Idealists might presume that environmentalists are a romantic lot, perhaps retiring at eventide to curl up with a well-worn copy of Henry Thoreau’s “Walden Pond” or John Audubon’s classic tome, “The Birds of America.”
Don’t kid yourself. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” would be more likely.
The reality is that any “environmentalist” worth his or her salt is a fierce soldier, eager to take up arms against perceived adversaries. Remember that if your battle cry is “save the environment,” it must be saved from someone — that is, other humans.
One trait that eco-warriors have in common with military warriors throughout history is an unquenchable thirst for the acquisition of territory, which, in turn, must be protected through the exercise (or threat) of even more force.
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, clearly laid out her personal battle lines in the struggle of man versus nature. On one side are herself, her supporters and the National Conservation Council — and on the other are developers, and many Caymanian landowners (aka voters).
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said, “We still need proper planning and development legislation and we must take steps to put in place development plans that actually mean something for this country.
“Without these tools, the National Conservation Law will not be able to stop some of the more egregious decisions and actions that are being taken in terms of development.”
Well, certainly it isn’t stopping the more egregious statements from Ms. Ebanks-Petrie.
Notice how with the National Conservation Law barely having taken effect, she is already arguing for the expansion of more “pro-environment” legislation?
Here we’ll take a half step back and stipulate that Ms. Ebanks-Petrie, as a citizen, has every right to espouse her views on the environment and development, or any other topic whatsoever. However, in her capacity of “director of the Department of Environment,” her continuing agitation and activism is completely inappropriate for a civil servant.
Rather than focusing on the line between the environment and development, she should be concerning herself with the line between the civil service and the elected members of the Legislative Assembly. As a government employee, Ms. Ebanks-Petrie is responsible for carrying out policy — not formulating it.
On the other hand, as an elected member, Environment Minister Wayne Panton, for example, would be well within his proper remit if he were to argue publicly for or against legislation, or criticize, well, anybody he wants.
If Ms. Ebanks-Petrie wants Minister Panton’s privileges, she must do what Minister Panton did — run for, and win, elected office.
Regardless of Ms. Ebanks-Petrie’s activism or aspirations, the Conservation Council remains an extremely powerful entity as constituted. While environmental officials continue to ply the public with assurances that the Council is merely an “advisory” body, that simply is not true.
Here we’ll quote from the National Conservation Law: “Every entity, except Cabinet … shall apply for and obtain the approval of the Council before taking any action … that would or would be likely to have any adverse effect whether directly or indirectly, on a protected area or on the critical habitat of a protected species.”
Environmental officials point to that provision as a narrow exception, but it contains language that is purposefully broad enough to drive a redwood-laden lumber truck through.
As we’ve said from the moment of its conception, the National Conservation Law was and is a bad idea with far-reaching practical consequences, most of which bode ill for the economic growth of these islands.
With an election approaching, it will be up to the next government to abolish this draconian piece of legislation — removing it (to use naturalist nomenclature) root and branch.