Friday, February 02, 2007

Old money, new money

Yesterday I mentioned the prospect of humanity diverging into the genetically-enhanced rich and the roll-of-the-genetic-dice poor. Would rich folks spend big money bumping up their odds of "perfect" offspring? You better believe it.

Here on this little island in the central Bahamas we are watching another sort of divergence.

There has always been a small population of very rich winter residents on the island. Old-money rich. Their homes were gems but relatively modest and completely inconspicuous, tucked away in the local vegetation on idyllic sites, but never far from the homes and lives of Bahamians. Their satisfactions, from what I have been able to discover, were esthetic and very private.

The new-money rich who have recently arrived (in the wake of the new Four Seasons resort) are building holiday houses of astonishing ostentation. In gated communities. Neither the indigenous environment nor integration with their Bahamian hosts seem high on their agenda.

Already some islanders are wondering if the new money being dumped into their economy is worth the changes in quality of life, and the danger of becoming second-class citizens in their own country. With a little foresight and planning, the economy could be grown without shattering the environment or surrendering to millionaire foreigners everything that made this beautiful island the domain of very proud -- if not so rich -- Bahamians.