Editorial: The self-sufficiency option

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When it was confirmed that Antigua and Barbuda had returned to drought conditions, it sent chills down many people’s spines. Few could forget our last major drought. It seems like yesterday. The discomfort felt by many and the inconveniences experienced with water rationing, or no water, became public knowledge as frustration led to public revelations that would normally remain private. We heard all kinds of stories about personal hygiene, each one with too much information.
According to climatologist Dale Destin, the deputy director of the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service, the rainfall for the last three months of 2017 was about half of what is usually experienced during that period. Not good news! Destin noted that there are several types of drought, including meteorological, hydrological and agricultural, each respectively worse than the other. Apparently, we are at the beginning which means a meteorological drought, which occurs when dry weather patterns dominate an area. This of course is better than the alternatives, but still worrisome and something for which we should plan.
We note that Mr. Destin says that we trending towards a hydrological drought so we need to start praying as well. Luckily, the effects of the drought have been lessened by the recent installation ofreverse osmosis plants. So congrats to APUA and the government for the infrastructure development ahead of the dry season. While most can take advantage of the new water supply, some cannot due to aged infrastructure that lead to burst pipes. That is an issue which we have been assured is being worked on so we shall move to the bigger issue of utilities and the grand plan forthe future.
What is it? We are genuinely asking this question because we do not know what it is and no one that we have contacted at the utility can provide an answer. Mr. Destin gave some frightening statistics and forecasts that had us wondering about whether we shouldn’t be promoting greater self-reliance. It is one thing to sit back and rely on the government to supply those things “necessary for life” but shouldn’t we look to do it more for ourselves, if for no other reason than to have a backup? This conversation goes well beyond the startling warnings of drought and spreads into everything we take for granted.
Just think of Barbuda and Hurricane Irma. It is an extreme case but in the aftermath there was no water, no electricity and no telecommunications. Things basic to our modern “survival”. On a day-to-day basis, we need to start thinking about how we can become more self-sufficient and the government should do all that it can to support that selfsufficiency. The less reliance of the citizenry on government, means the less griping by the public when the Government is unable to meet their needs.
We have touched on this all before, but we need to remove the obstacles that lie in the way and implement strategies and policies that shift the people’s reliance for many “essentials,” away from the government and into residents hands. During the last drought, the people who were impacted the least were the ones with the ability to capture and store large amounts of water. They were able to save on a rainy day for those endlessly dry days. We need to put serious thought into how we can encourage homeowners, etc. to invest into some serious means of catching and storing the water which is given to us free of charge (yes, we know we have to pay to pump it).
We are not ones that promote regulations but maybe there should be some guidelines and incentives to ensure that there is a ratio of water storage based on building size and number of inhabitants. Sometimes, just a good education programme is all that is necessary. We may well find that the people will take it upon themselves to safeguard their supply if they are given enough information regarding what they have to do.
Telecommunications is just one of those things that is hard to be self-sufficient without specialty equipment like ham radios or satellite phones, so we will park that “utility” for now. Electricity, however, is definitely something that we should aggressively attack. Green energy is the way of the future and as we have said, maybe too many times before, we have sunshine falling on our heads, roofs and land in abundance. We should capture, store and use the free energy like we do water.
Battery technologies are catching up quickly (just look at the range of current electric vehicles) and yet we do not have progressive policies and incentives towards greater adoption. Of course there are pros and cons to every solution but overall, the pros seem to outweigh the cons by a long shot. This brings us to the cynics in the crowd.
Many believe that we will never see a push to greater self-sufficiency because it does not suit the power-hungry political goals in our bit of paradise, which apparently, is centered around keeping the people reliant on the government and the politicians. That may be true, but it is a double-edged sword if you are unable to meet the people’s expectations as a government.

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