A lack of local food production, unrestricted and uninspected development, a lack of the use of renewable energy, significant solid waste issues, no terrestrial conservation areas, and ineffective public transport have resulted in Sint Maarten running an ecological deficit. The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has been using a an ecological footprint modeling tool to find out how Sint Maarten is functioning as a country in terms of sustainable development. The results of the study, using resources provided by the Global Footprint Network, has shown that the average Sint Maartener lives in a significantly unsustainable environment, even compared to other countries and territories in the region. “We thought it important to frame the discussions on sustainable development in terms of our ecological footprint as a developing country. The results of the study clearly show that we are one of the most unsustainable territories in the Caribbean and have a long way to go before we can talk about sustainable development for the island. Although steps have been taken, the situation with the dump, lack of protection of natural areas, especially on land and the lack of support and recognition for the environment has made us one of the islands with the most significant challenges,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.
Ecological Footprint accounting measures the demand on and supply of nature .On the demand side, the Ecological Footprint measures the ecological assets that the population of Sint Maarten requires to produce the natural resources it needs and to absorb its waste, including solid waste. The Ecological Footprint is expressed in global hectares—globally comparable, standardized hectares with world average productivity. If a population’s Ecological Footprint exceeds the regions biocapacity, that population runs an ecological deficit. Its demand for the goods and services that its land and seas can provide exceeds what the island’s ecosystems can renew. A country in ecological deficit meets demand by importing, liquidating its own ecological assets (such as overfishing), and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste compared to 3.5 Earths for a resident of Sint Maarten, more than three times the global average. Sint Maarten uses more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through a lack of sustainable development and support for nature and conservation. “We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live well, within the nature’s bounds. This means investing in technology and infrastructure that will allow us to operate in a resource-constrained world. It means taking individual action, and creating the public demand for businesses and policy makers to participate. As we recover from the effects of last Hurricane Season and prepare for the new one we must make sustainable development the central way forward,” concluded Bervoets.
Photocaption: Solid waste littering the Beach at Mullet Bay