Apr 30, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyanese owe a word of thanks to Exxon’s people who chart the company’s way forward in Guyana. It is because Exxon’s agents did something rare: there was frankness, which we all know leads to truths coming out upfront. This was what the American oil juggernaut presented to Guyanese in an uncharacteristic display of honesty, which forewarns, while it also signals, in pieces and places affecting different people in Guyana, of the costs associated with this oil (“Gas-to-Energy project can result in chronic hardships for farmers …quality of crops can be impacted -Exxon warns”, KN April 27).
This was what came out of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by one of Exxon’s own set of people, the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) group. The PPP/C Government’s much-touted onshore project at Wales will result in a number of developments, mostly negative, for the residents and others, around that area. There will be reduced access to land used for farming purposes, whether rice or other household basics, such as fruits, vegetables, and greens. This means loss of income, loss of work, and loss of what for some has been the only way they know to make a living, since they have been doing so for generations. Farming is their calling, the skill they have cultivated, the mainstay of their existence. Take that away, or engage in what bars them from what they have always done, and they are hurt, ultimately lost, regarding how to start over, how to continue.
All of this is what is captured and compressed in two words in our caption that is referenced. Those two words are “chronic hardship”, which mean exactly what they say, and little else. For hardship is what is involved in the struggle to go on and get by, which is now the fate of more and more Guyanese, their families, and their community of dependents. To go on and get by with dignity and self-respect, the toil of one’s own hands, and the fruits of honest labour, no matter how hard and backbreaking (too often unrewarding), but always fulfilling. Now this is being menaced, this way of life for some, by the oil that comes in so many forms, with so many speeches, through so many different projects.
It is also what the second word “chronic” represents in the fullness of its consideration, the heaviness of its significance, for those who have to experience it, and then endure it, for how long, no one knows. Chronic is a rough word, a tough state, in any kind of circumstance, and when it is fused to “hardship” then the pain and shame are multiplied. This is because it means that whatever is the source of the hardship, it is there to stay for the long haul, and it is not likely to go away easily or without intolerable costs.
Without a doubt, the repeated discovery of oil offshore has much meaning for the citizens of this country, all of them, but only if it is dealt with by our leaders in the most thoughtful and faithful manner. To put this another way, when our leaders, the ones with the power given to them by the people, make decisions based on a careful weighing of the positives and negatives, and then go forward wisely, only then will the greatest benefits be felt by all Guyanese, and not just a crooked, guzzling few.
This publication has been pained, but has still gone to considerable lengths, to present first, then highlight, the plight of our fishermen. It is long suspected, now increasingly accepted, that the wretchedness and agonies being lived with by our fisherfolk have much to do with the exploration and production of oil offshore. There have been good seasons and dry seasons where catch is concerned. Since the oil came, and the related works have been taking place, the fishers have had to ply their livelihood in smaller spaces, hauling in tinier quantities and, as is more noticeable, lesser quality of the products of the sea caught.
The fishers and their folks (directly and indirectly) were the first ones made to feel the pangs of oil. The farmers have now been warned that their turn is next.
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