Sustainable development – what it really means

| 02/03/2021 | 33 Comments

Green Hornet writes: A few years ago, when Desmond Seales was running Cayman Net News, the Green Hornet wrote a weekly column for several years about our environmental and related social problems. After Desmond’s demise the Hornet lost his nest, but now has found a new one at Cayman News Service. What is amazing, though not surprising, is that the same problems faced in the first decade of the 21st Century are exactly the same as they are in our third decade.

Of course, now they seem beyond our control as the billionaire/hedge fund corporate money flows endlessly into Cayman and the island drives towards a population of 100,000 with no attempt to control it or the chaos that it is creating.

So, here’s the first of my updated weekly pronouncements.

There are two phrases which have become commonplace in the English language during the past decades: ‘growth management’ and ‘sustainable development’, but I often wonder if anybody actually knows what they mean. Certainly in these islands I think that for many people understanding the true meaning is, to say the least, a bit of a challenge.

If you punch “sustainable development” into Google, you end up with more than 40 million hits. That means it is an important issue, wouldn’t you say? One of the best definitions I’ve heard to date was put forward by the Brundtland Commission (World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, 1987): “To meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

This is a very far-reaching principle that admits a wide range of activities to allow residents of the planet – present and future – to live fulfilling lives. Basic to the definition is the concept that needs are met. Remember, that’s not wants, it’s needs. Big difference.

In much of the rest of the world the present realities of conflict, malnutrition, lack of suitable housing and lack of safe drinking water suggest that significant development is needed for the people in those countries who lack these basic human requirements. It would seem to me that in Cayman we have pretty much met these needs. So, the rest of it (here, anyway) is window dressing – or the icing on the cake.

The issue of inter-generational responsibility also is raised. That means, are you concerned about leaving anything behind for your kids and grandkids? Well, are you? If not, you should be.

Note that this definition of sustainable development does not denounce the depletion of non-renewable resources. Under this definition it is permissible for the current generation to use up all fossil fuels, but in the process, the current generation would be obligated to find alternative supplies of materials for future generations to meet needs now met by use of fossil fuels. That would mean alternative energy, such as solar or wind power. Not doing too well on that score, are we?

One of the basic stipulations laid out in the Brundtland Report was that each country had to preserve at least 13% of its land-based environment through the setting aside of wilderness and other protected areas. So, where are we in Cayman? …about 4% at last count. Not so good on that score, either.

So much for sustainable living. Not here – in Grand Cayman, anyway. So, let’s take a look at ‘growth management’. The meaning of the phrase is not the one we seem to have adopted in Cayman. Here, it seems to mean managing our growth so that everybody can keep on making lots of money and take their cash to the bank forever and ever.

Managing growth so that we can fill and pave everything. So that we can create new towns where there were once trees and mangroves. New towns for the rich, complete with their own schools, restaurants, shopping malls and any other services their hearts desire. The design, layout and construction, I’m sure, is very well managed growth. Not.

Managing growth so that people can buy South Sound homes wrecked by Hurricane Ivan for a song and fix them up (as several real estate hustlers advertised at the time). Let’s not worry about doing something so they won’t get trashed in the next storm, like building them higher, or setting them back further from the sea. Let’s just manage the money we make all the way to the bank and watch our bank accounts grow! Yup.

The real concept of growth management began in earnest after the Second World War in several European countries. In England, for example, urban sprawl and industrialisation looked like they were going to consume that country’s “green and pleasant land”. And so, greenbelts were established. These were areas around large conurbations such as London, where the countryside was protected against urban sprawl. The concept has been somewhat eaten away by sprawl in recent years, but it’s still pretty strong.

More recently, the US has attempted to follow the same route and set aside areas for green space, such as parkland and wilderness zones. In some places this has been successful, in others not so successful. But the philosophy is the same. Of course, Trump made a big dent in this, opening them up to mining, fracking and oil exploration. We need to set aside areas where humans will not pour their concrete. If we don’t, then concrete is all we’ll see. Maybe not as much as our children and their children will see, but there will still be a whole lot of it.

Okay, back to Cayman. We did have a philosophy of protecting our green space by designating (as countries have all over the world) environmentally sensitive areas. These are areas of land which cannot be developed, or can have only minimal development on them. The last land-use plan for Grand Cayman has such zones clearly designated. The UDP politicians threw them out at the time and the island plan is now well over 25 years old.

