Stop Disney – Last Chance for Lighthouse Point Campaign Challenges Disney to Address Climate Change, COVID-19, and Environmental Injustice in its Environmental Impact Assessment on Lighthouse Point
The Stop Disney – Last Chance for Lighthouse Point Campaign partners have released a recent letter to Disney requesting a supplement to its draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed $250-400 million cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera. The draft EIA was submitted to the Bahamas Environment, Science & Technology Commission (BEST Commission) in December 2019, but campaign partners are now calling upon Disney to update and expand its review. The EIA must address three critical threats that raise major questions for the proposed project – climate change, COVID-19, and environmental injustice.
On July 22nd, the Stop Disney – Last Chance campaign—consisting of leading Bahamian environmental groups, the global non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance, and more than 300,000 supporters—sent a detailed letter to Dr. Mark Penning, Vice President of Animals, Science and Environment for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The letter states that the world has drastically changed since Disney’s submission of the draft EIA. As The Bahamas approaches another hurricane season following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, the letter states that “climate change, COVID-19, and systemic oppression of marginalized groups are arguably the most pressing challenges of our time, and pose major implications for the cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point.”
Disney’s own 2009 Corporate Responsibility Report said that global environmental change “demands fundamental changes in the way society, including businesses, use natural resources, and Disney is no exception.” The Last Chance campaign partners argue in their letter that. Disney must follow the highest possible international standard by supplementing their draft Lighthouse Point EIA to thoroughly assess how the project will affect, and be affected by climate change, COVID, and environmental injustice.
At this point, the Lighthouse EIA has not been made public and the role of the BEST Commission in assessing the draft EIA is not clear. The Ministry of the Environment and Housing’s new draft EIA regulations pursuant to the December 2019 Environment Planning and Protection Act does not specify a role for the BEST Commission. Also Disney has delayed further sailings to The Bahamas due to COVID-19 and has been silent on its plans for Lighthouse Point.
Sam Duncombe, Executive Director, ReEarth, added: “The Bahamas is still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the economic fallout from COVID-19. Now is not the time to rush ahead with business as usual. All future developments must carefully consider these threats to ensure that they are sustainable, safe and equitable.”
Casuarina Mckinney-Lambert, Executive Director, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Fund, added: “Disney – and the Government of The Bahamas – should follow the lead of other countries in the Caribbean region, such as Belize, that now require all EIA’s to assess climate change and its impacts. An EIA that does not include assessments of climate change simply does not adhere to the highest standard.”
Marc Yaggi, Executive Director, Waterkeeper Alliance, added: “We expect that Disney, as a leading American multinational corporation and indeed a major global voice on wildlife and nature, would follow the highest environmental standards in its decision-making irrespective if a project is in the U.S. Now more than ever, Disney needs to show real leadership and be willing to address the hard issues we all must face—a changing climate, COVID and future global pandemics, and long overdue attention to systemic injustice.”
Joseph Darville, Executive Director, Save the Bays, added: “The events of the last six months have shone a bright light on the inequality in our societies. Disney needs to be transparent about the economic benefits and the environmental costs of the project to The Bahamas and to the disadvantaged communities in South Eleuthera. Disney should join us in encouraging an open and honest discussion of environmental injustice in the EIA on Lighthouse Point.”
Rashema Ingraham, Executive Director, Waterkeepers Bahamas, added: “We lived through Hurricane Dorian. A changing climate and rising sea levels are the new realities which Disney and The Bahamas must fully consider before moving ahead with a major investment at Lighthouse Point.”
Feature image by Shane Gross.