| 27/11/2013

There has been a great deal of debate recently regarding the proposed National Conservation Bill. Those arguing against the Bill have painted a rather disturbing picture — one in which nature is depicted as the non-human “other” standing in the way of progress. As an environmental policy masters student, this is a depiction of nature that I have become used to reading about.

Environmental issues are often framed as dichotomies: Evil governments versus poor locals, destructive locals versus wise governments, conservation versus development, humans versus nature, etc. All the messy grey areas in between are conveniently eliminated.

I can understand, therefore, why those in opposition of the Bill are keen to present the issue as Caymanians versus “bugs, slugs and scorpions”.

What I cannot understand is why we, given our heritage as Caymanians, are buying into this rhetoric.

I have always maintained that the Cayman Islands occupy a unique niche socially, ecologically, and historically. Our country developed slowly throughout most of its history until very recently. The  Cayman Islands’ transition to a tourist and tax haven occurred over mere decades. We have elders within our community who remember what it was like to have to rely on the land and sea for food, shelter, and clothing. The short temporal scale of change has had a distinct impact on the construction of the Caymanian cultural identity. Our collective identity is anchored firmly in the years that Caymanians spent relying on our islands’ natural resources for subsistence, and the hopeful resilience with which previous generations faced the future despite their materially bare existence.

Our identity as Caymanians is inherently tied to our islands – and to the plants and animals that also call this country home.

The silver thatch trees we bulldoze to make way for a new subdivision used to provide our not-too-distant ancestors with roofs, rope, baskets and hats. And the soil those trees grow in is aerated and packed with nutrients by all the creepy-crawlies the editor of the Compass happily dismisses.

I am not saying that our ancestors were always in harmony with nature, or that our environment will collapse ifsomeone treads on a slug. What I am saying is that our natural resources used to be viewed as assets and that should not change simply because we no longer need to build our walls from wattle and daub.

The Caymanian cultural identity is rooted in the interconnectedness with the environment that shaped the lives of generations past and these roots must be sustained if we are to maintain our identity in the face of increased globalisation and modernisation.

We need to stop framing environmental issues in terms of a dichotomy that does not exist. We may not have to rely physically on the land anymore, but that does not mean that our environment has become irrelevant or an obstacle to our development. The natural beauty of our islands is a vital component of our tourism product, for example, and it must be sustained if we are to continue to be a favourite destination for divers and bird-watchers.

I wonder if the reason we are so willing to accept the picture of Caymanian versus nature that has been presented to us is because we have forgotten about our roots.

As our catboats were replaced by jetskis, and our wattle and daub by concrete, we forgot to take care of the natural world that had taken care of us for so long. We stopped teaching our children about the plants and animals that shared our islands — to the point where many can’t tell the difference between a green iguana and a blue iguana, let alone between a bull thatch and a silver thatch. And, as we lost touch with the natural world that shaped us, we lost touch with who we were as a people.

We need to remember our roots and the ground in which they are firmly anchored.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What's all this fuss about? Well let's  see! Our great political leaders have drafted a bill to protect and conserve what little land that remains here and is still owned by Caymanians, now let's bare in mind that it is some of these same great leaders that have been sitting in the Legislative Assembly building making and passing laws that have allowed big foreign investors and developers to come to Cayman and purchase our best land including our beaches, and then turn around and restrict usfrom using those same beaches because just about all of them are now private property. Caymanians it's time that we wake up and realize that we must  become independent thinkers and don't  just take the meal that has been prepared for us, yes we need to preserve what little that we still have, yes we need to have laws in place to conserve and protect our environment , But those laws have to be decided and agreed upon by us the people of these Cayman Islands on a whole, because after all it will be us that have to stay here and try to survive with what little resources that we will have left. When there's nothing of any value  remaining  here for the big investors and developers to reap and  take away from us. They will be on the first boat or plane out of here! Remember  after hurricane Ivan?? Some of them was so eager to leave that they were stepping out of their expensive cars and giving the keys to total strangers saying things like you can have this car I'm  leaving and I won't be coming back , because they were of the impression that cayman was finished ,  but we made it back! 

     So Caymanians  let's look at creating a bill to protect and conserve our Island  and our way of life but it must be on our terms, and what we have decided upon together as a collective body, not  what the politicians that we put in the L.A.  Have drafted and served up on a plate for us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is a very good viewpoint and I agree with almost everything in it – at least as far as the importance of the land to our culture is concerned.

    I would like to add to what the Viewpoint says that one of the other most powerful features of Cayman society until very recently was minimal interference by government. Government in Cayman was extremely small for the size of the population. People looked after themselves, their families and their land with no interference.