Maybe we have a chance if we get a new government – not the same old “develop at all costs” bunch we have now. A chance to say to the rest of the world: “Look, we have 13% of our land protected as well.” We need to do what is the most difficult thing or all for humans to do. We need to say, STOP!

We need to say it in a very loud voice, and we need to say it while we can still save something. Then, and only then, will we be able to say we truly understand those two phrases – sustainable development and growth management.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature, Viewpoint

Comments (33)

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  1. Courtney Platt says:

    This and rescuing our beleaguered reef fish from continual decline into oblivion ought to be well considered and addressed by the next administration who will also have to lead us through the maze of crucial issues that are more prevalently discussed at all of the candidates’ campaign rallies of this election.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Pity the Nation

    Pity the nation whose people are sheep
    And whose shepherds mislead them
    Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
    Whose sages are silenced
    And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
    Pity the nation that raises not its voice
    Except to praise conquerers
    And acclaim the bully as hero
    And aims to rule the world
    With force and by torture
    Pity the nation that knows
    No other language but its own
    And no other culture but its own
    Pity the nation whose breath is money
    And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
    Pity the nation oh pity the people
    who allow their rights to erode
    and their freedoms to be washed away
    My country, tears of thee
    Sweet land of liberty!”

    By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  3. J.A.Roy Bodden says:

    We should not expect to ‘make silk purses from the ears of sows’. During my time in the Legislative Assembly , there were few Members whose debates offered any edification. When the issue of preserving the environment was mentioned one since disgraced ‘know it all’ famously quipped “that you can’t eat the environment” . His colleague and co -conspirator at the time branded my colleague and myself as “defunct school teachers ” and our constructive and informed debates were the butt of jokes and games stock .

    I am happy that voices are now being raised and that sensible and informed persons are beating the drums of common sense and decency. More of our politicians need to be truly educated and cease and desist from corrupt practices situational ethics and self -enrichment.

    And finally ,to the electors let us listen long, search the records and elect persons with vision and foresight …Enough of those who are drunks, women beaters and who sell our birthright to the highest bidder.

    • Anonymous says:

      Roy, you need to address the real issues.
      The majority of the LA is Lodge and as such, they have a framework that bypasses “normal” regulation.
      Would you like to comment on this? I think your input would be most enlightening and we look forward to it.

    • Anonymous says:

      And, again, Mr Bodden, you are the first and only MLA past, present and or running currently to speak up, again.

      THANK YOU! Thank you for trying to stop this years ago.

      I’m sorry you experienced such rude and ignorant comments. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Let me rephrase one sentence for you, Roy: During my time in Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet that I was part of gave irrevocable Caymanian Status to Ken Dart.
      Now that we have corrected that omission, what were you saying about preserving Cayman’s environment?

  4. Anonymous says:

    A Huge Thank you to the writer of this article.

  5. CrowdFundCayman says:

    We need to take it into our own hands. Why can’t we do this here: $10 x 65,000 = $650,000 can easily buy a piece of beach land east of Bodden Town. Do that every month and we start to build a portfolio of protected land that can be donated to the National Trust.

    Canadians just crowdfunded $3 million to buy pristine land and save it from development

    New Zealand beach bought by crowdfunding is given to public

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is this not top comment or editor’s pick? This is brilliant! Oops, I forgot, once the land is placed back into public hands for all to enjoy there can be no kickbacks from development.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This article requires some level of reading comprehension and intelligence. The number of comments speaks for itself. And people who couldn’t finish reading this article, let understand and comment, will be electing next CIG.

  7. PhenomAnon says:

    The developers (BOTH the Caymanian ones and the foreign ones) and our greedy PPM government are not concerned with the ills that result from uncontrolled development. Their only concern is making a money. Period. The greedy developers convince our greedy government to move roads, change zones from restricted development to full commercial, change building height limits, etc., etc. Then, after giving the developers all that they need to build to their greedy little heart’s desire, our greedy politicians then grant duty concessions to developers, thereby giving away ANY benefit Caymanians may have received from all of the development (imagine how much better public education would be if those duties were actually COLLECTED and funneled into educating our kids?).

    Does this uncontrolled development result in jobs for Caymanians? Go to any construction site and look around. Go take a look. White guys in hard hats giving directions to Jamaicans and Hondurans. And no, I have nothing against white guys, Jamaicans or Hondurans. My point is that you don’t see many Caymanians working at these construction sites. And spare me the age-old lie that “Caymanians don’t want those jobs”. BS. The model is to employ cheap and controllable labor. Period. And our greedy politicians have facilitated that model. The developer gets rich, the politicians get their kick backs (most do it by ghost owning real estate companies and construction related businesses). The average Caymanian gets nothing but the ecological mess (coral-killing diseases, beach erosion, Mount Trashmore) and the social ills (over population, culture clash, segregation caused by disparities in wealth, income and education) that result.

