No matter how you slice it, the year 2016 will go down as another challenging one for Barbados, the region and indeed the world.
Here at home, we continued to grapple with problems of the economy, including rising crime of which the increasing incidence of gun violence was the most troubling of all.
There were also issues arising from a prolonged drought, which was blamed by the Barbados Water Authority for the seemingly incurable shortages of running water that plagued households in St Lucy, St Peter, St Joseph and St Thomas for the better part of this year.
2016 was also the year of freaky weather systems. How else could we seek to explain the drenching that we all got from that dreadful torrential downpour last month on the cusp of our 50th independence anniversary, around the same time that neighbouring St Vincent was battered by heavy rains which left thousands without power, and parts of the country cut off by landslides? In recent months, various Caribbean countries have reported increased earthquake activity, while the threat of a powerful tsunami is ever present. If this is El Nino or La Nina effect, we shudder to think what’s in store for us. Maybe, snow in Martinique will no longer be an April fool’s joke.
Due to our own insatiable consumption, Barbados also experienced unprecedented challenges with garbage disposal, including millions of dollars in imported plastic bags, which, when improperly disposed of, do untold harm to our marine and general environment.
Already there are reports of turtles and fish that were caught in plastic bags and died. As was recently pointed out by the chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s Environmental Committee André Miller, plastic bags and Styrofoam containers are often responsible for gathering water that could lead to a range of illnesses, including the dreaded Zika and Chikungunya viruses.
They could also wipe out this country’s snorkelling industry.
And yet, thousands of pounds of garbage, mostly plastic, styrofoam, straws – non-biodegradable materials are removed from our marine environment every year.
“Most of you will not see it, but I am telling you it is one of the most painful things to go diving, and there is no dive site, there is no beach in Barbados that I can go to and put on a mask and dive and not come out with a bunch of these in every part of my island, even in St John,” Miller reported to a recent BHTA meeting.
This worrying situation should really spur all of us to want to do better for Barbados as 2017 approaches. And not just from the point of view of how we treat our environment.
Equally alarming this year has been the whole discussion surrounding a so-called ‘fat tax’ in response to our poor dietary habits. Many of us don’t like to have it said, but the daily gouging of macaroni pie and fishcakes and the like, not to mention our pudding and souse every Saturday, coupled with little to no exercise, high alcohol intake, salt nuts, salt meat, salt fish and pork chops oozing with cooking oil, while our children survive on a healthy helping of fried chicken, French fries, burgers, corn beef, pasta and mash potatoes, with cheese on top, can only serves to hasten our demise.
Yes, we will all die anyway, but eating ourselves to death is as senseless as putting a gun to our heads and pulling the trigger. Let us not attempt to go that way in 2017.
If nothing else, 2016 should have taught us to take nothing or no one for granted.
Furthermore, as human beings we are very vulnerable to tragedy; hence one minute you could be here standing, talking and laughing and the next out like a light.
It should motivate us all to do good whilst we can, to put aside the needless rancour, and to genuinely look out for our fellowman, even those who would wish us harm.
As we approach what is likely to be an election year, it will also be important for us to ensure that this country is never allowed to descend into chaos, even if the political circus comes to town.
Already, we are hearing all sorts of victory shouts coming from within the Opposition Barbados Labour Party camp. We are even hearing that the proverbial fatted calf has already been shared up, with Ms Mia Mottley already assigning Cabinet posts hither, thither and yon.
But lest she forgets, who really would have predicted a Trump victory in the US elections?
So as the New Year turns, we strongly caution her not to rule out the sleeping giant, remembering always that our elections are fought and won in 30 constituencies – in other words 30 mini polls.
As bad as things may currently seem, can John King really beat Dr David Estwick in St Philip South? Can Marsha Caddle really expect to beat Richard Sealy in St Michael South Central? Does Kirk Humphrey really expect to defeat Prime Minister Freundel Stuart? And can Ryan Straughn really get the upper hand on Ronald Jones?
At this stage, it is still too hard to say, but we could hardly wait to find out.
Ring the bell Freundel! Ring the bell!
2017 here we come.
A peaceful, prosperous and Happy New Year to all.