    I am an older Caymanian. I am not a developer and neither is anyone in my family. I have my little piece of land that I live on and that is it.

    My main concern is not with the objective of protecting our environment, but with the excessive power the Bill gives to the completely undemocratic Council. If it is passed this unelected Council will be by far the most powerful organisation on these islands apart from the LA and they will be advising the LA on top of that.

    My other big concern is that most of the teeth in the Bill will be added later in the form of the Regulations that government is not disclosing to us. Any of us who have had dealings with government bureacracy will know that even if the Law looks tame when it goes to the LA, the regulations that follow can kill the little man.

    This Bill is all about the power that the Council will have with almost nothing in it to stop that power being used in an arbitrary manner.

    The Bill says the Council can make all manner of decisions regarding peoples land but does not require the Council to give any reasons for its decisions.

    The Bill says that once the Councilmakes a decision the ordinary person affected has only 10 days to file an appeal. That is ridiculously little time for a person to try to figure out what the Council has done, why it has done it, then retain and instruct a lawyer and get an appeal together stating grounds for appeal. There is no justice in such a short appeal time.

    If a further appeal is required to the Court, the Council will be spending taxpayer money while the poor land owner will have to find the cash to put forward his cause. That is also wrong.

    Having read the Bill from top to bottom I am going to urge my elected representatives to amend the Bill to balance the power the Bill gives to the Council with equal rights for the little peole that will be affected. If they can't amend it then I pray that they will kill it. The way it is is just plain wrong.





    • Anonymous says:

      What power, exactly, do you see the Council having? They can issue Permits, they can control development IN A PROTECTED AREA and, otherwise, they can advise other boards, like the CPA. Who already tell you what you can and can't build on your land. – The Bill does NOT "say the Council can make all manner of decisions regarding peoples land"

      Yes, an appeal on a point of law goes to a court. Who else would it go to? But an appeal against a decision of the council goes to Cabinet. So all you have to do is write them a note saying "I dont' like that the council didn't give me my speargun licence" and the eppeal is lodged. You can even appeal "I don't like the recomendation they sent to Planning". Please explain what other kind of DECISION you think the Council will be making?

    • Anonymous says:

      This is a myth. 


      The Council has very little power – it is largely a consultative body. 


      For almost every action under the NCL the Council must get Cabinet approval – and thier recommendations to Cabinet must go out for public consultation. 


      With regard to planning and development issues – the Central Planning Authority still have full decision making power. The Conservation Council again is an advisory body with no decision making power – the CPA are required to take account of the Council's advise – however are not required to follow it. The Council does not have decision making power over planning matters. 


      The only things that the Council has decision making power over is Crown owned protected areas. 

    • Anonymous says:

      You are such a charlatan. Do you think agreeing with most of the comments in this great viewpoint allows you credibility to then say that the Bill is bad and should be killed?  You are a prentender who cant be honest enough to say that your real agenda is simply to kill the bill. This bill doesnt hurt any little people. It is the big people, the big monied people that do not want even a hint of it. They are the ones that you represent so dont begin to pretend that you are concerned about little people. The little man will be left to wonder where his country and environment went to if you had your way.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lilpressgyal, well said.  The Caymanian Compass would sell more newspapers if their editorials were written by you.  I have boycotted buying the Compass because of the vitriol and misinformation spewing from the mouth of an obvious newcomer who has no respect for the Caymanian people or their environment (despite the recent editorial stating Caymanians should be protected over slugs and scorpions).  Yeah, like when have these people ever cared about the Caymanian people?   Only when it suits their personal agendas but not all of us can be hood winked by them!  Many of us have, for far too long, tolerated this ignorant viewpoint by far too many who come to our shores pretending they know our story better than we do ourselves. Most of them come from countries with thousands of miles of wide open spaces, incidentally, most of which have had the protection of laws designating them as National Parks, places of historic interest and the like, and I suggest to them that if they don't like laws (which, by the way Mr Compass, are necessary to protect human beings from themselves), they go somewhere like Somalia where there is no law. The Cayman Islands are tiny specks in comparison to North America, Europe and most other places for that matter, most of which have had the wisdom to designate and protect their lands from the greed of human beings. Those of us from here, in an even more significant way, need the protection of the proposed NCL to keep us from continuing to be the fertile ground (read "concrete") that prospers the greedy at the expense of our natural environment. Who made Mr Compass, God, to be able to determine that man can wipe out whatever he wants whenever he wants and still survive?  Man CANNOT exist separate and apart from the earth's natural resources and I would love to see an editorial refuting that.  If we do not protect Cayman's fragile and very limited natural environment, we doom ourselves.  Mr Compass, you can run back to the wide expanses of Texas when Cayman is a concrete cesspool but I am from this tiny speck and I intend to fight to keep it the beautiful place you discovered only a few years ago and liked it (or liked what it could do for you) too much to leave.  


