LET’S GET OUR PRIORITIES RIGHT!
Now it can no longer be business as usual. Ecology is not about the embellishment of the environment. It is about saving the planet and ensuring survival. It is about developing life support for sustainability. Ecology should be at the centre of politics and not on its periphery; it cannot just be a one milimetre frieze at the bottom of a giant size tapestry depicting the grandeur of neoliberalism; it cannot be just a small bureaucratic cell in a vast ocean of high-polluting activities where coal burning – the dirtiest fossil fuel – is being blessed by authority and power.
With the melting of polar ice and the permafrost we are fast moving heedlessly towards the tipping point beyond which all will be lost. Let us not listen to the Trump-trumpet-strumpet soporific songs of denial. We are all responsible for the dramatic situation we are in and let us together see what we can do.
We can do without the use of fossil fuels and go all-electric. Let us not cling to our old past based on sugar, rum and ethanol. Their days are gone for good. There is a variety of high-fibre cane most suitable for producing electricity and the process has zero-carbon-footprint and when combined with solar and wind energy technology, this industry can make us fully energy self-sufficient. But this is only part of the story.
Politics in its noble sense means the organization of society to ensure general welfare and happiness. To achieve this, we must reorganize the economic, social and cultural life of not only the island of Mauritius but of the Mauritius Archipelago which is made up of a great number of islands from the Chagos Archipelago to Rodrigues via Tromelin Island. The Mauritius Maritime Republic is made up of more than 3,000,000 km2 of sea, resources we must learn to protect and use intelligently.
Our maritime culture must be developed in terms of transport, food production, industrial activities and leisure. I am sure you would be very surprised to learn that only a few Mauritians can swim and yet we live on an island and the sea is never far away. Can’t we become a seafaring nation?
Land use must be revisited. Land is as sacred as the sea. We should not use our land as vulgar commodity to build sumptuous villas on to be sold to filthy rich foreigners whose money may be of dubious nature. We will need our land to grow electricity, food and shelter for all citizens. Moreover, part of our country must be reforested.
A heavy concentration of activities in one place can be quite wasteful. Just consider how much time and energy are wasted every day by thousands of people travelling to and from Port Louis. How much time and energy are wasted by our young people just to go to school. Can’t we divide Mauritius into a set of autonomous municipal councils with each having its industrial, commercial, agricultural, cultural and leisure sectors. Within a council, most travelling could be done using muscle energy and for inter-municipal council travelling, we could use electric buses and trains.
On what economic system could this vision be built for the economy will remain the base? Neither state capitalism – often referred to as socialism – nor ultra-laissez-faire capitalism (free-market capitalism) or neoliberalism. Profit motive in itself is not a problem. It becomes a problem when it is a ruthless force that is driven by greed and selfishness, that cares not for the environment, the welfare of workers and the general happiness of people. We could try a mix of cooperatives of the kibbutz type originally found in Israel and small and medium industries with workers participation. This will definitely lead to a more caring society.
A new tourism known as culture tourism will have to replace what is today’s practice; our food culture must change; gender equality and bilingual literacy in Mauritian and English should become the norm.
Most importantly, our economic, political, social and cultural leaders must all be ‘GREEN ACTIVISTS’. We need more people like Yan Hookoomsing, Adi Teelock and Nicholas Ritter to lead us into the future.