Earth Day Part 1: Why Caribbean Birds Matter

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Although with the ever-present climate change issues weighing us down, and here in Jamaica the threat to our beautiful Portland Bight Protected Area still looming over us, it’s hard to feel very “happy”… But we live in hope and must keep on working for our precious Planet!

Today (Earth Day) is the fifteenth anniversary of the declaration of the Portland Bight Protected Area by the Jamaican Government on Earth Day, 1999. It is also the launch day of the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival. Read more on this below…

BirdsCaribbean’s logo depicts the Bananaquit, a colorful, friendly and easily-recognized songbird that is a common resident on most Caribbean islands.

BirdsCaribbean’s logo depicts the Bananaquit, a colorful, friendly and easily-recognized songbird that is a common resident on most Caribbean islands.

Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds) is a major regional supporter of the campaign to save Goat Islands in the PBPA from a major port development and coal-fired power plant, which the Government of Jamaica aims to have built by China Harbour Engineering Company. Birds Caribbean is a non-profit organization committed to the conservation of wild birds and their habitats in the insular Caribbean. More than 80,000 local people participate in its programs each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region. Some of its international partners and supporters include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Royal Society for the Protection of Caribbean Birds, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Wetlands International, and BirdLife International.

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF), an annual BirdsCaribbean event, is a celebration of the region’s unique bird life: of 770 bird species in the region, 148 are endemic and 105 of these are confined to single islands, including colorful parrots, hummingbirds, todies and warblers. It is celebrated for one month in the spring, from Earth Day (April 22nd) to International Biodiversity Day (May 22nd). Local conservation organizations will be celebrating through an array of events, including bird and nature walks, presentations, art exhibitions and competitions, radio quizzes, bird calling contests, beach clean-ups, tree plantings, and more. 

To find out more about BirdsCaribbean and the CEBF, look them up on Facebook and follow BirdsCaribbean on Twitter @BirdsCaribbean. Here is their press release on “Why Caribbean Birds Matter,” the theme for the CEBF.

There’s no question that birds have a special place in the hearts of Caribbean people. The intimate cultural connection between people and birds is reflected in the local names for birds that vary from island to island. They are celebrated in art and literature from the region as well, receiving praise from Bob Marley for “singin’ sweet songs,” and representing the Caribbean spirit in the poems of Derek Walcott. The true importance of Caribbean birds, however, goes far beyond their beauty and power to inspire.

Although often unknown or unnoticed, birds play many critical roles that enrich the ecosystems and economies of the Caribbean. They act as garbage men, gardeners, fish-finders and tourist attractions. The Caribbean as we know it couldn’t exist without them. Best of all, they do all this work for free!

Birds eat pests. A single Barn Swallow can eat 60 insects in an hour, up to 850 per day! Photo by Ron LeValley.

Birds eat pests. A single Barn Swallow can eat 60 insects in an hour, up to 850 per day! Photo by Ron LeValley.

1. Birds eat pests.

The early bird catches the worm, and many Caribbean birds eat insects of all kinds, like mosquitoes, cockroaches, flies and beetles. In the wild, insect-eating birds help ensure the proper balance between plants, insects and other animals. On farms, and in even in backyard gardens, they do much the same, controlling the population of pest insects for free, and reducing the need to use potentially harmful pesticides.

The coffee berry borer beetle, the world’s most serious coffee pest, is an excellent example of this. Research on Jamaican coffee farms has shown that migratory song birds, such as the American Redstart and Black-throated Blue Warbler, and resident birds, such as the Bananaquit and Jamaica Tody, feast on the berry borers during the critical period when the beetles are attempting to invade the maturing coffee berries. This research demonstrated that wild birds in the Caribbean increased the profits of coffee farmers by about 12 percent.

Birds also help control invasive species that are harmful to human health and ecosystems. Birds of prey such as the Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, and owls eat rats and mice in addition to smaller birds, mammals, insects and reptiles. In St. Martin, the American Kestrel hunts immature green iguanas, which are an invasive species.

2. Birds bring birdwatchers.

Birdwatchers love birds. They are visiting the Caribbean to see our rare and beautiful endemic birds and unique habitats. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service has calculated that birding and other wildlife watching is worth $32 billion per year (U.S. dollars) in the United States alone. Birding tourism, a growing segment of the international tourism market, now makes the Caribbean an important area for sun, sand, sea – and bird-watching! Birding trails and hotspots are established on most Caribbean islands, attracting both casual cruise ship visitors and the more dedicated stop-over birders in significant numbers. Birding tourism generates jobs and revenues for national parks and preserves, and hotels, restaurants and other small businesses. Promoting birding tourism during the peak migratory periods in the fall and spring may even help boost tourism during months that are traditionally considered the low season for tourism.

