In many facets of Bermuda life, we have thrown out the quite sensible ways of doing things that were in keeping with living in 'paradise', and we have begun to copy the ways of others.

The irony is that those others would come to visit Bermuda to get away from the very habits of speed and scale that we now seek to emulate.

For decades, perhaps centuries, Bermuda was a leader in "cutting our suit to fit our cloth". We recognized that the small size of our Island could be overwhelmed by oversized anything.

We recognized, for example, that the size and configuration of our roads dictated our use of smaller vehicles travelling at moderate speeds. We built modest homes, we ate modest meals, lived modest lives.

But that was then. As individuals, we pay sometimes a severe price for eating too much or driving too fast. As a community we are paying steep prices for too rapid economic expansion.

As an example, some Bermudians can't find affordable housing. We now know that the very same International Business sector that is filling, and perhaps overfilling, our coffers is spiking the rise in housing prices. We also know that without stable housing, families have a harder time doing the job we desperately need them to do, that is, raise healthy, well-educated, productive citizens

It seems like we're looking to further boost the economy via a parallel expansion in tourism. Are we seeking a rise in tourist numbers because we need the jobs? Or are we looking to diversify our economy? Or do we just want to have another number we can say is going up? Just what is the plan for tourism?

Bermuda's reputation as an ideal tourist destination came largely from two factors, our incredibly hospitable and friendly people, and our unique environmental amenity. Already, our culture has shifted. Our younger generations do not exhibit the cordial and friendly greeting to strangers the way we used to. Add to that the rise in xenophobic feelings, attitudes and behaviour and one key element of Bermuda's historic attractiveness to tourists has disappeared.

With the move from Bermuda's uniquely attractive natural environment and local architecture, to beachfront fortresses, concrete coastal structures and every-other-destination design, we convert another cultural aspect from plus to minus. We are systematically destroying not just our Island, but also our people.

Then there are the Special Development Orders (SDOs) pending for hotel-related development, six of them I think. SDOs are officially at the discretion of the Minister of the Environment. Of course the entire Cabinet shares collective responsibility.

The original purpose of an SDO was to deal with development issues of national importance. They were rarely used. Since 1992, however, some 20 SDOs have been invoked; 18 since 1996. Similarly, "Section 34" protection covenants, which were once considered sacrosanct, have recently been amended or rescinded.

Historically, SDOs were only invoked AFTER an application went through the planning process: Development Applications Board (DAB) deliberations, objectors' input and an offshore inspector. The Minister then had the benefit of all that input. More recently SDOs have been invoked BEFORE the planning process was even engaged; the DAB and objectors were bypassed.

SDOs have now become a tool to enable applications to speed through and past the planning process, and may in fact deprive objectors of a right to participate in the process. Putting the SDO cart before the horse of the planning process certainly violates the spirit of sustainable development.

Sensible citizens must resist this short-circuiting of process. We must work to change the mindset. Now we have to strongly encourage our leaders to heed the will of the people.

And the will of the people was clearly expressed in a report on Open Spaces, Population, and Housing done by Bermudian consultant Val Wallace who surveyed 2,500 Bermudians. She found that 94 per cent of Bermudians feel very strongly that no more open space should be developed. Her report also found that Bermuda should be saving at least 25 per cent of its land resources as open space.

The report recommended and I quote:

"Protections for Bermuda's open spaces should be made stricter in the upcoming Bermuda Plan so as to ensure that existing open spaces, woodland, arable land, woodland reserve and so on does not give way to development over time. The protections in the new Bermuda Plan should then be supplemented by revisions to the Planning Act that place greater limits on Ministerial authority to override decisions by the Development Applications Board on appeal."

Meanwhile, we must make sure that in the process of catering to tourists we do not make Bermuda too costly, too foreign, and too unfriendly for its Bermudian natives.

It is only with our care, our close attention, our vigilance and our willingness to act that Bermuda, our unique Island and Bermudians, our unique people, can become truly