Never hold your breath. Stagnancy, alienation and trash. A case study of environmental attitudes in Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
AuthorUrtreger, Gil Orr
Unlike a majority of Caribbean islands, the inhabitants of Utila in the Bay Islands of Honduras came there by choice. As a result, they have handcrafted a society where the key to harmony and avoiding confrontation is “live and let live”. In addition, they harbor a fierce sense of independence from Honduras, maintaining their allegiance to the formerly British Western Caribbean. Despite sharing a limited space the community is still divided racially and economically much as it was 150 years ago, and common property, the reef and surrounding waters were a shared resource whose management was adhered to through an unspoken understanding, much like the social relations on land. A surge of immigration from the mainland of Honduras in the 1990’s is neither welcomed nor confronted, despite the newcomers’ lack of cultural education about their new surroundings. The complacency to one another coupled with the sense of freedom endowed to themselves from their “Spanish rule”, has created a stagnancy in regards to environmental protection, so that even solving a visible issue such as trash management and education is a major hurdle. This inaction does not couple well with the Honduran government opening up the Bay Islands to create a “tourism free zone”, giving unprecedented access to land and goods to foreign investors. In recent years the tourist trends have shifted from traditional backpacking to eco-friendly tourism, which in the context of the Utila is everything from volunteering for beach trash clean-ups to diving courses. These trends have further exacerbated the local inclination to autonomy, and serve to alienate locals from their own management. For a significant part of the population the perception of their resources is still fluid and limitless, despite strong scientific evidence to the contrary. This rift in knowledge creates another barrier to understanding and salvage efforts. Despite all these rip currents at force, local actors still move forward to better their community. Through the unique language of the Caribbean steps are being made towards local action.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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