Columns

We can do more to protect the environment

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, June 07, 2019

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Did you know that this week is being celebrated as Environmental Week? Wednesday was celebrated internationally as World Environment Day. I am a proud drum-beater and loud-mouthed supporter of caring for the environment. Our nation is blessed with scenery that can mek you heart grow and yuh eye gather water, which is why I can never understand when people want to mistreat this land.

Wherever you go from the east to the west, north to south, there are breathtaking views of rolling hills, resplendent plains, cool-cool rivers, or the majestic sea. Sadly, as you gaze at the wonder and splendour of the gifts of nature you can almost bet we will see a plastic bag or bottle, or some other dutty garbage clogging up the scene. Why do we seem all set to mash up what we have?

It is not just the littering that endangers our environment here at home. We don't give much thought to the bigger danger of climate change. But, as each hurricane season seems to bring stronger storms with devastating effects, we have to work out what kind of impact we can have on the world.

Small nations like Jamaica and our Caribbean neighbours are finding out first-hand what climate change can do. Some of the countries that were mashed-up by Hurricane Irma in 2017 are still making slow progress as they try to get things back in place. This is a matter where there is strength in numbers, and it would suit us well to have a united voice from Caricom on what we say to the world about how to care and protect the environment.

The big talk in larger nations is about “reducing your carbon footprint”. No, they don't mean you must wear smaller shoes. Corn toe and bunion not going save the environment. The discussion is on how we make the choice to live in a more sustainable way. The more we utilise clean sources of energy the better — solar and wind power over petrol and oil.

Reducing fossil fuel use is not just for big factories and power stations. There are things we can do in our everyday life. Hanging your clothes out on the line is cheaper and better for the environment than running a clothes dryer. Winding down the car window and letting out the hot air is advised, rather than having the engine running with the air conditioner at full blast when you're not in the car. Yes, I know summer is here and times are hot, but at least your heart won't go into palpitations next time you go to the gas pump to fill up the car and Mother Nature will thank you.

In all seriousness, can we really have a better plan for what we do with our environment? Just this week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness asked heads of the relevant agencies and ministries to update Cabinet on what is happening with the Cockpit Country Protected Area. In a Jamaica Information Service ( JIS) news report it was stated that “the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, Jamaica Bauxite Mining Limited, and the Mines and Geology Division advise, to the best of our knowledge, that Noranda Bauxite partners II (Noranda) is currently not involved in any mining activities in the area to be protected as the Cockpit Country”.

This is good news, but have we finally settled the question of where the boundaries of the Cockpit Country lie? Will we have enough foresight to strike a proper balance between development and the environment. Some would say there can be no lasting, profitable development without taking the environment into account. Don't believe that? Look at what is happening out at Hellshire Beach. The crowding of shops and shacks and the destruction of the outer reefs have caused the once majestic stretch of white sands of Hellshire to be reduced to little more than a child's sandbox in a playground.

The other thing that we need to do is to make the hard choices to correct mistakes. This is one time where I will differ from the old-time sayings. Granny would say: “What gone bad a morning, can't come good ah evening.” Instead, I say, “Granny, we cyaan give up. Yes, we have made mistakes. We've made the wrong choices, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of a lack of vision, but we must take our hands from our jaw and stand up and fix it!”

Where things are going right, let's not take our eye off the ball. We will have to keep on making sure that we protect what we have. We owe it to our children and their grandchildren. They must be able to breathe clean air, see the birds fly and the flowers bloom, and sit in the shade of trees that give us shelter and know that our country is a God-blessed land, and that we care enough to keep it clean.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com.


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