Beyond Sun and Sand: Caribbean Environmentalisms

Beyond Sun and Sand: Caribbean Environmentalisms

Beyond Sun and Sand: Caribbean Environmentalisms

Beyond Sun and Sand: Caribbean Environmentalisms

Synopsis

Filtered through the lens of the North American and European media, the Caribbean appears to be a series of idyllic landscapes-sanctuaries designed for sailing, diving, and basking in the sun on endless white sandy beaches. Conservation literature paints a similarly enticing portrait, describing the region as a habitat for endangered coral reefs and their denizens, parrots, butterflies, turtles, snails, and a myriad of plant species.

In both versions, the image of the exotic landscape overshadows the rich island cultures that are both linguistically and politically diverse, but trapped in a global economy that offers few options for development. Popular depictions also overlook the reality that the region is fraught with environmental problems, including water and air pollution, solid waste mismanagement, destruction of ecosystems, deforestation, and the transition from agriculture to ranching.

Bringing together ten essays by social scientists and activists, Beyond Sun and Sand provides the most comprehensive exploration to date of the range of environmental issues facing the region and the social movements that have developed to deal with them. The authors consider the role that global and regional political economies play in this process and provide valuable insight into Caribbean environmentalism. Many of the essays by prominent Caribbean analysts are made available for the first time in English.

Excerpt

Filtered through the lens of the European and North American media, the Caribbean becomes a series of uniformly breezy landscapes of sun and sand designed for loafing, sailing, diving, and perhaps for gambling and sex. In the conservation literature, Caribbean landscapes are habitat for endangered coral reefs and their denizens, parrots, butterflies, caiman, snails and whales and myriad plant species. In either version, the idyllic island landscape is a screen that conceals worlds that are far richer culturally, but trapped in a global economy that offers few options for development. The islands of the Greater and Lesser Antilles are linguistically and culturally diverse and their governments differ in form and in capacity, but they share a history of colonization, demographic transformation through labor migration, and economic dependency on activities that have utterly transformed their landscapes—plantation agriculture, mining, and tourism. It is in this context that environmental policy makers and activists are responding to existing threats and seeking to protect a natural patrimony that is also an economic lifeline.

The landscape as screen also conceals the development policy choices Caribbean governments are making, the environmental consequences of those choices, and the transnational connections that are reshaping the islands. At the same time that multinational corporations are moving operations to islands where financial laws are lax and wages low, large numbers of Caribbean people have moved away to the north where many continue to make vital contributions— economic, social, cultural, and political—to their places or origin. They have done much to shape the North American environmental justice movement by bringing Caribbean environmental sensibilities, political institutions, and organizational traditions to environmental struggles in the United States and Canada. In this volume we examine the environmental dilemmas that face those who live in these worlds behind the screen, the tough environmental choices that must . . .

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