Letters to the Editor

#SaveCockpitCountry!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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Dear Editor,

It is laudable that for over a decade both People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party administrations have said there will be no bauxite mining in Cockpit Country. Regrettably, no government of Jamaica has formally declared Cockpit Country a protected area closed to mining and extractive industries. Will this Administration be the brave and forward-thinking one to save Cockpit Country?

The majority of Jamaicans want Cockpit Country protected. Please add your voice by signing the petition asking the Government to protect Cockpit Country. The petition can be found on savecockpitcountry.org: (http://opm.gov.jm/participate/jamaica-house-petition/sign-petition/?pet=18).

The Save Cockpit Country petition is on the Government's new petition portal, which unfortunately has problems which might be leading to under-counting. The process requires more steps than most social media-based petition sites. After signing the petition, a link is sent to the signee's e-mail account which often ends up in their spam folder and is not counted. Others do not get an e-mail validation, but the portal reads their e-mail address as already having signed, so they have no way to proceed. More importantly, however, the portal requires that one have an e-mail address. A large number of Jamaicans do not have e-mail accounts; they access the Internet via their phones and are registered on social media platforms such as Facebook. Therefore, the portal which is set up to give Jamaicans greater access and democratic participation is unwittingly excluding a majority of Jamaicans who do not have easy access to the Internet and who do not have e-mail accounts.

Cockpit Country remains under threat from bauxite mining, which would destroy forest cover, block and pollute waterways, displace residents, threaten agricultural livelihoods, compromise air quality, threaten the health and well-being of thousands of Jamaican citizens, and turn intact rural communities and productive farms into wastelands.

Cockpit Country is the largest remaining natural forest in Jamaica. The fresh water it stores and releases supplies about 40 per cent of western Jamaica's water needs. This water is essential not just to Jamaicans, but to Jamaica's tourist industry, supplying north coast hotels and cruise ships with water, and is the source for tourist attractions such as Martha Brae River, YS Falls, Black River, and Appleton Valley.

Cockpit Country forests are the lungs of Jamaica; they provide cooling temperatures and hold carbon in the soil, thus helping against the effects of global warming and climate change. Cockpit Country is also the home of the Leeward Maroons and is of essential cultural and ecological importance to Jamaica and the world.

This Friday, September 22, 2017 is Save Cockpit Country Day. Please get involved, sign the petition, and help protect Cockpit Country. Generations to come will thank you.

Esther Figueroa, PhD

Gordon Town, St Andrew

mediavagabond@gmail.com

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