3. Birds clean up.

One man’s trash can be a bird’s treasure. From carcasses to breadcrumbs, birds are the champions of removing dead animal and other organic remains. Vultures, egrets, herons, crows and several other species remove road-kill, farming and domestic refuse. This helps keep islands beautiful and also benefits public health by disposing of items that could cause pollution or even spread disease.

Birds spread seeds. Many birds like the White-crowned Pigeon, Scaly-naped Pigeon, grassquits, parrots, bullfinches, and mockingbirds spread seeds by eating and digesting. Photo by Lisa Sorenson.

Birds spread seeds. Many birds like the White-crowned Pigeon, Scaly-naped Pigeon, grassquits, parrots, bullfinches, and mockingbirds spread seeds by eating and digesting. Photo by Lisa Sorenson.

4. Birds spread seeds.

None of our tropical hardwood forests would exist in their current state without wild birds. This is because for many tropical forest shrubs and trees, birds are the most important seed dispersers. The Caribbean is rich with seed-swallowing and fruit-pulp feeding birds, such as pigeons, doves, parrots, warblers and grassquits that spread forest seeds. By doing so, they protect valuable watersheds; produce vital water catchments; support important hardwood timber industries; help control floods; and buffer the effects of global climate change. Dominica’s large parrots, with their powerful thick beaks and feet, enhance seed dispersal by opening large hard fruits, making their seeds more available to smaller seed-dispersing songbirds.

Antillean Crested Hummingbird. Photo by Sean Modi.

Antillean Crested Hummingbird. Photo by Sean Modi.

5. Birds pollinate flowers.

Without birds, the region would lose some of its most beautiful treasures. In the Caribbean, bats, insects and birds, including hummingbirds, Bananaquits and many warblers overwhelmingly dominate pollination. A collection of studies has documented that the shape, nectar characteristics, and colors of several Caribbean flowers have evolved in response to hummingbird pollination. Thus plant diversity can be limited by a lack of hummingbird pollinators on some islands. Pollination is a key environmental service provided by birds—without birds, numerous plants could not produce seeds and fruits.

6. Birds enrich soils.

Guano, or seabird poop, contains concentrated sources of nitrogen and phosphates and is a valuable source of fertilizer. Although manure from commercially-produced chickens is now prevalent, seabird guano once formed the basis of entire industries. In the 1900s, before inorganic fertilizers became common, extensive guano deposits on Caribbean islands were harvested as guano prices skyrocketed in the Europe and in North America. Today, birds continue to provide this service in many habitats by enriching forest soils and recycling important nutrients for plant growth.

7. Birds are experts at finding fish.

Birds have been helping fishermen find fish since long before the invention of sonar and electronic fish finders. Seabirds like the Magnificent Frigatebird, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy have millions of years of experience spotting fish as they fly high above the sea. They are quick to the scene when schools of small fish are forced to the surface by larger, more desirable species. In the Caribbean, savvy fishermen have been using seabirds to help spot fish for generations, and refer to them as “fish finders.” They even know what type of fish they are likely to find in a given area based on the birds that are present!

A pair of binoculars and field guide is all you need to get started on a rewarding life long hobby. Photo by Lisa Sorenson.

A pair of binoculars and field guide is all you need to get started on a rewarding life long hobby. Photo by Lisa Sorenson.

8. Birds connect us to nature.

Birds are everywhere and are easy and fun to observe. In the Caribbean, where there are few native mammals, birds are often the most charismatic and familiar animals, making them the perfect ambassadors for appreciation of nature. A pair of binoculars and a field guide is enough to get anyone started on a rewarding lifelong hobby. A field trip to see birds can bring biology to life and inspire students to be our future scientists and conservationists.

Birds also have much to tell us about the world we live in. Our understanding of the natural world was and still is enriched through research on birds by numerous scientists. Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist and geologist who developed the theory of evolution by natural selection described in his book “The Origin of Species,” how his study of mockingbirds and finches in the Galapagos Islands contributed to his theory. In the Caribbean, bird research may bring new discoveries that help us better understand both the region and the world. Each island is, after all, a laboratory of sorts, running its own experiments in ecology and evolution.

9. Birds are our “canary in the coal mine.”

In the past, coal miners brought canaries and other small animals with them into mines because they would die when exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, giving the miners a chance to escape. Even today, birds often signal when there are dangerous threats to the environment and people.

