Why consumption is still rising.How can we sustain
Why is Sustainable Development important to Bermuda? Vincent Williams-Savery To answer this question, let us first define sustainable development. Sustainable development can be described as a process of “planning for a future without regrets”.
What does this mean? A future without regrets is one in which our children can have the same quality of life and experience the same economic, environmental and social standards that we are allowed to enjoy today. Sustainability requires that we consume resources at a rate at which they can be replenished.When our capital, or resources, is used up faster than it can be replenished, this is referred to as an unsustainable situation. Bermuda is experiencing an unsustainable situation. We are living beyond our means and our way of life is placing an increasing burden on our island. Our affluence and consumption patterns are having a negative effect on the environment in which we live. We use more water than we collect in our tanks.
Forty years ago, we consumed an average of 7 gallons of water per day per person. Now we use around 30 gallons a day, and consumption is still rising.How can we sustain this level of water usage? Bermuda already produces more waste per capita than New York, and each year we produce more garbage than the year before. In addition, waste is projected to increase by no more than 4% a year. Within the next 10 years, it is estimated that 60,000 televisions, computers, and other electronics equipment will become obsolete and require disposal.
How and where can we dispose of such high amounts of waste? Since the introduction of the car to Bermuda in 1946, the number of vehicles has increased tremendously.By 1999 there were 41,528 registered vehicles on our roads (excluding agriculture, ambulances, fire engines and livery cycles). By 2009 this number had increased by 2,186 vehicles. The growth in vehicle ownership has led to air pollution, traffic congestion, pressure on our road space and increased road safety concerns. Traffic emissions are the most concerning source of air pollution in Bermuda. Studies have shown that the air quality along East Broadway consistently exceeds the recommended minimum levels.
Regardless of this, the number of vehicles traveling along East Broadway into the City of Hamilton continues to increase.Contamination of our air contributes to increasing carbon dioxide levels in our oceans, having negative effect on our corals, fish stocks and other marine life. How can we manage the number of vehicles on our roads and reduce levels of air pollution? Land has always been scarce in our 21 miles called Bermuda.
In spite of this, priceless open space is disappearing, and the majority of open space that does exist is in the hands of private owners. It is estimated that “an area the size of Ferry Reach Park is lost to development every three years” and an area the size of Devonshire is already covered by concrete.How can we ensure that our open spaces do not become a thing of the past? Our population is aging. Between 1950 and 2000, the number of seniors doubled from 6% to 11% of the population.
By 2030, population projections show the number of seniors to represent one quarter of our population. Of concern is also the reality that the number of elderly is rising at a faster rate than the number of workers. This means that we will have more persons withdrawing from pension funds than persons contributing. Our increasing and aging population will also have serious implications for our health care system.
Not only are our health care facilities for the aged limited, the cost of health care is also rising. How will we manage or depleting pension funds? How will our seniors afford health care and what resources will be available to tend to them? Bermuda’s economic success and continuing demand for housing has resulted in increasing development pressure on its limited land resources. Housing costs have increased faster than wages. High earning non-Bermudian families competing with Bermudians for rental units has created challenges in finding affordable shelter.Extremely high housing prices mean that the dream of homeownership is unattainable for many Bermudian families. Segments of our population are excluded from participating in Bermuda’s economic success due to insufficient educational attainment or skill sets.
How can we address the housing crisis and ensure that all Bermudians can participate in Bermuda’s success? Our current practices are unsustainable. Sustainable development requires that unsustainable trends are not only identified but are also addressed. Our water use is excessive and water supply is scarce. Waste production, raffic and air pollution are increasing. Our population is aging, the proportion of seniors is growing, and the size of our workforce is shrinking.
Open space is diminishing and home ownership is out of reach of the average Bermudian. The quality of life of future Bermudians will depend on if and how these issues are addressed. If we are concerned about our future, and our children’s future, then we should be conscious of how actions that we carry out today will impact on our communities at present and into the future. We should be concerned about sustainable development.