I don’t like noise. I don’t like reactions without proper thought. Even worse, I hate overreactions. This entire Lighthouse Point saga has played out like a classic Disney movie with all the common tropes you’re likely to encounter.
There’s the hero (One Eleuthera), the scary villain (money-grubbing Disney Cruise Lines and its otherworldly monster ships), transformation (oh, Lord, they ga destroy da beach dem), risk (Minnis dem ga lose the election), sacrifice and setbacks. At some point, everyone will break into a carefully-orchestrated song and dance routine, there’ll be a struggle and voilà, a happy ending. Maybe not.
Now, before anyone accuses me of being a Disney apologist, please know that my only ties to Disney revolve around my love for the wicked stepmother in Cinderella and a 2011 family trip to their Orlando theme park. I’m offering this disclaimer because I know how my people go.
Despite protracted protests, the Cabinet Office announced late Friday that the government would immediately begin negotiations with Disney Cruise Lines on a Heads of Agreement. When that’s done, it’s on to Parliament.
One key point that Bahamians keep missing is the fact that Lighthouse Point is privately owned. It is not owned by the government. It is not Crown land. Let me repeat that in layman’s terms – yinna gubment don’t own dat property. Disney signed a sales agreement with the owner to buy the land, which, by the way has been on the market for years. Not only is Disney buying the land, it is going a step further and transferring an ownership interest to the government to the tune of 190 acres, which will then be used for a national park and conservation.
I hear the hypocritical hymns of employed Nassauvians complaining of Disney’s offer of 150 “measly jobs.” My my my. How quickly we forget the sting of hunger pangs when we’re fed. No job is measly when there are mouths to feed. A recent poll by Public Domain revealed that 60 percent of Eleutherans “very much” or “somewhat” support Disney’s proposed development. Beyond those jobs, Eleutherans are looking for spinoff opportunities.
Should we in Nassau have more say over what happens in Eleuthera than the people living there day after day? Our desire to witness a virgin beach with breathtaking cliffs should not eclipse a man’s desire to provide a nightly meal for his family.
What we have witnessed is vitriol from many who have never even visited Lighthouse Point or even heard of this oasis until this controversy erupted.
Critics of the Disney development say Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis is not listening to Bahamians, that he has plugged his ears to the voices of environmentalists warning of the great damage a Disney cruise line would mete out to a delicate ecosystem. Predictably, many have threatened not to vote for Dr. Minnis in the next election. This, from a citizenry that just two years prior, blasted Dr. Minnis’ predecessor for being “weak” and unable to make tough decisions in a timely fashion and took him to task over his extensive consultations. Now, we’ve found ourselves governed by someone who suffers no paralysis with making decisions, and we’re threatening to vote him out. We jokey. Dr. Minnis knows the general election is four years away. Y’all ga calm down by then.
If there’s one thing I will contend, it’s that Lighthouse Point Partners should have been given a fair opportunity to present its proposal. That is only fair.
It’s easy to paint Disney as the villain. Disney isn’t the bad guy. It is a company in search of opportunities and The Bahamas offers lots of it. That being said, it is crucial that we balance development with sustainable environmental practices.
Disney Signature Experiences President, Jeff Vahle, during an appearance on the Ed Fields Live talk show several weeks ago, gave assurances that his company would use sustainable designs and building practices during the development of its multi-million dollar cruise port. He also stressed that the cruise line has a highly-trained, environmentally-conscious crew. I did a little digging and found that in years past, Disney has been ranked as the greenest cruise line.
According to Friends of The Earth (FOE) (the acronym still baffles me, as a foe is an enemy), in 2016 Disney Cruise Line scored an overall ‘A-’ on its Cruise Ship Report Card, compared to Carnival Cruise Lines, which scored an overall grade of ‘D’. Royal Caribbean International scored an overall ‘D’ grade and MSC Cruises scored an overall ‘F’.
In 2013, Disney was the only cruise line to score a final grade of ‘A’ on its environmental report card. Disney scored an ‘A for sewage treatment, a ‘B’ for air pollution reduction and an ‘A for water quality compliance.’
FOE has noted that cruise lines are more harmful to the environment and human health than many other forms of travel. However, there are some cruise lines who implement sustainable practices to reduce their footprint. Disney appears to be one of them.
I personally asked Mr. Vahle about the environmental impact thousands of cruise ship passengers would have on the island. Thousands of passengers would be offloaded several times a week. That’s a heavy footprint no matter how you slice it. He stressed that there was a plan in place to mitigate the damage.
For those claiming the beaches would be off limits to Bahamians, he nixed that rumor, too, saying Bahamians would have access and would not be charged.
I appreciate One Eleuthera’s passion and would have loved to hear its plan in depth. I honestly wish the group had bought the land. But, it didn’t, and we are here. This is a lesson for Bahamians everywhere. The time has come for us to pool our money and buy the things we believe so strongly in – the things we want to keep for generations of Bahamians. Let’s not be content to bark at the door, but instead walk in and have a seat at the table.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Shirley Chisholm. “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Agree? Disagree? I welcome all types of feedback. Sound off in the comment section.