Domestic Violence in Bermuda – Some thoughts on a bad week…

Some thoughts on a bad week…

This hasn’t been a great week for Bermuda in terms of domestic violence.

I don’t mean that in the sense of a sudden surge in domestic violence incidents – I have no way to say if that is the case or not.

Rather, I’m referring to the sad – and shocking – news that the islands only safe house, operated by the Centre Against Abuse, has been forced to close due to lack of funds, and the disturbing incident of a prominent divorce lawyer being assaulted in Supreme Court by the ex-husband of one of her clients.

Centre Against Abuse Safe House

Bermuda is now without a safe house for women escaping domestic violence.

This fact alone is a sad condemnation of Bermuda’s misplaced priorities regarding how we spend our money – for an island of our wealth, it is shocking we cannot fund such an important service, and in doing so we are condemning women and children (who make up the majority of domestic violence victims) to abuse and possibly even murder. Domestic Abuse

An article earlier this year states that the safe house provided shelter for 31 women and children fleeing domestic violence in 2013.

That may not sound like a lot of people, but for those involved it provided a crucial lifeline of support in escaping a nightmarish situation.

The same article makes clear that rates of domestic violence greatly increase over the summer months, and as we’re still in the summer (and the upcoming stresses of the new school year), one can only imagine the demand for the safe house is likely highest right now – and just when it’s needed most it’s no longer available.

Some Stats on Domestic Violence

There’s some interesting stats available on domestic violence as it relates to Bermuda.

A report by the Bermuda Health Council in 2013 [opens as a PDF] found that one in eight adults had experienced domestic violence, with partner violence being particularly directed against women and those in the younger age group (see p.61), with women being three times more likely to be the subject of domestic violence than men (see p.62) – that is, roughly one in five of all women in Bermuda reporting domestic violence.

Another report, the Health Survey of Adults in Bermuda 2011 [opens as a PDF] – I cannot find a more recent report and don’t know if they even exist – found that about a third (30%) of all Bermudians have experienced physical abuse from an intimate partner, compared to about a quarter (23%) in 2006 (see p.96; p.95 also provides additional information).

It’s not clear what the current status of domestic violence in Bermuda is, with the most recent crime statistics, quarter two for 2014 [opens as a PDF], not explicitly referring to domestic violence.

Nonetheless, these stats do indicate that incidents of sexual assault and ‘crimes against children’ have increased, which may reflect increased rates of domestic violence.

It’s also important to note that domestic violence is often under-reported.

There’s stats that women only report domestic violence after 32 incidents of domestic violence (see the header on this link; I believe it originates from a WHO report, but I’m not sure which exactly).

It’s also important to know that domestic violence doesn’t just affect the victims themselves – it also leads to greater healthcare costs for us all, as well long-term consequences – we know, for example, that abused women often have long-term mental and other health issues resulting from the abuse, and children growing up in an environment of domestic violence tend to exhibit a greater risk tendency of substance abuse, as well as engaging in violent acts themselves later.

The safe house run by the Centre Against Abuse isn’t the magic bullet to end domestic violence, but it is a key part in dealing with the problem and helping to break cycles of abuse.

I encourage anyone who can to reach out to the Centre Against Abuse and see what they can do to help them out and get the safe house back up and running as soon as possible.

Lawyer Assaulted

Almost to underline the issue of domestic violence, one of Bermuda’s most prominent divorce lawyers was assaulted on the grounds of the Supreme Court, leaving the woman lawyer requiring hospital treatment.

The man who attacked the lawyer was involved in a divorce case, the lawyer representing the man’s ex-wife.

I’m not interested in getting into the ins and outs of the personal case of that divorce issue, other than to say that, beyond the need for improved security at the Supreme Court, this would indicate a certain mentality of resorting to violence, especially as a form of abuse.

A Quick Note

Just a quick additional note to say that domestic abuse is not restricted solely to physical violence, but also involves emotional and sexual abuse to. 

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic violence, there is help out there, and the Women’s Resource Center or the Centre Against Abuse can provide you with assistance.

The Media & Online Comments

Bermuda Blue’s got a good little post on the RG’s editorial today about online comments.