In the mid-20th Century, populations of birds of prey such as the Peregrine Falcon, Osprey and Bald Eagle declined. Scientists found that accumulations of the pesticide DDT made them produce thin, brittle eggshells that broke easily. This discovery warned of the dangers of DDT to the health of wildlife and humans. More recently, mercury has been found in the blood of forest birds such as Bicknell’s Thrush, even though the birds are living far from power plants, showing the far-reaching effects of human pollution.

Just the presence or absence of birds can tell us a lot. In some parts of the Caribbean, the Magnificent Frigatebird was known as the Hurricane Bird. Their arrival from far at sea was a sign of a coming storm. When there are fewer birds, due to human disturbance such as forest clearing it can mean a loss in biodiversity. This makes habitats less resilient to change and more prone to invasion of harmful species and agricultural pests.

10. Caribbean birds are UNIQUELY ours!

The Caribbean cannot claim many goods, products and services as unique to the Caribbean. Many things that we now celebrate have their roots in other cultures and are derived from influences outside the region. Caribbean birds are, however, a notable exception! Ranked among the top five areas of the planet to possess a unique (and threatened) bird community, the Caribbean boasts a diverse collection of bird species that have lived here for millons of year and are not found anywhere else! According to global experts, an astonishing 72% of the approximately 208 resident island bird species found on Caribbean islands are endemic—that is, found nowhere else on the plant. Sadly, threats and rates of extinction have been increasing, meriting international focus on the preservation of this unique natural heritage.

By Leo Douglas, Mark Yokoyama and Lisa Sorenson

This article was inspired by the Audubon magazine’s articles “Ten Reasons to be Thankful for Birds” and “Birds Matter Because They Do.”

 

Thank you, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was extremely saddened by the news of the death of Gabriel García Márquez, the great Colombian writer. He passed away at home in Mexico City, aged 87, after being hospitalized for a lung infection recently. 

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" has sold over 50 million copies in 37 languages.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” has sold over 50 million copies in 37 languages.

Saddened is not a strong enough word, really. His works have always taken me into a world of intricate beauty and enchantment, infused with wisdom. Although I cannot speak Spanish, the English translations have always been enough to transport me to that world. The language alone is entrancing, but Márquez was always the greatest of storytellers. Importantly, he was my personal introduction to Latin American literature. He got me hooked. As you can see from the book reviews posted in this blog, I have remained absorbed and fascinated by the fiction coming from this continent – so close to our islands that I can almost feel its breath. In fact, I have just finished reading “Maya’s Notebook” by Isabel Allende – who has been a California resident for many years but keeps the “Americas” between the pages of her novels. And I do love that phrase, “the Americas.”

Here’s a wonderful quote from the Nobel Laureate’s speech, on receiving the Prize for Literature in 1982. He described Latin America as a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

So, for all that, thank you, Mr. Márquez. 

Here’s a short review I wrote of one of my favorite works. I plan to systematically re-read and review all the others, now.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico in 2007. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico in 2007. (Photo: Getty Images)

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Petchary book review)

If you have not yet ventured into García Márquez’ world of vivid beauty and disturbing visions, this may not be the best book to start with. It has the seductive shock value of a really good horror movie (if you enjoy that genre); and the startling chill of a mountain stream on a hot summer’s day. Well, take a deep breath before you start.

From the very first line of the novella, we know that Santiago Nasar is to be murdered. I am not giving away the plot here, as we know this simple fact from the beginning – and in the next few pages, we know who did the terrible deed. So, this is no murder mystery. Where is the mystery then? Why read beyond the first page? The utter strangeness and bewildering puzzle of this tale is not how (this is horrifically described at the end), but why? Why did it still happen when everyone saw it coming, and why didn’t they stop it?

By “they,” I mean the residents of a small town on the Caribbean coast: a town of sea breezes and banana groves, almond trees and balconies around the main square. The narrator returns many years later to try to unravel the story. It begins early one morning (was it cloudy or sunny? Accounts differ) when the well to do, handsome Arab merchant Santiago Nasar rises with a hangover, and dresses in white unstarched linen, hoping to meet a bishop who is due to visit the town. The memories of those he encounters that morning, and those he had met the night before at the wedding festivities, are tinged with fear or scorn, pity or indifference. Moving through the story, pale and innocent, Santiago Nasar almost sleepwalks to his death – a death he does not understand.

The story is disturbing in its simplicity, yet intensely complex. The extraordinary characters are finely drawn with a few vivid strokes, and their conversations are brief; yet there are many things they do not wish to discuss. While the action is close to melodrama – sometimes slowing down, sometimes rushing headlong, like a movie – there is a quiet sense of nothing really changing, underneath. Life goes on.

