Look around us... while we still can

Look around us... while we still can

Friday, March 14, 2014

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Dear Editor,

I believe we are in a unique position to address the situation with the Jamaican Government allowing the Chinese to build a coal-powered plant on Goats.

My husband and I have been land and villa owners in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, since the 1980s and have seen first hand the permanent damage to the environment caused by lax rules and even more lax enforcement of these rules. Moreover, when reprimands are given, and these are infrequent, the fines are so paltry they are hardly a deterrent.

We live in North Carolina and are now witnessing what happens when a huge and powerful company with high-level friends and incredible profits fouls the environment, even after repeated (but unenforced) government warnings and long-term citizen protests. A collapsed pipe caused a massive spill of coal ash -- a byproduct of coal-fired power plants that contains toxins including arsenic -- water in the Dan River is unsafe to touch, and the toxic coal ash in it is burying aquatic animals and their food. This was not the first such toxic spill. After extraordinary public pressure, attempts are now being made to correct the deadly mess they have caused, though it is impossible to fix all the destruction.

Meanwhile, if anyone is so naïve as to believe the Chinese will care more about Jamaica's environment than their own, they are deluding themselves. Our son and his family have lived in Beijing, China, and he still travels to China on business for several months out of the year. He has been doing so for in excess of two decades. He was forced to move his family back to the United States because they had difficulty breathing in China's polluted air. China's toxic air pollution is now so bad that it resembles a nuclear winter, slowing photosynthesis in plants and potentially wreaking havoc on the country's food supply. It has also exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways, and keeping tourists away. China has an exceedingly poor record for caring about toxins to humans.

The ongoing environmental disasters in Jamaica, North Carolina, and China have something in common: the failure of government officials to care sufficiently about their citizens and instead just look for short-term revenues while ignoring longer-term deadly consequences.

Karen S Kennedy

Asheville, NC


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