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Let’s go with the splash headline. EVERYONE IN JAMAICA TALKING ABOUT GOAT ISLANDS. I know it’s not true but the topic has taken up a lot of headline space and news reporting. What’s the big fuss? A couple of largely abandoned islands off Jamaica’s south coast may be part of some plans for industrial development. The islands are in an environmental protection area and reefs around them are supposed to be the breeding ground of many fish. Very few Jamaicans know where these islands are and even fewer have been anywhere near them. They generate little directly that can be called economic activity, but by allowing fish to breed, they provide the base of livelihood for local fishermen.

The islands are also home of some important flora and fauna, in the form of cacti and mangrove. They have lovely beaches, largely unspoiled, we’d expect. They were once the home of local iguanas–thought extinct in the 1940s–but these have mostly been eaten by other predators, such as goats.

Local environmentalists are worried that any development may go ahead without due regard to the need to protect the special qualities of the Goat Islands.

Some feel that local environmentalists are like rich kids wanting to protect their comfortable lifestyles without regard for the needs of those who are not financially secure, have few or no job opportunities, or are struggling in other social ways. They see only the prospects of jobs and feel that any noise over protecting the environment will kill those jobs, even though no one can say how many or what types these may be. Some have rudely told the environmentalists to “Go to Hell!”–rudeness, for sure.

Developing the area industrially could go ahead without destroying the special environment, but protective measures would be a burden on investors that they may wish to avoid. Disturbance, pollution, invasion of other species of animals or plants, and more, will take place once development starts in the area. Over time, the area could recover, though there’s no knowing if that would happen.

Of course, the need for jobs is desperate, and like a drowning person about to suck on the mouthpiece of an air tank, any attempt to cut off the possibility of oxygen–or jobs–leads to panic.

Right now, one thing that is clear is that little information has been shared about many important things concerning possible development of the Goat Islands. All of the information is not in one place or any single person–about the investors and their plans; about possible impact on the islands; about possible legal restrictions on developing the islands; about local concerns; and more.

Little by little, that fog of ignorance is being lifted, but as often happens, ignorance and misinformation will guide many discussions in the meantime.

We need a few goats in the area to deal with the rubbish. We could use them also to butt a few people so that they see more clearly what is going on. We should also remember that goat milk is very good but people love to milk things till they’re dry or till just they are satisfied.

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