My (R)evolution, part 8.
Since April 18 of this year my country of residence, beautiful Nicaragua, has been in a state of “social unrest” as the media still like to call it, trying to be politically correct, or maybe just afraid to put oil to the fire by calling it a revolution.
The events have triggered an unstoppable stream of thoughts in my head, that I have started to record with curiosity.
Although there is quite a bit of violence going on on the mainland, the little island where I live is still peaceful, so fear is not on my mind.
There has not yet been a moment of real panic in which I thought I’d better run now, before it is too late.
It’s hard to gauge “too late” anyway, before it actually is too late.
But it is very interesting to observe the shifts that happen in my mind and in the minds of people around me. It is not much of a linear and logic process, which makes it even more interesting to watch and see unfold.
Right around the time when the upheaval started, our little island community was gearing up towards a major push for sustainability – a green revolution about to begin.
The municipal government, supported by an environmental NGO seemed to be ready to take concrete steps to get our island clean, tackling our trash problem, and addressing water management.
While a few years back there would have been maybe a handful of people motivated to work on these things, now there seemed to be a growing group of islanders, both native and foreign, driven to make a change and work towards a more sustainable island.
While the situation on the mainland was getting serious, here we were still riding a wave of positivity driven by the excitement of joined energy. We felt that this time we were going to do it (We’ve had multiple efforts result in nothing, over the past decade or so). Now we were ready to make a change.
The inspiration and positive energy seemed to be bouncing back and forth as if we were all pins in a pinball machine, unstoppably bouncing ideas and energy off of each other. We kept sparking each other’s enthusiasm, constantly talking about the project, coming up with more and more ideas to support it and carry it to success. There was the most amazing positive vibe going on, that none of us had experienced before in our community to such an extent. We had faith that it would work this time. Little Island was “going green”!
In the mean time people on the mainland were marching in protest against the government almost daily.
I’ve read back through my journals to find what had been going on in my mind during those first few weeks of protests in the country.
My pages were overflowing with long passionate ravings about our project, which would help improve the environment of this little island that is so dear to me. I was constantly writing about our “green dream”, about new ideas and plans, about all the other people coming up with such great suggestions as well as the interest from so many local people that we had never experienced before. The drive was almost tangible, not just for me, but for many of us here on the island.
Our drive for change was still bright green, while the drive for change on the mainland was all blue-and-white, the colours of the Republic of Nicaragua, splattered with some blood-red from the people being injured or killed in their peaceful search for democracy and justice.
Then the next project meeting with the municipal government was cancelled due to “social unrest”. We are still waiting for it to be rescheduled.
The promised new trash bins that would facilitate trash separation were never put in place. All educational materials we would need to educate the whole island population about the environment in general and our new trash collection system in particular were delayed “by the trouble on the mainland”. They still haven’t arrived.
Our green drive started to wither and lose its fiery glow.
We had another meeting just with the NGO, which brought back a bit of spunk, but right after that there was so much trouble and violence on the mainland, that they had to send all their foreign staff and volunteers home.
For weeks we didn’t hear anything about the project.
By now, my enthusiasm has dropped almost below zero. Nobody even talks about it anymore.
Because, let’s face it: the whole idea was to motivate the local population to change their attitude towards the environment, by convincing them that a healthy environment will be the only guarantee for a viable economic future for this island, living off tourism.
When a destination loses its charm due to too much pollution, trash lying around everywhere, the reefs dying and the fresh water source getting salinised and useless, tourism will move on to another destination and leave this little island destitute.
Tourism is the main source of income here, keeping most people directly or indirectly employed.
So tourism would be our trump card in educating and convincing people to start adopting more sustainable habits.
“A green island means a lot of tourism which means a lot of jobs. A dirty island means a loss of tourism which means a loss of jobs.” would be our simple argument for change.
But we didn’t have to wait for the island to become irrevocably polluted, to kill off all tourism.
A country in chaos is not very inducing to tourism. Most countries have issued negative travel advice by now: ”don’t travel unless necessary”.
On the mainland many hostels have already closed, due to the total absence of tourists. Here on the island we’re still getting a trickle of people, since it is more or less safe to fly into the capital (Managua) and fly straight from the same airport to the Corn Islands. Some slightly less fazed tourists are still taking that chance.
But a trickle of tourism is not going to sustain this island for very long.
Already people have lost their jobs, and by next high season things will most likely not have picked up yet.
Unless a miraculously quick solution can be reached soon that will resolve all political problems, Nicaragua’s fame for being the safest country in Latin America for travellers will be lost for a long while.
No tourism, no money. No money, no economic argument to induce change in the environmental behaviours of the local population.
No strong argument to help people change their behaviour, less enthusiasm to try anyway.
No enthusiasm, no “green dream”.
Faith in a sustainable future was forced to bend under the weight of a revolution-in-progress.
As much as it makes me extremely sad to watch all that sparking dedication to an environmental revolution dwindle and die, I do think that a revolution for a democratic future comes first.
Reporting from a country in chaos, trying to make sense of my own mind.
This is part 8 of My (R)evolution, a series of contemplations triggered by the current revolution in Nicaragua.
Interested to read all episodes? Find them here.