Ensuring a Sustainable Future for Sint Maarten: A Call to Prioritize Environmental Leadership During the 2024 Election

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Dear Editor,

As the forthcoming elections approach, it is crucial for us, the residents of Sint Maarten, to carefully consider candidates and political parties that prioritize the environment and sustainable development. The decisions we make today will shape the quality of life for both current and future generations on our small developing state in the Caribbean.

Rather than solely scrutinizing individual candidates, it is imperative to critically evaluate the platforms of the political parties to which they belong. We must focus on their track records in championing sustainable development and nature conservation, emphasizing strategies that yield long-term benefits rather than short-term gains through unsustainable practices.

Sint Maarten is currently one of the few islands in the Caribbean lacking protected nature areas on land. Therefore, it is high time to prioritize the establishment of protected areas to preserve our unique biodiversity and contribute to the economic benefits of enhanced sustainable development.

Candidates and parties advocating for Blue and Green Economies, which underscore sustainable development and nature conservation while leveraging our culture and heritage for the orange economy, deserve significant consideration. Moreover, we need leaders who recognize the existential threats posed by climate change and are committed to developing a resilient strategy for Sint Maarten, one that safeguards our way of life as a Caribbean people.

Diversifying our tourism product towards eco-tourism, rather than solely focusing on increasing cruise ship passengers or airlift, is vital for the long-term sustainability of our island. We must elect leaders who appreciate the importance of green spaces for local flora and fauna, recognizing their contributions to the overall well-being of our population.

I urge the population to scrutinize party manifestos and governing programs, placing emphasis on candidates that champion nature conservation, sustainable development, green, blue, and orange economies, regional integration, climate change adaptation, and sustainable tourism. Our votes should support candidates who prioritize people and the planet over personal or private profit, understanding the significance of conservation and cultural development.

Transforming the Beach Policy and the Hillside Policy into laws is essential to ensure the sustainable management of these ecosystems, protecting us from the threats of flooding, landslides, and restrictions on accessing our beaches, our most critical natural resource.

Comparatively, Sint Maarten lags behind other islands in the wider Caribbean that have implemented Environmental and Social Impact Assessment laws. Our current focus on building unsustainable structures without due consideration for environmental and social impacts is causing us to fall behind in valuing and preserving our natural resources and leveraging them for economic development.

As we exercise our democratic right to vote, let us choose parties and candidates who prioritize nature and people over personal profit or empty political mileage. We need leaders who will shape our country sustainably, protect our land, and foster development for the benefit of all. Let us ensure that our beautiful gem, Sint Maarten, remains a home we can be proud to pass on to future generations.

Sincerely,

Tadzio Bervoets