I am reminded of that bleak little spaghetti Western: Clint Eastwood, cigar clenched between his teeth, rides into a town filled with guilt-ridden, silent inhabitants. But this story has none of the heavy morality of revenge. The murder happens because it simply has to, and that’s the end of it. The scent of it – the sickly scent of Santiago Nasar’s butchered body – hangs over the town.

“Fatality makes us invisible,” a magistrate notes, resignedly, in his brief. No one is punished, no one really mourns. And life goes on.

Dear reader, this tale will haunt you like a brilliant, yet troubling dream. And, even if you want to, you cannot change the ending of dreams.

Author Note: Gabriel García Márquez was born in 1928 in Aracataca, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and brought up by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, a veteran army Colonel of liberal views, and his grandmother and her sisters, with their love of superstition and folklore, were all strong influences. Following his parents’ wishes, he began to study law, but his real passion was reading classical and modern literature and writing; in 1950 he abandoned law and began a journalism career. He was European correspondent for a Bogotá newspaper, which was meanwhile shut down by the Colombian dictatorship. After living in Paris, then moving to Venezuela, he traveled through Eastern Europe in the 1950s, seeking socialist solutions toLatin America’s problems. He reported on revolutionary Cuba, where he befriended Fidel Castro. He finally settled in Mexico City, where he worked on screenplays and published his novellas: “No One Writes to the Colonel” (1961), and “In Evil Hour” (1962). In 1967 his masterpiece “One Hundred Years of Solitude” brought him instant fame and numerous international prizes. “Autumn of the Patriarch” followed in 1975. Still devoted to political and social causes, he sought political asylum in Mexico in 1981. In 1982 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1986) and “The General in His Labyrinth” (1990) followed. Returning to his journalism roots, he bought a Colombian news magazine and wrote a non-fiction work, “News of a Kidnapping,” on the Colombian narcotics trade in 1996. Since becoming ill with cancer, García Márquez has focused on writing a three-volume memoir.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold was also made, rather unsuccessfully, into a film. Skip the film, READ THE BOOK!

gMyEN

Late again! Sunday, April 13, 2014

My apologies again for this belated “Wh’appen in Jamaica” post! I can’t seem to catch up with myself.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: some concerns over his TV interview. (Photo: Gleaner)

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: some concerns over his TV interview. (Photo: Gleaner)

Really, Mr. Commissioner?  Several things worried me about Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington’s television interview with Dionne Jackson-Miller this past week. The program posed questions from Jamaican men and women on the street; good idea. Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington asserted, right at the end, “Jamaicans are not afraid of the police.” Really, Mr. Ellington? I so wish that were true. He also told us that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) began investigating allegations of extra-judicial killings in the Clarendon police division long before the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – but said that the division has been “stigmatized” because of INDECOM’s announcement – which he did not seem very happy with. If it was up to him, he seemed to suggest, he would rather have kept things quiet for a while longer?

As for his remark regarding Vybz Kartel’s “gang” being responsible for about 100 murders That puzzles and concerns me, since the appeal will be coming up soon. Can Commissioner Ellington substantiate this allegation? Was the JCF investigating these murders?

The boards: The Opposition’s Dr. Horace Chang has expressed concern that some chairpersons of government agencies are over-stepping their mark and acting like executive chairpersons, “which is in direct contravention of national policy, as stated in the Public Bodies Management Act.” Perhaps this explains recent upheavals in the Housing Association of Jamaica and National Housing Trust. We should keep an eye on this.

Energy World International's Managing Director and Chairman Stewart Elliot points to where the Liquefied Natural Gas storage tank will be located when the company begins construction of its electricity generating project soon. Elliot was on a tour of the Cane River area of East Rural St Andrew yesterday with a group that included (from left) Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damian Crawford and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell. Energy World was recently granted a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulation for the supply of additional generating capacity to the national grid. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Observer)

Energy World International’s Managing Director and Chairman Stewart Elliot points to where the Liquefied Natural Gas storage tank will be located when the company begins construction of its electricity generating project soon. Elliot was on a tour of the Cane River area of East Rural St Andrew yesterday with a group that included (from left) Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damian Crawford and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell. Energy World was recently granted a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulation for the supply of additional generating capacity to the national grid. (Photo: Joseph Wellington/Observer)

Powerful stuff: Well, the folks from Energy World International (EWI) have paid us a visit, buoyed by the news that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell will sign the license for them to supply 381 megawatts of power. EWI must provide a performance bond of US$37 million, among other things. It appears the Minister has not yet signed the license, however, and he is going to update us on this, he says. The Minister says he is “quite startled” by a Sunday Gleaner report that the government plans to disband the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) as soon as he has signed. The private sector must be relieved to hear this. The most important thing is that oversight is critical; we need the EMC to keep the focus on transparency. There has been precious little of that, so far.

