Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 Electric vehicles a better bet than diesel and gas http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Electric-vehicles-a-better-bet-than-diesel-and-gas_93951 David Cooke Part five of an eight-part look at the pace and future of renewable technologies<br /> <br /> Transportation in Jamaica is powered by imported fuels, the importation of which costs us annually a bit more than the Jamaica Public Service&rsquo;s fuel bill (as seen in last Wednesday&rsquo;s article at the link provided for Jamaica&rsquo;s energy flow chart). The petrol drag exceeds JPS&rsquo;s use of roughly 70,000 barrel equivalent of daily oil, which even the mathematically challenged amongst us can quickly calculate to be of the order of US$100 million per month (US$1.2 billion annually).<br /> <br /> Eliminating the petrol bill is therefore more pressing than eliminating JPS&rsquo;s fuel bill. What&rsquo;s more? It can be done in a shorter time frame. <br /> <br /> Successive governments have taken no steps (no policy) towards eliminating this unnecessary drag on our importation bill. Yet, if it gave up just one month&rsquo;s equivalent of petrol imports (US$100 million) by granting duty waivers on imports of electric cars and buses, it would go a far way in achieving this. The waiver translates to some 5,000 of these vehicles per year, which would cause their prices to drop to below comparable offerings by gasoline-powered types. With electric vehicles priced cheaper than their petrol-powered cousins, we would see a rapid introduction of them. Fleet or bulk purchases (for police, civil servants, car rentals, etc) would lower the prices even further.<br /> <br /> As told earlier, energy choice is driven by price, whether for transportation or electricity.<br /> <br /> So we can use duty waivers and taxation mechanisms to influence price determinations. By doing this, it is relatively simple to jump-start large amounts of electric vehicles on our roads. We should repeat this duty waiver process as many times as needed, with improved models of electric vehicles being added each time. The electric vehicle offerings worldwide, led by Chinese and European models, are growing rapidly. See last year&rsquo;s article: &ldquo;The comeback of electric cars&rdquo; at this link: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/The-comeback-of-electric-cars_63211.<br /> <br /> As well, the onslaught of autonomous driving, expected in large numbers within the next two years with all their safety and stress-reducing benefits, is best implemented in electric vehicles, which is a natural fit for these sensor-driven advancements. These automatic-braking and lane-drift sensor mechanisms and cameras greatly reduce the number of crashes, cutting fatalities by some 50 per cent or more, and lowering major crashes to the realm of minor collisions. It could mean the end of road fatality figures hitting 300 and over. Vehicle insurance rates should drop in coming years as a result. <br /> <br /> At present, there is no paperwork in place to allow electric vehicles into the island. Our present importation paperwork requires us to classify the vehicle according to engine size (&ldquo;cc-rating&rdquo;) and horse-power. Electric cars have no engines generally, but batteries instead, the kWh size which determines the torque that is produced as well as the vehicle&rsquo;s range &mdash; how far it can go without recharging the batteries. <br /> <br /> For best fit of torque (which determines how fast a car will accelerate) and range, I would recommend that any electric vehicle imported should exceed a battery pack sizing of at least 24 kWh and possibly 35 kWh. By comparison, luxury Tesla Model-S sedans have 70-kWh battery packs that cause them to go over 365 kilometres. (This massive amount of battery power also allows them to beat Porsche or Maserati sports cars for pure acceleration). The 24 kWh minimum sizing recommendation ensures the vehicle is not underpowered, and also ensures a range of over 100 miles (160 kilometres), sufficient for a round-trip from Mandeville to Kingston. At this minimum size, almost every trip taken will involve no use of imported fuels. <br /> <br /> Electric vehicles that meet this 24-kWh battery requirement but have range extenders (small on-board petrol generators for recharging the batteries) should be allowed and treated as electricity, so too should plug-in hybrids. The latter are configured to drive on battery-electricity as a priority, but when quick acceleration is needed such as when overtaking, the small accompanying petrol engine kicks in and adds additional power. They can be plugged in to electrical receptacles to recharge the batteries. <br /> <br /> Regular electric hybrids should not qualify for duty reductions since they are gas-powered vehicles with battery-powered accessories and air conditioning. They have little impact on reducing large amounts of petrol imports.<br /> <br /> Concurrent with new electric vehicles being added to our fleet, we should remove old gas guzzling clunkers by the same numbers. Beijing is removing over 300,000 of them this year.<br /> <br /> Customer satisfaction records show that once individuals drive an electric vehicle or ride in one, they almost never go back to owning petrol vehicles. That certainly was my experience when I rode in a Toyota Avalon plug-in hybrid. It was super-quiet and smooth for the entire city ride. I immediately wanted one! <br /> <br /> Our Government should lead by example and ensure that all government ministers and high-level civil servants switch to electric cars and SUVs. JPS managers and senior employees should also be encouraged to follow suit. To speed up exposure to and adoption by the public, taxis and fleets are ideal. In Ukraine, the police force is being equipped with over 600 plug-in hybrid SUVs by the middle of this year. Beijing is now moving to replace its entire fleet of near 70,000 taxis as well with electric vehicles, swiftly adding large fleets to the electric vehicle transformation. London is doing likewise with buses and taxis.<br /> <br /> Public transport buses &mdash; which are large gas users &mdash; are swiftly going electric in major cities worldwide. So quiet are they that lectures can be held on them and orchestras can play with full clarity. And they cost way less to maintain than 6- to 8-mpg gas-guzzling buses. Downhill braking in electric vehicles recharges the batteries, lessening brake wear-and-tear and lowering brake replacement costs.<br /> <br /> There is no reason for the entire urban transit bus fleet in Jamaica not to become entirely electric-only, as is rapidly happening in China, the world&rsquo;s volume leader in electric vehicles. They have added over 115,000 full-size all-electric buses last year representing some 20 per cent of its market. In the previous year, it added over 94,000. Shenzen City, with its 10 million inhabitants, is already envisioning electrifying its entire fleet of some 15,000 buses within five years. Norway, driven by forward-looking smart government policy, has in short time become the world&rsquo;s per-capita leader in electric vehicle adoption. It has accelerated sales of electric vehicles to achieve 50 per cent or more of all vehicle sales now occurring being electric, and growing in preference.<br /> <br /> Yes, we can quickly eliminate just about all our petrol use, which currently costs over US$100 million per month. There&rsquo;s absolutely no need for our Government to beg or borrow funds from foreign sources, which only loads our national debt, when we have the potential to raise some US$1.2 billion each year from saving petrol imports. Is it that we like to beg and borrow?<br /> <br /> David Cooke is a UWI-trained electrical engineer who is now a budding independent clean-energy developer. Contact him at: deeco3@earthlink.net<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13053174/208344_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13725837/261426__w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 29, 2017 12:00 AM Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica expands http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Nuh-Dutty-Up-Jamaica-expands_93980 In February 2015, a catchy jingle hit the airwaves. &ldquo;Nuh dutty up Jamaica, please don&rsquo;t dweet&rdquo; it went, urging people not to litter.<br /> <br /> It was part of the social education component of the Clean Coasts Project being implemented by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), and was accompanied by stickers of an oversized garbage bag, messages in both traditional and social media, and Internet personalities. It was designed to target adults and was not intended to be complemented by any clean-up.<br /> <br /> However, in the face of what JET said was &ldquo;an overwhelming response&rdquo; to the campaign over the past two years, and repeated requests from members of the public about how to get involved, it has unveiled a network of 14 service clubs, community-based groups, schools, and one private sector company which will stage clean-ups in their respective communities starting in May.<br /> <br /> At a mid-morning event to announce the expansion of Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica yesterday, JET presented cleanup kits &mdash; comprising garbage bags, gloves, branded T-shirts, reusable water bottles, data collection cards, and a stipend &mdash; to the organisations, which are drawn from across the country. They are:<br /> <br /> &bull; Port Morant Community Development Committee, St Thomas<br /> <br /> &bull; Sandy Bay/Mt Pelier Environment Club, Hanover<br /> <br /> &bull; St Elizabeth Parish Development Committee <br /> <br /> &bull; Bushy Park Phase 2 Citizens&rsquo; Benevolent Society, Clarendon<br /> <br /> &bull; Portsmouth Primary, St Catherine<br /> <br /> &bull; Negril Education Environment Trust, Westmoreland<br /> <br /> &bull; White River Marine Association, St Ann<br /> <br /> &bull; UWI Port Royal Marine Lab, Kingston<br /> <br /> &bull; Drewsland Police Youth Club, Kingston<br /> <br /> &bull; Alligator Head Foundation, Portland<br /> <br /> &bull; Duncan Bay Citizens&rsquo; Association, Trelawny<br /> <br /> &bull; Rotaract Club of May Pen, Clarendon<br /> <br /> &bull; Jamaica Broilers Group (Best Dressed Chicken Division), St Catherine<br /> <br /> &bull; Jamaica School for Social Entrepreneurship, Manchester<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There was an overwhelming response to our invitation for applications to host clean-ups. We received over 30 in less than a week,&rdquo; said JET&rsquo;s Deputy CEO Suzanne Stanley.<br /> <br /> The response, she said, is indicative of a growing, but still woefully inadequate awareness of proper solid waste disposal among the general population. As an example, she pointed to JET&rsquo;s first year staging a national beach clean-up as representatives of the Ocean Conservancy in 2008. Then, it had 1,800 volunteers at 34 sites, compared with last year&rsquo;s figures of over 9,000 volunteers at more than 130 sites. There was evidence of the enthusiasm yesterday, too, when, after the kits were distributed, a member of the audience enquired if he could purchase one for use in Facquhars Beach in Milk River, Clarendon. It was Kent Gammon, Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for the Clarendon South Western constituency.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I want to get people in the constituency aware of how important it is to keep that beach clean, and I&rsquo;m prepared to underwrite the cost of that,&rdquo; he told the Jamaica Observer.<br /> <br /> The Clean Coasts Project was launched in 2014 and includes underwater clean-ups, piloting of a debris containment boom at the mouth of the South Gully in Montego Bay, and a research day and competition targeted at Tourism Action Clubs. International Coastal Clean-up Day has also been brought under the Clean Coasts umbrella. Phase three of the project, being run from February 2017 to January 2018, has got support from long-standing sponsor Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), and newcomer Wisynco, to the tune of $60 million.<br /> <br /> Speaking yesterday at Knutsford Court Hotel, Wisynco Chairman William Mahfood said he was pleased to be associated with Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica and stressed the need to have a culture change with regard to garbage waste disposal.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There are a lot of areas that exist in our country that need to be husbanded and cared for that are not being cared for or husbanded. I call myself an environmentalist because I love Jamaica, I travel all over the island, and when I see some of the treatment of our blessed areas I go crazy,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> As an example, he pointed to Mountain Spring in upper St Andrew.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I sent my promotions team up there, we put recycle bins at the bottom of the hill, and once a month we have to send people up there because, even with the recycle bins, people are still throwing their plastic bottles along the road and I just don&rsquo;t understand. