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Making a difference in our economic space
Natural and man-made disasters have battered the normally well-organised, properly-ordered society of Japan over the past two weeks. Situated atop active and moving tectonic plates, Japan’s massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami which came in its wake claimed tens of thousands of lives which could be attributed to “acts of God”.
The consequent meltdown of Fukushima nuclear reactors, considered worse than Three Mile Island in the United States, but not as bad as Chernobyl in the Ukraine, has already begun to seep into the food chain, with radiation contaminating milk and spinach and radioactive iodine being found in tap water in Tokyo. The results could be catastrophic beyond Japan’s borders—if the wind blows west in the direction of Korea, China, Russia, threatening food supplies in those countries. The latter, however, though triggered by natural disaster, is the result of deliberate (though perhaps unconscious) economic energy policy decisions made by humans.
When considering a policy of economic development on the basis of diversification of the energy sector in the direction of environmental sustainability, there are many factors to be considered. The first is that the Trinidad and Tobago economy is hydrocarbon-based and that our petrochemical industries, fueled by oil and natural gas, currently exist in direct conflict with the objective of cleaner, greener and renewable energy and economic policy.
‘The Green Economy’ is the theme of the second episode of “Making a Difference in Our Economic Space.” Our guests, Dr Angela Cropper, Senior Adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme, Dr Roodal Moonilal, Minister of Housing and the Environment and environmental activist and Deputy Political Leader of the Congress of the People, Wendy Lee Yuen, help provide the international context to consider national environmental policies in national economic decision-making.
Clearly, the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s policy with respect to per capita carbon emissions must be reconciled with multilateral commitments on limits of CO2 emissions undertaken by this country in its ratification of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000 to be achieved by 2015. Sponsored by First Citizens Bank, with support by Guardian Media and Beacon Insurance, “Making a Difference in Our Economic Space” aims to foster reflective, critical thinking on the part of the population and effective communication by the People’s Partnership (PP) Government to explain the philosophy and rationale for its policies.
This is in keeping with the PP’s manifesto commitments to a greener, cleaner economy in “Managing Our Energy Assets” where it states: “Provide incentives for research and development on alternative energy sources with a view to the establishment of an alternative energy industry…” and “we will also proactively seek investment and partnership opportunities in third and fourth generation renewable energy alternatives. This will link our energy policy, research and development initiatives and provide new, high-value jobs for our people, while simultaneously contributing to our nation’s energy security.”
These policy objectives are even more poignant than they were ten months ago, when they were articulated before the PP was swept into power, particularly in light of the threat of environmental cataclysm facing Japan as a result of its nuclear energy policy. Apart from providing a platform for policy makers and environmental activists to engage in public debate designed to inform and enlighten the population, it is our intent in “Making a Difference…” to also provide a forum for ordinary people, in our ‘common sen$e’ segment, to articulate their concerns and suggestions and highlight their nascent efforts at enterprise and entrepreneurship, dealing with recycling and otherwise protecting and preserving the natural environment of Trinidad and Tobago for generations to come.
The sustainability of our economy, of our society depends upon the prudence of the choices we make, not only as government energy and economic policy, but that we as ordinary citizens make regarding water and land usage, properly regulated mining and heightened awareness of our aquifers as the source of clean, potable water, the need to avoid pollution and contamination of the air through faulty exhaust systems on our cars and trucks, factories and businesses. These are measures that can be pursued by Government, the private sector and individual citizens without compromising economic growth or the health and well-being of our society.
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