Living in paradise is a dream that very few have the luxury to live, with sunny warm days, the sea only minutes away, remarkable restaurants and nightlife so varied that all are able to enjoy.
Moving here from Canada has given me the opportunity to enjoy summer all year round and not have to worry about the snowsuits, slush and blizzards.
There are some things that I do miss, of course, such as hockey, cheaper prices, recycling, environmental concern, and the ability to travel for a couple hours in a car and hit another major city.
Out of the many challenges I have faced since being on this island, the toughest has been the fact that there is no recycling whatsoever; everything is thrown into the trash.
The design of a recycling program is to reduce the amount of garbage collected and to find a way to reuse the items.
Many countries have established programs for recycling plastics, aluminum, cardboard and even food scraps through composting.
These programs not only reduce the amount of garbage, they can save money, and at the very least, not cost any more than normal waste programs.
Here, all items go directly to the dump, none of it is separated nor organized into different groupings.
The dump has been full for the last 15 years, yet garbage continues to be piled atop hills of refuse so high, I am told that not only are you able to see Rum Point from the top, you can also see the bottom of the cruise ships.
While traveling down the bypass it is hard to not feel sick because of the smell. With new housing developments being built around the site, I’m hard pressed to imagine anyone who would consider buying or building there. Though unpleasant, the odor is the least concerning side effect.
Dumps create major environmental problems; leachate and natural gases are just two major issues.
When items break down to their natural states, they let off a flammable gas that can cause dump fires, which go up fast and lose control quickly.
These gases do not have to remain a threat. In modern dumpsites, gases are collected and used to create electricity for the site. The other major concern is leachate, a liquid created when materials in the dump break down. This hazardous product gets flushed out of the refuse with rain, then runs into the soil and into the water.
On the bright side, studies were done, which proved that the mangroves in the ground around the dumpsite are absorbing the leachate for the time being.
Nature has offered this temporary aid, but this absorption cannot last forever and the leachate will cause problems. This is a major concern not only because of the dangers of further pollution of the sea, but also because it threatens the water table on this island, which affect the wells and lakes and thus cause harm to the ecosystem.
Modern dumps have a method for collecting the leachate so that it may be cleaned and released into the water system when it is safe.
Money of course stands in the way. The cost of setting up a recycling program can give the false impression that it is less cost effective than the alternative, simply throwing it all in the dump. The cost of setting up is substantial, but more cost effective and safer in the long run.
The start up cost must not blind sight the benefits and long term gains from recycling. In fact, where money is concerned, much else must be pondered.
For instance, how much is the land worth that the dump is on right now? How much is the land worth that the next dump is going to be on? A new one is coming at some point, after all.
The cost of cleaning and the problems that the current dump is causing must motivate people to take the right measures for the next dump, to ensure that there will be no future problems, and no further costs. Of course, shipping materials off the island for the purposes of recycling will not be free, but the cost would be minimal once the sale of these items and the environmental benefits are considered.
Another problem that I know is not just my own concern, but that of many, is the drastic increase in traffic levels especially in the morning and afternoon. The amount of cars on this island is out of control. I’ve been told that the number of cars on the road has doubled since Ivan. The cars that create traffic between downtown and the Ritz are commonly filled with only one person in almost every car.
On a weekday when there are seven to nine cruise ships in port, the amount of traffic makes it impossible to get anywhere, what with taxis and buses running the tourists around, and the seemingly endless amount of single occupied local traffic warriors. There are too many cars. Since this country is so unique, being an island and a high tourist location, the solution has to be unique as well.
Public transportation is always the best solution to the reduction of cars, but taking a bus here can be very frustrating. It is possible to get people out of their cars and into the public transportation system if steps are taken.
Another option is to use the water to provide transportation for cruise shippers who are interested in destinations like Royal Palms, Sea Grape and the Turtle Farm, to name a few sites. The sea is a great means of traffic-free transportation that should be taken advantage of again. Finally, another way to help relieve the congestion of vehicles is to encourage people to walk, though for this to work, consistent sidewalks are necessary. It is unreasonably common to walk along a sidewalk to have it end and you have to walk on the road.
These changes are not just important for those who live here, but also for those who come to visit this amazing island.
In the end it is all about respecting what we are given on this beautiful island and learning how to use it and not abuse it. For instance, in the East End there are high winds. Wind turbines create energy and offer a fantastic environmentally safe energy resource.
Another environmentally safe and cost effective way to create electricity is to use solar panels. Since the Cayman Islands are so blessed with sunshine, solar panels just make sense.
This is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
We must love what we have today but think about what we could have tomorrow.