Sometimes it seems as though we spend so much time fending off bad ideas that we forget to encourage people to consider good ideas. The same goes for perceptions. We have to focus so much on what is wrong that we do not have time to talk about what is right. However, with all that has been going on lately, this feels like a perfect time to stop and smell the roses.
St. Thomas is dealing with the purchase of one of its few remaining "greenway" beaches that is marked for development. On the other hand, many in the community and in government are beginning to recognize that there is a vital need to preserve some of the natural beauty of the island. This is a very good portent for things to come.
St. Croix has a nearly perfect balance of green and developed lands already, and a large portion of the community has discovered that green areas attract tourists as much as, if not more than, five-star resorts do.
St. John is facing its own development problems — so little space, but so much ambition — but it got a pass from Hurricane Isabel, which was important for its coral dwelling community.
All three communities are coming to realize that the proper management of development can lead to prosperity. Reclamation of abandoned sites can spruce up a neighborhood quickly and should be a focus for future growth. That leads to the next batch of good news.
St. Thomas is getting its water supply flushed and cleaned. After years of toxic waste being fed into a small aquifer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing a cleanup of the water. Jim Casey and the local EPA offices both on St. Thomas and in Puerto Rico get an attaboy. In a time of war and federal budget tightening, they were able to direct a portion of shrinking funding to the Virgin Islands for this important cleanup.
Yes, sewage is still running where it should not be on St. Croix. On the other hand, the primary treatment plant is back up and running much better than it has in recent years. While the sewage problem is still bad, this important work has lessened the stress on an environmentally tattered South Shore. Now we need for that sort of work to spread across the island.
There is a slow awakening occurring about the need to showcase heritage and nature tourism throughout the islands. This is both important and relieving. Sure, some of the people talking eco-tourism have no idea about that which they speak. However, the mere fact that the concept has found its way into the language gives hope that the islands will begin to capitalize on their biggest assets: their culture and natural beauty.
Times are still tight. Elected officials are still making highly questionable, if not controversial, decisions that may have a deleterious effect on all of us. The world is still a dangerous and foreboding place to be.
At least we have the luxury of riding the storm out with the best view that I can imagine.
It could be worse. It could be much worse.
Editor's note: Bill Turner is a writer, a former history teacher and the executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association. He writes a daily commentary on events in the Virgin Islands that can be accessed at V.I. Buzz.
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