Fellow Sint Maarteners, I address you warmly on the occasion of Earth Day, an annual event celebrated on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection, conservation, and sustainability.
Allow me briefly to share with you the following quote: “Every decision you make impacts the environment. From what you choose to eat for dinner, what you wear, to how you commute to work…”
As Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and in particular as Sint Maarteners, we are well aware of the negative impact humans can have on the environment and in turn the effect this has on climate change. Though our own impact may be negligible from a global standpoint, locally we still feel the effects daily.
Notwithstanding our own experience with Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the past few years have seen several global crises that have had a crippling effect on the global economy including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on tourism and now the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its impact on our import-based economy (increased costs of transport, travel, and energy). The detrimental impact of these seemingly unrelated incidents share one common thread: the impetus they all offer to be intentional about our move towards more sustainable development, inclusive of environment-friendly initiatives and energy transformation.
This week I am attending Earth X 2022, the largest environmental conference in the USA, where I am privileged to speak about the various initiatives that the Government of Sint Maarten is taking and to meet with stakeholders to help us realize these intentions by seizing the opportunities available to us.
The official theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in our Planet”. As Government, we are being intentional and taking the steps to live up to this theme.
The Department of the Interior & Kingdom Relations (BAK) is working to implement the National Development Vision, streamlining the Sustainable Development Goals across the work of all Ministries. The Ministry of TEATT is working on modernizing our energy policy taking into account renewable forms of energy, new forms of sustainable agricultural projects, reducing our imports and playing our part in effectively reducing our carbon footprint. Finally, the Directorate of Foreign Relations is working to lobby the SIDS agenda on energy, climate, and concessionary financing at the international level to protect our national interests. This inter-ministerial work aims to support our transformational goals and to start to build today a resilient society for tomorrow.
I always believe in “practicing what we preach” and in so doing, I and many other citizens have stopped or minimized using single use plastic bottles and bags, and when possible shop and support local designers and farmers’ markets which underscores the possibilities for economic diversification and local empowerment in the face of rising import costs. My steps are small but imagine what we could accomplish collectively!
I challenge you to mark Earth Day 2022 by making a conscious effort to play your part to invest in our planet, by taking small steps to reduce your individual use of materials and products that are harmful to our environment.