Columns

‘In an abundance of water…’

Jean LOWRIE-CHIN

Monday, July 14, 2014    

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AS we recall the lines from Bob Marley “in an abundance of water the fool is thirsty”, we reflect on a documentary that Elizabeth Phillips, the then executive director of the Oracabessa Foundation, showed us many years ago. Funded by the Foundation’s patron, Chris Blackwell, and titled Death of a River, it showed Jack’s River dwindling from a healthy flow to a sad trickle as the land around it was ravaged. The film was made as a wake-up call to Jamaica, our beautiful land of wood and water. Unfortunately, we have been too sound asleep, and now as we waken to the wages of environmental neglect many more rivers are running dry.

The news last Thursday showed farmers in Cheapside, St Elizabeth, surveying acres of burnt-out farmland, just a few days after a massive fire at Malvern in the same parish. One elderly resident said it was the first time in his life that he had seen the Salt Pond without water. It was described by the reporter as “a dust bowl”. We saw a goat tied out in a charred pasture — a haunting image of the threat of hunger to those who live from the land.

Two of Jamaica’s most brilliant sons, Professor Anthony Chen and Ambassador Anthony Hill, had warned about this calamity in their Copenhagen Letter published in the Jamaica Observer in December 2009 (http://lowriechin.blogspot.com/2009/12/pr of-chens-and-ambasadorhills-jamaica.html). They had just attended a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where world leaders had agreed on targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions; financial support for mitigation of, and adaptation to climate change in developing countries; and a carbon-trading scheme aimed at ending the destruction of the world's forests (a sink for CO2) by 2030.

Their letter to Jamaican authorities called for “an allencompassing set of programmes, which lay the bases for individual, community and national activities”. As Jamaica lurches from administration to administration — each one re-inventing the renewable energy wheel working to score political points on attempts to find cheaper energy sources — our most vulnerable are now facing untold hardship as drought conditions take hold of our country.

About three years ago that drought saw folks at our office pursuing and kowtowing to water truck operators desperately seeking water to fill the tank at our place of business. Now we are hearing that the price has doubled — no wonder there have been media reports of water theft in several rural communities.

Clearly, climate change is an area where our politicians should be collaborating, whatever stripe they may wear. Please, dear MPs and councillors, this is the future of your own children. This crisis also calls for cooperation between environment NGOs and government agencies to take our country out of its misery.

“Consider a Jamaica in 2050,” urge Prof Chen and Ambassador Hill, “without the results of fundamental changes to present governance institutions, principles, policies, programmes, and lifestyles: less arable land with eroded coastal zones and denuded hillsides, less clean air with more pollution, less potable water with more floods and waste, a less healthy population, less to share, but more, many more people angling to get their share. Jimmy Cliff 's lyrics The harder they come, the harder they fall will be ringing in our ears.

We have wasted too much time, waste any more and the people of this country will neither forgive nor forget the emptiness of those ages-old campaign promises.

World Cup epilogue

This is being written on Friday July 11, two days before the World Cup Final between Argentina and Germany. Hearty congratulations to the winners, though I must confess that after that routing of Brazil by Germany last Tuesday, I was slightly numb to the excitement of the other two matches.

Making the rounds at this point are humorous photographs of Argentinian Pope Francis and German Pope Emeritus Benedict XI in prayer with ‘thought clouds’ showing their respective flags. On Facebook, Wayne Chen noted that both countries are led by women — Germany's Angela Merkel and Argentina's Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Two ladies and two Popes, what a match-up!

Give thanks for World Cup 2014. Congratulations to Brazil for pulling off a fabulous event, even if your team did not make it to the final. Gratitude to FIFA, the players, coaches, referees, media, and thousands of volunteers who took us on this exciting adventure.

10 years for sustainability

Representatives of Digicel Foundations in Ireland, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, and Trinidad are meeting in Jamaica this week to share experiences of partnerships with citizens from their respective countries, investing in education, community development and special needs. It is fitting that they should meet in Jamaica, where the first Digicel Foundation was established nearly 10 years ago. The foundation’s launch was moved up to September 2004 after Jamaica was hit by Hurricane Ivan. Patron Denis O’Brien immediately offered a contribution of $200 million for national reconstruction, which saw the renovation of over 400 schools among other significant projects.

Sustainability is the foundation’s watchword and it is good to see the efforts of noble partners around the world who have maximised the assistance offered. A good example is the greenhouse at New Forest Primary and Junior High in Manchester, brainchild of their innovative Chair Trisha Williams-Singh. The yield supports the institution’s school-feeding programme and brings in additional earnings from sales. Meanwhile, students are learning this new way of farming while seeing the rewards of productivity.

Jamaica’s Phase 3 makes Wall Street Journal

That resilient video production company Phase 3, founded by Richard and Marcia Forbes, continues to thrive with their latest investment, the addition of “ChyronHego's flagship Mosaic graphics engine to its Lyric PRO-powered BlueNet™ workflow” being reported in the Wall Street Journal.

"We are committed to reinvesting in cutting-edge technology like ChyronHego's, which continues to evolve with our production needs and deliver," said their son Delano Forbes as quoted in the WSJ. He is now CEO and creative director at Phase 3 Productions. Congratulations to a strong and innovative Jamaican family company.

Farewell, Sir Howard, nation-builder extraordinaire

As we go to press, we are hearing of the passing of Sir Howard Cooke, retired Governor General and a father of modern Jamaica. We were fortunate to have interviewed this man of vision and faith last year and will dedicate next week’s column to his blessed memory.

lowriechin@aim.com

w w w.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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