safe neighbourhood being turned into an industrial nightmare. I am concerned about the Pt. Fortin shopkeeper. Where does he go after most of his customers have been forcefully relocated? But then, everybody in Pt. Fortin is just so blissfully unaware of what's going to happen right under their noses. Just as they seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact that somebody built some giant LNG gas tanks right smack on top of a major fault line that could literally blow at any minute and take the entire town of Pt. Fortin with it.
So, maybe it is time to call the people objecting against Alcoa, dirty industries and the whole petro-chemical estate business by their proper name. It surely isn't environmentalist. Let's try being a realist for a while...let's see if that's the right fit for Trinidad!
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