Eleuthera, Bahamas (By Ashley Akerberg): The Island School at Cape Eleuthera hosted a Symposium on Tourism and Costal Development on Thursday April 18th, 2013. The pioneering event was organized out of the collaborative efforts of the Cape Eleuthera Institute, the Kinship Conservation Fellows, One Eleuthera Foundation and partners. Educators, scientists, government officials, local NGO’s, developers, resort operators, investors and other community stakeholders came together to discuss and envision the future of development on Eleuthera.
Symposium events opened with a Junkanoo rush-out organized by distinguished Bahamian artist and cultural icon Stanley Burnside with support from Deep Creek Middle School Teacher Will Simmons and students from the Deep Creek Middle School and Preston H. Albury High School. Island School Founder and Director Chris Maxey accredited the performance as “the ideal way to spark the conference with energy.”
The Keynote address was given by Clay Sweeting, Deputy Chairman of the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation, on behalf of The Honorable Kenred Dorsett, M.P., Minister of the Environment and Housing who shared apologies for his absence at being called to cabinet.
Sweeting began his remarks by describing the last forty years of Bahamian economic development, establishing the importance of financial and tourism services to national history. In discussing the future for local and national development, he remarked “the evidence that there has been a paradigm shift in the primacy of the environment is the continued emphasis on promotion of sustainable tourism and sustainable development.”
He added that “with sustainable tourism as a guiding principle, the government must concern itself with the optimum use of resources, including biological diversity, while minimizing the ecological, cultural and social impacts and maximizing the benefits of conservation by all of our communities.”
Keynote address was followed by panel discussions which explored such ecological, cultural, and social impacts. Morning and afternoon sessions included:
- Session 1, focusing on “Tourism and Development,” was facilitated by Paul Hoobyar, Kinship Fellows. Panelists included Eric Carey, Executive Director, The Bahamas National Trust; David Barlyn, Proprietor Pineapple Fields and Tippy’s; Terri Bonnet, Ministry of Tourism, Eleuthera.
- Session 2 featured consideration of “Sustainable Systems, Renewable Energy and Waste Management” which was facilitated by Christian Henry, Business Officer, Cape Eleuthera Island School. Panel included Robert Hall, Eleuthera Manager, Bahamas Electric Company; Matthew Kamine, Vice President, KDC Solar LLC; Guilden Gilbert, Vice President, Alternative Power Sources (Bahamas) Limited, Francisco De Cardenas, Managing Director, Bahamas Waste Limited; Clay Sweeting Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation; and Geoff Walton, Sustainable Systems Manager, Cape Eleuthera Institute.
- Session 3 discussed “Environmental Resources: Fisheries and Agricultural Parks” as facilitated by Aaron Shultz, Director Cape Eleuthera Institute. Panel included Dr. Dave Phillip, Fisheries Conservation Foundation; Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Executive Director BREEF; Desmond Fitzgerald, aquaculture entrepreneur.
- Session 4 focused on the “Cultural Resources of The Bahamas.” Dr. Joanna Paul, Deep Creek Middle School Principal, facilitated the conversations lead by panelists: Shaun Ingraham, Executive Director One Eleuthera Foundation; Stanley Burnside, Bahamian Artist; Will Simmons, DCMS Arts & Health Skills Teacher.
Paul Hoobyar of the Kinship Fellows leads a break-out discussion group on tourism and development – Photo by Caleb Oberst
Much attention was given to Eleuthera’s unique set of circumstances, cultural and natural resources. Eric Carey, born and raised in Tarpum Bay, shared his personal history growing up in a more economically prosperous Eleuthera. Then, after watching the local tourism-based economy degrade over the last forty years, he stated that “the way forward is scale appropriate development, not further than island or communities can support.”
Participants returned from break-out discussions to discuss the way forward: ideas, action items, and guiding principals for future development of Eleuthera. Shaun Ingraham celebrated the momentum built by dialogue and collaboration, calling the symposium “a step in the right direction.” The symposium culminated with an evening session featuring the art of Stanley Burnside who discussed his vision for tourism which celebrates the arts and culture of The Bahamas. Chris Maxey asked participants to imagine the collaborative event as a “collective voice with the power to build like the momentum of Junkanoo.