Vicki Assevero, founder of the Green Market, Santa Cruz, makes an important distinction between different types of interest in her Letter to the Editor about the Chaguaramas peninsula:
The Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) has requested expressions of interest for “planning, design, construction and commissioning of a full service hotel at the old tracking station, Macqueripe, Chaguaramas.” This letter is just such an expression of public interest in NOT constructing a hotel at the historic tracking station.
The Chaguaramas peninsula is a magical place, filled with splendid and awesome biodiversity: from the red howler monkeys and the white fronted and tufted capuchins to the four different types of forest which are protecting an important watershed from erosion, to the seabed grasses which still manage to support bream and snapper, grouper and lobsters, not to mention the now infrequently seen dolphins which used to play in the wake of power boats and surf the waves of the Gulf of Paria.
The Bamboo Cathedral silences us as we tread on ancient Amerindian, Spanish and British archaeological sites. The actual anti-ballistic missile tracking site guards the memory of the very first intercontinental voice message relayed via the earth satellite Echo from Chaguaramas to New York. We should preserve, explain and restore its worldwide legacy.
As the Amazon is to Brazil, Chaguaramas is the green lungs of Trinidad. The Chaguaramas peninsula and the offshore islands were declared a national park in 1974 and designated a National Heritage Park in 1975 with specific objectives to protect the biodiversity and the preservation of ecological, historical and archaeological resources.
So how now brown cow, as we prepare to celebrate another year of Independence, do we continue to import outdated notions of development as bricks and buildings? How is it that our minds remain so colonized that we flout the very laws we actually passed to protect our precious ecosystems from the devastation that our wanton carelessness and negligence has wrought elsewhere on this island?
The Western Main Road is in tatters and barely supports the existing traffic. Infrastructure must necessarily precede building plans even in ordinary circumstances.
Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen’s seminal work Development as Freedom states:
Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.
We are unfree when we no longer have a choice to speak openly about who is planning for us and why. We are unfree when we no longer have a dark star-filled night sky to whisper to us through the poui and the wild guava and tamarind that we too are stardust.
The very best present Trinidad and Tobago could give itself on this anniversary is an acknowledgement of our deep ecological inter-dependence and an honest exercise in listening to and building trust with the entire citizenry, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of a beautiful bountiful nationally protected Chaguaramas park.