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We need to create a movement... We need to create a wave that sweeps all of Jamaica up and says start with the way you handle waste. We also have to have proper solid waste collection and we have to have proper disposal. We can start that wave. With the right types of communication and the right types of initiatives, we can really make an impact on changing the culture of discharging garbage in Jamaica. If we can do that in my lifetime we would have accomplished a lot,&rdquo; said Mahfood.<br /> <br /> JET&rsquo;s founder and CEO Diana McCaulay said the expanded project is an example of a unique partnership among the private sector, the public sector and a non-government organisation.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Kimone Thompson http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13742019/267236_93076_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13742018/267238_93078_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13742021/267237_93077_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 29, 2017 12:00 AM Wigton to offer renewable energy training course in April http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Wigton-to-offer-renewable-energy-training-course-in-April_93802 Registration is now open for a certificate course in solar thermal technologies at Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, from April 5-7, 2017.<br /> <br /> Solar water heater suppliers and technicians, energy enthusiasts, educators and students in energy related fields, and members of the general public are invited to enrol in the three-day programme which Wigton says will provide a &ldquo;thorough overview of solar thermal technology with an emphasis on the measurement and distribution of solar radiation, solar collectors as well as the design, configuration and installation of solar thermal systems&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> The curriculum will include a mix of classroom and lab sessions and will be delivered and assessed by Sameer Simms, Christene Campbell and Trevor Bennett, all of whom were trained by the Renewables Academy, a leading international provider of energy training headquartered in Berlin, Germany.<br /> <br /> Registration is open until April 4, 2017 and prospective applicants can visit Wigton&rsquo;s website at www.wwfja.com for more details or send an e-mail to training coordinator and engineer Sanja Simmonds at sanja.simmonds@wwfja.com.<br /> <br /> Wigton Windfarm&rsquo;s General Manager Earl Barrett explained the reason for the course. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;With more businesses and homeowners opting for solar-powered energy sources, there is an increasing demand for skilled professionals who are knowledgeable about solar energy technologies. The solar thermal technology training course we are offering at the Wigton Renewable energy lab will equip persons to position themselves or their businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that are arising in the growing business of solar technology supply and installation,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab is a state-of-the-art facility which provides theoretical and hands-on training in all areas of renewable energy. It was opened in November 2016 and began offering training courses in January this year. Both the lab and Wigton Windfarm Limited are run by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.statutory corporation established to undertake the development and promotion of Jamaica&rsquo;s energy resources in support of the National Energy Policy and Vision 2030, the National Development Plan. <br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13709867/178213_90432_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 29, 2017 12:00 AM NEPA continues to urge fire prevention http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/NEPA-continues-to-urge-fire-prevention_93525 BY JAVENE SKYERS Staff reporter skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com In 2015, a devastating series of bush fires swept across several communities in East Rural St Andrew, causing significant damage to the livelihoods of farmers and their families. <br /> <br /> Although two years have passed since the fires, sensitisation efforts are still in high gear to continually remind Jamaicans about the importance of the role they play in the fire prevention process.<br /> <br /> The presumed causes of the spate of fires were thought to be as a result of the &lsquo;slash and burn&rsquo; method of clearing land for agricultural use, as well as through natural factors, due to the dry season, and severely affected communities such as Mavis Bank and Content Gap among others in the area. <br /> <br /> Two of the island&rsquo;s main watershed management units, the Yallahs River and Hope River watersheds, which supply water to almost half (42 per cent) of Kingston and St Andrew, were also severely impacted by the fires.<br /> <br /> During a recent media tour of the watersheds as well as some of the affected communities organised by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Acting Corporal in the Fire Prevention Unit, Kerry Gayl Forbes recounted some of the various sensitisation initiatives undertaken by the Jamaica Fire Brigade immediately after the fires.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We launched a bush fire management education programme and we partnered with the British High Commission, we were in Mavis Bank and surrounding communities, for about six months, we went to different churches, school clubs and we drove home the importance of changing the culture of preparing land for farming,&rdquo; Forbes stated. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We went in and did focus groups, we did some surveys and just a whole lot of work in preparing the minds of the people. Some persons were quite resistant because they have been doing it, the slash and burn method, for many years and saying &lsquo;this is the way we know&rsquo;&rdquo;, he continued.<br /> <br /> The Acting Corporal highlighted that in a more concentrated effort to change that culture of thinking; they went specifically into the schools and started teaching students about the other methods that could be used to clear the land. Forbes said that this was in a bid to encourage the students to go home and share this information with their parents and grandparents.<br /> <br /> He noted that in 2016, there were almost no fires in the area, which he attributed largely to the initiatives which were implemented. Forbes, however, highlighted that there was a recent fire in the East Rural St Andrew area and that he was disheartened that it happened, but expressed the hope it was not caused by someone trying to clear their land for farming. <br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Project Manager for NEPA&rsquo;s Integrated Management of the Yallahs and Hope River Management Areas Project, Nelsa English-Johnson stated that the project continues to work alongside Government entities such as the Fire Brigade and the Forestry Department to continue raising awareness and inform Jamaicans about the dangers of the slash and burn method and the fire issue overall. The five year project, which started in 2015, is aimed at improving the island&rsquo;s water security, biodiversity and lands within the Yallahs and Hope River Water Management units.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We will be rolling out through our farmer field schools, a series of training programmes. The Forestry Department has written a forest fire management manual and this will now be utilised to train community groups in areas very prone to fires,&rdquo; English Johnson explained.<br /> <br /> She also said that these training programmes will incorporate information about the use of equipment and methods community members can use in the case of a fire.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t by any means expect them to become fire fighters but we do want to equip them as early responders, so until the fire brigade is able to mobilise and get there, there are some early things they can do, whether it is to create fire breaks to prevent the spread, or use fire beaters,&rdquo; the project manager stated.<br /> <br /> She added that despite making community members aware of some of the measures they can take, the main message they want to drive home is that people should not start fires in the first place.<br /> <br /> To help reinforce this message, Nelson-English shared that last year the Natural Resources Conservation (Environmental Protection Measures) Order was passed, which she classified as an &lsquo;anti-fire order&rsquo;. Under this order, between February 1 and October 31 each year the aim is to curtail the number of wildfires within six of the island&rsquo;s watershed management units, in all parishes, with the exception of Hanover. A number of practices that could cause a fire will be prohibited. However, this excludes any fires used for the purposes of burning sugar cane as a pre-harvesting activity.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It means no burning of garbage, no using of fireworks, persons have to be careful how they discard their cigarette butts and there are penalties of course &mdash; $50,000 or two years in prison if persons are caught in contravention of this order, so there are steps that are being taken again,&rdquo; English-Johnson outlined.<br /> <br /> She stressed that the multi-agency approach that NEPA has taken, having partnered with entities such as the Fire Brigade and the Forestry Department will see how best they cannot only manage the spread of fires but also push the importance of protecting the island&rsquo;s watersheds, which can be classified as areas or ridges of land that separate waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When our watersheds burn it&rsquo;s not just bush, because as Jamaicans we have come to call everything that is not in or on our immediate land bush, but it is actually the environment, things of value, it could be the cures for several diseases that go up in flames each time an area is lit, animals live there, when a fire razes an area, all that biodiversity is lost,&rdquo; English-Johnson stated.<br /> <br /> She explained that it is for this reason also why Jamaicans are being encouraged to look at alternatives when it comes to starting a fire.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;For example, farmers who want to clear land, what we encourage them to do is to their clear land, but instead of burning the &lsquo;bush&rsquo; you get, we encourage them to make compost, which becomes valuable fertiliser which will decrease your input cost at the other end of your production scale,&rdquo; the project manager explained.<br /> <br /> She noted that this will reduce costs for the farmer as they will not have to purchase as many bags or any at all, of commercial fertilisers. English-Johnson added that mulch can also be made from the cuttings, which help to preserve the moisture in the soil, especially during dry seasons.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So there are lots of things you can do and these are messages that we are driving home through community meetings and roadshows, we are going out forcefully with the message and making the link between loss of livelihoods, loss of property and loss of valuables which can result from a fire,&rdquo; English-Johnson said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13737448/266404_92604_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13737449/266405_92605_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13737447/266406_92606_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM Flexpak Goes Green http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Flexpak-Goes-Green_93158 BY RACQUEL PORTER Observer staff reporter porterr@jamaicaobserver.com Flexpak <br /> <br /> Limited, a major player in the manufacturing of plastic packagaging in Jamaica, last week unveiled a line of oxo-biodegradable plastic bags at its head-quarters in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We think we have found a solution for plastic bags not to be a major problem in this country, and it is a fairly simple solution to a very difficult problem,&rdquo; said Uwe Kumst, chairman of Flexpak&rsquo;s parent company Omni Industries.<br /> <br /> The bags are produced with the help of an additive mixed with the polyethylene resin used as the base ingredient.<br /> <br /> Nigel Hoyow, technical director at Flexpak Limited, noted that the time frame for the bags to biodegrade is dependent on client demand. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;The agriculture industry, for instance, would want it in a lesser time frame of perhaps three to six months. The breakdown period can vary up to three to four years depending on how you want it to perform. Currently, our bags will start to degrade six months after being disposed of, and up to 12-18 months in not so optimum conditions,&rdquo; said Hoyow. <br /> <br /> The breakdown will also depend on the method of disposal as well as surrounding temperature.<br /> <br /> Flexpak&rsquo;s announcement follows a similar move by styrofoam product manufacturer Wisynco, which recently unveiled a biodegradable version of its disposable food containers. It also comes in the wake of impending legislation to ban the importation and use of styrofoam products and single-use plastic bags, as well as what the company says is an increased demand for biodegradable products.