I’ve been meaning to write on the issue myself for the last few weeks – it’s been the subject of several abortive drafts.

Beachlime did, however, touch on this issue not too long ago too.

I think it has become increasingly apparent to those who frequent the online RG and dare to peek at the comments section – perhaps more out of perverse curiousity than active interest in engaging – that the RG has steadily, and until recently, quietly been reducing the scope of articles allowing comments. newspaper-273525-m

I’ve got a mixed feeling about comments…

On the one hand, yeah, they really do drive up the viewing stats.  Quite frankly, while only a fraction of viewers actually comment, the sometimes wild west to and fro of the comments greatly increases the numbers of people viewing this or that post.

On the other hand, moderating comments is one major pain in the butt, and the ‘bottom half of the internet’ is very Lord of the Flie-esque.

It takes a lot of time, and a lot of patience, to deal with comments.  And comments all too often reduce themselves to the extremely negative, with insults and personal attacks being particularly common features.

That saps a lot of positive energy.

I originally had very lax moderating on this blog.  People could post, and only comments containing certain key words I set the filter for, they’d go up immediately.

I had this rather naive belief that people are fundamentally good and would self-police their conversations.  I hadn’t factored in the power of anonymity or the impersonal distance to corrupt conversations in the virtual world.

I gradually increased my moderating, being more active in weeding out certain comments, and then eventually I burned out, spurred on by a commentator who was hell bent on issuing death threats (complete with addresses) towards various public persons.

I shut it down (the comments), at least temporarily, more to give my mind some peace, but also to try and cool people off, even at the expense of my stats.

Today I allow comments, but approve all of them.  It stifles conversation, but I think it leads to a better overall quality.

I welcome comments, partly from a stats point of view, but also because it allows people to challenge me and get me thinking.  And often it leads new ideas, and the conversation often eclipses the original post itself.

In the media

For the media, I think the comments can similarly enhance our media too.

I believe they can complement articles, and even help generate novel stories.

All too often however they end up as mudslinging and personal attacks, along with borderline libel/defamation.

They may drive up readership, but they actually detract from the story and generally lower the overall quality of discourse in our society.

They’ve actually turned me off from reading the comments, and I’ve generally stopped commenting on the RG and Bernews as a result.

And since the revelations of the underhanded and despicable actions of the BPAC group, with their hiring of bloggers to manipulate discourse in the run-up to the election – and for all we know still are – the credibility of these online comments is now questionable at best.

And it’s not just anonymity that I think contributes to this.  It’s the distance that the virtual world allows, as we’ve seen in the quality of discourse on our political FB pages, which are only marginally better than the media comment threads.

The Fumbling RG

Even though I’ve generally been turned off by the comments, I’ve also been equally disappointed by the actions of the RG.

Having allowed comments, and to now increasingly restrict them – and initially without explanation – along with this rather defensive editorial, it’s hard not to question the RG’s motives here.

My own reading is, having moderated comments on this blog, and knowing the amount of time it involves, and in light of the general crisis of the media today, the RG’s just too unstable (editorially, financially and in terms of labour power) to give moderation the time and resources it requires.

The handling of moderation by the RG is, to me, a symptom of crisis the RG’s in.

Despite being freed from the competition of the Sun, I think it would not be a surprise to anyone if the RG is struggling itself, and this change in handling of comments reflects this.

Is it a privilege to be allowed to comment on our news media? first-news-1109654-m

Perhaps.

However, the RG actively encouraged it and the entitlement of being able to do so.  To restrict that now, and in such a poorly handed manner, namely failing to explain their reasons – or allow even their editorial rant on the subject to be challenged – just looks poor and reflects the institutional crisis I think they’re having.

Just a quick note on Bernews…

Bernews has a fundamentally different model than the RG.  It appears to be based on presenting the raw story – the full press release, etc – and allowing the resulting comments to add to or otherwise become the story itself.

I use Bernews mostly to get most up to date news in its rawest form.

For most, however, it’s not simply the best site for up to date news, but the draw is the comments itself.  On Bernews one could almost say the comments are the story.

And Bernews has a fraction of the resources that the RG has – and yet, for the most part (being on the receiving end of personal attacks perhaps biases my view there, lol), does a decent job of moderating comments.

