“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger” – Psalms 8:2

Barbados, a mere speck in the ocean, is three times the size of Washington D.C. but with less than half its population. The first British settlers landed in Barbados in 1627. Bridgetown its capital was founded in 1628 and Barbados’ first parliament held its first meeting in 1639. The US federal constitution was drafted in 1787 and the first President installed in 1789. The rest is history.

Barbados has a wonderful climate, a stable political environment, a high standard of living, good health care, a high density of intellectual capital per capita, so far had the good fortune to be spared the wrath and devastation of a natural disaster, is ranked 29 (2004) in the Human Development Index and generally is an attractive Caribbean destination for both business and pleasure. Not withstanding our history, we are a relative babe and suckling in the context of the economies of the world. Can we leverage these assets and still the enemy and the avenger for the benefit of the Caribbean and beyond? Can we be a significant player in leading the switch to renewable energy sources? Are global warming and the escalating prices of oil not enough to trigger some action? Is the time not ripe now for the private sector to forego profits and stimulate development so that their shareholders may be spared what could ultimately a disastrous demise for all?

The ‘Katrina’ event of the last week should wake us up. Ross Gelbspan, Boston Globe feature writer, as reported by eTurboNews www.travelwirenews.com, calls Katrina by a different name – ‘Global warming’. He said “The hurricane that struck Louisiana was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming. ” This should signal a global warning!

He said global warming does not create the hurricane but makes it more intense because the hurricanes take the temperature from the surface waters. In the Gulf, the water temperatures are very high at around 28 degrees Celsius.

Gelbspan warns there will be more Katrinas if we don’t change our energy diet, and calls for a global effort in minimizing the effect of this phenomenon. The scientific community, composed of 2000 scientists from 100 countries, suggests the world cuts down on its emissions by about 70 percent. ‘There should be a worldwide switch to renewable energy sources – such as non-carbon, wind, hydrogen, tidal, hydro and solar power. That is the only solution for such a big task the world has to carry out,” he added. It is not a local issue that can be pinpointed to say, Louisiana or Alabama alone. The solution is not local. The effort needs to be global.

Even if people in the US would cut down on emissions and ride bicycles, we will still be overwhelmed by all the coal emissions from India, China, Mexico and Nigeria. Hence, America has to extend the renewable sources to developing countries as well. ‘The villain is global warming,’ said the author of two best selling books on climate change ‘The Heat Is On’ and ‘Boiling Point’.

Look beyond our borders and see what is happening in Europe, Gelbspan insists. Holland is cutting its emissions by 80 percent in the next 4 years. PM Tony Blair had committed the UK to reduce emissions by 60 percent in 50 years. President Jacques Chirac asks the whole industrial world to cut down by 75 percent in the next 45 years; and Germany, 50 percent in 50 years. He reminds, “It seems the lack of understanding and clear resistance stops at the boundaries of the United States.”

What of the plans for the Renewable Energy Centre that was supposed to be established in Barbados prior to the untimely death of Professor the Hon. Oliver Headley? The Barbados Light and Power Company has photovoltaic demonstration units both at Seawell in Christ Church and The Future Centre at Edgehill, St Thomas. Is it not time to do a professional feasibility study on the implementation of PV technology, given the high and continually rising oil price regime as well as the enhancement of PV technology? There was much talk about the use of wind power, but no action is apparent. When are we going to address the problem of energy security? Or is this going to be another fiasco like food security?

The Barbados solar water industry first started 25 years ago. Barbados has a greater than 50% penetration per household of solar water heaters, probably second only to Israel in the world, which saves us millions of dollars of foreign exchange per year. What is taking us so long to apply this concept to other renewable energy sources? Barbados should place renewable energy development on the front burner and even though we might be a “babe and suckling” with respect to the rest of the world, we could set an excellent example of renewable energy awareness and implementation for others to follow. This could be a major role for Barbados.