Island must balance development and living space
May 9, 2013
I haven't been back to Bermuda since 1997, alas. So I was quite shocked when a young woman showed me Bermuda on Google Earth. The familiar fish hook seemed like a green pin cushion stuffed with a myriad white pinpoints. I often think of the little chain of islets as something of a microcosm for the modern world, sharing the problems of trying to find living space for populations, 'affordable housing' and so forth. Bermuda from the air looks full!
My late mother was fond of reminding me, when I complained about the increasing development here in Byron Bay, Australia, where I live now, or in England, my erstwhile home, that people 'have to have somewhere to live'. It's an argument that is difficult to refute. 'Affordable housing' is another matter; and we know about the difficulties of securing that. Here in Byron Bay, where there are multimillion dollar mansions, we have also a sizeable population of homeless people; and those who struggle to pay their rents when they have managed to find a place.
Recently it was announced that Australia's population has risen to 23 million (from 20 million) in a decade. That's the population of a capital city! Some years ago the Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery published The Future Eaters, which outlined the environmental implications of 'unsustainable populations', etc.
These warnings are pretty well unheeded, of course. I was dismayed by the general sounds of pleasure in the media at the announcement of the Australian population increase. Of course, a larger population probably does have some benefits a larger potential workforce to provide funds for looking after the old or for other social infrastructure has been suggested.
In the same online issue I noted with interest the approval of a five-storey development in Hamilton. The positive side of this, as I see it, will be that it should provide work for local builders etc (if it will). Another justification for high-rise development is that it economises on space; a further benefit would be if it really was accessible to those on average incomes. It is sad to think that Bermuda may end up resembling a little Hong Kong in the Gulf Stream; but if the population continues to grow it seems inevitable that buildings may have to go up.
That said, it was so cheering to see the donated Vesey Reserve, as reported by Dr Harris in ‘In Praise of Limestone’. Important also that the mason's craft and the quarryman's trade are also memorialised. Bermudian architecture in the native limestone is very attractive and really one of the saving graces of the heavily built up island now. When the great and good are being celebrated, the contributions of tradesmen and craftsmen, and those who build and make, are sometimes glossed over. But as the first settlement showed, they are integral. Integral and vital also are any such reserves as the Vesey donation to Bermuda's, or any country's, well being.
One of the most moving inscriptions I know of in Bermuda is that on a church which reads, 'Built by slaves in the moonlight'. Bondsmen using their mason/building skills at night. What a tribute to human spirit and resourcefulness and skill.
The task of trying to balance development, human accommodation-needs and natural living space is a daunting one. But I believe it is of paramount importance, to all countries; and especially to a small area like Bermuda.
New South Wales