  4. Anonymous says:

    This Law would allow access to the Environmental Protection Fund for the Government or the National Trust to buy your land.

  5. cchurch says:

    1. What everyone really needs to do, including our friends writing editorials, is to attend one of the public meetings and find out what the Conservation law really is about. 

    2. Also, keep in mind that no one has unlimited rights to do what they want with their property. You cannot build a 20 story building, nor can you spew polutants or emit loud noise that disrupts your neighbor. So the idea of anyone having complete freedom to do as they want with and on their property has never existed here or in most other places. And we all benefit by cooperating with our neighbors.Limits are there to protect the well being of society in general.

    3. We all know that we depend on a healthy environment. We need to be free of pest outbreaks that develop when a predator population is reduced, such as birds, bats or frogs, by habitat disruption, etc. We need to have bees for our flowers, we need our green plants for Oxygen and weather control and comfort. We need our mangroves because we need our reefs. We need our reefs because they can keep growing after a storm. Otherwise our shores would just continue to erode and break down until there would be NO island at all. Everything is connected, and if you cannot see that, it is just because you have not learned about the connections. It is really fascinating — especialy when you learn things like: if you kill off the groupers, you indirectly but quickly destroy the staghorn coral. Don't say it is a silly comment — ask me how that happens.

    We need the conservation bill for many, many different reasons. So learn about it and support it, or discuss ways to make it better. It will support you back in many more ways than you can imagine. We are not the last users of the land. There will be many more after us, and we must pass on a healthy island to our next generations.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have no problem in protecting the sea creatures I'm a retired NAUI and PADI diving instructor. I have no problem to protect some flora and fauna. I'm Caymanian on my father side and cuban on my mother. I have a problem with swampland. I offered the national trust to buy my land .I did the "right thing" , they don't have any money. Now what to do ? I want to retire I'm old. One of 2 things is going to happen ,Gov't will take care of my wife and I until we die  providing what Caymanians had in the past ( free medical,dental and eye exam). number 2, I sell my inheritance and take care of my wife and I until we die ourselves. We are caymanians, we are not growing casaava or yam or breadfruit. We are not fishing looking for mangoes and hunting crabs. You have to own that kind of land or a fishing boat. It is irresponsible to make people believe that our great great great grand parents did not take care of the land in the swamp especially in Bodden town. 

    What we are hearing now is that we must save for our future the future is here now!! We are not using the land like my forefathers used it before to act as a second pasture for some cows. That were only eaten during christmas. They used the cows because we didn't have bulldozers to keep the bush controlled because of mosquitoes. Sorry that was before your time. How could you have known these things without asking someone who has cows?? 

    It is a clear and simple road to follow just create the law only for crown land. I used to work for the late Jim Bodden and he try to warn the people in Cayman from then." Becareful the power you give to the gov't or the National Trust".They will try to steal the land by changing the zoning so that no one can buy the land to develop. So no not stealing it literally. But IF I can't sell my land because you want to SAVE it for the mosquitoes or whatever then the way you will do it is to people like myself who are old. We will run into some kind of illness that the insurance doesn't cover and VOILA the gov't or court will take the property for whats owed. Thats called keeping the poor people down.

    Not one of you will be able to solve the problem. So save the oceanfront make that crown land. We obviously don't have enough beaches for the rapidly growing population. Whats the environmentalist take on that????? Any poor people own any of that on 7 mile beach?? Well they used ,to how do the environmentalist plan on solving that?


    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe if the Natl Trust had access to the Environmental Protection Fund they could have bought your land…

    • Anonymous says:

      You're quoting Mr. Jim – Mr. 10% and drive the bulldozer through Ft. George – as your source for good government and conservation guidance? I think I see the problem.

      PS> Nothing in the Bill stops you from selling your land to anyone. But I know that doesn't fit the Mr. Jim point of view since its only developers who are god. <No, that wasn't a typo.>

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS, THIS IS BECOMING EXTREMELY ANNOYING. Everytime I wish to make a comment, the comment box doesn't appear. Even when I click the preview button to refresh for the box to appear, it does not appear. How can I make a comment of my own without clicking someone's reply?  Is this deliberate to stop some people from making comments. I don't know, but I know others have the same problem. One time there was an article where it was impossible for them to make a comment. Only a few comments were posted as a result of the controversial article.

