Imagine a land of palm trees and white sand beaches. Imagine an icy and delicious piña colada cooling the heat of a hot summer sun. Imagine a blue and green ocean inviting you to take a swim.
Imagine the revolting stench of dead animals or sewage as you get off of the plane to enjoy your vacation.
We who live in the Caribbean take for granted the beautiful scenery around us. We do not even think of how lucky we are actually to live in what others would call paradise. Like the New York investment banker, the Chicago commodities broker and the Philadelphia lawyer, we are just living and trying to make the best life for our families. The only difference is that we do not dream of taking a vacation in their back yards.
When people think about the Virgin Islands, they should have visions of unspoiled and beautiful beaches, rainforests and ocean. Unfortunately, many people are going home with memories of stench, parasites and disgust. It stands to reason that we are not creating an image that the world wants in its vacation destination planner.
This means that we are depriving ourselves of the ability to make money in the future. However, this is not the only deprivation that we face. We are spoiling our opportunity to enjoy the life that we want to live.
We always talk about tourism when we discuss our problems. We talk about the ways that tourists and visitors will react to our unsolved sewage and garbage crises. What about us? Do we not deserve to live a life free of trash and parasites?
The bottom line for residents of the Virgin Islands must be the quality of our lives. We must be able to breathe clean air, drink and swim in clean water, and enjoy the lives that we live. Should we settle for pollution, decay and abhorrent environmental filth?
When we consider all of the wonderful things that we can do in the course of our daily lives, we should not be distracted by concerns about the common services that others take for granted. We should not even have sewage and garbage on our minds. How many people in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia fear for their health because of septic tank contents running past their front door?
These islands are one cholera outbreak away from becoming the vacation pariah of the Western Hemisphere. As a friend of mine says, "The elimination of filth and violence are the primary goals of civilization." How many people are lining up to move to Haiti? How many people want trash piled in their front yard?
Either we want civilization, or we want to be uncivilized. I guess that we should decide. My decision will be made in the polling booth this November. I can only hope that others will make the same choices. What would you like to bet that I will not be voting for the status quo?
Editor's note: Bill Turner, executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association, was formerly a teacher and vice principal at the high school level in Puerto Rico.
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