Which begs the question, if Bernews can do it, however imperfectly, why can’t the RG?

 

Kim Swan & The PLP

I have to be honest, I was caught off-guard by this move.

In hind-sight, I guess it’s not all that surprising – I just really wasn’t expecting it. Petitionlaunch3

I only got to really know Mr Swan during our collaboration on the petition for a referendum on casino gambling.

Before that I had begun to know him somewhat during the 2012 election.

As we were both running as Independents, along with several others, we (along with many of the other Independents) met up before and after the election, swapping experiences and advice on canvassing and the potential for helping provide a structure to empower Independents as a viable option in future elections.

And before that, I knew him more in a distant sense, as a public political figure only – and as the former leader of the UBP, I admit I did not exactly seek him out before.

I will say that, especially over the first half of this year, during the referendum initiative, I got to know Mr Swan a lot better.

I believe he is truly a genuine kind of ‘old-fashioned’ politician – passionate about what’s best for Bermuda and his home area of St George’s, and passionate about doing things with integrity.

While we may not agree on everything (and that would be boring anyway), I do think we need more politicians like him, rather than the manufactured ‘on message’ and rather bland politicians that seem to increasingly becoming the status quo in Bermuda.

I also got to see first-hand how his former UBP colleagues and supporters were treating him, or, rather, mistreating him.

As a result of that, I’m not surprised one bit that if he was going to join either established party it was going to be the PLP.

I’m disappointed in as much as I think his joining the PLP weakens the argument for Independents or a 3rd party as a viable option for transcending our two-party system and all the division that both reflects and reinforces.

However, I doubt he’s made this decision lightly either, especially knowing the likely responses (opportunist, flip-flopper, etc) that he’ll have to endure.

I have no interest in contributing to that aspect however.

At best, I just want to wish him well, and recognise that he remains an asset to Bermuda and the people of the East End for whom he remains a tireless advocate.

Of course, this makes for some interesting speculation about the impact this will have on the electoral calculus in the future :

Will those who voted for him in 2012 shift their vote to the PLP now?

Will he run again, or simply assist the PLP branch and encourage support for them?

 

A look at income inequality in Bermuda – Gini Coefficients & Lorenz Curves

Another Inequality Measurement

Following on from my analysis of the 2010 Census data on incomes, I thought I’d try my hand at doing a Lorenz Curve and the related Gini Coefficient for the same data.

These two metrics of inequality are perhaps the most popular, the Palma Index I used in my previous analysis being a newer metric that tries to complement the Gini.  It’s also a lot easier to do, hence my focus on it in the earlier post.

Now, I know how to make a Lorenz Curve.

Or at least I thought I did.

Basically it’s an accumulative modelling of the stats from before, adding each deciles wealth at each stage.  So decile one stands alone, decile two is both decile one and decile two added together, etc.

This is then plotted as a line graph to get the Lorenz Curve.

A 45 degree straight line goes up the middle, indicating what ‘perfect equality’ would look like as a Lorenz Curve.

The Gini Coefficient is based on the difference between the actual Lorenz Curve and the line of perfect equality.

As I’m not too sure about calculating the Gini Coefficient (it involves calculus, which I need to improve on…), I double-checked my own attempt with an online modelling service.

The result?

Well, two different Lorenz Curves and two different Gini Coefficients.

I got a Gini of 0.63 (or 63, depending on how one prefers to record it) – Figure One.

Figure One - Gini

The online model, using my data, gave a Gini of 0.72 (72) – Figure Two.

Figure Two - The online model Lorenz Curve & Gini.

Figure Two – The online model Lorenz Curve & Gini.

So.  Yeah.

This one’s going to go back to the drawing board.

Hypothetically though, if one takes the actual Gini for 2010 Bermuda as the mean of these two, then Bermuda in 2010 had a GiniFigure Three Gini of  0.675 (67.5).

Using the same list of countries I used to compare our Palma Index, gives us Figure Three.

The high Gini for Bermuda is in red, the low in green and the mean in yellow.

A Big ‘IF’…

IF any of the Gini Coefficients calculated for Bermuda are correct, then based solely on them, Bermuda is either the most unequal country in the list, or the second most unequal country there after South Africa.

