A senior Government official has rubbished suggestions that the knowledge of ordinary citizens should be relied upon “almost exclusively” to solve the ongoing water problems.
At the same time, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Senator Harcourt Husbands has warned of “creeping” anti-intellectual elements in the society seeking to minimize the expertise of qualified technocrats.
Speaking this morning at the launch of Sci-Tech Xpo at 3Ws Oval at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Husbands said Barbados faced a number of challenges, including the effects of climate change, water scarcity and the need for increased economically viable renewable energy solutions.
However, he said while it was okay to listen to the average citizen’s suggestions, a proper scientific approach was needed to tackle these issues.
“[The sciences are] even more relevant today in relation to this creeping anti-intellectual element that encourages us to ignore science and depend almost exclusively on local knowledge, which is rubbish sometimes passing as knowledge,” he contended.
“In Barbados we hear everyday . . . especially when people are talking about the current water challenges, there is this constant refrain, you hear it everyday, ‘don’t mind those engineers, what you need is local knowledge’.
“Local knowledge is important, but the country and the development of the country can’t be left to local knowledge alone. As a matter of fact, proper scientific inquiry, which we are promoting here this morning and through the activities that we participate in, may begin with local knowledge but that is just the beginning,” explained Husbands.
The former teacher defended the engineers at the Barbados Water Authority, saying while they were not the “be all and end all” the “proper scientific inquiry” that their expertise offers was instrumental in the island’s development.
And while he did not mention anyone by name, Husbands referred to a caller to the talk shows who “propagates the view that removing the silt from the mouth of the Constitution River” was responsible for the low level of water in the aquifers.
“We are living in a period where I see anti-intellectual and anti-scientific elements creeping into our public discourse. Some of this is unavoidable but I think we must be aware of it and fight against it,” urged Husbands.
Earlier this week popular social commentator and farmer Richard Hoad suggested that Government scraps its plan to build two desalination plants and promote greater use of rain water instead, in order to solve the water shortages affecting the island.
Meanwhile, Husbands said as the country turned its attention to the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies, there would be greater need to ensure the island increases related activities.
He said Sci-Tech Xpo would provide an opportunity for students to apply scientific and technological knowledge and helped build an awareness and understanding of the importance of science.