Simple location and geography suggest that Prospect Reef, a marina and resort devastated by Hurricane Irma, is one of the best locations in the Caribbean to build a nautical and ocean sciences college.

Such a college, fully integrated into the wider education and learning system, would enable the Virgin Islands to pursue a seafaring and maritime culture and future.

This step would also drive a sustainable ecosystem, which is critical to protecting and leveraging the environment in the direction of an eco-centric maritime-oriented economy. Appropriate learning alone would drive a pristine geography critical to the future of the VI’s society and economy.

The college would further integrate with critical environmental projects, from recycling and renewable energy to organic farming and ecotourism: a magnet that pulls all the facets of a new vision into one workable whole. A college at Prospect Reef also would have the space to house relevant government agencies such as tourism, education, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College links, the Conservation and Fisheries Department, and the National Parks Trust.

Stating ‘the obvious’

In a previous article, this swimming instructor stated the obvious: There is no vision and prosperous future for these islands without an appropriate learning culture. A new learning paradigm alone will lead to the vision of where the territory wants to be in 30 years.

And if that vision is a VI that is driven by an ecology-focused nautical narrative, then the physics, chemistry and biology of marine systems, and the study of the physical and biological properties of the seas, is central to that vision.

With all the chatter about “climate change,” the ocean plays a central role in the climate system, including weather variables and the climate change narrative. The seas regulate the oxygen, carbon and heat in the environment.

Studying the oceans offers knowledge on water temperature, salinity, ocean circulation, currents, waves, tides, climate variability, meteorology, marine biology and energy dissipation.

There is no nautical culture and commerce without knowledge of the seas. There is no boating and shipping economy without an understanding of ocean science. The knowledge of the ocean is critical to the VI in a new era of social and economic change.

The territory’s financial services industry is under global attack, and September 2017 exposed the hurricane and flooding vulnerability of the territory from global warming that is driving up sea temperatures and melting the polar ice caps, leading to rising seas.

‘Learning community’

One of the great ideas offered by politicians at the last general election was the establishment of a maritime school in the VI. This was to be a learning ecosystem that is both vocational and academic — a learning community where residents gather to camp, swim, sail, canoe, beehive and learn all aspects of the nautical sciences, earning certificates and diplomas up to the first degree level.

Incorporated into the nautical school would be a science school, a nautical college, a boatyard, a hotel, a resort, a marina, a culinary and tourism school, and even an aeronautical school with flight simulators for aspiring pilots.

At the time of the last election, the idea appeared farfetched. Today, with Prospect Reef a vast ruin, the idea requires a second look.

Economic shift

Training and schooling a new generation of VI citizens for a major shift in the economic culture, from a financial services narrative to a culture that is vocational, outdoors, ecotourism-based, environmentally-driven and maritime requires a radical shift in the national learning culture.

There is no better site for this than Prospect Reef. The area must become the core of a brand-new learning ecosystem: a learning culture that will drive the rest of the new VI economy. Foreign investors with an interest in a maritime economy should be invited and involved in what will be a potentially billion-dollar ecotourism, maritime and ocean sciences college and development.

 

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