Now, I cannot stress this enough, I am not confident that I’ve calculated the Gini Coefficient for Bermuda properly.

I am simply hoping that by putting forward an initial calculation it inspires someone more skilled than me to refute the calculation and replace it with a better calculated one.

The same goes with my previous analyses of 2010 income inequalities in Bermuda.

They are but an initial attempt to shed some light on inequalities in Bermuda.

They need improved upon.

I will take another look at my Gini calculations and, if I subsequently redo it, I’ll post it here too.

Now, of course, if one of the above calculations of Bermuda’s Gini is correct, well, that alone should be some food for thought…


 

Wrong Data Set?

On a related note, I want to make clear that some people (primarily on Facebook, either in personal messages to me or in discussions sparked by my earlier post) have argued I’ve used the wrong data set.

I selected what I thought was the most appropriate data set to investigate income inequalities in Bermuda, however some disagree with that choice, it appears because that data set seems to include income data from expatriate workers.

They have suggested an alternative data set – and I hope to look at that and see if it’s possible to conduct a similar investigation using it instead of the data set I did.

Personally, I think the analysis I’ve done, if it includes expatriate incomes, is a perfectly valid investigation of total income inequalities in Bermuda as is, and provides an important insight in its own right.

Help Me Do It Better!

I encourage others to try their hand at improving on what I’ve tried to do.

If you want to refute my findings, please try and do so.

If you think you can refine my findings, please try and do so.

All I’m trying to do is provide an initial insight and indication into income inequalities in Bermuda.

I welcome assistance and alternative approaches!

A look at income inequality in Bermuda – Slices of the income cake & the Palma Index

Setting the Context

Not too long ago Craig Simmons, a lecturer in Economics at the Bermuda College, was featured in an RG article discussing inequality in Bermuda (and was clearly doing so after reading Thomas Picketty’s masterpiece on the subject).

In response to the warnings being raised by Mr Simmons, the Finance Minister Bob Richards essentially dismissed Mr Simmons thoughtful comments by saying there’s no statistics to back up Mr Simmons argument.

Which isn’t to say that Mr Simmons is wrong (and unless we’re invoking Bermudian exceptionalism, I’d imagine Mr Simmons is more right than wrong, seeing as the points he’s raised have been found globally), it’s just to say that the Government isn’t actively collecting or making available the statistics we’d need to ‘prove’ his points.

Not too long after this, Mr Wayne Furbert (PLP MP) proposed a Quality of Life study, which was rather crudely dismissed by the OBA Chair, Ms Susan Jackson, MP.

Both of these incidents got me thinking about what stats do we have which may illustrate inequality in Bermuda.

Historical Reviews

Both the 1991 and the 2000 census attempted to measure, to a degree, rates of inequality, and the Low Income Thresholds Study, is also informative on this (see Statistics for more information on these).

However, the matter of inequality seems absent from the 2010 census, and the Low Income Thresholds Study – despite a stated commitment to update it regularly – has not been updated since its 2007 publication.

So, I thought I’d try my hand at a first look at matters of inequality in Bermuda.

I’m not a statistician, and I only have limited time and resources (including limited access to data), so I’m only going to say that my findings are, at best, indicative of inequality in Bermuda.

Furthermore, they only speak to income inequality, not total wealth, which would include accumulated savings, inheritances, various assets (property, stocks, etc).

I’m pretty sure that if all those were included to make a more refined model, the inequalities in Bermuda would be much more unequal than the income inequalities alone suggest.

So, what did I do?

I decided that the data regarding income in the 2010 census was the best place to start.

This provides data on total income distribution, and then income distribution broken down according to race and sex.

I’ve decided here to focus on race rather than sex, although I think that’s important too.

The data shows population distribution according to 16 income bands, ranging from ‘$36,000 and below’ to ‘$750,000 and over’.

I’ve worked out:

  • The percentages of population distributions across these bands.
  • Plotted these according to a line graph.
  • Plotted both total racial population distribution and compared it to total racial income distribution.
  • Worked out a proxy of total income wealth distribution per income band (by adopting the mean for each income band multiplied by numbers of people in each band, adopting $36k and $750k for the first and last bands – which I imagine under-represents total wealth).
  • Condensed the 16 income bands into 10 in order to approach a decile breakdown of income distribution (combining income bands 2 and 3 into a single decile, and income bands 12 to 16 into a single decile).
  • Created a Palma Index for Bermuda’s income distribution, for Total population, Blacks, Whites, Mixed and Not Stated racial categories.

