Written by: JANET COLLINSON
In every country in the world, governing bodies are formed to control different things. For example, the Department of Education works to maintain standards within the school system, while the Department of Roads tries to ensure the streets are kept up and safe to drive on.
Living on a small island whose government is structured similarly to that of a larger country, the boundaries between the authorities of the different bodies often seem to blur and there ends up being a lot of finger-pointing after a crisis. This became very apparent a few days ago in our village.
Early on a Saturday morning, two signs were nailed to two coconut trees which are located on the lovely beach just up the way from us. The signs said that due to “health and safety reasons”, the coconut trees were going to be cut down. But before I go into the drama that this caused, allow me to share a bit of background…
This beach has incredible natural beauty – it typifies what a beach in the Caribbean should look like. In the area that I’m referring to, there are around 30 or so majestic, tall, 60+ year old coconut palms that provide ambiance and shelter to the many people who come to this beach on a regular basis, mainly locals. There is no other beach on the island that even remotely resembles this one’s splendor. Beyond that, “health and safety” is such a non-issue on this island that it is as remote a concept as whales having feathers.
And so, these signs really put the pepper in the pot. Many people were outraged and a petition was started online almost immediately with photos of the signs being posted on Facebook and the local press being notified. A journalist from the press even contacted us for our opinion about what was going on.
The local council was then confronted by a number of concerned citizens. Their response? Yes, you guessed it: it was, of course, not their decision. They were simply told to “just put up the signs”, and so they did. Without question.
Upon digging deeper into the issue, it was discovered that apparently, some time ago, a woman wrote to the authority who manages the beaches (this is not the local council though, I hasten to add!) telling them that while she was on the beach, a large leaf nearly fell on her, and as a result, she was never coming back here again. (Yay, I say!) As a result, the subject of insurance coverage must have been debated in their meetings for hours, probably days.
How to solve the problem in a small village that very few tourists see, they wondered? Somehow the conclusion drawn was: cut down all the trees!
Thankfully, this crisis of poor decision-making ended well. The signs were taken down, the palms remain intact, and the town council and the beach authority have realized that the people in this village do, in fact, care deeply about their home and how it is looked after.
What I know for sure is that local people are becoming more aware that they have a voice that matters. I see their passion increasing as they realize they have something really special here to treasure and thus, protect. I feel blessed to be a part of it.