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Green Living – Sept

Trickle-Down Environmentalism:
When the Rich Go Green, So Goes the World

By David Blacklock

Living here in the beautiful Virgin Islands, it's easy to think nice green thoughts. Everywhere one looks there are vibrant red flowers, gorgeous yellow blossoms, all sheltered within a vast effusion of greenery.

Until a visitor says, “Oh my god, there's a giant fire over there,” as she points to Pockwood Pond. No, Honey, that's just the way garbage is recycled in the BVI.

So a conversation ensues and covers all things green, or is that “green”? The Gulf oil leak. Preparing for a post-petroleum world. Non-polluting alternatives. Giving up oil? We can't even give up coffee—imagine the wrench caused by quitting the Texas Tea! How about no plastic? Ha ha. So it's never going to happen until we've drained the planet dry and the last few humans lie gasping under the last stand of trees. Might as well party.

Of course, at that party we could always use some faux, plant-based styrofoam plates and gaze adoringly at recycled glass ornaments made from Heineken bottles. And perhaps at that party we might hear some words of encouragement to drown out the cynical naysayer who insists it's all a sick joke. For the reality is that there are individuals here in the BVI working towards the possible. As reported recently in BVI Business, a green economy is indeed growing in the BVI. People believe not only in the rightness of what they are attempting, whether it be collecting glass for recycling or fitting solar panels on a roof, but in the potential profitability of it too.


Local hero Sir Richard Branson has long championed green and sustainable development as the face of the future and fortunately has had the funds to foster it. But even he has been stymied by the current world recession as banks sit on their billions rather than seed the future. Part of his plan for new development at Mosquito Island is to get the wealthy clients of his resorts to fund the research and development that will eventually scale up to national size.

His North Sound rival David V Johnson at Oil Nut Bay has the same approach. Green and sustainable have become a desired marketing position for a certain clientele. It might not work with the Vegas crowd, but the forward thinkers who honeymoon in Bali will go for it. Johnson appears to be attempting to extend the concept to his Grosse Point constituency—when the lifestyle-development crowd goes green, there's no stopping it as a trend. Let's call it trickle-down environmentalism. Here in the Caribbean we are perfectly situated to implement these new technologies, if only there is the political and investment will to make it succeed.


It's not all to be a pleasant stroll into an idyllic future, of course. Wind turbines are noisy and visually obtrusive. Solar panels are notoriously inefficient. Some potential industries and methods may prove to be just as polluting as those they replace. But it's almost a matter of faith—tomorrow has to herald a brighter future. Because the alternative is bound to be a waking nightmare, with the entire planet choking like China on gas, heat and dust.

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