JPS tweeted this graphic a few days ago - "The Real Cost of Energy."

JPS tweeted this graphic a few days ago – “The Real Cost of Energy.”

Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), our electricity suppliers, are meanwhile involved in a series of public consultations concerning their request for a 21 per cent (yes!) increase in rates – which are already four or five times electricity rates in the United States, for example. The first meeting this evening in Kingston was reportedly relatively civil, with the expected fireworks not happening. Perhaps we are all too depressed to even complain?

Yes, crime IS a major impediment to investment, says leading businessman Richard Byles. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s latest report shows that Jamaica has the sixth highest murder rate in the world (39.3 per 100,000). It’s interesting that eight out of the top ten countries for homicide rates are in Central/South America and the Caribbean.

Portia Simpson Miller

Portia Simpson Miller holds a boy’s face firmly in place before planting a kiss!

Agonizing over child abuse: Our Prime Minister once again spoke out against child abuse, pleading with Jamaicans not to abuse their children, during a speech about something else. I am sure her concern is genuine, but telling people “Don’t do it!” doesn’t really “cut it.” The PM repeated some of the more unpleasant examples that the Youth Minister regaled us with the other day, while demeaning the students at Alpha Boys’ School. She told family members to take their misbehaving children to a leader, pastor etc – “a person that can demand respect and doesn’t beg respect.” She lost me there.

Report it! The Office of the Children’s Registry and UNICEF recently published findings that only one in ten Jamaicans who are actually aware of child abuse actually report it. This is absolutely tragic and hard to accept. 82 per cent of children aged 10 – 17 years old that they interviewed said they had experienced or witnessed some kind of emotional or physical abuse. People, report it! You can go to the OCR’s website (www.ocr.gov.jm) and click on “Make a Report” and there are several confidential ways that you can do this. You will also find their latest report for January – June 2013 there.

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

Sunset in Port Royal. (My photo)

No longer so sleepy: The small town with a famous (notorious?) past – Port Royal – has been suffering from a crime wave, and blame is being placed on a growing squatter community. We always love driving out to Port Royal for fish. I hope the police can deal with it quickly – it has always been a peaceful place.

I spoke about social media activism a few days ago, with Dennis Brooks (a “tweep” and Liverpool Football Club fan – on a high at the moment) about using social media platforms to advocate for causes. I describe myself as a social media activist. If you want to hear Petchary chirping away with Dennis, the link is on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/nationwide-newsnet/timeline-social-media-activism

Noel Watt, principal of Dunrobin Primary School, along with students Kelsie Spaulding (left) and Kayla Spaulding, didn't get a drop of water from these pipes at the school yesterday. - (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Noel Watt, principal of Dunrobin Primary School, along with students Kelsie Spaulding (left) and Kayla Spaulding, didn’t get a drop of water from these pipes at the school yesterday. – (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)

Drying out: The water shortage is becoming so dire that some schools in Kingston closed this week because of the lack of what our local media like to call “the precious commodity,” rather quaintly. Jamaicans are finally starting to take the issue of water conservation seriously, and I suppose it’s never too late. Meanwhile, Kingston’s Mona and Hermitage reservoirs are 36 and 20  per cent full, respectively, and getting lower daily. Heavy water restrictions are being put in place.

Special, special thanks and kudos to:

Projects Abroad Jamaica Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett speaking about the Belle Haven Centre which is to be built in Central Manchester for children and women living with HIV/AIDS at a Rotaract Club meeting at the Northern Caribbean University last Wednesday. (PHOTO: PROJECTS ABROAD)

Projects Abroad Jamaica Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett speaking about the Belle Haven Centre which is to be built in Central Manchester for children and women living with HIV/AIDS at a Rotaract Club meeting at the Northern Caribbean University last Wednesday. (PHOTO: PROJECTS ABROAD)

  •  Projects Abroad Jamaica and the BrigIT Water Foundation in Australia, who are working to build a home for women and children living with HIV and AIDS in central Manchester. I heard of these plans some years ago, and am so glad the project is about to get off the ground after a long search for a suitable location for the Belle Haven Centre, as it will be called.
The boys at Alpha Boys' School enjoy the donated sports gear. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The boys at Alpha Boys’ School enjoy the donated sports gear. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

  •  Usain Bolt (so dear to our hearts), who donated sports gear to Alpha Boys’ School – just in time for their sports day on April 16. This is a much-needed morale-booster for the School, which has really suffered from negative press in the past week or so. Let’s support the boys and the School…
This photo is to prove that I did, in fact, meet Yohan Blake. And what a nice person he is.