I decided to use a Palma measure of inequality simply because it was easier to do than other measures of inequality such as the Gini Coefficient or the Theil Index, and this article indicated it was actually a potentially better index than the others.

It essentially looks at the very rich and the very poor as an indication of inequality, largely ignoring the ‘middle’.

The Palma Index itself is determined by dividing the total wealth of the richest decile by the total wealth of the four poorest deciles.

A Short Discursive

Basically, the data reflects what many of us have known for a while…

  • The working class is overwhelmingly Black, the upper class is overwhelmingly White.
  • The majority of income wealth in Bermuda is commanded by a minority of the population.
  • We live in an unequal society, and, based solely on income distributions, a more unequal society than, say, the USA or the UK.
  • Income inequality is more pronounced within the White population (in that there are greater extremes of wealth inequalities there – there are a lot of VERY rich Whites, the bulk of Whites are ‘middle class’ but there’s also a number of very poor ‘small’ Whites) than in the Black population (Which has a minority of VERY rich Blacks, and the rest are almost evenly split between the lower and middle classes).

Once again, these results are only indicative of inequalities in Bermuda and only speak to income inequality.

Personally, my feeling is that if one were to include a wider metric, covering all facets of wealth, our inequality levels would be much greater than that reflected in income distribution alone.

It would be interesting to situate these figures historically too, to see if the income inequalities have changed over time, and under different governments, or if they’ve essentially stayed the same.  Perhaps someone could explore that angle in the future.

I’ll just put forward the hypothesis (and thus the challenge!) that under the PLP (so between the 2000 and 2010 censuses) inequality would have marginally decreased, and that Blacks increased their numbers in the upper income bands.

And now, the tables and graphs!

I worked these out on Excel, and I welcome people to go through my sums and check to make sure I’ve done it right.  It’ll take too much time to explain exactly what I did and why, but I hope it’s mostly self-explanatory.  I’ll try to answer any questions in the comments section, and look forward for any schoolboy errors being pointed out…

The Excel spreadsheet opens by clicking the below link:

Bda Income by Race

Figure One shows the racial compositions (in percentages) of each income band (disregarding the ‘Not Stated’ category).  WFigure Onehites make up about 30% of the lower class and the lower and mid middle class.  Blacks make up around 60% of these classes.  As one gets into the upper middle class (which arguably is ‘lower upper class really, based on the income band!) this begins to switch, with Whites increasing the composition and Blacks decreasing, with the income band of $235k-349k being roughly equal in racial composition.  Blacks then make up around 30% of the upper class, with Whites making up just over 60%.  Mixed/Other seem to be mostly steady at all income bands, at around 10%.

Figure Two shows theFigure Two racial composition of income wealth according to racial group.  Blacks actually command the majority of income wealth (at 47%), but this is lower than what would be expected if income wealth was equally distributed according to total population size of each racial group.  Blacks make up 51% of the population in question, but only command 47% of the income.  Whites only make 32.4% of the population, but command 41% of the income.  Mixed/Other seem more equal, being 11.7% of the population, and commanding 11% of all income.  Not Stated make up only 0.72% of the population, but command 1% of all income.  In other wordFigure Threes, Whites command 1.27 times their ‘fair’ share of income wealth, and Not Stated command 1.4 times their ‘fair’ share.  Blacks command only 0.9 times their fair share, Mixed/Other 0.94 their fair share.

Figure Three shows the population breakdown of each decile of income band (I use the term ‘decile’ loosely here).  If each decile commanded their fair share of income wealth, the income distribution should mirror this.  It doesn’t.

Figure Four shows the totFigure Foural income slices for each of those same deciles as in Figure Three.  The richest deciles (nine and ten) alone command 60% of all income wealth in Bermuda, while only making up 30% of the population.  Decile ten alone, at 14% of the population, command 38% of all income wealth.  Or to flip it around, 70% of the population only commands 40% of all income wealth.  And if one looks at just deciles one to six, which represent 50% of the population, they only command 22% of all income wealth.  It’s not quite the 99% versus the 1%, at least in terms of income distribution, but it certainly is inequality.

