The greater the sense of natural beauty and potential for sustainability; the greater the sense of violation will be when that natural beauty is wasted and destroyed. By the same measure, much as language and culture are intertwined, so are culture and the environment. An environment is a direct source of pride for a culture, or an indictment of the diminishment or ineptitude of that culture.
None of what I have mentioned so far makes sense unless one places it within the context of the disconnect between the two largest U.S. Virgin Islands.
St. Thomas and St. Croix are separated by 30 miles of water but are ideologically light years apart. St. John, through good luck for its environment, is essentially a national park. The ideological separation between St. Thomas and St. Croix leads to some of the tension on the governmental level, but it is equally responsible for the environmental destruction that is occurring on St. Croix. The culture of St. Croix is acutely aware of its own identity and environment, but the power structure on St. Thomas is, apparently, not.
Every time I hear a senator from St. Thomas or a member of the administration from St. Thomas address the problems of St. Croix, I hear them attempt to apply a St. Thomas solution to St. Croix's problems. I hear those same people bemoan the lack of identity on St. Croix. From a marketing point of view, they are correct. This does not prove that St. Croix has no identity; it merely suggests that perhaps the wrong people are in charge of the marketing.
Sustainable development is based upon the principle of combining social, environmental and economic factors into a model that can become self-supporting. Attempting to apply St. Thomas marketing strategies for St. Croix discounts two out of those three factors: the environmental and social aspects that could easily sustain the economy of St. Croix.
When I heard Sen. Donastorg suggest that the Disney Company could be a solution for St. Croix, my jaw hit the floor. How on Earth could Disney possibly be a good fit for St. Croix?
I am sure that Sen. Donastorg has good intentions, but it is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The closest thing that I could imagine to hell would be to be saddled on an island as small as St. Croix with people walking around in talking mouse get-ups to amuse the thousands of tourists with whom the island would be swarming.
On the other hand, I find the Caribbean "Vegas" model with multiple casinos equally horrifying. I suppose the point is that St. Thomas is well developed economically through a model that would crush St. Croix.
If we are to find solutions to the dilemma that is the economy of St. Croix, those solutions must arise from within the community of St. Croix. Actions are afoot to create a heritage and nature tourism market. Organizations are banding together to support one another's efforts. There is a growing awareness in the St. Croix community that solutions must come from within. More importantly, the solution cannot be to try to become a Disney amusement park. After all, I hate tall, bipedal and perpetually smiling rodents.
Editor's note: Bill Turner is a writer, a former history teacher and the executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association. He writes a daily commentary on events in the Virgin Islands that can be accessed at V.I. Buzz.
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