Land, labour and capital, the three factors of economic production, are three things in limited supply in Seychelles. And when the shortfall has to be made up from somewhere, too often it is too easy to let the environment take the strain. But just how many hotels, resorts, swimming pools, landing strips, tour buses and all of the other pieces of tourism infrastructure can Seychelles support before the environmental load becomes too great to bear?
That the environment must be protected is an economic argument as much as an environmental stand point. The lure for international tourism investors, ready to sink their money into a new island development, is the unspoilt beauty of the country. But the more hotels and resorts that spring up, the less natural beauty there is left.
And a reactive solution, once every last turtle nesting beach has a hotel on it and tour buses rumble past deserted bat roosts, is no solution at all. An extinct species can’t be brought back.
But, for Seychelles at least, the tipping point has not yet arrived. Bombarded by doom and gloom messages about global warming, melting ice caps and climate change, it is easy to feel that an individual’s positive environmental impact is insignificant. But people power is the key to keeping Seychelles’ environment on track, just as environmental activists the world over are fighting their own local battles.
Whether it means signing a petition, writing to an official or sponsoring an environmental organisation, people power goes a long way to influencing the way decisions are made. There isn’t a politician or businessman anywhere in the world who wants public opinion against them.
The guidance of environmental experts, the right environmental legislation and trust in environment officials and policy makers are all crucial to ensuring public confidence in measures which impact on the environment. But Seychelles’ real “environmental police” are the people of Seychelles, the people who see at first hand when trees are cut down, litter dumped, wetlands drained and reefs destroyed.
The environmental knowledge of members of the public, who live alongside the ecosystems that environmentalists fight to protect, is easily and often overlooked. But an active, involved public, concerned for the environment and ready and willing to make their voices heard is the most important lobby group conservation can have.