Figure Five shows the total income wealth according to the Palma format, showing the income distribution between the pooresFigure Fivet four deciles, the middle five deciles and the top tenth decile.  According to the Palma equation, where one divides the wealth of the top tenth decile to the wealth of the lowest four deciles, Bermuda has a Palma Index, for income distribution, of 2.65.

Figure Six shows the income distribution within the Black population, along the same Palma format as in Figure Five.  The Black population has a Palma Index of 1.56.

Figure Seven shows the income distribution within the White population, as above.  The White population has a Palma Index of 5.68.

Figure Eight shows the income distribution within the Mixed/Other population; they have a Palma Index of 2.

Figure NineFigures Six to Nine shows the income distribution within the Not Stated population; they have a Palma Index of 2.25.

Figure Ten shows Bermuda’s Palma Index in reference to other countries (strictly these are not comparable, as I’ve only measured income, not total wealth; I include it here solely as an indication of our minimum inequality in comparison with other countries).  Based on this, we’re a more unequal country than the USA and the UK, as well as Malaysia, Venezuela, China, Morocco, Russia, Tanzania, Albania, India, Bangladesh, Egypt and Denmark.  Jamaica is the most unequal country, followed by South Africa.

I have a gut feeling that a truer metric of our inequalities (including those beyond income) would see Bermuda place somewhere in between South Africa and Brazil.  I leave that as a hypothesis and a challenge for others.

Figure Ten

Cut & Paste Journalism?

Is it even ‘journalism’ anymore?

Recently I’ve criticised the state of journalism in Bermuda, which I see as currently demoralised, under-resourced and overwhelmed by PR personnel.

One particular problem resulting from this is that the journalists we still have just simply do not have the time to do their due diligence and actually indulge in journalism itself.

Just say no to cut-and-paste 'journalism'.

Just say no to cut-and-paste ‘journalism’.

And by this I mean they just aren’t able to be investigating stories, asking questions and keeping key stakeholders, particularly the Government accountable, primarily by actually asking informed questions and being tenacious in chasing the answers.

To me this is exemplified by the rise of a ‘cut and paste’ journalism, where press releases are printed almost in their entirety, perhaps somewhat re-arranged, and this constitutes the whole of the article.

To me, that’s not journalism – it’s ‘churnalism’.  

At best it’s a slightly creative re-ordering of something a PR person has prepared.

While that can be useful in itself for juxtaposing contradictions within a body of text, more often than not it’s just sloppy on the part of those claiming to be journalists.

An article in today’s RG illustrates this…

Bernews, which is more a platform for press releases and allows for online media generation through the comments, tends to provide the entire press releases or statements in question, fully credited.  It doesn’t claim to do otherwise, unlike the RG, now our only newspaper, which is supposed to have a different model, including journalism.

By comparing stories carried between Bernews – which makes it clear it’s simply posting the press releases and allow users to comment – and the RG, which is supposed to provide a journalistic approach, one can see how much RG is relying on a ‘cut and paste’ approach to ‘journalism’.

The RG’s article in question doesn’t delve deeper into the issue in question; it doesn’t ask questions, it doesn’t answer questions.  Indeed, one wonders if it can ethically be considered a novel article by the reporter due to it basically being re-organised plagiarism.

I need to stress here, I’m not attacking the reporter in question.

I’m attacking the institutional failure of journalism here, the lack of direction and maintenance of journalistic integrity, largely arising from being under-resourced and demoralised, partly arising out of the editorial and organisational instability at the RG today.

This increasing reliance on ‘cut and paste’ is a symptom of the problems of journalism today.

Due to the crucial importance of journalism in informing the people within a democracy, even ‘equal opportunity’ cut and paste journalism serves to undermine our democracy by failing to stimulate critical though or reveal new facts about the story.

This article is just one example, I need to stress that too.

With less and less media choice available to Bermudians, the increasing non-journalism should concern us all.

