"Don't let them fool ya,
Or even try to school ya! Oh, no!
We've got a mind of our own..."
"EVER been to Goat Islands?", read the email. "Here's the latest from 'Save Goat Islands'" headlined another. "Goat Island Flotilla!!!' raved a third.
And so there was a plan afoot for all interested folk to gather at Old Harbour Bay fishing beach yesterday in order to rent canoes from the local fisherman which would take passengers on a "go see" -- a circle around Goat Islands. Just a circle, maybe a "last look" before the dastardly deed is done and those 900 acres are pushed down to accommodate the 3,000 acres of potentially nefarious activities by overseas investors.
We never before cared about the Goat Islands. Never visited. Never walked their shores or swept their dirty beaches and lands. Never paid them much attention until somebody other than us, some outsider, showed interest.
It's like the couple who've been married for so long and who take each other for granted until some outsider starts looking sideways at a spouse. Then all of a sudden, as if viewing that person through fresh eyes, we realise just how precious they are.
The email continued: "Depending on the weather again, we could circle big Goat Island. If we take a little time to look at the birds and whatever other critters show themselves, ... an hour and a half on the water. We'd be back by 9:00 am or 9:30 am, depending again on weather and how punctual folks are. The breeze comes up by 10:00 am, and we'd want to be back by then for sure. Old Harbour Bay is not the nicest place to hang out at, but folks could go and buy some fresh fish and other stuff in the market, if they wished, and then head home."
Head home. Wash all that salt and fish-market stink from your body and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. In those precious two hours you've become an activist for change, you've signed a petition perhaps, and done your civic duty.
At the time of writing, the success of the planned flotilla was unknown, but certainly in the days and weeks to come, we shall see what effect the morning's outing will have on the campaign to save the Goat Islands.
It might be a case of too little too late, or it might be a case where our activism is so off-putting that the investors will take their dollars elsewhere.
The question to ask is: What are we saving it for?
Also at the time of writing another protected area, the Yallahs Salt Ponds which stretch for some 5 kilometeres along St Thomas coast, made the news because of a terribly noxious odour being emitted by the ponds and which could be smelled as far as Kingston, the cause of which was the high concentration of hydrogen sulphide generated by the bacteria which thrive in the very salty water.
It's happened before. In 1902, in order to reduce the smell, the decision was taken then to cut channels to link the two ponds and open the ponds into the sea.
There were other times too that the Salt Ponds gave off a foul odour; when hundreds of fish were washed up daily -- onto the land where locals would gather what they could of the larger fish to eat and to sell and would leave the rest to rot in the sun.
And up until four or so years ago, residents would scoop salt from the bottom of the shallow lake and process it for meat pickling.
It has long been suggested that the Salt Ponds could be properly managed as a formalised fresh-water fishing industry, or an ornamental fish farming industry, both of which would provide much needed employment and income for the people of St Thomas, the poorest parish in Jamaica.
But representation to various administrations have gone unheeded and in the meantime, the Ponds belch, the fish die, the salt has disappeared and that stretch remains, perhaps "not the nicest place to hang out at".
The point is that Jamaica is blessed with an abundance of natural talent and resources and potential to earn for its citizens an income that would lift them out of a desparately poor and hopeless situation.
And while we seek to protect the many areas of rich, natural beauty and harvest, we perhaps miss an opportunity to put them to managed and proper use so that all of us, in addition to enjoying these natural wonders, can use them to afford employment and education and upliftment.
Just like a beautiful woman who is put on a pedestal, only to be looked at and admired, she too will eventually dry up and decay and be forgotton and her true worth and value will never be realised.