<br /> <br /> Hoyow told the Jamaica Observer that Flexpak has been manufacturing biodegradable products since 2011, but they didn&rsquo;t do as well as was expected as a result of lack of legislation.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If we do not legislate it, the public is going to use the cheaper options,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> The technical director, while noting that the biodegradable product does not incur more physical labour, said it incurs an increase in the cost of raw material by five to 10 per cent that will be transferred to the customer.<br /> <br /> Government Senator Matthew Samuda, who has led calls in the Parliament for more environmentally friendly products in the manufacturing sector, noted that the increase customers will now have to pay for biodegradable products should not be an issue because everyone desires an environment that is clean, sustainable and friendly to business.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;What you see here today from Flexpak is a move towards that sort of sustainable development,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Samuda said: &ldquo;The first discussion with everything that we do in this country can&rsquo;t always be around price. If we are offering products that are better, that is certainly a better initiative or a better option because of the biodegradable nature. We don&rsquo;t have an irresponsible marketplace in Jamaica. I believe people are getting more sophisticated in the choices that they make, and if we give them the options that suit our environmental rules, and that suit the need of capital to make profit, we will find that we are not necessarily racing to the bottom by the way of price cuts and that sort of thing.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> In addition to that, he said that there will soon be legislative support for manufacturers who produce biodegradable materials, especially of single-use plastic bags and styrofoam-type material.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There will come a time when it won&rsquo;t be so much of an option for biodegradable material, certainly not at the point of entrance at ports. We will work with manufacturers to curtail the non-biodegradable material from entering the market,&rdquo; Samuda added.<br /> <br /> President of Jamaica Manufacturers Association Metry Seaga said that the legislative changes would benefit the country in the long run.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Manufacturers have to put roots down in Jamaica. We are one of the few sectors that have to put the roots down in the ground. We buy machinery, equipment and plant, and have big spaces and employ a lot of people, and it is very disheartening when companies or individuals can just bring a container or two or three every week of a product that they are buying that is being permitted into the market that is substandard without any legislation to ensure the quality to the public; that is not just how our economy will grow,&rdquo; Seaga said.<br /> <br /> Flexpak Limited has been in operation since 1999 and is currently the only local manufacturer of plain and printed vacuum and metallic laminated printed bags, pouches and rolls. Its parent company manufactures PVC pipes and fittings, house-ware, industrial packaging, and corrugated sheets.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13726013/265800_91844_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13726012/265802_91848_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13726015/265799_91846_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Imported fuels driving Jamaica to financial ruin? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Imported-fuels-driving-Jamaica-to-financial-ruin-_93159 David Cooke Seeing is believing. If I tell you how big an impact imported fuels make on the country&rsquo;s wealth you will doubt me, and therefore not make the effort to act on it.<br /> <br /> But if I show you, and you immediately see the huge impact, you will be convinced to act.<br /> <br /> So look at Jamaica&rsquo;s growing and huge annual balance of trade (due to fuel imports) since 1980 at this link using the World Bank&rsquo;s figures: http://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Jamaica/Trade_balance/ <br /> <br /> (Set the drop-down box to show &ldquo;from 1980&rdquo;).<br /> <br /> This one - http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/jam/ - has many graphs and is better for visuals, but its figures are slightly inaccurate.<br /> <br /> It reported total imports in 2014 of $5.8 billion, in our approximately $14 billion-economy. The three types of reported fuels then appeared to show US$ 1.9 billion in imports, which was approximately 1/3 of all imports. Fuel for industry seems to be not included. The top imports were refined petroleum (US$1.2B), crude petroleum (US$598M), cars (US$165M), packaged medicaments (US$121M) and petroleum gas (US$99M). The reported 2014 trade gap was $4.39 billion.<br /> <br /> Oil prices have dropped from US$80 per barrel since then (2014), and our trade gap has shrunk a bit to some US$3.2 billion due virtually entirely to this fuel drop, but is still very high. <br /> <br /> Yes, you got your analysis right. By eliminating oil imports, our annual trade gap of over US$3.2 billion would disappear and our Jamaican dollar would stop devaluing. <br /> <br /> Now look also at our shrinking purchasing power per individual, also since 1980, relative to someone in the USA, at this link: http://www.theglobaleconomy.com/compare-countries/ (On the drop-down boxes to the left, scroll down and select &ldquo;GDP per capita, constant dollars&rdquo;. Scroll down further and select &ldquo;Jamaica&rdquo;. Scroll to the right and select &ldquo;from 1980&rdquo;).<br /> <br /> Yes, seeing is believing! - Jamaica has flat-lined since 1980. Relative to someone in the USA, we have dropped from a quarter to one-sixth in earnings; poorer by fully 50 per cent; in lock-step with our widening trade gap. Our new &ldquo;retirement funds&rdquo; approach to the funding of solar and wind, outlined in last Wednesday&rsquo;s article, potentially reverses that phenomenon as well as the trade gap.<br /> <br /> A little history lesson here: Haiti, declaring its independence in 1804, the first black nation anywhere to do so, was forced to transfer 60 per cent of its wealth each month to its former &ldquo;master&rdquo; France for being so bold, or else! (France&rsquo;s partner in crime, the then slavery-driven USA, did the enforcement with the firepower of ships). Haiti chose peace and was driven to financial ruin, has been left pauperised while France has prospered.<br /> <br /> Jamaica transfers out some US$3.6 billion annually for fuel, near one-quarter of our wealth, to our &ldquo;fossil fuel&rdquo; masters. How then do you expect us to flourish and grow?! By contrast, US households spend just four per cent of their annual incomes on energy, a large portion of that being domestic fuels.<br /> <br /> Drain one-quarter of our wealth annually? That is the impact of fuel imports.<br /> <br /> The solution lies in eliminating fuel imports and instead using the massive amounts of &ldquo;sun fuel&rdquo; above us and &ldquo;wind fuel&rdquo; blowing around us.<br /> <br /> But also hidden in the new results is that industry, particularly the manufacturing industry, would prosper now that increased manufacturing does not mean increased imports (due to the elimination of imported fuel for electricity). Low-cost electricity becomes the norm, generated from these variable-renewable-energy sources (VREs) of wind and solar. So more manufacturing ensues, and more price-competitive exports by these same manufacturers, which translate into more jobs as well as more foreign exchange. Alumina plants would also flourish, resuming their provisionof good-paying jobs.<br /> <br /> If we all finance this solar and wind transformation of the existing electricity grid (by grouped household funds via a levy converted later to investment bonds), we also create growing retirement funds for every household, as explained in detail in last week&rsquo;s article. We would all grow richer at the personal level, and wealthy at retirement.<br /> <br /> Since this would be financed by households with a Jamaica Public Service (JPS) account, the financing of these new-age energy plants means spreading the wealth among all households, not restricting it to the already rich. Financial hope would return to small and medium-sized households as a result &mdash; not to mention low electricity prices &mdash; a powerful driver to reducing theft and burglaries (including theft of JPS power). Our rising crime should reverse, calming the entire population, including the better-off that live in fear. This reversal of fortunes can be achieved in just three short years. <br /> <br /> Bear in mind that our annual fuel imports of some US$3.6 billion is split some one-third for JPS fuel, one-third transportation fuel, and one-third fuel for industry (for alumina companies, factories, and the like). This can be seen visually as a flow chart at: https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/commodities/energy (In the middle drop-down box, type in &ldquo;Jamaica&rdquo;. When flow chart appears, click on it to make it bigger). <br /> <br /> Are you now convinced to act? <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Contact me at:<br /> <br /> deeco3@earthlink.net<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13725836/265771__w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Jamaicans stand to profit from collective financing http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaicans-stand-to-profit-from-collective-financing-of-wind-and-solar-projects_92511 David Cooke We saw in last Wednesday&rsquo;s article, entitled &lsquo;When will JPS prices drop by more than half?&rsquo;, that we could have much cheaper power if utility provider Jamaica Public Service (JPS) switches to wind and solar energy coupled with pumped hydro storage, displacing onerous and expensive foreign fuel imports. By having the finances ready and upfront for this coupling, we could have this entire low-priced electricity transformation done in less than three years to full operation. Otherwise, it will take us much longer than 10 years.<br /> <br /> But would it be worth it to the individual household to finance this via our monthly JPS bills? Would this be a drag on our pockets? A cost, or a tax? Or would this instead become positive investment growing to become substantial retirement savings for us all?<br /> <br /> Let&rsquo;s look at other cases. For one, Germany used a monthly levy on electricity to transform its 99 per cent fossil fuel power market away from imported fuel, cutting the hold of Russia on fuel imports. Consider also Canadian provinces British Columbia and Quebec, both of which used investment bond instruments to make cheap power possible.<br /> <br /> In Germany&rsquo;s case, in 1990 they were facing loss of control due to Russia&rsquo;s aggressive pricing of fuel supplied to them. They were entirely dependent on fossil fuels for 99 per cent of electricity generation. They needed to break Russia&rsquo;s stranglehold by adding wind and solar quickly. So they introduced a cess, a surcharge of US$0.08 per kWh mainly on residential households, thus relieving most businesses of the burden of higher electricity. In this way, businesses got low electricity prices equivalent to the USA&rsquo;s, which kept them competitive and vibrant and allowed them to employ more people. Households had the extra levy burden, but with increased employment were able to absorb it, albeit with some tightening of their belts. Sun-poor Germany became the world leader of solar-PV. The country now has some 40,000 MW of solar, and even larger quantities of wind. These new-age technologies now approach 30 per cent of Germany&rsquo;s entire generation, displacing large amounts of fossil fuels. Despite the levy on households, home electricity bills are no higher than before, at around US$90 per month, the levy being more than offset by a drop in electricity prices due to the addition of wind and solar on the national grid.<br /> <br /> In the case of British Columbia, vast yet sparsely populated territory, which is larger than all of Europe combined, featuring mountainous and snowy conditions makes it ideal for hydro power. Rainfall during cold winters appears as deep snow on mountaintops, Earth&rsquo;s natural way of water storage. So there is no shortage of water year-round if rivers are dammed and water flows controlled and regulated through a cascade of dams, eliminating flooding. By installing hydro generators and transmission lines, they had all the power they needed. But hydro dams are hugely expensive, so the government of the province offered bonds to the public. In units of CAN$1,000 up to CAN$10,000, these instruments had a fixed profit of some six per cent per year for some 40 years. (Dams last much longer than that, by the way). At that six per cent rate, an initial investment of CAN$10,000 turns to over CAN$60,000 in the 40-year time frame if held in a tax-sheltered retirement account (which the Government provided). So, by spreading the offering to all citizens, they were able to quickly finance these massive projects and each citizen was able to build a retirement account. Electricity prices in this region is now among the lowest anywhere in the world &ndash; CAN$0.12 &ndash; and it&rsquo;s similar for the Quebec province.