We need:

  • A national conversation about replacing the failing economic model of journalism in Bermuda, including the potential for the public subsidising of journalism as a public good.
  • The journalists at the RG need to take a stand and force management to provide them resources and support they need to actually do journalism.
  • The ‘consulting editor’ needs to take a stand FOR better journalism.  The buck should stop with the editor.  I understand that as a ‘consulting editor’ he is in a weak position.  However, failure to act is doing more harm to his credibility, and the credibility of journalism in Bermuda as a whole.
  • The RG needs to make clear what their policy is regarding online comments.  It’s approach so far has been arbitrary.
  • The Media Council, as impotent and unstable as it is rapidly becoming, needs to take a stand against ‘cut and paste’ journalism and the decline of journalistic standards in Bermuda as a whole.

Speaking of the Media Council, it’s Code of Conduct is useful here.

Section 3(g) states:

“Media outlets must clearly distinguish for the audience the difference between advertising, advertorial  and news.”

A cut and paste job of a PR statement – is that news, advertising or advertorial?

Trash Problems in Bermuda – Bernews OpEd

Bermuda’s having some issues with trash collections, due to various reasons. Trash container

I can’t speak to the particular causes of the latest problems, but I thought the situation made for a useful segue to highlight some policies that I’ve put forward concerning residential trash, both in the 2012 General Election and in my submission to the SAGE Commission last year.

You can read over the policies in my OpEd over at Bernews.

Of course, they’re only an outline.

There’s only so much information (and words) one can fit in an OpEd without boring people with the minutiae of policy details and technical specs.  The aim is more to convey some ideas that can be developed.

All of the suggestions are already done elsewhere.  As much as I’d like to take credit for creating wholly new ideas, in this case I’ve looked at what works elsewhere and put forward those which I think would also work in Bermuda.

Quite frankly, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel, and we can learn from how these ideas work elsewhere.

I will note, after reviewing some of the comments on the Bernews OpEd, some points:

  • I would change the wording on the compost bit to simply ‘food waste’, as in including meat.  I don’t think it would make that big a problem, and it’s all compostable.
  • In addition to the curb-side composting, a focus should be on encouraging households to compost at home.  This isn’t going to be possible for everyone, but for many it will be.
  • Curb-side composting, yes, it has to be picked up pretty quickly otherwise it’ll stink.  However, it’ll no more stink than trash currently does containing food waste.
  • The ‘free’ container would already be paid for by the land tax.  Paying extra for extra trash space makes it so that those who produce more trash (or choose not to separate out recyclables, etc) pay more, helping to recuperate the added costs involved.  Right now, those who produce more, or don’t separate, increases the overall cost of trash collection for us all; the PAYT model seeks to remedy that.
  • Each container can be personally marked, including a serial number, for each residential unit involved, reducing the risk of theft to a degree.
  • These trash containers are used elsewhere; there’s risk of vandalism, but we can see from how they operate elsewhere how to deal with that.  I’d imagine their omnipresence, combined with fines, would be an effective way to minimise such risks.
  • In multi-unit complexes, a larger dumpster, with a 32-gallon container per capita equivalent can be introduced.
  • A bottle bill would work here (it works everywhere it’s in place, so no reason it wouldn’t work here), although the deposit value will have to be figured out to be effective in the Bermuda context.  I’d imagine that the 5 cent or 10 cent deposit value we see in the US would be too small for Bermuda; 25 cents is probably closer to what would work in Bermuda.  A policy analysis would be able to get the general figure, to be fine tuned as the policy is implemented and evaluated.

As I’ve said, these policies exist elsewhere.

Bottle bills exist in the Caribbean and North America (and elsewhere).

PAYT exists elsewhere, including North America and Europe.

Curbside composting exists throughout North America and Europe, including cities with roughly comparable climates to Bermuda, like San Francisco or north east Florida.

The trash containers I based the policy outline on is that I saw being used in Fife, Scotland, which now uses a four-bin waste collection system for trash, food and garden waste, paper and cardboard and plastics.

Quite frankly, these systems already exist elsewhere, and from all the evidence I’ve reviewed, it leads to a more efficient waste management system, including overall cost savings.

They exist, they work, and we can adapt them for the Bermuda context.

All it takes is the political will to actually act on them.