It's too late for us to go green!

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It's too late for us to go green!

Brittany
Singh Williams

Friday, February 07, 2020

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When I travelled to Davos, Switzerland, for the January 21-24, 2020 World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting, I arrived as a mother, educator, and Jamaican nationalist, eager to rediscover my voice, yet ready to serve as one of 50 'Global Shapers' selected to amplify the voices of 3.5 billion young people at the world's largest and most prestigious meeting of world leaders in government and business. I learned about climate change amongst the Jane Goodall's, Al Gore's, and Greta Thunberg's of the world, and I left with the knowledge that Jamaica, in fact, the Caribbean at large, is in trouble.

As someone who eats meat and doesn't recycle or track her carbon footprint, I was nave about the impacts of climate change before Davos. But when I heard that the Caribbean would be the first to experience the blunt-force trauma of climate change — from increased floods to hurricanes and earthquakes — my attention piqued.

Like clockwork, experts confirmed that it's too late for the Caribbean to prioritise going green; our efforts should be spent preparing for the effects of climate change, which, for tropical islands, means climate mitigation and the immediate evacuation of citizens in at-risk coastal communities.

This changing reality deserves our attention, and it requires deeper consideration for the choices we make. Our efforts should refocus on protecting our water resources, reallocating housing for those in areas prone to mass evacuations, and refining sustainable methods of forest management.

While Jamaica has reduced plastic usage, we still have much to contemplate. And if we are to protect our culture and unique landscape, our region must collectively preserve our resources. For a space like Cockpit Country, that could mean using medical tourism from the country's natural ecosystems to increase profitability, versus the outdated practice of mining.

As the sole Caribbean representative in Davos, it was made clear that the Caribbean voice is absent, and decisions that affect us are implemented without our input. During a round-table discussion I challenged attending leaders to consider the people of our nation states as they weighed options for change. But, in truth, it's the duty of the united Caribbean to fight for our preservation.

Our cultural uniqueness and regional identity must be protected. We are stronger in numbers and ought not to operate as individual islands if we are to be impactful in combating climate change, the effects of the “economic war” between China and the United States, and the glaring lack of Caribbean representation at the tables of those who create our agendas.

As an education strategist and daughter of Jamaica, I challenge our leaders to invest in the change-makers of tomorrow. Empower us, listen to our voices, harness our skills and our abilities. Our leaders must put aside political agendas and, instead, provide a platform for those of us who can advise on and meet the needs of our region.

“This generation of young people are the first to feel the impacts of climate change,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, “and the last to be able to do anything about it”.

In furthering that narrative we are also the most equipped to protect our island states through the value of our efforts and voices. For far too long we have chosen to take a back-seat approach to the changing face of the world. But I challenge the youth to take responsibility for our actions, and to recognise their purpose and journey as part of our nation's bigger picture. We must work together to create an identity that disrupts our post-colonial narrative of victimhood. It's time we discover who we are and value our place as a deserving force.

I attended the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting intending to reignite my purpose, and I left refuelled to the task of 'Igniting Future Leaders” to protect the land we love.

Brittany Singh Williams is an International Education Strategist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or brittany@spark-education.com.


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