Opinion: How to turn green

POSTED: 06/26/12 12:00 PM

How do we turn our paradise in the Caribbean into a truly green enclave? Prime Minister Wescot-Williams is already eyeballing the example of Aruba that struck a deal with entrepreneur Richard Branson and his Carbon War Room to have the complete island run on green energy within ten years.
But we don’t really need the Richard Branson’s of this world to make a difference. Nothing negative about Sir Richard, but the desire for a green economy has to come from within.
As we have seen over the past couple of years the government in St. Maarten has a lot on its mind, but a green economy does not rank high on its list of priorities.
Three examples: the government dumped truckloads of sand in the great salt pond for a ring road the island does not need. Now work on a bridge across the Simpson Bay Lagoon is underway. Earlier utilities company Gebe invested heavily in new diesel generators.
Though there is a lot of opposition against cock fighting in St. Maarten, we do not have a party for the animals, as the Netherlands does. This party, led by Marianne Thieme goes to the electorate in the upcoming election campaign with proposals that address irresponsible behavior and that aim to get a grip on traffic congestion without then use of heavy equipment.
Thieme’s party program contains a proposal to increase fuel excise by 20 percent. In St. Maarten this would mean that unleaded gas would go from the current 2.49 guilders ($1.383) to 2.988 guilders ($1.66).
While this would probably outrage bus and cab drivers, it would also make people think twice before they jump in their car to run errands. And that is the point of this idea: to get people off the comfort they are taking for granted as long as it does not cost too much.
Trucks will have to pay a fee of $19.5 cent per kilometer; this will force trucking companies to increase efficiency and basically lead to less heavy traffic on the roads.
The party also wants to abolish excise exemptions for so-called red diesel, liquid petroleum gas (lpg) and kerosene. The latter measure would make flying more expensive.
The party also wants to promote healthy eating and at the same time protect animals by imposing the high value added tax tariff on meat, fish, dairy products and eggs. This measure would drive at least some consumers towards different and more vegetarian oriented eating habits. Apart from this, the party proposes an additional $2.60 fee on every kilo of meat.
Are these ideas useful for St. Maarten? They ought to give politicians and decision makers (there is a difference between the two) something to think about. Under the current circumstances, that’s the best one could ask for.
The real decision is of course in the hands of the electorate. Voters will have to acknowledge that the thoughtless, irresponsible and lazy behavior of our generation has resulted in problems no government will be able to solve on its own.
It is not possible, as we have noted in the past couple of days, to make traffic congestion disappear by building ever more highways our other road systems. It is not possible to make people not obese by discussing the problem of obesity in parliaments or other esteemed fora. In all these instances, action will have to come from individual citizens. They are the ones who have to get out of their cars and into public transport systems or – if they do not exist – to use more environmental friendly private means of transportation. They will have to look at their bodyweight and their eating habits and make that change.

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