Economic and Environmental Health

I have only been in Grenada for a few days but these few days have been jam-packed with exploring the island, learning about Grenadian culture, and exploring some of the public health issues that face this nation.

Today our tour guide commented about how some cruise ships and travel companies have avoided Grenada because the government wanted to introduce a small $1.50 tax for each passenger aboard a cruise ship when it docks in Grenada. The funds raised with this new tax were to finance a new landfill on the island.   One company took issue with this tax and have decided to take their business elsewhere.  They certainly has the right to choose where their ships dock and I understand that this company has no reason to care about anything other than their yearly profits.  However, I cannot shake the thought that this is an incredibly dumb move on their end.

Thinking about this logically, cruises are not cheap endeavors; this company is one of the most well known cruise companies in the US, increasing the price of a cruise ticket by $1.50 is not going to deter potential cruise goers. Additionally, some of the appeal of stopping by the various Caribbean islands is seeing the local environment and interacting with the locals.  Paying this additional tax allows the Grenadian government to take measures to maintain the natural beauty of the island and protect their people as well.  This then can increase the appeal of the island, and I argue is a much larger determinant in someone booking a cruise than a $1.50 difference in price.

This company is not only making a poor business decision, but is also acting in an unethical manner. They have taken advantage of the political and economic rivalries that exist in the Caribbean to circumvent Grenada.  Essentially this company is saying that an additional $1.50 charge per passenger is too much to pay to help protect the environment and the people that have  contributed to its success.

Uncertainty and the slippery slope argument is often made to counter the idea that societies should should pay the true costs of its actions.   I understand that it is impossible to accurately predict every possible economic, societal, and health outcome that may occur.  But we know that the planet’s resources are finite, and we know that uncontrolled waste can damage both human health and the environment.  In my opinion, the stakes are high enough that everyone including companies and governments should be considering the true costs of things.  Instead of thinking of it as a “tax” or “extra charge” we should instead think of these measures as investments in our future.  We all live together on the same planet, and we should do the best we can to keep the planet a pleasant place to live.

In sum, this company’s  actions are very foolish from both an economic,  moral, and common sense prospective. They are only one example of a company that will be negatively affected in the long term because of their short sighted goals.

What do you think?  How can we balance economic and public health interests?

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