Views from across the pond
I recently returned to the island after a four-year absence. On this visit there were a number of features that particularly stood out — one being the strong smell of exhaust fumes wherever you went along the island’s roads. Being an island, I had expected that the sea breezes would quickly dispel the fumes and pollutants, yet it was almost as bad as in the city where I now live.
I was also struck by the intensity of development, particularly in Hamilton. Bermuda being such a small island, it seems that there is a real danger of becoming overdeveloped and losing the natural beauty and charm that has always made Bermuda an appealing destination. Increasingly, many of the buildings look identical to the sort of architecture you find in countries around the world. As this happens, Bermuda starts to lose its own unique identity.
The island caters to mass tourism from the cruise ships. It struck me that there must be a level that is unsustainable and becomes detrimental to the quality that a place is able to provide both aesthetically and socially. At one point on my visit, I was amused to see a large group of Asian tourists converging on a gift shop that was almost entirely stocked with souvenirs that, more than likely, were produced in their own country. This volume of traffic affects all aspects of island life, including the restaurants.
What struck me was that, much like the city I reside in, knowing that most visitors are unlikely to return, restaurants are inclined to offer the lowest quality of food and service, and the visitor ends up paying through the nose with little satisfaction.
It would seem to me that Bermuda could learn a lot from other countries, especially but not exclusively in Europe, where there is pride and even joy taken in the food they eat and serve, as well as the service they provide.
It felt to me that Bermuda has lost its sense of direction. In the past, it had a very strong identity as a British colony with all of its positive and negative aspects. This played a big part in the attraction it had for American and Canadian visitors. They knew what to expect and looked forward to it. Today, Bermuda feels like it lacks a sense of identity.
Anything and everything goes.
It would be sad to lose Bermuda’s uniqueness and charm, the things that make it such a special place, things that aren’t necessarily a part of the colonial past.
As the outside world becomes increasingly swamped by technology with all of its harmful side-effects, ranging from global warming, electromagnetic radiation, traffic and noise pollution, poor-quality food and poor health, etc, Bermuda could become, once again, unique by providing people an escape from a way of life that is literally killing them.
However, the island can offer this only if it really understands and appreciates what is going wrong in the modern world and seeks to provide an antidote or alternative to it.
Costa Rica, it seems, is one example where they realised that the destructive exploitation of the natural environment needed to be stopped. They managed to turn their ailing economy around by instituting conservation measures to protect the environment and, from this, developed a completely different tourist experience.
By cleaning up Bermuda’s environment with an emphasis on clean air and water, clean energy, good quality food, a peaceful environment, an abundance of nature, growing trees all over the island, particularly providing shade in heavily cemented areas such as in the city and the car parks, Bermuda could provide our visitors with more of a spa town experience, where they could escape from all the trappings of an overly busy, overly polluted, electronic, digitalised environment.
Like so many places around the world, there is a huge divide between the wealthy elite and increasing poverty for those less socially advantaged. This division, I believe, is ultimately unsustainable and can only lead to crisis. It strikes me that Bermuda could benefit from conducting an island-wide debate, perhaps broken down to town hall-style parish meetings that would look into Bermuda’s future. The whole community could benefit through participating in a creative exercise to work out a vision for Bermuda’s future.
Everyone should be encouraged to participate: rich and poor, skilled and unskilled workers, foreign and local employees, men and women, people from all the diverse churches, all the different ethnic groups, people of every different political persuasion.
Everyone has something to contribute. The format of the meetings could be arranged so that each participant is given the opportunity to voice their concerns without interruption. The first stage of the debates should be primarily about listening. An important part of this would be to collect and record the information, while later stages could be about disseminating the issues raised and working towards a synthesis or plan for Bermuda’s future in what is, for all of us, a very challenging and uncertain world.
This last part might be done by a representative group of predominantly Bermudian citizens so that the final plan is a distinctly Bermudian solution — one that embraces the best of the island’s culture.
These are just thoughts that occurred to me from conversations as I travelled about the island using the bus and ferries and the occasional taxi, all of which provide excellent service. Hopefully, these ideas might provide food for further development.
Wishing the island well,
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