<br /> <br /> I should quote the experience of Denmark as well, a country similar in size to Jamaica. This small nation, decades ago, took a decision to use its abundantly windy conditions to produce power. Denmark now averages over 80 per cent of its power generated this way and on some days it&rsquo;s up to 140 per cent (they export the rest), and became the world leader of wind power. This spawned wind turbine-manufacturing companies that now dominate world markets like Vestas, and developers like DONG Energy (Danish Oil and Natural Gas). The Danes are now pioneering wind generation offshore on nearby shallow continental shelves, in hugely larger quantities than on land and away from sight, so big their sizes rival nuclear power plants. These can be quickly constructed, unlike nuclear plants, and they outcompete them on generation prices too. Continental-shelf offshore wind generation prices have dropped astronomically in just two years, sliding to under US$0.08 cents per kWh in better world locations and around US$0.12 cents elsewhere &mdash; similar pricing to Jamaica&rsquo;s LNG. Denmark&rsquo;s prices recently hit US$0.05 cents in three separate locations by three different companies, including Shell Oil Co, and the slide continues. <br /> <br /> So let&rsquo;s learn from all three examples, combining relevant aspects for maximum profit to Jamaican householders. <br /> <br /> We could start with a levy to gather funds quickly. We already have the National Housing Trust to use as a template for establishing a brand-new renewables energy trust company. If we use Germany&rsquo;s rate ofUS$0.08 cents per kWh, US$300 million would be gathered each year (a figure similar to India&rsquo;s result). When these new pumped-storage facilities are operating and producing profit in about three years&rsquo; time, each household would have accumulated an average of US$1,000 in levies, albeit without a return of profit to the households until then. It is then time to convert these and issue investment bonds to each JPS account holder instead. The annual rate of interest should be determined at that time, but should be guaranteed to be no lower than five per cent to generate trust by the householder and escape the dread that &ldquo;levy is tax&rdquo;. Investment bonds build wealth instead. To boost profit, we could charge JPS some US$0.03 cents per KWh for pumped storage instead of US$0.02 cents.<br /> <br /> With the continued build-up of over US$300 million per year of capital in the renewables trust fund, we could selectively buy back some or all of the existing solar and wind installations, continually fuelling the profit in the fund for these householders. Solar and wind installation companies are constantly looking for buyers for their installations to release their capital for new endeavours elsewhere. In around 10 years&rsquo; time when we have completed it all and domestically own it all, we could modify the mandate of the fund (or start a new fund) to become an infrastructure fund and start buying back our toll roads!<br /> <br /> So, if we all collectively become the &ldquo;bank&rdquo; we can grow a really strong retirement fund for every household, breaking the status quo of Jamaica being for the rich only and changing the dynamics of our country.<br /> <br /> And despite the levy, our monthly electricity bills would go down by quite a lot due to cheaper electricity additions of wind and solar with each round of installations. We would chop our old JPS rates by half or more (by at least US$0.13 cents per kWh). The result would be very low electricity prices and strong household wealth. The alternative is to continue with high electricity prices for who knows how long &mdash; at least 10 to 15 more years. <br /> <br /> There also stands to be other large-scale benefits of the proposed speedy financing option that would impact every household. See my next article for that discussion.<br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> David Cooke is a UWI-trained electrical engineer. He has run enterprises in Jamaica that use large amounts of electricity, not least his own food-processing business. He is now a budding clean-energy developer and advisor. Contact him at: deeco3@ earthlink.net.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13677652/261414_87858_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13530761/249654_76234_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 15, 2017 2:00 AM Dancers off to New York http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Dancers-off-to-New-York_91989 BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter Two Jamaican dancers, Ashley Bromfield and Oraine Frater, will participate in a summer intensive programme organised by New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet.<br /> <br /> Bromfield dances with the National Dance Theatre Company and Vickers Ballet Studio, while Frater is a principal dancer with L&rsquo;Acadco. They earned scholarships to participate in the programme based on their performance in a workshop conducted by Desmond Richardson, co-founder and co-artistic director of Complexions.<br /> <br /> The class was part of activities surrounding the company&rsquo;s two performances in Jamaica, organised by local outfit Pli&Atilde;&copy; For The Arts. They were staged at the Little Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday.<br /> <br /> Making the announcement at Wednesday&rsquo;s performance, Marisa Benain of Pli&Atilde;&copy; For The Arts noted that giving back to the arts community was part of its mandate. Therefore, part proceeds go to covering airfare, accommodation and per diem for the dancers during their stay in New York.<br /> <br /> Richardson said he chose Frater and Bromfield as they possessed the spirit, skills and determination to make them great dancers.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They have the fire and passion and cleanliness and detail, plus they are so unique as dancers. This makes them ideal candidates. When they come to the summer intensive they can expect more of the same which they experienced in the class on Tuesday. It will be about a challenge, detail, focus and an awesome experience from being around like-minded people,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> For 19-year-old Bromfield this opportunity is part of her dream to follow dance wherever it can lead. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an overwhelming feeling, especially since dance is something I have been passionate about since I was five years old. There are not many opportunities available here in Jamaica, and this is my dream so I believe that this is the platform that is going to help me to branch off into something even bigger. The class with Desmond was kinda intense. Usually, when companies come here, because they don&rsquo;t know what kind of crowd they are working with, they usually have a simple class. This is the first workshop that I&rsquo;ve taken that has been really challenging. This is due to the style that Desmond tries to get us to capture. As it relates to the summer intensive, I am looking forward to being able to dance every day,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Frater was in shock and disbelief about being selected.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I am just in awe right now. I&rsquo;m still shaking. I never really thought I would have been selected, but I gave it my best shot... Tuesday&rsquo;s workshop started slowly and I thought I could handle it but when we were given the routine I got nervous. I just had to talk myself throught it, remembering that I got a lot of training from my company L&rsquo;Acadco. So I just took it all in and got through. I am just embracing this opportunity to learn more and to become a better dancer at the end of the day.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13699124/263385_89651_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13699123/263386_89652_repro_w300.jpg Local Environmental Friday, March 10, 2017 3:00 AM When will JPS prices drop by more than half? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/When-will-JPS-prices-drop-by-more-than-half--_91155 David Cooke Energy choice is driven by price, no matter where in the world you are. It matters little to the public what type of technology is used to power their homes or the vehicle they drive. What drives their decision is the answer to this question: &ldquo;How cheap can I get it?&rdquo; <br /> <br /> To that end, there are several developments on the local scene that are indeed worthy of note.<br /> <br /> The new BMR-owned 36-MW wind farm at Malvern, St Elizabeth, is producing energy for US$0.13 per Kwh at fixed prices to Jamaica Public Service (JPS) for 20 years. That&rsquo;s nearly half of JPS&rsquo;s generation prices. Months earlier, we added 20 MW of solar at Content Clarendon, at the price of US$0.16 per Kwh, a price also fixed for the next 20 years. The latest winning bid, which will add another 33 MW of solar to the grid, is at a much lower price &mdash; US$0.085 per Kwh ($85.4 per MWh). This should further lower our power rates.<br /> <br /> The Andrew Holness-led Administration, despite its relative newness, has boldly and swiftly moved to hasten this change to cheaper power by announcing its intention to add an additional and sizeable 150 MW of (cheaper?) wind and solar in the next auction to power JPS&rsquo;s generation. These reverse auctions are yet to be announced.<br /> <br /> In the meantime, we are exploring how to widen and deepen these low-priced wind and solar offerings by adding some pumped hydro storage for electricity, which blows the JPS market wide open to power it all with just wind and solar. And the additional storage of water can be used for agriculture and drinking water in a crunch situation. So double use is possible from pumped hydro storage. <br /> <br /> Hydro energy storage adds less than US$0.2 to solar generation, if spread over the useful life of the facilities, for nighttime supply. Couple that with cheap solar at the new winning bid-price of US$0.085 per KWh.<br /> <br /> The result would be a generation cost to JPS of around US$0.10 per kWh &mdash; not 25 cents; less than half that! <br /> <br /> Our light bills could be less than half, with future prices locked in for 20 years! <br /> <br /> But the pace of change to low cost is frustratingly slow for the public. <br /> <br /> How can we hurry this up to lock in these much lower prices? Fuel prices can jump on us while we wait for this to happen, so we need to act quickly and avoid price shocks.<br /> <br /> First, by building pumped-hydro storage by quick methods (no underground tunnels), we will allow for large amounts of cheap wind and solar generation. Even a miserly five per cent storage of generation capacity will allow JPS to use some 80 per cent of wind and solar at these below-10-cent prices; the remaining 20 per cent of generation coming at a best price of US$0.13 cents per Kwh from the newly installed liquefied natural gas (LNG). (JPS just converted 130 MW of its equipment at Bogue, St James, to LNG generation and it plans to add an additional 190-MW plant using LNG at Old Harbour Bay by the end of next year). Just by adding 30 MW of pumped storage makes this 80 per cent of renewables possible, especially if we had some 100 MW of wind generation geared mainly towards nighttime use; minimising the need for large pumped hydro storage. It&rsquo;s best if we use wind from the Portland/St Thomas mountains to achieve this, as these winds blow strongest at night when the sun is gone to bed. If these mainly nighttime wind prices are higher than (daytime) solar by around US$0.3 per KWh, being comparable to the cost of avoided pumped hydro, it is worth it. <br /> <br /> Maggoty presently has a 10-MW hydro facility that could be retrofitted in short order to achieve this five per cent storage (30 MW pumped storage), which would cost some US$50 million. Don&rsquo;t be surprised if we hear announcements about installing this pumped storage soon.<br /> <br /> For comparison, I might mention here that Okinawa Island, Japan, has a 30-MW pumped hydro that allows them to incorporate over 60 per cent of wind and solar. Their electricity use is close to but larger than Jamaica&rsquo;s by my estimate, given their population size and wealth. <br /> <br /> So, firstly, we add storage. But the slowest part of adding solar and wind is the raising of and approval for finances. The construction of solar or wind farms is a rapid process done in less than a year, for equipment is not the issue. The initial hold-up is due to the raising of finances from banks trying to spread their risk amongst multiple other banks locally and abroad &mdash; a process which typically takes three years or more, even longer if the project requires lots of cash. So a one-year construction project take four years to implement. <br /> <br /> I suggest that we have the cash ready and upfront to finance the entire transformation. That way, we would slash at least three years off the project and speed up our low-priced electricity. <br /> <br /> India had this same need for up front capital to hasten its renewable energy transformation, so the impatient prime minister imposed a levy (a cess) on every ton of domestic coal production. In the six years so far, they have funded over US$1.8 billion, or an average of $300 million per year, for solar and wind with funds raised via the levy for their newly created National Clean Energy Fund.