A GUY'S VIEW: Playing with the health of a nation

Barbados is drowning in a sea of garbage. And we cannot swim through it.

The never before seen garbage build up in this country is both unsightly and smelly. It has changed the visual landscape of this country. There are few places one can go and not be confronted with a hill of garbage and have one’s nose assaulted with an explosion of some stench.

We used to boast of beautiful Barbados. While the physical features like the cliffs of Bathsheba still call to us, you have to keep your eyes peeled on the blue sea and the golden sand. To turn your eyes inward is to be immediately embarrassed by uncollected, unsightly garbage.

Bathsheba is not referenced here because it is peculiarly dirty. All of Barbados is garbage-soaked. Bathsheba is the perfect representation of the transformed face of Barbados. This uncommonly beautiful landscape invokes pride in our country, so how could our representatives sleep at night when they make it a mattress of filth? This same observation may be replicated across the country.

Barbadians have been having a field day attacking the Minister of garbage for his revelation of a fact that was known to no one else: he has discovered that he is not Jesus Christ. We need to thank him for that information. Some of us may have been confused or uncertain as to whether the anointing had been transferred from his boss to him.

But we should spare a thought for Prescod. The man has declared another self-evident fact. He said, in effect, that he has been given a job to do, but no tools with which to do it.

There are two ways one may view this disclosure. One view may be that he has been dealt a bad hand. He may be forgiven for thinking that he was set up to fail. One may discuss whether he was set up, but there is no dispute that, up to now, he has failed. But can he really be blamed for failing if, as he complained, he has no tools to do his job?

On the other hand, one may say that he should not have accepted the job if he knew that he would be unable to successfully execute it. Or, having accepted it, on discovery of the impossibility confronting him, he should have walked away, even if only on principle. Of course, there may be other considerations that may make that decision a last option.

What makes our garbage situation most revolting is that for the first time in our history, we are actually being forced to pay for the collection of our refuse. And at this seminal moment in our history, bruggadung. All fall down. We are paying for a service that we are not receiving.

But there are consequences that are more serious. The evidence of this is in the enormous rats that we see all over the place. Some of them are so fat that they are unable to run. They lumber across the roads, from garbage heap to garbage heap. They have heaven on earth and are gorging themselves.

The health authorities say that they are about to launch a major baiting programme. But why would overfed rats leave their abundance to eat less tasty poison? Bait cannot be an effective measure to control rats when there is an alternative abundance of food for them.

But wait. There is more. Just suppose the rats leave your uncollected garbage and turn aside to eat their poison. How would you cope with thousands of dead five pound rats outside your door? The smell of one dead rat is discomforting. Start to multiply that by the families that have moved in next door to you, thanks to the garbage buildup.

Unsightliness is bad. Obnoxious smells are worse. But there is worst. There are health consequences that may exceed everything else. The spread of diseases that could result from these developments could kill people.

I took a look at what PESTNET had to say on this subject. It is frightening:

“Rat poop is dangerous because it can carry and transmit multiple airborne diseases. These diseases are spread when rat poop and urine dry out and the dust floats in the air. Rat poop is known to carry Human Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis, Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis, and can also induce asthma. It is easy to tell the difference between rat poop and mice poop due to the difference in size. Rat poop is the size of a raisin and shaped like a football, while mouse poop is smaller. A single rat will poop 40 to 50 pellets a day.

Rat poop needs to be cleaned up in a timely (matter). If not, the poop has time to dry out and particles can become airborne. This increases the risk of contracting an airborne disease. These diseases also spread when food and water become contaminated with rat poop. Finally, the scent of rat poop and urine can attract other rats, which increases the size of the infestation and the chance of getting a disease.”

Many Barbadians are pet lovers. Some of us bring our cats and dogs into our homes. In some instances, we have replaced human companionship with a dog or a cat. The bad news is that the proliferation of rats increases the exposure of our pets to these rodents and the diseases that they could potentially transmit. And if our pets are infected with some disease, we are exposed when we come into contact with our pets.

Garbage everywhere means rats rats everywhere, and this translates into potential disease all around us. Our garbage build up is not only unsightly and smelly; it is dangerous.

Some people may be willing to accept the playing of political games with many things, but the health of our people should not be one of them. When we lose sight of the fact that Barbados is a society and not just an economy, we can easily make decisions that threaten the lives of our people.

Thousands of visitors come to our country every year. The health risks that confront Barbadians will not be limited to Barbadians. It is clear that the authorities could care less about the health of our people, but when visitors have to stay away because of an outbreak of disease here, we would have killed the goose that lays the golden egg.

Do not have any important conversations on your telephone.

Barbados Advocate

Mailing Address:
Advocate Publishers (2000) Inc
Fontabelle, St. Michael, Barbados

Phone: (246) 467-2000
Fax: (246) 434-2020 / (246) 434-1000