Gendarmes for the Environment


by Karen Topakian

The French side of the tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Martin (87 km2) is addressing its environmental problems in a novel way. On May 12, they held a swearing in ceremony for their newly formed environmental enforcers.

These environmental agents from the Brigade de l’Environment and Direction de l’Environment will have powers similar to those of police officers to issue fines for any offences committed anywhere on the French side that are deemed detrimental to the environment.

According to a May 15 article in The Daily Herald, the seven men and women, will among other tasks “…post removal notices on abandoned cars and identify owners, advise the population on matters of health where it concerns management of waste and take action on neighborhood problems of running sewage water, unauthorized dumping of garbage and stealing beach sand.”

Since the French side only covers 53km2, any of these infractions can create real environmental problems for everyone.

The Herald goes on to report that the agents will “monitor activities at the landfill and recycling facility in Galisbay, carry out surveillance of beaches and green areas, control tree-cutting activities and brush fires as well as work closely with the dog pound and associations to control dogs and assist the Health Department in dengue prevention programmes.”

imagesImagine if the U.S. government, California or just San Francisco formed an environmental police force. When San Franciscans saw environmental laws being broken, like illegal dumping but hopefully not dengue fever, they could call 711.  I know 711, makes you think of a Slurpee, which has got to be toxic.

Massachusetts has an Environmental Police Force,  responsible for among other things, investigating criminal violations of the Commonwealth’s environmental laws. If the Bay State can have one, why can’t SF? (They’re already ahead of us on gay marriage!)

Not being a big fan of the police, I would nonetheless love to see someone in a uniform slap the cuffs on the CEO of Chevron for its contamination of Ecuador, Nigeria…

Or maybe the CEO of Bechtel for toxic dust and gas exposure at Yucca Mountain amongst other environmental crimes.

I would love to see them doing the perp walk with their Brioni suit jackets pulled up to hide their faces.

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