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December 08, 2009


Percival Miller

Mr. Smith:

It is again heartening to read about these meetings. Your article ably details energy solutions that could address crippling costs for all Bahamians, with health benefit. It also notes possible adverse climate change impacts that could present us with many weighty issues. Suitable energy alternatives clearly seem to be distributed solar energy applications, likely the most sustainable and widely applicable for our geography; and biomass energy (organic waste conversion to fuels/energy technologies/biogas (anaerobic) applications).

You note the need for energy-efficient appliances, vehicles, building construction, public and residential buildings. This is the second side of the coin for reducing current and creeping expenses. The energy combination could provide both a moral and pragmatic basis for our climate change efforts. Other points of your article should also not be lost: UN scientists’ suggestion of relative ‘immediacy’ of possible impacts such as drought, stronger storms, floods, sea level rise, ecosystem damage, and mass migration, in the case of ‘doing nothing,’ and specific impacts such as drier conditions and food production threats.

The current zigzag debate between developed countries will affect us whatever we do, but our situation and geography does not allow the luxury of shutting ears and eyes. The noted land planning bill for coastal protection is timely for addressing coastal erosion and storm effects. Presumably by requiring good analyses it will also protect against removal or quarrying of very old sandbanks, and against coastline dredging that could increase sea intrusion for a raised sea level; or projects that may worsen loss or salt contamination of fresh water.

For the Bahamas and other low-lying Caribbean countries, drier conditions and food production threats, with sea level rise, can be basically be translated to potentially adverse consequences for water supply, the future of food production, agricultural capacity, housing, and sanitation. A Bahamas study (1972) suggested possible drier conditions including longer drought periods and shorter, intense and rainy seasons, particularly in the southern islands. Larger southern islands were and are major agricultural producers. An earlier article noted future housing would (helpfully) increase rainwater harvesting. Short-term ‘flash’ flooding aspects mentioned in the Bahamas study could be a starting guide to how fresh water conservation, capture and storage, and distribution, could be developed to support agricultural capacity and community survival. Many wastewater systems are now necessarily septic systems, but treatment can be impaired by increased salinity at either intake or discharge. Mass migration is a real possibility when food, water, shelter, and income, are very limited. Countries with comparable scenarios have faced rapid damage to forests, ecological resources, and deteriorating sanitation; related to poverty, desperation, limited preparation, economic instability, and limited access to education. Therefore a good solution may be to consider these issues in the whole, in terms of protection of environmental and economic status of average (present and future) Bahamians, and the country itself.

An obvious need that follows is to build trained capacity for energy, housing, sustainable construction, as rapidly as feasible, with benefit to present unemployment and economic need; to spur rapid adaptation to agricultural production under ‘changed’ conditions and less acreage, with suitable crops and practices; to long-term food production and distribution, shelter, and water supply; in parallel to the energy and coastal initiatives noted. Regional cooperation could also address some issues.

We might also do well with many of the issues if every step is based upon best intent and our best understanding of how the issues apply to each of us.

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