<br /> <br /> But what if it were us, the collective Jamaican public, which financed this through small monthly contributions? How much profit could we all stand to make? Could this grow to become our individual retirement fund? The public would breathe a collective sigh of relief. See my next article for the answer.<br /> <br /> (For the longer, more detailed version of this article, request it from the author as per directions below).<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13035360/207824_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13233020/223815_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13693183/182264_89135_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 08, 2017 12:00 AM Fishers to get bad-weather warning app http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Fishers-to-get-bad-weather-warning-app_91254 Fisherfolk in four Caribbean countries are shortly to be equipped with an early warning and emergency response tool in an effort to save their lives and property in circumstances of rough weather and sea conditions.<br /> <br /> The solution is a mobile phone app which is being developed by the ICT4Fisheries Consortium in collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) under the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). It will work to reduce risks to fishers&rsquo; lives and livelihoods posed by climate change and climate variability.<br /> <br /> Possible impacts of long-term climate change trends and short-term extreme weather events on Caribbean fisheries include damage to fishing and aquaculture community infrastructure &mdash; including roads, harbours, farms and houses caused by sea level rise and stronger storms &mdash; as well as unsafe fishing conditions and loss of life at sea as a result of strong storms and hurricanes, according to a 2015 study published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Other hazards influenced by climate, such as sargassum seaweed, are also of deep concern to fishers.<br /> <br /> Using the app, fishers will be able to receive early warnings of risky weather and sea conditions. It will also be used to encourage fisherfolk to share their local knowledge to support and improve climate-smart fisheries planning, management and decision-making. The system will be integrated within existing national disaster risk management and emergency response frameworks, and its main focus will be on communications.<br /> <br /> St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica and Saint Lucia are the four countries in which the early warning system will be developed. The system will take into account the specific situations of target countries. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;ICT4Fisheries will not only develop and deploy the tools but will also provide training in their use and administration to country- and regional-level stakeholders,&rdquo; the stakeholders said in a statement last last week. <br /> <br /> The system should be in place by 2018.<br /> <br /> The ICT4Fisheries Consortium is a multidisciplinary team comprising members from The University of the West Indies&rsquo; St Augustine and Cave Hill campuses, the University of Cape Town, and the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations.<br /> <br /> The Caribbean PPCR, meanwhile, is a regional programme that consists of six individual country pilots in Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is also a regional track of activities which supports resilience building in these countries, and will also provide benefits to the wider Caribbean.<br /> <br /> The Caribbean Regional Track of the PPCR is working to improve regional processes to acquire, store, analyse and disseminate climate-relevant information and to pilot and scale up innovative, climate-resilient initiatives in the region, under the coordination of the University of the West Indies, Mona Office of Research and Innovation (UWI MORI). Funds are provided through the Inter-American Development Bank.<br /> <br /> The programme&rsquo;s activities are spread across four components being co-implemented by five regional institutions. The early warning and emergency response system for fishers is being developed under component four which supports climate change adaptation initiatives in key sectors, including the marine sector. Under this component, co-implementing partner CRFM, an intergovernmental regional fisheries organisation that promotes and facilitates responsible and optimal utilisation of the region&rsquo;s fisheries and other aquatic resources, is focusing on activities to reduce the impact of climate-related risks on the Caribbean&rsquo;s fisheries industry. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13199193/220999_48624_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 08, 2017 12:00 AM Researchers call for protection of Caribbean &lsquo;supersites&rsquo; to restore ocean ecosystem http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Researchers-call-for-protection-of-Caribbean----supersites----to-restore-ocean-ecosystem-------_91206 NORTH CAROLINA, USA (CMC) &mdash; Researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill have called for the protection of Caribbean coral reefs , known as &ldquo;supersites&rdquo;, in order to restore the environmental and economic setback that has been inflicted by overfishing.<br /> <br /> The report, published in the March 1 issue of the journal Science Advances, noted that up to 90 per cent of predatory fish are gone from Caribbean coral reefs, straining the ocean ecosystem and coastal economy.<br /> <br /> The research, led by former UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Abel Valdivia, working with John Bruno, a marine biologist at UNC College of Arts & Sciences, suggests that these supersites &mdash; reefs with many nooks and crannies on its surface that act as hiding places for prey (and attract predators) &mdash; should be prioritised for protection and could serve as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism and other uses.<br /> <br /> Other features that make a supersite are amount of available food, size of reef and proximity to mangroves.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;On land, a supersite would be a national park like Yellowstone, which naturally supports an abundance of varied wildlife and has been protected by the federal government,&rdquo; said Bruno.<br /> <br /> The team surveyed 39 reefs across The Bahamas, Cuba, Florida, Mexico and Belize, both inside and outside marine reserves, to determine how much fish had been lost by comparing fish biomass on pristine sites to fish biomass on a typical reef. They estimated the biomass in each location and found that 90 per cent of predatory fish were gone due to overfishing.<br /> <br /> But the scientists found a ray of hope in that a small number of reef location, if protected, could substantially contribute to the recovery of predatory fish populations and help restore depleted species.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Some features have a surprisingly large effect on how many predators a reef can support,&rdquo; said Courtney Ellen Cox, a co-author and former UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral student now at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.<br /> <br /> The report states that not long ago, large fishes were plentiful on coral reefs but are now largely absent due to targeted fishing.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Today predators are larger and more abundant within the marine reserves than on unprotected, overfished reefs. But even some of the marine reserves have seen striking declines, largely due to lack of enforcement of fishing regulations.<br /> <br /> The bottom line is protection of predatory fish is a win-win from both an environmental and an economical perspective,&rdquo; said Bruno.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;A live shark is worth over a million dollars in tourism revenue over its lifespan because sharks live for decades and thousands of people will travel and dive just to see them up close,&rdquo; said Valdivia, now at the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, California. &ldquo;There is a massive economic incentive to restore and protect sharks and other top predators on coral reefs.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13682762/261818__w300.jpg Local News Friday, March 03, 2017 12:00 AM Making the case for utility-sized solar generation http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Making-the-case-for-utility-sized-solar-generation_90989 David Cooke To observers, like myself, who track the advance of new technologies, the importance of them attaining one per cent and two per cent of global markets become critical focal points to watch. Once a new technology grows to be above one per cent of global sales, it is no longer considered to be a niche product, but becomes a mainstream product instead, near impossible to be annihilated. When these new products or technologies grow above two per cent, it signals they are big threats to the established older products. <br /> <br /> Solar is now at that threshold, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are fast approaching it too, both for transportation (electric vehicles) and power storage, albeit at household levels so far. Power markets and transportation are huge markets, so commanding one or two per cent of a massive global market is by itself a very huge accomplishment, making the new product even more dangerous a competitor to the older, entrenched technologies.<br /> <br /> If that new technology advances from one per cent to two per cent in rapid time, a doubling of its proliferation, it signals that it will quickly dominate the global market. Motor cars (new a century ago) moved from eight per cent to 80 per cent of all transportation in under 10 years, eliminating horse-drawn carriages and stage coaches. Cellphones did their domination in just seven short years, marginalising landlines and dial phones and ushering the demise of companies whose business models were built solely on the older technology. The fastest growth of all was digital photography, obliterating Kodak and Polaroid in just two short years. Paying to develop rolls of film has given way to instant professional-quality photographs, and digital cameras have replaced tele-photo lenses. Professional-quality digital cameras are now in smartphones.<br /> <br /> So never dismiss an emerging technology by saying it&rsquo;s &ldquo;just two per cent&rdquo; of the market. Look out!<br /> <br /> In the case of utility-sized solar, the price of electricity from solar power plants has already dropped so fast that its price has already eclipsed every other form of power generation in many regions of the world. In less sunny regions very far north towards the polar regions, these solar power prices very recently dropped to some 5.4 US cents per KWh (Denmark), occurring since Jamaica&rsquo;s recent 8.5 cents solar offering. More equatorially, in underdeveloped India prices have dropped to 4.4 US cents. In the sun-drenched tropical belts (Jamaica included), large-scale solar has dropped to below 3 cents per kWh in the best locales, including Chile and Mexico in Latin America, and has already hit 2.4 cents in at least one other recent installation. Having become the cheapest form of power by the &ldquo;two per cent of global power&rdquo; mark, with solar&rsquo;s installed prices dropping phenomenally &mdash; some 26 per cent on average annually over the last four years &mdash; this will soon become the dominant source of power just about everywhere in the world, and with lots of market share to capture. Middle East oil-producing countries are now moving to &ldquo;cheapest solar&rdquo; to provide their power which outcompetes home-grown gas-powered prices. They keep their petroleum in the ground instead for export earnings to other countries. <br /> <br /> But three things also drive the advance of solar: the ability to &ldquo;use it anywhere&rdquo; (making it suitable for areas with no existing power grid, unlike all other forms of power generation); no wear-and-tear (nothing to wear out) and no water requirements (all conventional power plants use massive amounts of water for cooling); and miniaturisation (less and less land space is required.) In the last five years, the typical solar panel used in large-scale plants improved their conversion factor from sunlight from about 15 per cent to just over 20 per cent. That same panel sizing of 250 watts now produces around 330 watts, which is almost one-third more power. <br /> <br /> Solar is on the threshold of 35 per cent sunlight conversions, not 15 per cent, expected commercially within four years. Then the march continues towards 70 per cent conversion factors by utilising infra-red and ultra-violet light spectrum which contain higher concentrations of energy beyond just daytime sunlight. This then stretches solar&rsquo;s use into the night as well. No doubt, solar power plants will continue to dominate as they grow more powerful, with smaller spaces needed to produce the same quantities of power and eventually stretching their use into the night. <br /> <br /> For utility-scale wind, land-based turbine sizing is getting larger, going in the opposite direction from solar, but each evolution causes wind prices to drop. New installations get larger turbines and blades, and higher masts. In 1990 these stood at heights of 80 metres with 40-metre diameter blades and turbine sizes of 0.8 MW each, similar to those used in Jamaica&rsquo;s older wind installations. Ten years on (year 2000), these grew to stand at just over 100 metres with 50-metre blades and two-MW turbines, similar to Jamaica&rsquo;s newest installations. Within just five years (2005), they grew massively and stood at some 115 metres, while blade diameters doubled, to just over 100 metres, and turbine sizes grew to five MW. With the recent advent of continental shelf wind (offshore), these sizes have increased further and now stand as tall as 190 metres with 160-metre blades (larger than a jumbo jet), and boasting eight MW turbines each (as large as Maggoty Hydro, Jamaica&rsquo;s largest hydro-power facility). <br /> <br /> You can see this progression of size in picture form by typing in your search engine the following, &ldquo;evolution of wind turbine sizes&rdquo;. Seeing is believing.