FRIDAY, NOV. 2: BEST’s Blueprint on sustainable development aims to outline what it means to be a sustainable community and what it will take to get there.

Over the coming weeks the Bermuda Sun will continue publishing the text of the Blueprint, section by section.

 


“ …the health of our residents must be shielded as much as possible from the hazards of pollution. For this we need to know more about what pollutants we are exposed to and what their effects are.  We should therefore not only do everything we can to decrease the local input of pollutants and make clear our individual and collective responsibility for whatever pollutants are introduced to our environment but also pledge our support to international organizations working toward similar goals.” —  ‘Bermuda’s Delicate Balance’ chapter on Pollution

 

A number of organizations (BIOS, BEST, KBB, Greenrock, etc) and Government departments (Waste Management Section, Ministry of Public Works, Sustainable Development Unit) work hard to educate and inform.

The 81,000 tonnes of waste produced last year of  — and the resulting pollution — suggests there is still a long way to go. The message clearly stated above from 30 years ago — about toxic emissions from Tynes Bay, marine water pollution at Castle Harbour, groundwater pollution — has not yet sunk in.

Consumers by and large don’t question what makes up the goods they use or consume. They happily, if somewhat misguidedly, believe that manufacturers and industrial agriculture ensure the safety of the products they sell. Bermudians — through their imports — are not shielded from pollutant-caused events in the US, such as the ongoing meningitis scandal, outbreaks of food related illnesses, and product recall. These mal-events cry out for the consumer to become better educated to refuse or at least  reduce their purchase of  polluted and polluting products.

With over 3,000 residents, 1,680 dwellings and 2,300 motor vehicles per square mile, Bermuda easily ranks among the most densely populated territories on earth. 

Greenhouse gases

This, compounded by our disproportionately high greenhouse gas emissions and waste production per capita, results in an immense potential for pollution in both our terrestrial and marine environments.

As early as 2003, concentrations of airborne particulate matter on East Broadway were found to exceed acceptable levels set by the Bermuda Clean Air Regulations (1993) and elevated mercury concentrations were found in human fetal cord blood and in some species of local fish.2

Pollution can be defined as the introduction of a contaminant or contaminants into a natural environment at levels that cause instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem.

Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, including noise, heat or light, and can negatively impact both human and environmental health.

Identifying, minimising and ultimately preventing pollution will not only help to ensure the long-term survival of our many special, and often unique, ecosystems, but also has the potential to reduce healthcare costs, improve overall quality of life, and encourage tourism.

A 2007 study, for example, estimated the total economic value of Bermuda’s coral reefs alone to be $722m annually, and 14% of tourists interviewed as part of this study confirmed that they would not come to Bermuda should the coral reefs lose their “pristine” quality.

The continual updating, passing and enforcing of legislation that recognises current international environmental best practices, as well as the recommendations coming out of local research, will play an important role in reducing the harmful effects of pollution. Changing mindsets, including what is often referred to as our “throwaway mentality”, will also be essential.

This will require increased awareness and education, ideally as part of the national school curriculum, on the issues facing our environment and how each individual can play an essential role to address them.

Several aspects of pollution affecting the island, including plastic pollution from the North Atlantic gyre and greenhouse gas-induced sea level rise, are transnational in nature and will require international cooperation on a large scale to successfully address.  Perhaps one of the best ways that we can encourage such cooperation is to lead by example. 

Development projects

BEST believes that much can be done to reduce current and future levels of pollution in our environment. Enforcement of legislation that recognises current international environmental best practices, including the requirement for comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) prior to undertaking large development projects, will play an important role in reducing the harmful effects of pollution. 

On a smaller scale, educating the public will be key as each individual can play an essential role in reducing pollution in both our terrestrial and marine environments.

This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.

The next issue: The Social Environment (Chapter 1 The Family):  the inextricably linked interactions of environmental, economic and social factors.