      CNS: We appologise to everyone having a problem with the comments. If you could send us the information requested in this forum topic (by replying to another comment or email) it would really help.

  7. Len Layman says:

    Very well put,  Lilpressgyal.  You put things in a needed perspective.

    • H-Lighter says:

      How can the government, law, or coucil tell me what I can do with my land? If I wish to burn every inch it is my right. If I wish to build a hotel it is my right. Others should not intefere with my rights as an individual. Clear and Simple.

      • Anonymous says:

        have you checked the planning laws? right now you do not have the right to do what ever you you want with your land.  This law will not change that.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh that's good to know, 'cause I own the land next to yours and I plan to build a slaughter house.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your rights are curtailed now by the Development and Planning Law. In case you have been asleep for a very long time, you do not have the right to build a hotel on it unless it is in a hotel/tourism zone. 

      • Anonymous says:

        I will be putting a pig farm on my land next to your hotel. 

  8. Anonymous says:

    I know the difference between bull thatch and silver thatch, and I know the difference between subtle legislation and legislation that reaches too far – and that is the National Conservation Law.  I don't have a Masters in Environmental policy, but you can be damn sure I know more about Cayman's ecology, plants and terrain than you could ever hope to, but giving this much power to the Council is not the healthy balance they discuss.

    • Caymaniam says:

      Hi Just Commentin' 

      I'll buy the " I know more about Cayman's ecology, plants and terrain than you could" part right up to the "ever" part. Don't underestimate our young, educated, people. 


  9. Anonymous says:

    There will always be nasty, selfish, greedy people who want to make more money or pander to those with money and power.  XXXX Thankfully the vast majority of people do not fall into that category.  At least if the nasty minority express themselves openly some kind soul can give them a copy of "A Christmas Carol" for Christmas and maybe the message will sink in.  I would suggest the copy in question is a DVD rather than the book as these people probably watch Fox News so they are unlikely to read much.

    • Anonymous says:

      I watch Fox news and I am a supporter of the Conservation Law….I even like to read books – lots of them!

      Please don't be so flippant as to judge those who watch Fox news.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I fully support the thoughtful comments posted here.  If only more people would think like this!! 


    • Anonymous says:

      As Maya Angelou said once "when you know better, you do better" Thank you lilpressgal for your article.  You know better!!  It is an insult when learned men/women come on our island and try to tear down everything that does not suit them and their compatriots.  We were here living off the land and happy because we enjoyed it, we enjoyed the fish, the lobster the conchs, mangoes plums, sage tea, lemon grass/fever grass teas etc.  we respected the land and the land respected us and gave to us.  Except for the mosquitoes, Cayman was next door to Heaven.  Dr. Gigioli came and help us with the mosquitoes, folks like him respected us , and there are others, many others. Sad to say the now-a-days johnny come lately comes trampling and stomping and scraping everything in  their wake. However y the PPM also came, they have some real interested and educated people who are not afraid to stand up, not afraid to bring the Conservation Bill, we don't need any more conversation, we need conservation and we need it now.  So lilpressgal keep up the good work , PPM keep up the good work. Posterity will raise up and thank you.

      • Anonymous says:

        I  will agree that we need a National Conservation Law, but it has to be a law that is decided and agreed upon by all of us Caymanians  as one collective body. We cannot and must not be willing to just sit by and accept the meals that have been prepared and served up to us on a platter, without having a say in what we should eat . For far too long this has been the way that we have done business , our  great  leaders and politicians has once again drafted a bill thatthey intend to put into legislation this bill A.K.A  the National Conservation Law is now being displayed for our comments and I say comments because like always with or without our approval this bill will be put into legislation ,   Caymanians we do need a National Conservation Law put in place and we really need it now, but most importantly  we need a law that is of our own design and has the input from us as a Nation. Please bare in mind that many of you who are posting comments cheering on the  P.P.M or any other party of politicians to keep up the good work, remember many of those same lawmakers and politicians that have been sitting in the Legislative Asslembly  building for years, are the same persons that have allowed big developers and investors to come here and purchase our best land and our beaches, then allowed them to restrict us from using the beaches because those beaches are now private property. Where were those conservation laws when a restriction should have been put on the over excessive development of the seven mile beach?? What about laws to protect and secure the good jobs for our people? Where are the laws to provide good scholarships for our children? Where are the laws to say that cayman can't  afford to provide employment for the rest of the world while our people stay unemployed ? And the list can go on, but most importantly we are going to need a law to preserve our very existence, because realize it or not Caymanians and our way of life are rapidly approaching the endangered species list.