<br /> <br /> The size adjustments translate into way more power output per turbine. Wind prices are now below 5 cents per kWh in most USA installations (in un-subsidized prices), and as low as 3.5 cents in places. Denmark&rsquo;s offshore prices recently hit 5 cents in three separate locations.<br /> <br /> To sum it up, solar power prices now marginally beat wind and is dropping fast. Wind power, which is also dropping in price, is generally now lower than low-price natural gas power in most locations. Natural gas has largely pushed out coal-fired power, causing the decline of coal mining worldwide (despite the &ldquo;magic wand&rdquo; of America&rsquo;s new president and his pronouncements. Please note that Australia&rsquo;s last prime minister made similar pronouncements and was unable to stop the proliferation of roof-top solar there, which now powers some 24 per cent of houses in large and populous regions). <br /> <br /> Remember this: lowest price is always the determinant in energy, not pronouncements.<br /> <br /> David Cooke is a UWI-trained electrical engineer. He has run enterprises in Jamaica that use large amounts of electricity, not least his own food-processing business. He is now a budding clean-energy developer and advisor. Contact him at: deeco3@earthlink.net. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13677652/261414_87858_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:00 AM UTech to introduce climate change degree http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/UTech-to-introduce-climate-change-degree_91034 The University of Technology, Jamaica, through its Caribbean Sustainable Energy and Innovatio<br /> <br /> n Institute and the Faculty of The Built Environment (FOBE)will on Thursday launch a multidisciplinary Master of Science Degree in Sustainable Energy and Climate Change.<br /> <br /> The university said the programme &ldquo;is in response to the need for tertiary level training of specialists in the areas of sustainable energy and climate change, and has a strong focus on sustainable energy, entrepreneurship and green business development &ndash; areas critical to Jamaica&rsquo;s future development within the global economy and for the creation of new jobs and innovations in keeping with the green growth strategy of the Government.<br /> <br /> The degree was developed in collaboration with the German Society for International Cooperation through the Caricom Renewable Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance Programme, and is the first programme of its kind to be offered in the Caribbean region, according to UTech.<br /> <br /> The launch, which is scheduled for 9:00 am in lecture theatre 4 of the Faculty of the Built Environment, will be followed by technical workshops. In tandem with that, the university has also planned a day-long Green Business Start-up Clinic for Friday, March 3. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13620826/256306_83249_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:00 AM ZooCycle http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/ZooCycle_89609 When Hope Zoo increased its entrance fees by over 200 per cent three years ago, it attracted public backlash for the hike.<br /> <br /> But the facility, which is home to 63 species of animals as per its website, is currently offering to cut the rates in half...but only in exchange for recyclable plastic bottles.<br /> <br /> Under a programme dubbed ZooCycle, which is designed to foster the habit of recycling in children, the zoo is slashing its entrance fee for children (age three to 11) from from $1,000 to $500 once they take in a minimum of 10 plastic bottles. The fee for adults will move downward from $1,500 to $700 with the handover of a minimum of 20 bottles.<br /> <br /> In 2013, the zoo increased its entrance fee for adults from $500 to $1500, and from $300 for children under 11 to $1000.<br /> <br /> General Manager Rebecca Harper explained to the Jamaica Observer that the programme was initially only meant for children in grades four to six, but it has been opened up to the general public due to increasing popularity.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The ZooCycle programme is open to all primary schools right now. Each child and teacher are asked to bring a minimum of 10 bottles. They can bring more if they want, but definitely a minimum of 10 bottles because we want to clean up the nation. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are expanding our programme with the support of corporate Jamaica because it has been so successful. We have a waiting list for schools and we have schools calling from all grades wanting to bring their bottles,&rdquo; Harper continued.<br /> <br /> ZooCyle started in January and is slated to end in April when the funds from the sponsor &mdash; PetroCaribe Development Fund through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) &mdash; become depleted. But Harper, noting that over 5,000 children have so far made use of the ZooCycle facility, stressed the need for additional donors in order to make the programme long term.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are aiming to get enough funding for the zoo so we can offer this all year-round. That&rsquo;s our goal...because we strongly believe it is a good programme. It has been successful, thanks to JSIF and PetroCaribe, and there is so much more we can do,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Outside of this current drive to help clean up the environment, Harper said that the zoo serves as therapy for children with special needs and those in state care and foster families.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We teach them how to separate their garbage&hellip;[but] the children just love the zoo. They get the freedom to run around, enjoy the animals, and spend time with their family. It is just more than animal wellness here, there is also environmental wellness. We make sure we keep the zoo absolutely spotless so you are relaxed, peaceful and calm,&rdquo; said Harper.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When they go back in their old environment, they use that day at the zoo to cope with whatever they do or have to deal with, and the teachers say how calm the children are after they leave the zoo. For the children with special needs, we use touching and interacting with the animals to get the stimulation they need, and with some problems like cerebral palsy or children with difficult disabilities, it actually gives them the stimulus they need to live,&rdquo; she added.<br /> <br /> According to the Hope Zoo website, the zoo was opened in 1961 and was conceived as a Caribbean and Central American facility. It is managed by Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation, which is headed by Kenneth Benjamin.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Racquel Porter http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12536303/178240_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13300941/229870_57006_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:00 AM Dredging of Kingston Harbour begins http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Dredging-of-Kingston-Harbour-begins_90328 Seven weeks into the dredging of Port Bustamante in the Kingston Harbour to facilitate larger ships coming through the Panama Canal, the company contracted to do the excavation is reporting that there are &ldquo;no visible impacts&rdquo; on fishing beaches in proximity to the operation sites.<br /> <br /> Using a trailing suction hopper dredger with a capacity of 14,000 cubic metres, Sodraco has so far been removing soft material &mdash; clay, silt and some sand &mdash; and dumping it some 15 miles south-west of the terminal where the waters are about 600 metres deep. It makes eight trips per 24-hour day and should remove a total volume of seven million cubic metres. Once the soft material is completely removed, a cutter suction dredger will tackle the rock-based material.<br /> <br /> The dredging is part of the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) Expansion Project which is being marshalled by concessionaire Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd (KFTL). It is being completed in phases, the first of which is scheduled to end late in 2018. <br /> <br /> Speaking with journalists on a tour of the dredging vessel yesterday, environment and social manager at Sodraco Jan Van Den Bogaert said all potential impacts of the dredging were laid out in an environmental impact assessment and subsequently defined in a permit issued by the National Environment and Planning Agency. Among the stipulations the permit makes are:<br /> <br /> &bull; The stationary dredger can&rsquo;t anchor in coral or among sea grasses; <br /> <br /> &bull; Sensitive areas &mdash; including mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs &mdash; have to be monitored for sedimentation;<br /> <br /> &bull; 500 metres of a heavy duty silt curtain must be installed between the dredge area and the protected site of the Sunken City in Port Royal;<br /> <br /> &bull; 1,500 metres of turbidity curtain will be kept at the ready to be deployed adjacent to dredging locations to protect sensitive areas; and<br /> <br /> &bull; Dredging must stop if turbidity levels reach 29 NTU<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The alarm is triggered at 20 NTU, and we stop at 29 NTU. That&rsquo;s stricter than even Florida, because we want to do the best we can,&rdquo; Project Manager Eric Fernagu added.<br /> <br /> Bogaert said further that the company is mandated to maintain a channel of communication with fishers in 14 beach communities, including those in Port Royal, Greenwich Farm, Portmore, and Old Harbour Bay. He said representatives of seven of them have already visited the dredger and met with the team.<br /> <br /> KFTL assumed operations of KCT &mdash; Jamaica&rsquo;s main trans-shipment port &mdash; by way of a 30-year concession agreement between itself and the Port Authority of Jamaica, allowing it to finance, develop, expand, and operate the facility over the period. The agreement took effect in July last year.<br /> <br /> The project is being completed in phases, the first of which comes in at US$452 million, with dredging and quay wall reinforcement eating up US$150 million of the sum.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Kimone Thompson http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660856/260144_86529_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660857/260140_86533_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660854/260145_86528_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660858/260143_86530_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660855/260141_86532_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660853/260139_86534_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660860/260142_86531_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Wisynco launches biodegradable foam http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Wisynco-launches-biodegradable-foam_89690 BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor — features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com IT has been said that polystyrene foam, better known as styrofoam, cannot biodegrade.<br /> <br /> Well, apparently that&rsquo;s old technology. Faced with overflowing landfills and growing criticisms about poor solid waste management, business interests and governments worldwide have been trying to find ways to make the material &mdash; a durable, lightweight, and cheaply produced option widely used as disposable food containers &mdash; more environmentally friendly. Substitute material ranging from milk protein and clay, to plant-based matter utilising rice, corn, potatoes, bamboo, and mushrooms, are among the solutions that have been put forward. <br /> <br /> Jamaican manufacturer Wisynco has, however, found it&rsquo;s own solution &mdash; a chemical additive called masterbatch pellets made by ECM BioFilms.<br /> <br /> The company announced at its Lakes Pen compound yesterday that adding one per cent of the pellets to its regular foam-making ingredients, results in a product that looks and behaves in the traditional way, but which is &ldquo;fully biodegradable&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The new product has been branded eco-foam and should break down within nine months to five years. Partial poduction started last year, Wisynco said, but the product will now be fully rolled out. