Reach ‘em early: Islanders are never too young to develop an interest in, and love of, Bermuda’s natural assets. *Photo supplied
Reach ‘em early: Islanders are never too young to develop an interest in, and love of, Bermuda’s natural assets. *Photo supplied

 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.


 


Rapidly increasing health care costs, linked in part to increases in chronic and other illnesses, invite a close examination of Bermuda’s environmental health.

Studies show the negative effects of pollutants on several local animal species. Are environmental conditions also affecting human health?

A recent study of cancers in Bermuda recommended, “Further epidemiological studies are needed to identify potential risk factors …”.

 A bewildering variety of chemicals finds its way to the Island in a vast range of products, and these frequently end up polluting our environment.

Researchers are increasingly becoming aware of the damaging links between pollutants and the health of ecosystems, including the human population.

Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Bermuda is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, with over 8,000 species of plants and animals, several of which can be found nowhere else in the world.

In recent years, scientists have discovered a variety of previously unknown, cave-adapted species in our limestone cave systems with properties that could be of interest to medical researchers.

Bermuda’s ecosystems and the biodiversity within them together comprise our natural heritage, a unique resource we would do well to celebrate and protect.

However, much of this natural heritage is under threat from over-exploitation, the introduction of foreign species and accumulating pollution; all fed by the increasing pressure for development to accommodate a resident population of 64,200 — increasing by an average of 380 each year due to “natural increase (births minus deaths) — and up to half a million visitors each year.

Under these pressures, many of Bermuda’s endemic species have been pushed into extinction, while surviving ones such as the cahow, skink and killifish remain severely threatened.

Vehicle emissions and storm water run-off from our roadways are having serious negative effects on our amphibians, reptiles and endemic pond-fish, including physical deformities and endocrine disruption, which can prevent species from being able to reproduce.

Toxic levels of petroleum hydrocarbons, and trace amounts pharmaceuticals, personal care products and newer generation pesticides in our ponds should trigger questions and concerns about the potential effects of these and other chemicals on human health.

While there is investment in individual and isolated local research projects such as the Bermuda Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) developed by the Department of Conservation Services, and the Marine Environmental, Air Quality and Bermuda Mercury programmes conducted by BIOS, there appears too be no comprehensive environmental protection plan that sets out both short- and long-term goals and the strategies to reach them.

The public would benefit from a more steady, formal stream of information on protective and restorative measures for Bermuda’s biodiversity and delicate ecosystems, including conscious decisions to purchase non-toxic household products, using cleaner forms of transportation, and disposing of all products and by-products responsibly.

BEST promotes revisiting the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and related research projects with a view to expanding and consolidating them into a comprehensive Environmental Strategic Plan that will serve as an over-riding framework for government, business and private organizations to reverse degradation of our ecosystems.

As part of this, BEST supports increased allocation of resources towards important environmental research, and the wide and sustained dissemination of the findings, especially the practical steps we can each take to protect and enhance our own health and the health of our ecosystem.

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

To explore these issues further, join us at BUEI on October 23rd for a showing of the documentary film (Trusting Rain) followed by discussion on “Bermuda’s Water Ways — Past Present and Future. Tickets $20, available at the Music Box (295-4839) and the BEST office (292-3782).

In the next issue: Conservation and Protection Areas: are we doing enough to ensure the success of both the economy and society?