As a young person, there are many things I wish to see from the newly elected government: a better education system, reduced corruption, an end to winner-takes-all politics, reduced poverty, empowerment of women, and the list goes on. I am mindful however, of the fact that there are severe limitations to how much can actually be done within a short period of time and with our current resources. Remember we are the 3rd poorest country in the western hemisphere, a position which took 2 decades to get promoted to (from being the 2nd in the western hemisphere in 1992). In spite of claims of massive development, comparatively speaking, we were always several steps behind everyone else.
While one must be mindful of the status quo and all the hurdles that need to be overcome, it will help if we remind ourselves that there are issues at hand which will not bear sympathy towards our cause and circumstances and which we must address as if we are one cohesive unit with a clear path towards development (which we are not). Climate change is an issue which overshadows all economic and social realities.
Fortunately for us, our underdevelopment allows us an opportunity that some developing countries either don’t have or will take greater effort to attain. We have the chance to chart our own development in a manner that will not take us on a collision course with the need for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Mind you, I am not speaking only of economic development. I am referring also to social and environmentally-friendly development.
The opportunity is rife for us to smartly and efficiently utilize sustainable and low carbon development to mend a society whose deep wounds are constantly reopened to satisfy narrow political gains. A society that emerges from the firm grasps of poverty, with a developmental trajectory that takes into consideration the effect every action has on the environment and its people, is one that will not allow race and social stratification to anchor it. Such a vision will collectively realign our attention to major issues and challenges as opposed to petty and antiquated feuds.
The new government can take the lead in this type of development by trying to build a more environmentally conscious society. One that reminds us of why we work best when we work together and why it is imperative that we do so. If we continue to think that the planet is going to wait on us to realize that we are all one and the same irrespective of ancestry and economic status, then we are sadly mistaken.
I encourage the new government to develop policies that are inclusive and cater for the needs of our children and their children. Let us start by ensuring that our commitments to the world such as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), receive input from a society that is made aware of and has an appreciation of its importance to this planet. Let May 11th, 2015 be the day that marks the beginning of a journey which does not seek to exploit climate change for mere economic gains, but seeks to use climate change as a beacon, guiding us towards the future, burying divisions and birthing unity with sustainability at its core.