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;One per cent of our additive takes it from something that would be in a landfill essentially forever, to something that will biodegrade within a reasonably short period of time,&rdquo; ECM BioFilm President Robert Sinclair said yesterday.<br /> <br /> He explained that the breaking down can occur whether with or without oxygen, and in a variety of environments &mdash; in landfills, compost bins, buried, or littered.<br /> <br /> Government Senator Matthew Samuda, who last year tabled a Bill in Parliament calling for a ban on the importation and use of styrofoam and single-use plastic bags into the country, called eco-foam a step in the right direction for environmental sustainability. The Government, he said, was pushing for a greater move towards biodegradability of waste and to reducing the amount that enters the waste stream.<br /> <br /> Jamaica Environment Trust, while also calling the product a step in the right direction, had reservations about the claims of biodegradability.<br /> <br /> Speaking with the Jamaica Observer after the launch, deputy CEO Suzanne Stanley said the organisation will be carrying out its own experiments to see if the claims hold true.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I think the definition of &lsquo;biodegrade&rsquo; needs to be examined,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re interested to see if there will be real biodegradation or just disintegration into small pieces. And even if it does biodegrade in nine months, that is still a long time for something to be in the environment. In that time it could block drains, etc.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Big up to Wisynco for pioneering this in Jamaica, but we still have a really long way to go because we still have a solid waste management problem. It is important for us to think about the amount of waste we&rsquo;re producing in the first place, as well as the type of waste.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> Other than plastic bottles, styrofoam is the most commonly found item among litter strewn by the side of the street, in gullies, and along coastlines.<br /> <br /> Wisynco said it is under no illusion that its introduction of eco-foam will solve the country&rsquo;s solid waste management problem, but it maintained that it is doing its part. It pointed to several initiatives it has undertaken, including a recycling partnership with Government and bottle producers, and the installation of solar and wastewater treatment plants.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I am one of the biggest environmentalists in Jamaica,&rdquo; chairman William Mahfood said yesterday. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s hard to imagine, being the chairman of a company that produces so much of the things that harm the environment, but at the end of the day, personally, I have a real desire to see a significant improvement in the waste stream and in the environment of our country.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Wisynco supplies the local market with 70 per cent of all polystyrene foam products. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13647129/258694_85293_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13647127/258695_85294_repro_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM PHOTO: Faking death? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Faking-death-_89665 It was not clear if this reptile, spotted yesterday afloat on its back in a swamp near the St Thomas main road, which leads into Hector&rsquo;s River, Portland, was dead or just faking it. (Photo: Kenyon Hemans) http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13647135/258613_85232_repro_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM Rescuers form human chain to save whales http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Rescuers-form-human-chain-to-save-whales_89516 GOLDEN BAY, New Zealand (AFP) &mdash; It was a scene of both tragedy and triumph in New Zealand Saturday as rescuers defied a shark threat and formed a human chain in a bay in a bid to keep another 200 whales from becoming stranded a day after hundreds died in a mass beaching.<br /> <br /> About 150 people waded out up to their necks at Farewell Spit in the north-west of the South Island to form the human wall as they also guided some 100 survivors from Friday&rsquo;s beaching away from the shore.<br /> <br /> Environmental group Project Jonah, which assisted with the rescue mission, described the new arrivals as &ldquo;a super pod&rdquo; which &ldquo;swam into the bay and within 20 metres of the human chain&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This pod joined up with the refloated whales of which almost 100 joined the larger pod,&rdquo; the organisation said in a statement.<br /> <br /> Andrew Lamason, regional operations manager for the Department of Conservation (DOC) told AFP the focus was on preventing the whales from reaching a beach already littered with more than 300 dead whales.<br /> <br /> The pod was trying to access the area where 416 pilot whales were stranded overnight on Thursday, with about 70 per cent already dead when they were found on Friday morning.<br /> <br /> Lamason said they needed to have the survivors far away from the shore before the evening low tide.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They are moving along the spit. They are still in shallow water and we have three boats out there trying to turn them,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have 100 who&rsquo;ve gone out and they&rsquo;ve been joined by another 200, so that&rsquo;s a total of 300 whales out there.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> By mid-afternoon, the whales had moved offshore and were being monitored by boat as the tide dropped.<br /> <br /> DOC ranger Mike Ogle told Radio New Zealand the whales could have been frightened into the shallows by a shark.<br /> <br /> One whale had been found with bite wounds and great white sharks were known to be in the area off Farewell Spit, he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There&rsquo;s one carcass out there with some shark bites in it &ndash; but not a big one, just a small one, but quite fresh bites so yeah, there&rsquo;s something out there.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Hundreds of volunteers mobilised to help the rescue operation, with many working to comfort the stranded animals and keep them cool in the morning heat while they waited to refloat them on the high tide.<br /> <br /> Tim Cuff, a marine mammal medic with Project Jonah, told The New Zealand Herald of emotional scenes over the mass deaths.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a pretty sad scene up on the beach where there&rsquo;s a long line of dead whales,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;One German girl didn&rsquo;t really want to leave her whale. She was crying and had her hand on it.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> DOC officials said the carcasses would either be tethered and towed out to sea, or left to decompose in the sand dunes.<br /> <br /> Farewell Spit, about 150 kilometres west of the tourist town of Nelson, is notorious for whale strandings and has witnessed at least nine mass beachings in the past decade. According to the DOC, however, this latest incident was the third-largest since data collection began in the 1800s, and the largest ever since 1985. Officials declared almost 350 whales dead.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If you designed something to catch whales then Golden Bay is probably the perfect design,&rdquo; Lamason said.<br /> <br /> Pilot whales grow up to six metres (20 feet) long and are the most common species of whale in New Zealand waters.<br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13644189/258307_85044_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13644186/258308_85045_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13644184/258309_85046_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM Wisynco to introduce biodegradable foam product today http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Wisynco-to-introduce-biodegradable-foam-product-today_89587 Local manufacturers of the Sweet line of synthetic packaging products, Wisynco Limited, is today expected to announce a major shift in its operations &mdash; a move away from polystyrene-only food containers to a biodegradable alternative it has branded eco-foam.<br /> <br /> The new product, the company said, should break down into non-toxic derivatives of the input within nine months to five years. <br /> <br /> CEO William Mahfood told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that eco-foam is produced by putting a chemical additive in polystyrene, the main component of styrofoam, which is not biodegradable. He, however, declined to name the additive, fearing he would give too much away ahead of today&rsquo;s launch which is scheduled for the company&rsquo;s Lakes Pen head office at 10:00 am.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;After about two years of research, we identified a company that had a chemical additive which makes the finished product biodegradable. It allows for the product to go into the environment and, through natural degradation, turn into its natural, non-toxic elements &mdash; water, co2, methane, oxygen, and some humus material, which is like dirt,&rdquo; he explained.<br /> <br /> The move is the latest in a string of environmentally conscious initiatives the company has implemented over the years. Just last year, in the wake of a fire which razed its warehouses and amidst talk of a ban on plastics and styrofoam, Wisynco began decreasing the amount of polystyrene it used to make each styrofoam product. <br /> <br /> Also, the manufacturing and distributorship is a partner in Recycling Partners of Jamaica, and it launched Wisynco Eco, a group-wide committee that promotes sustainable practices such as recycling and tree planting.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When we first started manufacturing plastic bottles, we started a recycling company &mdash; Recycle for Life &mdash; and then subsequently, when the Government introduced environment levies, we discontinued the recycling. Today, we have gone back into recycling with a joint venture with the Government and have also done a number of other things to not only minimise our environmental footprint, but our carbon footprint as well, through solar installations, a major wastewater treatment plant..., and more recently, about four years ago, we took a decision at the board level to implement an environmental commitee in the group to look at ways that we could be as environmentally friendly as we could be as a company,&rdquo; Mahfood said.<br /> <br /> That, according to the Wisynco CEO, led the company to reduce the volume of plastics it uses in its production. For one thing, it discontinued the manufacturing of plastic bags, and reduced the volume of plastic that goes into the Wata brand of beverage bottles. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;But we still had the styrofoam and these are not biodegradable either, so we had to look at alternative materials or find ways to minimise the damage to the environment,&rdquo; he told the Observer.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We identified plant-based materials which would allow us to produce a biodegradable and compostable type of plastic, but when we did the analysis, we realised that it was very expensive and was not something that would be readily accepted in the local market,&rdquo; he continued.<br /> <br /> Wisynco turned its sights instead to a chemical process that would give the required effect.<br /> <br /> Mahfood said production of its lunch boxes and disposable plates using the new technology has already begun, with 100 per cent conversion expected by March or April of this year.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13340767/225605__w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM Montego Bay Marine Park, Sandals Foundation plant mangroves for World Wetlands Day http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Montego-Bay-Marine-Park--Sandals-Foundation-plant-mangroves-for-World-Wetlands-Day_88882 MONTEGO BAY, St James &mdash; In recognition of World Wetlands Day last Thursday, February 2, Sandals Foundatioon launched an awareness campaign across the Caribbean to educate students and community members on the importance of preserving wetlands. Sandals Foundation team members in the islands of Antigua, The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, Jamaica, and the Turks & Caicos organised school field trips to give students a hands-on opportunity to observe the wetlands. They also hosted competitions and expositions within the schools to educate students on the multiple roles of wetlands in the Caribbean.<br /> <br /> Wetlands, often referred to as &lsquo;the cradle of life&rsquo;, are saturated areas that prevent flooding, the erosion of coastlines, and serve as a habitat and haven for fish and other marine life. The absence of wetlands usually equates to a significant reduction in fish stock, which is not only detrimental to marine species but to fishermen who rely on them as a source of income.