No lip service

The next time you hear one of our government ministers prattle-on about his government’s commitment to the environment, say “chuptz.” The next time you hear any member of officialdom bloviate about the wonderful things that his or her ministry is doing to combat climate change, stick your hands in your ears and boo. Loud and long! The next time that you see any of our government ministers preening for the cameras with ranking world officials and spouting much Global Warming rhetoric, and waxing eloquent with talk of “Protecting generations yet unborn” and “We are calling out the world’s two biggest polluters!” and “We have a negligible carbon footprint, but we bear the brunt of Mother Nature’s wrath as a result of greenhouse gas emissions,” please turn your backs. The next time that you see them in a fancy suit or hear them on television or radio at some big international fora, piously reciting the Climate Change articles of faith, please turn the dial in disgust.

Why, ask you, should we engage in such an outward manifestation of opprobrium? Because our police denied our Global Climate strikers a permit to march, much like the Chinese government, which did not authorise any marches. The government of China, as well as that of the United States, did not even bother to attend yesterday’s Climate Summit at the United Nations. They obviously don’t care! Trump has called the fact of Climate Change a hoax, and China has said that at some point in the future (2030) they will possibly look towards curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Russia too, by the way, did not deign to attend the summit. For shame!

But at least, those world leaders are not ‘fronting.’ We know where they stand on this critical issue.  ‘Fronting’ is a colloquial word used mainly in the African American communities of the United States to describe someone who is pretending to be for a cause, when in fact, he or she really is not. The ‘fronter’ often puts on a grand show and makes a great pretense. He or she can talk the jargon and glad-hand and smile for the cameras. They are much like those that our good Lord condemned in Matthew 15:8: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Think blowing smoke and paying lip service!

Oh yes! Our government can preach the gospel of our dangerously warming planet and the apocalypse if nothing is done about it. Look, they went to the United Nations and thumped on the podium; they were among the first to ban single-use plastic bags and hosted the historic “Play it out to phase it out” concert. They preached hell fire and brimstone on the big polluters (China, the United States, India), and were quite good on making a plea for a transfer of money from the global-warming sinners to the Small Island Developing States such as ours that bear an outsized portion of the consequences of the earth in travail. But no permit for the Global Climate Strikers!

So notwithstanding the hullaballoo at the aforementioned concert – the grand ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment where they all held hands and sang KUMBAYA, many of us could not shake the feeling that this was all a show. After all, this administration had ignored election law requirements and still had plastic election campaign paraphernalia in many areas around our fair State. We also knew that this government had ignored and by-passed environmental laws and findings and perpetrated an environmental nightmare in Barbuda to cater to the wealthy one percent of the world and their airport.

We also knew that this government had acted with the self-same disregard and granted permission to YIDA for the callous destruction of the mangroves. It will take decades for those mangroves to be replaced, if ever. This administration twisted itself into knots trying to justify (with a straight face) the horror being inflicted on the NEMMA (North East Marine Management Area). Yes, the environment was sacrificed on the altar of development. YIDA, YIDA, YIDA; yada, yada, yada! All lip service! And not only in the North East, mind you. Down at Deep Bay, the marsh and salt pond and mangroves have all but disappeared, again, as the sacrificial lamb to development.

The roots of mangroves trap bottles and prevent other hazards to marine life from entering the oceans. Mangroves also provide a breeding area for many marine species.  This is especially so in our NEMMA. Marshes, forests, swamps, mangroves and the sea bed extract carbon from the atmosphere. As the Global Climate Strikers have been proclaiming, “We ought to be looking for a restoration of nature,” not its destruction! Sadly, our government has participated in the destruction of nature on the one hand, while supposedly looking to protect and preserve it on the other. Sigh!

But all is not lost. There is hope yet. Our young people are in the vanguard to save the environment, and seems they will not be denied. In a stirring call to action this past Friday, they assembled at the Botanical Gardens with placards and chants demanding action from our government as well as the other governments of the world. Their voices were at times shrill and strident, but it spoke to their sincerity and sense of urgency. They were denied a permit to march by the police, but it did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.  Of course, the denial of the permit is a head-scratcher, and perhaps it speaks volumes of this government’s lip-service modus operandi.

In an appearance on Friday’s VOICE OF THE PEOPLE show, a brilliant and progressive young lady by the name of Maria Eldridge articulated quite movingly the need for more than lip service to the cause of saving the environment (renewable sources of energy, reducing our carbon footprint, protecting our flora and fauna, and keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees centigrade, and so on and so forth). She was an inspiration, and her call to save the world for generations did not fall on deaf ears. Indeed, many of our students at many of the schools in Antigua and Barbuda participated in the Global Strike in a variety of ways. For example, footage reaching our media house showed the robust chanting of the students of the Antigua Girls High School (AGHS) as they lent their voices to the need of the hour. We salute the AGHS girls, as well as the students from the Sir McChesney George School in Barbuda, and all the other schools that joined the strike.

We here at NEWSCO plan to be a part of the Global Strike Part II this coming Friday. After all, let it never be said that we only pay lip service to this most worthy cause. And we certainly salute Greta Thunberg, the young lady who started it all, and who told the worlds’ leaders to their faces at the United Nations yesterday, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood. . .  we will not let you get away with this!” Greta spoke for her generation and the generation to come. And it was not mere lip service, because she struck, and our students joined her, and they were all part of the 4 million strikers across 6 continents. Power to the strikers! Power to the young people!

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