Whether arriving by ship or plane, visitors to Grand Cayman are likely to spot one sight on the horizon before anything else: Mount Trashmore.
The highest point in Grand Cayman, the landfill has become an unintended landmark of sorts, eliciting tongue-in-cheek reviews on Google.
“Pizza was terrible, looked as if someone had already eaten some of it,” one reviewer writes.
“Only place to see the whole island at once,” writes another.
The student organisers with Protect Our Future are reminded of Mount Trashmore daily. It sits at the entrance of Cayman International School, where they are students. But for them it also represents the misplaced priorities of Cayman’s development.
A new campaign by the student group focusses on the issue of greed by highlighting sites such as the landfill, the cleared KAABOO festival grounds and other locations that demonstrate the strains of development in Grand Cayman.
“The more Mount Trashmore increases, the more the quality of our futures decrease[s],” an Instagram post from the group reads.
“Instead of fixing this evolving problem of Mount Trashmore, the government focusses more on projects such as the proposed cruise berthing facility because of the potential economic gain.”
Student Dejea Lyons worries about the environmental impact of the centrally located landfill site, but she also laments the damage it does to the island’s image.
“I feel like it destroys our beauty, especially as it’s one of the first things that people see as they enter the island,” Lyons said. “It’s the highest point on the island, which is ridiculous. A mountain of trash? Who would expect that to be the highest point of an island, especially with our beauty and our serenity?”
Leveraging social media, the students have released a protest image each day this week, displaying a sign that reads, “Greed destroys our future.”
Mount Trashmore was just the first stop. The students have also taken their message to a damaged mangrove site, the vacant KAABOO festival grounds and Eden Rock.
One organiser, Ben Somerville, said the campaign started as a way to raise awareness and to drive conversations about development, sustainability and conservation.
“The campaign’s main purpose was to shed light on the fact that environmental issues take a back seat to all other issues because they are not seen as bringing any economic benefit to Cayman. However, the short-term economic gains made by ignoring environmental impacts are far outweighed by the consequences of destroying our local ecosystems,” Somerville said.
“With the loss of natural protection from hurricanes, loss of habitat for essential local species … the sacrificing of our environment is ruining our island.”
For the last instalment in the series, the students dove by Eden Rock, one of the harbour sites that has evoked a strong response in the port development debate. While the port design has been shifted north of the site, an updated environmental impact assessment remains pending and it is unclear how the popular dive site could be affected.
“We believe not only is the picture most impactful, but the location is one of the most significantly impacted currently. With the proposed cruise berthing facility directly impacting this pristine dive location, we believe that the public needs to understand the beauty of this location,” Somerville said.
“There is a common misconception that Eden Rock is all dead coral, however it is thriving. Home to hundreds of different species, including multiple endangered corals, this area is a world-renowned dive site.”
The group will host a demonstration Friday, starting at 5pm, on the George Town waterfront across from Bar Crudo. Cruise Port Referendum Cayman will be present, but Somerville said the event is not meant to be political. The students encourage families to attend and take advantage of the opportunity to discuss development issues with the community.