This photo is to prove that I did, in fact, meet Yohan Blake. And what a nice person he is.

  • And fellow-sprinter Yohan Blake - whom I met recently and grabbed a photo-op with! – for his continued kindness and generosity through his YB Afraid Foundation, which he founded in 2011. He has brought amazing benefits to the Mount Olivet Home for boys – including a fully-equipped computer lab, improved educational and skills training facilities, wonderful sports facilities, and the list goes on. Mr. Blake (still only 24 years old) also reaches out personally to the boys, chatting with them on Facebook and regularly visiting the home. He is awesome.
Mount Olivet Boys' Home's beautiful computer lab. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mount Olivet Boys’ Home’s beautiful computer lab. (Photo: Gleaner)

In the kitchen at Mockingbird Hill Hotel with the children from School of Hope. (Photo: Facebook)

In the kitchen at Mockingbird Hill Hotel with the children from School of Hope. (Photo: Facebook)

  • Hotel Mockingbird Hill, in beautiful Portland, which has been reaching out to the children with special needs at the local School of Hope. The Hotel is seeking donations of toys, games and other suitable material for the children.

 

My condolences to the grieving families of the following Jamaicans, who were murdered in the past few days. Police Constable Davian Thompson shot his wife dead at their Kingston home; his body was found in a gully the following morning. The police believe he committed suicide.

Latoya Campbell-Thompson, 27, Constant Spring Road, Kingston

Dion Watt, Canaan Heights, Clarendon

Irvin Campbell, 17, Little London, Westmoreland

George Ricketts, Wentworth/Port Maria, St. Mary

Ricardo Barrington, 27, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James

Charles Bryan, 38, Montego Bay, St. James

Kirk Millington, 33, Montego Bay, St. James

Killed by police:

Kirk Rose, 37, Alexandria, St. Ann

“Junior,” downtown Kingston

And on the road: A 65-year-old gentleman who was riding his bicycle along the road in Trelawny was hit and killed by a truck, which did not stop. Why have there been so many hit-and-run accidents, and why so many crashes in western Jamaica recently?

A crowd watches from the bridge on Shortwood Road in Kingston as undertakers and police take Constable Davian Thompson’s body from the gully yesterday morning. Police believe the cop committed suicide after killing his wife Saturday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

A crowd watches from the bridge on Shortwood Road in Kingston as undertakers and police take Constable Davian Thompson’s body from the gully yesterday morning. Police believe the cop committed suicide after killing his wife Saturday night. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Mid-Week Mutterings: Wednesday, April 9, 2014

This week has been hot, with a strong, restless wind. The reservoirs are low, and we need a few days of rain to restore us.

Which reminds me: The Meteorological Service has a new website, http://www.jamaicaclimate.net. A lot of work has gone into it and I highly recommend it. It has the regular weather forecast – but much more, lots of maps of drought and rainfall patterns, predicted patterns and long-term forecasts.  The Met Service says it is designed for planners and farmers. It’s well done.

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna (right), makes a point while addressing a press briefing at the Ministry, in St. Andrew, where she provided an update on the latest reports on child abuse. Beside the Minister is Chief Executive Officer of the Child Development Agency Mrs. Rosalee Gage-Grey. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna (right), makes a point while addressing a press briefing at the Ministry, in St. Andrew, where she provided an update on the latest reports on child abuse. Beside the Minister is Chief Executive Officer of the Child Development Agency Mrs. Rosalee Gage-Grey. (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna gave a press conference yesterday, which set us all in a pickle. Minister Hanna informed us that the residential part of the famous Alpha Boys’ School, which educates young, abandoned and orphaned boys – would be shut down in June. This is extremely sad news; as I have noted previously, the school (which has been around for 135 years)  is famous for the great Jamaican musicians nurtured under its roof, through its Boys’ Band. But Minister Hanna did not stop at that announcement (which she made apparently on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, who run the school). She launched into a lurid account of the boys’ behavior – including “the sexual predatory nature of the boys on one another” - citing it as the reason for the closure. Of course, we all gasped in horror, and it made for dramatic media reports later that evening.

