Island Visioning Highlights from the 2004 Internet Discussions
Life and love in islands: Topics discussed on the Small Islands Voice youth internet forum at www.sivyouth.org with username view and password only and on the Island Youth forum at www.islandyouth.org
‘Keeping the past in our future will really help us to never forget how different we are from the world outside.’
Student from Mindzenty High School, Palau www.sivyouth.org April 2004
Love of homeland: There is a deep love of homeland amongst islanders, even when islands are going through hard economic times
Racial harmony: many islands are multicultural where different races can keep their own traditions and cultures and live in harmony
Cultural heritage: This makes islanders unique and gives them a sense of identity. It also helps attract tourists to the islands. Many items were discussed including traditions, festivals, regattas, sports, language, national symbols such as flowers, and attitudes towards women. Issues raised included:
Natural heritage: this is also important to islanders, both land and underwater heritage. Young people in Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines asked for help in lobbying against a foreigner who was taking over beachfront land in their island and a foreign company who wished to purchase one of their cays that are acclaimed as one of the best diving and snorkelling areas in the world
Land ownership: Land, especially beachfront land, is being sold to foreigners and youth are concerned that there may not be enough affordable land for them to build a home when they return from studies and work abroad. However, in some islands, e.g. Palau, there are very strict laws regarding land ownership that keep all land in the hands of native born islanders
Foreign workers: There was much discussion of issues relating to foreign workers in small islands; some of the points raised included:
Education: This was seen as one of the most important aspects of life in small islands. Young people often have to go abroad for college and university degrees and improved access to tertiary education is needed. Sometimes they may not be able to find jobs when they return home, especially in highly specialised fields. There may not be enough qualified islanders for certain professions e.g. teachers. Slow learners often get discouraged and drop out of school because it is ‘too hard’. There need to be other types of courses and schools offering training in technical and vocational skills
Lack of out-of-school activities for youth: No or very limited sport facilities for youth
Crime is a problem that is creeping into some small islands and help is needed on how to deal with it. Many islands are small with everyone knowing each other, but even so crime is creeping in. There is a need to have compulsory secondary education for all so as to reduce use of drugs and alcohol, incidence of crime, school-drop outs. Also youth who stay in school have a responsibility to talk to the youth who drop out of school, to try and ‘knock some sense in their heads’. Family problems, single parents and teenage pregnancy (children raising children) also lead to problems of youth and crime.
Sexual habits: Abstinence from sex before marriage is proposed as a better policy for youth than handing out condoms. However, other birth control methods, besides abstinence, should be taught in schools
Respect for women: Women are like flowers in some islands e.g. Cuba, in contrast, ‘Some women in our island get treated as garbage’, Bequia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Peace: peace is seen as the world’s main necessity
‘We want peace to breathe the pure and clean air, to fly freely as far as we can: to the infinite’ Oscar Merino, Cuba www.sivyouth.org November 2004
My island home: Topics discussed on the Small Islands Voice youth internet forum at www.sivyouth.org with username view and password only and on the Island Youth forum at www.islandyouth.org
Environmental protection was seen as being very important, many youth also want to see improved infrastructure in their islands, however, it was also recognised that poor development practices adversely affect the environment.
Climate change: Low lying nations are especially vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, even though they contribute minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Education and increased awareness is vital to care for the environment. Environment has to be everyone’s business
Hurricanes and the damage they cause were discussed; also the importance of civil defence organizations to evacuate people where necessary and assist with rebuilding afterwards.
Waste disposal is seen as a major problem
‘Why do people litter? That’s what the children of the Bequia Community High School and other young people like ourselves want to know. Well we did an observation and found out that people litter because they do not care about their country and the other people in it. We did interviews and asked people why they litter and they bravely told us that "the garbage bin is located to far from where they are sitting or standing" even though the bin is a few inches apart from them.
In our country people think that Bequia is a self cleaning country, they dirty it and the country cleans itself, how ignorant! Do you have the same problem? Well if you do our suggestion to you is to get together with your peers or the members of your Sandwatch group and plan to go and talk to your community and tell them that you are the new generation and that you have had enough of their littering and you cannot take it anymore!
We hope that you will take our advice because young people have loud and tasteful voices! ‘
Kamala Kydd & Gordon Leonard, Bequia www.siyouth.org November 2004
Waste disposal and pollution on beaches was seen as another important issue, tied in with limited beach access for locals because of tourism development and a feeling that ‘beaches are only for tourists’ in some islands
A need for biodiversity conservation is recognised, although cultural heritage has to be taken into account e.g. with traditional whaling practices in some islands. Also conservation laws are not properly implemented
Biosecurity is an important issue for islands, imported pests and diseases can have devastating effects on the environment, economy and human health e.g. foot and mouth disease, painted apple moth
Youth can play a significant role in caring for the environment: by getting the community to listen, taking part in public meetings, demonstrating by example, adopting and caring for beaches and other areas, replanting trees (it should be everyone’s duty to grow a tree), clean-up campaigns, and many other ways. They have been successful, e.g. by getting a garbage dump closed in The Bahamas. But on the whole, youth felt they could not do it alone, they needed the help of the community.
Some islands face specific problems, e.g. betel nut spit is unsightly and unclean (Palau)
Visions for the future: many youth saw the need for better infrastructure (roads, hotels, airports), more entertainment facilities and modernization in general. However, there was an understanding that new constructions often bring benefits – jobs, increased tourism, benefit to the local communities – however, there were also negative issues such as interference with wildlife and waterways.
‘Yesterday?......It was a long time ago
Tomorrow?.....we are not allowed to know
Only today is definitive’
Ernesto Fidel Ardisana, Cuba, www.sivyouth.org June 2004
Money in my pocket: Topics discussed on the Small Islands Voice youth internet forum at www.sivyouth.org with username view and password only and on the Island Youth forum at www.islandyouth.org
General economic issues: Despite current financial problems, people in many small islands felt they should be thankful when they compare themselves to other countries; and the question was raised ‘Does more money give people a happy life?’
Tourism: islands are often viewed as synonymous with tourism, and there needs to be more of a balance between tourism and island culture, so that economic growth is balanced with the needs of local communities
Jobs in tourism are often more attractive to young people than fishing or agriculture. However, many islands have experienced downturns in tourism since the events of 2001 when the World Trade Centre was bombed
Employment: On this subject there were a variety of views, e.g. in some countries qualified youth may not be able to get appropriate jobs when they return home after tertiary education abroad, while in others there are economic opportunities for young entrepreneurs in areas like audiovisual technology, entertainment, media. Sometimes too, when youth take positive action, like selling fruit and vegetables along the roadside, they are chased away by police
Qualified youth returning home: many youth felt there were just not sufficient job opportunities or opportunities for economic advancement at home, so while they would like to return home after graduation, the could not. This resulted in their island losing out of qualified young people
Mechanisation in industries such as sugar is resulting in whole families losing their livelihoods
Social concerns: Many islands felt that the whole package – insufficient, unemployment, increased crime, drugs, lack of entertainment and things for youth to do constructively, labelling of youth as a problem group – were all part of a bigger problem, and it was not possible to isolate just one aspect
Ways to turn things around: with declining economic growth, youth need more encouragement from government and community to help turn things around. There is also a need to use local resources more to stop importing expensive goods, e.g. to use local wood to build furniture, solar power for energy, recycled glass for park benches and decorative tiles