My wife and I have enjoyed three trips to your beautiful islands, two to Eleuthera and one to Andros. We just returned from Eleuthera, having been there last eight years ago. At that time, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the beaches and reefs. We spent most of our time exploring the southern half of the island. These places were worthy of designations as world heritage sites for the quality of the reefs and beaches.
On our recent trip, we were dismayed by the obvious damage to some of the reefs from coral bleaching and diseases, and by the amount of plastic trash inundating the beaches and roadsides. It has strengthened our resolve to work on climate change and plastic pollution.
We were also alarmed at how development is proceeding with apparent disregard for maintaining public access and the health of the ecosystem. The land and reefs around Lighthouse Point, Cotton Bay and Jack’s Bay are natural wonders. Sadly, Cotton Bay is now off limits, Jack’s Bay is in the process of becoming a gated resort, and Lighthouse Point is soon to follow. We understand large-scale development is also planned for the area north of Savannah Sound and on Windermere Island, a large tract of land around Islandia Beach is for sale, and that the western cape is now largely private. Talking to local Bahamians, we found most were dismayed by what is happening. They are watching their island slipping away. Living in poverty in paradise is preferable to living in poverty just outside the gates that separate the ‘working class’ from paradise. Nearly all the residents I met were extremely generous and friendly, but it is foreseeable that their patience and charm will erode and resentment will build as the discrepancy between haves and have-nots grows more apparent, and what they used to regard as a birthright – access to the unspoiled reefs and beaches – is taken away by design or neglect.
I understand the desire to stimulate the local economy and raise the standard of living for residents in places like Tarpum Bay, Bannerman Town and John Millars, but I hope and pray some balance can be reached between developers anxious to sell $3 million beachfront lots and the locals and the outsiders interested in preserving world-class natural treasures and access to them.
I would close with a few lines from a song by the band The Eagles called ‘Last Resort’: “…They called it paradise, I don’t know why, you call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye.”
– John Varner, Amherst, MA, U.S.A.