The title of this book says it all, “This Land: A Trust from God – The Environment and related topics”. A prolific, well-articulated and well-documented writer and researcher Verna Penn-Moll has written articles and commentaries for local newspapers on an astonishingly regular basis since the “good old days”. As a librarian she is well aware of the ephemeral nature of newspapers; in fact, very few people have runs of old newspapers and only a few persons occasionally clip an article or a commentary and file it in an orderly manner so it can be easily found.
This new and stimulating volume gives us a clearer idea of the contribution made by the author, both qualitatively and quantitatively. This is a timely collection of her articles, chronologically offered to the reader who is reminded of many aspects often forgotten or overlooked such as culture, local history, architecture, detrimental technology, soi-disant progress, civics, politics and most of all the impact of all of the above on local environmental and conservation issues.
Now we can better appreciate the substantial contribution made by the author, and we not only reflect on what has gone wrong, but we are at the same time prompted to be more active on cultural and environmental issues if we want to preserve what we have with a view to hopefully salvage some of the values and God-given gifts we have lost or compromised in our myopic quest for materialistic gains.
Laws and protection measures can go a long way in safeguarding our unique environment, but more importantly, grassroots preservation awareness and stewardship is something that should be second nature to all of us; yet we forget that it took millions of years for the planet to gain its echological equilibrium which was so decisive in making the presence of our species on this earth possible. During the last 50 years mankind has done more irreversible damage to our planet than all the damage done from the days of creation to the 1960s. In fact, for the last two generations human activities have created a number of different types of stressors for Virgin Islands ecosystems and the species that live within them, including human beings.
Thanks to Penn-Moll we are reminded that “the land and everything within it make up our environment, and that it does not belong to us; we hold it in trust from God”. After almost two decades of her dedicated writing aimed at enhancing our awareness on environmental issues this most welcomed volume should generate increased commitment for the protection and preservation of this veritable paradise in which we have the most-envied privilege of living.
After reading this book it becomes abundantly clear that we must make a concerted effort to activate successful community-based environmental efforts. Too much lipservice is regularly paid to conservation issues, but it takes a foreign investor with echologically disruptive plans to make some of us forget what’s right and what’s wrong. As a result we may be faced with an uphill battle in the form of a costly decade-long legal battle to protect our most valuable national asset: nature.
The book also delves into the problems of indiscriminate and inordinate development: sewerage problems that remain unsolved for over a decade, stray animals ravaging gardens and orchards, burial sites, disposal of derelict vehicles, unacceptable noise pollution, improvement of public and private spaces (communal decency), erosion of our traditions, preservation of bush medicine, neglect and obliteration of our historic sites and architecture, traffic problems, parking of vehicles anarchy, as well as the many unkept promises of politicians, especially the much talked about projects that never materialised such as the new General Post Office and the National Library & Museum.
Well illustrated, the book ends with useful and informative appendices with lists of related Biblical references, National Parks, Bird Sanctuaries, environmental protection laws, and related departments and agencies. This book is recommended reading for all those who love the Virgin Islands.
Verna Penn Moll is known on both sides of the ocean as a highly skilled bibliographer and here in the British Virgin Islands and in the neighbouring islands as a social commentator on cultural, historical and environmental issues. She is well-known as former Chief Librarian and for her pivotal role in making the National Archives of the Virgin Islands a reality despite the many obstacles she encountered.