<br /> <br /> On Saturday February 4, in the Montego Bay region, Sandals Foundation partnered with the Marine Park Trust to plant over 50 mangrove saplings. The initiative was an effort to bolster the ecosystem, which will in turn protect the marine life and the community of fishermen whose livelihood depend on it.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We (Sandals) have been working closely with the Whitehouse community over the years to protect estuary-coastal wetland systems and the income of the fishermen in general,&rdquo; said environmental health and safety manager at Sandals Montego Bay, Haniff Richards.<br /> <br /> Sandals Foundation is engaged in several projects and initiatives to ensure that fishing villages remain a viable resource for income generation for the fishermen, to include the management of two marine sanctuaries, coral planting and environmental education in schools. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13627560/257107_83793_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 08, 2017 12:00 AM Forestry Department urges protection http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Forestry-Department-urges-protection_88857 The Forestry Department has given a frightening report on the state of the island&rsquo;s swamps &mdash; low-lying forested areas that are flooded either seasonally or permanently with freshwater &mdash; announcing last week that only 4.5 per cent of them remain in tact.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Data from the latest Land Use Assessment Survey, which was conducted by the agency, shows that over the last 15 years Jamaica has lost 2,124.1 hectares of swamp forest, leaving this forest type at only 122.9 hectares, which accounts for less than 0.1 per cent of the 40 per cent of the island&rsquo;s total forest cover,&rdquo; the department said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The decline is as a result of the construction of hotels and other infrastructure,&rdquo; the agency added, referencing the survey.<br /> <br /> The announcement was made in time for the observance of World Wetlands Day last Thursday, February 2, under the theme: &lsquo;Wetlands for disaster risk reduction&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> In light of the figures, CEO and Conservator of Forests Marilyn Headley has urged that balance be struck between development and the conservation of wetlands, and has called upon Jamaicans to learn more about wetlands &mdash; which includes lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is said that the environment and the economy are two sides of the same coin, and if we fail to sustain our environment, we will fail to sustain the economy. Development is necessary,&rdquo; she argued. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s one way we grow as a country and as a people, but when we do it at the expense of our natural environment, we are in big trouble,&rdquo; Headley warned.<br /> <br /> The conservator of forests argued that swamp forests are greatly undervalued and underappreciated when compared to mangrove forests, for example, which have seen an increase of 1.4 per cent over the last 15 years. She pointed out, however, that they both play a critical role in forest cover, water supply, and fish production.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Wetlands are important for maintaining freshwater supplies as they catch and store rain water, refill underground reserves, and protect them from salty water. Our wetlands also act as sponges that hold flood waters, preventing the likelihood of flooding,&rdquo; Headley said.<br /> <br /> Referencing a 2008 Planning Institute of Jamaica study, she revealed that, between 2002 and 2007, Jamaica experienced three major hurricanes and several flood events that caused over $73 billion in losses. The damage could have been contained, she argued, if there were more wetlands.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Jamaica is a hazard-prone country and one of the main purposes our wetlands serve is to lessen the impacts of storm events, thus reducing the amount of money to repair damage, so we have to play our part in reducing the threats to our country by protecting and conserving our wetland resources,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The issue of caring for and protecting our wetland forests is not Forestry Department business or government business. It is a Jamaica business and it will take each citizen, playing his or her part, to stop the destruction of this valuable resource,&rdquo; Headley stressed.<br /> <br /> The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which coordinates the annual World Wetlands Day observance, has described wetlands as &ldquo;vital for human survival&rdquo; as &ldquo;the world&rsquo;s most productive environments&rdquo;, and as &ldquo;cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> There are four wetlands of international importance, or Ramsar sites, in Jamaica. They are:<br /> <br /> &bull; Black River Lower Morass in St Elizabeth (5,700 hectares);<br /> <br /> &bull; Mason River Protected Area, Bird Sanctuary and Ramsar Site in Clarendon and St Ann (82 hectares);<br /> <br /> &bull; Palisadoes &mdash; Port Royal in Kingston (7,523 hectares); and<br /> <br /> &bull; Portland Bight Wetlands and Cays in St Catherine and Clarendon (24,542 hectares). http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13627394/257067_83731_repro_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 08, 2017 12:00 AM 4 irrefutable truths about climate change science http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/4-irrefutable-truths-about-climate-change-science_88211 During the recent confirmation hearings of President Trump&rsquo;s Cabinet nominees, a familiar pattern has emerged. Many of them have acknowledged that climate change is happening, but each has sowed doubt by either understating the connection between human activity and climate change or by suggesting that there&rsquo;s too much uncertainty to act. The overall effect of these statements is to confuse or stall progress.<br /> <br /> The reality is that we know plenty about the role of people as primary driverS of climate change, and government officials certainly know more than enough to act.<br /> <br /> Well-established science from leading national and international scientific institutions, including Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, National Climate Assessment, World Meteorological Organisation, National Academy of Sciences and UK Meteorology Office, shows the connection between increasing CO2 concentrations and a warming planet was established more than 150 years ago. <br /> <br /> Here&rsquo;s a brief reminder about some fundamental truths of climate science:<br /> <br /> 1Global temperatures are rising at unprecedented levels<br /> <br /> &bull; 2016 was the third consecutive year of record-warm global average temperatures.<br /> <br /> &bull; 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred this century.<br /> <br /> &bull; Average global temperatures have been above the 20th-century average for the past 40 consecutive years.<br /> <br /> &bull; Since 1880, global temperatures have risen by more than 1°C (1.8°F), while levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) to more than 400ppm.<br /> <br /> 2 Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe<br /> <br /> As the atmosphere and ocean warm, they provide additional energy for extreme weather to tap into. For example, warmer temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold more moisture, which can drive heavier downpours. Melting land-based ice combined with warming oceans fuels global sea level rise, which amplifies storm surge and coastal flooding:<br /> <br /> &bull; Coastal flooding from high tides has increased by 364 per cent to 925 per cent in locations on all three US coasts over the last 50 years.<br /> <br /> &bull; Heavy precipitation events have increased in every region of the contiguous United States since the late 1950s.<br /> <br /> &bull; The record rainfall that devastated Louisiana last August was one of six 1-in-1,000 year rainfall events that occurred in the US last year. The deluge caused $10 billion in damages while inundating the state with more than seven trillion gallons of water (three times as much rain as the state received during Hurricane Katrina). Scientists found it to be 40 per cent more likely to occur today than in 1900 as a result of climate change.<br /> <br /> &bull; 15 extreme weather events each costing $1 billion or more occurred in the US in 2016, causing $46 billion in aggregate damages. Even when adjusting for inflation, four of the five years with the most billion-dollar extreme weather events in the US have occurred since 2010.<br /> <br /> 3Human activity is the main cause of climate change<br /> <br /> Scientists have determined that it is extremely likely that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activity has caused more than half of the observed increase in temperature over the last 60 years, making it the largest driver of climate change.<br /> <br /> When models only include natural drivers of climate change, such as natural variability and volcanic eruptions, they cannot reproduce the recent increase in temperature. Only when models include the increase in greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities can they replicate the observed changes.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, observations over the last 40 years indicate with high confidence that increased heat in the oceans, as well as glacier loss in areas such as Greenland, account for the overwhelming majority of sea level rise. Indeed, the impact of human-driven warming is widespread &mdash; in the ocean, in changes to the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in sea level rise and in many extreme weather events.<br /> <br /> 4 Without action, things are poised to worsen<br /> <br /> What we have witnessed to date is only a small taste of what is in store if emissions continue unabated. Scientists have found:<br /> <br /> &bull; It is virtually certain there will be more frequent hot and fewer cold extremes in temperature over the majority of land areas.<br /> <br /> &bull; Heat waves will very likely occur with higher frequency and last longer.<br /> <br /> &bull; The western United States, and especially the Southwest, is expected to become drier.<br /> <br /> &bull; The ocean is becoming so acidic so quickly, it is unclear whether and how ocean life can adapt. <br /> <br /> &bull; Livestock and fish production are expected to decline, as are many crop yields as a result of altered rainfall, extreme weather and increased pests.<br /> <br /> &mdash; World Resources Institute http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13609878/trump-4_w300.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 01, 2017 12:00 AM EFJ awards $85 million for climate change projects http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/EFJ-awards--85-million-for-climate-change-projects_88205 Eighteen civil society organisations on Monday received a combined total of $85 million to implement climate change adaptation and resilience-building projects in communities across the island.<br /> <br /> The grant funds were provided under the Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund (SCCAF), which is supported by the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanisms project of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience. They are administered by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ).<br /> <br /> The beneficiary groups &mdash; the first under the SCCAF grant facility &mdash; each received up to $5 million and will undertake projects focusing on soil conservation, climate smart agriculture and tourism, water management, disaster preparedness and climate smart construction.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The first call for project proposals took place between October 3 and November 11, 2016,&rdquo; the EFJ said. &ldquo;A total of 83 proposals were received, and from this number 46 were shortlisted. All the shortlisted proposals were then reviewed and 18 were recommended for approval. Another 12 proposals have been provided with the opportunity for further development and the resubmitted documents are being reviewed.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> The decision on the 12 is expected this month. Also expected this month is a second call for proposals.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The EFJ will again be providing guidance in proposal writing through a series of workshops and all documents related to the call will be posted on the organisation&rsquo;s website. NGOs non-governmental organisations), CBOs (community-based organisations), other civil society groups and government agencies working with these groups are all eligible to submit proposals,&rdquo; the EFJ said.<br /> <br /> The SCCAF is a financing mechanism to build climate resilience and support livelihoods and income generation. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and is financed by the Inter-American Development Bank through the PPCR. Local Environment Wednesday, February 01, 2017 12:00 AM