The “Burn Fat Not Fuel” initiative is a promising start. It does look  as though every possible spin has been engaged: lose weight, cut  diabetes, solve traffic congestion, reduce pollution, counter global  warming — all from a single day of free public transport. Certainly  the public response so far is sceptical.
It is, however, a clear signal that the message about the  relationship between environmental and personal health is beginning  to get through — at least the text of the message.
The Premier’s highly publicised bus trip to work one day is a mere  token. It is clear to anyone who thinks about it that the swapping of  a car ride for a bus ride on a single morning is negated if the car  is then driven into town anyway to ferry the Premier home. But even  if the Premier were to walk to work and back every day of the week,  the carbon savings would be far outweighed by the added energy and  fuel consumption of the larger bikes, cars and trucks now on our  roads as a result of his policies. And the savings will be made  insignificant relative to the expanded and wasteful consumption being  promoted and enabled by luxury fractional housing units and 5-star  hotels on the horizon.
Premier Brown gets credit for recognising that there is a significant  constituency for whom environmental health and protection is  important. He gets marks for being astute enough to want to send that  constituency environmentally friendly messages. If he believes,  however, that giving lip service to sustainability and high profile  to a single bus ride to work and a single day of free public transport will convince the public that his administration has  suddenly got “religion”, he won’t get a passing grade.
People won’t be impressed that ferry use is being promoted at the same time as cutbacks to the ferry service are being announced. This is  another sample of the Alice in Wonderland arguments sometimes put  forward by the government.

Cigarette tax
As an example: During this year’s budget debate, government leaders  made a big deal about the 13 per cent rise in cigarette tax, labelling it a “health tax” that “may help to reduce the number of smokers in our community.” The 64 per cent rise in boat tax was labelled as “purely a revenue-raising measure.” The distorted logic is obvious once you think about it: if a 64 per cent rise in tax isn’t going to deter people from  a purchase of choice (boat), how would a mere 13 per cent rise deter people from a purchase driven by addiction (cigarettes).
In another example, Premier Brown tried to deflect criticism for the delays in the construction of the hospital and the abysmal state of public education by attacking the critics and accusing them of trying to fix the KEMH and problems with “concrete and glass”. Meanwhile, the same Premier has been exhorting us at every opportunity that the way to fix the tourism “problem” was with more hotels and more beds — more concrete and glass.
But, in the spirit of the concept, here are my suggestions for reducing Bermuda’s contribution to global warming:

  •  Reduce the sizes and speeds of vehicles (especially the speed of public buses) on our roads to make it safer and more attractive for people to walk or use pedal bikes;
  •  More sidewalks (even if it means reducing roadways somewhat);
  •  Integrate and coordinate bus and ferry service, and expand both;
  •  Make Hamilton and St George’s into pedestrian zones for the whole summer, as a start;
  •  Turn off lights in government buildings, including schools, in rooms that are not occupied;
  •  Fill the staff vacancies throughout the Ministry of the Environment;
  •  Hire former local Planners as consultants to handle the backlog of Planning applications;
  •  Cease using Tourism as a political hobby horse - cut our tourism “suit” to fit our infrastructural “cloth”, rather than straining Bermuda’s environment and culture to satisfy some arbitrary thirst for ever-increasing arrivals.
What do you think? Is Government serious about sustainability? Do its actions match its message? E-mail editor Tony McWilliam: tmcwilliam