JN Foundation volunteers engaging boys at the Alpha Boys School.

JN Foundation volunteers engaging boys at the Alpha Boys School. (Photo: Gleaner)

Alpha has strongly denied that the boys’ misbehavior was the reason, calling it a “rumor.” I published their statement yesterday. Puzzlingly, local media houses (apart from the Gleaner) barely reported this denial. Did they not consider it important, or would they rather take the Minister’s statement at face value? There’s an interesting note in the “Jamaica Observer,” though: “A Jamaica Observer source indicated that the home was being granted less than a quarter of funds that was being given to Government-run orphanages despite repeated pleas by the nuns to be brought on par.” Could this be closer to the truth?

It’s not the first time that the Minister has regaled the Jamaican public with shocking details of child abuse and its consequent effect on children’s behavior. But, as Minister responsible for our youth, what action is being taken to deal with it? She vaguely mentioned some pending “initiatives” at the press briefing, but no details. If this really was going on at Alpha Boys’ School, is closing it down and moving the boys somewhere else truly a solution? How does this sensational speech reflect on the reputation of a revered and much-loved institution – and on the boys themselves and those who work with them?

The Health Minister has conceded that there is a shortage of prescription drugs at public health facilities. Why is that?

Josh Stanley and his brothers up to their ears in ganja on the TV show "American Weed." It's a family business, it seems. I think he's third left. (Photo: Critically Rated blog)

Josh Stanley and his brothers up to their ears in ganja on the TV show “American Weed.” It’s a family business, it seems. I think he’s third left. (Photo: Critically Rated blog)

Talking of drugs, a rather nice-looking fellow from Colorado has been in Jamaica, promoting the many economic benefits of legalizing ganja (marijuana). This is not the first time overseas lobbyists have visited, and one assumes they are eyeing some benefits for themselves, too. “What Jamaica stands to gain right now? Everything,” says Mr. Josh Stanley. Meanwhile, the government remains largely silent on the matter, although it seems likely that decriminalization for small amounts for personal use will happen at some point this year.

Dr. Winston De La Haye. (Photo: Gleaner)

Dr. Winston De La Haye. (Photo: Gleaner)

But psychiatrists disagree: Deputy Chair of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) and the Jamaica Medical Association representative on the board Dr. Winston De La Haye (who has many years’ experience in the field of treating drug addicts) disagrees with NCDA Chair Dr. Wendell Abel, who told the media the board had agreed to “consider looking at decriminalising for private personal use and also for religious purposes.” Not true, says Dr. De La Haye. They didn’t agree!

These men, some of the gunshot victims in the ongoing feud in West Kingston, yesterday join residents of the area to stage a protest, calling for an end to the ongoing violence. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

These men, some of the gunshot victims in the ongoing feud in West Kingston, yesterday join residents of the area to stage a protest, calling for an end to the ongoing violence. (Photo: Lionel Rookwood/Jamaica Observer)

“Persons of interest”: Nine, including a member of the Coke family, have turned themselves in to the police today, in connection with the recent gang troubles in West Kingston. Meanwhile, the beleaguered Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie struggles with credibility issues among his constituents. It’s sad, and miserable. I feel sorry for Steve McGregor too, the policeman in charge. He means well.

Earl Witter has resigned as Public Defender. His interim report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre was tabled in Parliament on May 1, 2013. (Photo: digGJamaica)

Earl Witter has resigned as Public Defender. His interim report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre was tabled in Parliament on May 1, 2013. (Photo: digGJamaica)

Public Defender Earl Witter – always a controversial and rather combative figure – has retired after over seven years in the position. He has handed all the files on the Tivoli Garden massacre of 2010 to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). Deputy Public Defender Matondo K. Mukulu is the interim Public Defender until the Governor General confirms a new appointment.

Will the DNA bill ever be passed? National Security Peter Bunting says not any time soon. A lot of training, infrastructure etc. would be necessary (of course). It seems he doesn’t have the time, patience or resources for it right now. So don’t expect it to go anywhere near Parliament this year, folks.

Remanded: Four policemen suspected of being part of an alleged “death squad” in the Jamaica Constabulary Force were remanded in custody yesterday.

Sprinter Sherone Simpson has been banned from competition for 18 months. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sprinter Sherone Simpson has been banned from competition for 18 months. (Photo: Getty Images)

On sports: Olympic sprinter Sherone Simpson is suspended for 18 months after testing positive for a banned stimulant called oxilofrine, during last year’s national trials in Jamaica. I understand she will appeal. Olympic discus thrower Allison Randall was banned for two years. Asafa Powell also tested positive and will hear about his fate tomorrow.

