We arrived in St. Thomas US Virgin Islands in the middle of the night in early December, after months of rain in beautiful Brazil, lacking both sleep and luggage. In the morning, gazing out at the clam-shaped white sand beach and hundreds of miles of perfectly clear but also brilliantly turquoise Caribbean Sea, we found ourselves unable to do more than gaze at the beauty all around.
Finally, we ventured in to Charlotte Amalie; and, though some of locals pledge gratitude for the cruise ships and role they play in sustaining the local economy, were disturbed by the grotesque ways in which they have shaped the fabric of the city -- turning it into a kind of a luxury goods outlet mall for those voracious floating cities -- (a pattern, sadly, that we subsequently saw replicated in many other islands we visited). Knowing they often now carry more than 5,000 passengers, generate 50 swimming pools of waste per week, dump that waste just 3 miles offshore (destroying precious marine life in the process); sometimes hit, damage or even destroy the coral reefs they should be seeking to protect, and are shaping local island environments, economies and culture in ways that benefit the tourists they serve but not necessarily the communities they exploit and transform -- we were concerned to hear that St Thomas was considering expanding its port to allow more ships, and even bigger ships (grotesque "mega ships") into port. So we were relieved to hear that in March of this year, the West Indian Company suspended plans for Long Bay Pier, the proposed new $65 million cruise ship pier in St Thomas Harbour, citing "potential negative impacts on the quality of life of Virgin Islanders". We hope this decision will mark the first of many similar such decisions, that put the environments of these pristine and ecologically important parts of the world, and quality of life of their local residents first.
Here's to travelling lightly and with respect in this world, and to such new beginnings for the world's islands, and her plants, animals and people.