The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Canadian Tycoon Clashes With Environmentalists in the Bahamas
Canadian womenswear mogul Peter Nygård never seems to be more than an arm's length away from controversy.
According to a 2010 Forbes article, Nygård has been accused of abusive labor practices, tax evasion, sexual harassment and rape. (He has also been called the Hugh Hefner of Canada). Punching back hard, he has sued his accusers and intimidated his critics with a small army of lawyers. “No one has ever disobeyed my orders and gotten away with it!" he once raged, according to the testimony of a former business partner.
Environmentalists say those who obey his orders include government officials in the Bahamas, where Nygård has been building a massive estate since the mid '80s. Forbes described his resort as "a 150,000-square-foot Mayan-style resort featuring 12 themed cabanas, volcanic smoking temples, a helipad, disco, casino and a human aquarium (with sharks on one side of the glass)" where he "has hosted the likes of Robert De Niro, Oprah, Michael Jackson, Prince Andrew and George H.W. Bush," as well as his one-time girlfriend Anna Nicole Smith.
Environmentalists, unimpressed by the fact that it's been featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, describe it as a threat to the delicate and world-renowned ecology of the islands as well as to the public's ability to enjoy the beaches that attract visitors.
Nygård's appropriation of oceanfront to expand his resort and his disregard of legal process and environmental protections to do so has been challenged by the rapidly growing Bahamas-based grassroots environmental group, Save The Bays, founded last year. That group has been embroiled in a series of legal measures to prevent the uncontrolled expansion on the peninsula he renamed Nygård Cay. That includes dredging and construction of artificial structures in the ocean—a threat to the marine habitat including delicate coral reef ecosystems.
"Over the last 20 years Peter Nygård has illegally expanded his property at Simms Point to nearly twice its original size," charges Save the Bays. "Finally the government has required him to apply for permits for the work he's done to claim $35 million worth of crown land, the same work that has already caused environmental destruction to Clifton Bay and Jaws Beach. He's also applied to keep going, expanding his land further into the seabed, which belongs to the Bahamian people."
Following a recent visit by environmentalists to the island, Sharon Khan, international director of Waterkeeper Alliance, noted the impact the unauthorized work at Nygård Cay was having on a nearby beach.
"Jaws Beach is one of the last beaches that remains open to the public on this island and we remain concerned that poorly planned and unpermitted developments are decreasing the ability of Bahamian people and their guests to enjoy this famous beach and its clear blue water," she said.
Last week, the Bahamas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Save The Bays, issuing an injunction to halt a public consultation process. Save The Bays had been issued an injunction in July to halt the process, saying that critical information had not been made available, causing the process to be fatally flawed. Save The Bays argued that the Bahamas government had breached the injunction by circulating new consultation notices anyway.
The group was also granted judicial review of the government's failure to develop a land use plan required by the country's 2011 Planning and Subdivision Act.
It's merely the latest skirmish in a long war, which also includes charges and countercharges between Nygård and his neighborhood, billionaire hedge fund manager conservationist Louis Bacon. Naturally, they're suing each other.
Bacon, who supports the conservation efforts of Save The Bays and has won awards from groups like Riverkeeper, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and National Audubon Society, is claiming in a New York court that Nygård has engaged in a smear campaign against him. The New York application relates to evidence from a whistle-blower which is said to support Bacon's defamation suits and Save The Bays' action against Nygård concerning environmental destruction.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
'Work Together' or 'Destroy it': Goldman Prize Winner Francia Márquez on World's Second Deadliest Country For Environmental Activists
In April 2018, Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, thanks to her work to retake her community's ancestral territories from illegal gold mining. However, her international recognition comes at a very risky price.
By Stuart Braun
A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.
Toy maker Hasbro wants to play in the eco-packaging game. The board game giant will ditch its plastic packaging by 2022. The move means that games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Operation will no longer have shrink wrap, window sheets, plastic bags or elastic bands, as the Associated Press reported.
By Jessica Corbett
Pointing to the deaths of more than half a billion bees in Brazil over a period of just four months, beekeepers, experts and activists are raising concerns about the soaring number of new pesticides greenlighted for use by the Brazilian government since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January — and the threat that it poses to pollinators, people and the planet.
By Elliott Negin
On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.
- Cold-climate lizards that give live birth to their offspring are more likely to be driven to extinction than their egg-laying cousins as global temperatures continue to rise, new research suggests.