Gloves, Plastic and Bananas: Cleaning up at Fort Rocky

Last time I visited Fort Rocky, along the road to Port Royal, I was in the company of archaeologist Heidi Savery and a band of intrepid Jamaican and American scholars and students. Yesterday could not have been more different. I was helping out at the registration tent of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who organized one of the major activities for International Coastal Clean Up Day, September 21. The government’s National Environment & Planning Agency was toiling away not far down the road; and much cleaning was under way at many sites around the island.

The sky was an impenetrable grey, and when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. there was not a breath of wind. The ocean was still and opaque, with no sunlight to illuminate it. The beach behind Fort Rocky is on the open sea. The mangroves of Kingston Harbour (or what’s left of them, after the depredations of China Harbour Engineering Company’s work on the airport road) lie on the other side of this narrow spit of land. We set up in our tent, and waited for the invasion to begin.

Indeed, a veritable army of mostly young people descended on us throughout the morning – roughly two thousand, far more than expected. Eventually JET ran out of gloves and we at the registration table ran out of free bananas and other stuff. The early volunteers arrived and got straight to work. The later ones (including a horde of university students) found what work they could and then retreated inside the Fort Rocky compound for some relaxation (as is often the case in Jamaica, there was a certain amount of socializing). And we actually had to ship out some groups to a nearby site, as we were, as they say, “over-capacity.” 

Meanwhile, the unruly pile of filled garbage bags slouched, and spread, and grew steadily higher until it was as tall as the tallest of us.

Some time after lunch, the Fort was quiet again. We could hear the sound of the waves. And the beach… Well, not a scrap of paper or plastic to be found.

Congratulations and thanks to the fantastic Jamaica Environment Trust team (led by energetic Program Director Suzanne Stanley), the amazing sponsors and all the great volunteers for making this a memorable day! I have added a few photos below – you can find a photo album on my Facebook page, too.

Related links and articles:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/news/news4.html Huge turnout for International Coastal Cleanup Day: Sunday Gleaner

http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com

http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/reduce-reuse-recycle/ Reduce, reuse, recycle: petchary.wordpress.com

http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme,, Part 1

http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area: petchary.wordpress.com

http://www.upworthy.com/people-should-know-about-this-awful-thing-we-do-and-most-of-us-are-simply-unaware?g=3&c=ufb1 Trailer for “Midway,” a powerful documentary directed by Chris Jordan on the impact on wildlife of trash in our oceans. To donate to the makers of this film, please visit midwayfilm.com.

A large group of volunteers from St. George's College in Kingston. (My photo)

A large group of volunteers from St. George’s College in Kingston. (My photo)

Earth Wise Recycling Jamaica gives an interview to Television Jamaica. This is a new company headed by young entrepreneurs. They took away all our recycled plastics at the end of the day. (My photo)

Earth Wise Recycling Jamaica gives an interview to Television Jamaica. This is a new company headed by young entrepreneurs. They took away all our recycled plastics at the end of the day. (My photo)

Stephen Newland, the lead singer of reggae band Rootz Underground, dropped by and gave us thumbs up. The band's Releaf Foundation focuses on trees. They won one of JET's 2013 Environmental Action Awards, and will soon be starting a school tour Stephen told us. (My photo)

Stephen Newland, the lead singer of reggae band Rootz Underground, dropped by and gave us thumbs up. The band’s Releaf Foundation focuses on trees. They won one of JET’s 2013 Environmental Action Awards, and will soon be starting a school tour Stephen told us. (My photo)

JET team member Mirah Lim (right) chats with a representative of Jamaica Public Service Company. (My photo)

JET team member Mirah Lim (right) chats with a representative of Jamaica Public Service Company. (My photo)

Volunteers heading down the beach towards Port Royal. (My photo)

Volunteers heading down the beach towards Port Royal. (My photo)

Several service clubs were there... (My photo)

Several service clubs were there… (My photo)

Passing ships...

Passing ships… (My photo)

Bananas, anyone? (My photo)

Bananas, anyone? (My photo)

The United Nations Environment Programme's Coral Fernandez (left) and Pietra Brown looking good in pink. (My photo)

The United Nations Environment Programme’s Coral Fernandez (left) and Pietra Brown looking good in pink. (My photo)

Cleaner-uppers had to fill out a detailed form on the type of garbage collected. (Photo: Facebook)

Cleaner-uppers had to fill out a detailed data form on the type of garbage collected. (Photo: Facebook)

A University of the West Indies student shoulders his bag. (Photo: Facebook)

A University of the West Indies student shoulders his bag. (Photo: Facebook)

The wonderful team from Youth Opportunities Unlimited consisted of citizens of Rockfort in East Kingston. "Big ups" to them! They worked hard. (Photo: Facebook)

The wonderful team from Youth Opportunities Unlimited consisted of citizens of Rockfort in East Kingston. “Big ups” to them! They worked hard. (Photo: Facebook)

Volunteers from Appliance Traders Limited working hard. (My photo)

Volunteers from Appliance Traders Limited working hard. (My photo)

Lime Cay floating on the horizon. (My photo)

Lime Cay floating on the horizon. (My photo)

Signing up...

Signing up…

Two charming visitors to the tent: Miss Jamaica/Caribbean Most Talented Teen Josselle Fisher (left) and Miss Mini Portmore Martina Shim. (My photo)

Two charming visitors to the tent: Miss Jamaica/Caribbean Most Talented Teen Josselle Fisher (left) and Miss Mini Portmore Martina Shim. (My photo)

8 Comments

  1. Trying to hook your interest to those of a friend of mine in Accra, Ghana (Kofi Blankson). His immediate concern is gutters and garbage, there. I’ll post your blog entry to him and suggest he contact you. I could also share his pictures on your FB page.

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