    Caymanians, it starts with us. We are the ones voting for the people that do not have our best interests at heart. We are the ones that need to stop putting people in political office that have zero interest in public service and zero interest in considering the long term future of Cayman and Caymanians. Please wake up. WE are the ones allowing this to happen.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lots of white Caymanians around… lots.

      • And?? says:

        @03/03/2021 at 5:30pm – One would need a map, a compass, sherpas, a donkey and a Samsung Point Finder to find your point with this comment.

        • Anonymous says:

          To 11:13pm:

          Actually no…..the comment that 5:30pm replied to implied Caymanians aren’t white. It said “White guys in hard hats giving directions to Jamaicans and Hondurans. And no, I have nothing against white guys, Jamaicans or Hondurans. My point is that you don’t see many Caymanians working at these construction sites.”

    • Anonymous says:

      All too true, Phenom !!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is well written and well intended ….

  9. Anonymous says:

    ” So, where are we in Cayman? …about 4% at last count.” I’m sorry in my opinion I believe you’re wrong. All the property from across Rum point cannot be developed on the water front because you have to give 2000 ft. This extends to all non developed property so far back to GT Barcadere. All the Central Mangrove which could have been used and developed has been blocked. Because no roads which were gazetted for more than 40 years have never started. This has caused most of the congested road problems going East. This property could have been bought cheaply for $20,000 per acre had the road been done without buying it from private owners. Developers could have built cheaper houses for Caymanians and still made good profits. But so far NOT DEVELOPED that is about 9000 acres on my calculator it says over 14 sq miles. You have 5 quarries that I couldn’t account for but we have way more than 4%. Plus, its mangrove. What about the other side of the road going to East End from Frank Sound? The only thing I have seen in the Central Mangrove is mosquitoes. Remember the ducks that used to be in the traffic inspection place in crewe rd? I asked them if anyone was feeding them and they said no. So are they staying? They said they tried taking them to swampland in the East but they would fly back each time. I’ve always wondered what happened to them.
    Well, I hope I have given you all something to know about the silent owners who disagree. But you all could have solve this from 40 years ago. Write a check to the owners and donate all of the swampland to the National Trust. Wayne or Sammy are Lawyers they can tell you that the Law firm or Accounting firms, Dart, Mrs. Harlquail ( Dart owns her share which was close to 1000 acres) another recent 600 acres was bought by a unknown could have easily been bought. But of course whenever you want to make a difference just pull out that debit card and go for it.

    • Fixthetrafficnottheroads says:

      Go East can’t Go West – it’s the Grand Harbour pinch and now it’s a struggle to go South North. The $$ spaghetti road propoal for Red Bay is not going to fix a damn thing except create another line of one-way traffic within the neighbourhood. Dear God pleaee give us a miracle and give us some Candidates who will bring proper solutions!

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry you’re not happy with your inheritance.

    • Anonymous says:

      Land in private ownership being held for future development is not protected. Idiot.

    • Anonymous says:

      Some good points here but those that downvote can’t be bothered to discuss what they disagree with… Kind of typical.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great GREAT article!!

    Please keep posting but remember your audience. Sadly, many of them won’t read a long article and many won’t read if you include facts and examples from other countries.

    I think more facts about the destruction of Cayman, the water that surrounds us, the lack of green space around GT and WB, the dump, medical waste, jet fuel smog, lack of recycling, dangerous chemicals used in farming and cleaning … you get the idea.

    I think you need to include the glaring filth facts about Cayman that over development is causing and CIG is not addressing would be far more attention grabbing. Many CIG and their counterparts seem oblivious to the problems. I think it is imperative ithat you hit them with their own filth FACTS and embarrass them, maybe they will finally pull up their bootstraps in 2021 and do better or stop outright.

    I’m glad you are writing!! Please keep it coming.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why are you telling someone what to write about?? LOL
      You could write your own Viewpoint as well. Anyone can.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Welcome back – I hope you can make a dent in the hollow heads developing the $%@! out of the country.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Good article, but I have one question: It was reported that Desmond Seales died more than a decade ago – July 3, 2010 to be exact. If you were writing for him a few years ago, does that mean he faked his death … again?

  13. Anonymous says:


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