Edwin Allen High School's (from left) Christania Williams, Shawnette Lewin and Monique Spencer at the Penn Relays a year ago. (Photo: Gleaner)

Edwin Allen High School’s (from left) Christania Williams, Shawnette Lewin and Monique Spencer at the Penn Relays a year ago. (Photo: Gleaner)

I also agree with Sherine Williams and Renée Dillion, third-year journalism students, who wrote in the Gleaner this week that the amazing female athletes in the recent Boys’ and Girls’ Champs in Kingston did not receive as much attention from local media as the boys. I had noticed this apparent bias myself. Christania Williams ran the second fastest time ever in the 100 metros, for example. Perhaps there is also an “urban bias.” The winning girls’ teams are always “country” schools and the boys’ champions are high-profile “traditional” Kingston high schools.

In the ATM: A touching television report focused on a mentally disturbed man, who had locked himself into a bank ATM cubicle in May Pen. He was in there for an hour before firemen prised open the door. Those gathered outside expressed sympathy; they knew him. He had been a Math teacher at a local school, they said. But a Gleaner report flippantly noted the man was “putting on a show” for curious onlookers, and had to be “forcefully restrained” by the police - adding that something must be done about these people roaming the streets of May Pen. This is yet another example of insensitive reporting on mental health issues.

Professor Emeritus Norman Girvan. (Photo: Walter Rodney Foundation website)

A true “Caribbean man”: Professor Emeritus Norman Girvan passed away today. (Photo: Walter Rodney Foundation website)

Distinguished Jamaican academic Norman Girvan died today, aged 72. He had been very sick after a fall while hiking in Dominica. Professor Girvan was a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies’ Graduate Institute of International Relations in St. Augustine, Trinidad. He wrote and discussed a great deal on Caribbean integration, culture and development, globalization and Caribbean history. But he was also a very active academic; he got involved in helping to solve regional matters. If you would like to browse through some of his work, you can go to his website at http://www.normangirvan.info.

Jamaica jerk conch. (Photo: Stephen Charoo from his Recollections of a Foodie blog)

Jamaica jerk conch. (Photo: Stephen Charoo from his Recollections of a Foodie blog)

Recommended blog! This time, I have found a yummy one, from self-confessed Jamaican “foodie” Stephen Charoo. His latest post includes recipes for non-traditional jerk dishes. The link is stephencharooblogs.wordpress.com.

Congrats and “big ups” to:

Celebrating: Jean Lowrie-Chin (far right) and other founding members of ProComm. (Photo: Twitter)

Celebrating: Jean Lowrie-Chin (far right) and other founding members of ProComm. (Photo: Twitter)

  • ProComm - a great PR company celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Wishing you many more years of success!
Writer and filmmaker Esther Figueroa at the launch of Jamaica's first environmental novel, "Limbo" on Sunday. (Photo: Twitter)

Writer and filmmaker Esther Figueroa at the launch of Jamaica’s first environmental novel, “Limbo” on Sunday. (Photo: Twitter)

  • Two Jamaican authors: Locally-based filmmaker and environmental activist Esther Figueroa launched her first novel, “Limbo,” over the weekend. Stay tuned for my book review!
Jamaican writer Roger Williams. (Photo: Gleaner)

Jamaican writer Roger Williams. (Photo: Gleaner)

U.S.-based Jamaican writer Roger Williams published his first novel last year, but I am only just hearing about it. Interestingly, his novel “Turn Back Blow,” focuses on cruelty to animals and animal rights.

  • Columnist Grace Virtue really is one of my favorites, as you might already know. Her latest Jamaica Observer column is headlined “10 Things We should not be Confused About – Part 1.”  I like her comment: “Christianity and morality are not synonymous.” 
  • Mr. Keiran King has also written a very decent article in the Gleaner - heavily influenced by astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson and his current TV program “Cosmos” – he could have given Neil some credit, I think. But a good article on “Your God is too small.” Both he and Ms. Virtue thinking refreshingly outside the box on what makes people “tick.”

My sad condolences to the families and loved ones of these Jamaican citizens, who were murdered in the last two days:

Neil Brown, 37, Kitson Town, St. Catherine

Ronald Wallace, 32, Innswood Estate, St. Catherine

Cheaveast Hearst, Newlands/Portmore, St. Catherine

George Phillip Myers, Newlands/Portmore, St. Catherine 

Melbourne Smith, 60, Crawle/Riversdale, St. Catherine (mob killing)

Owen Cole (U.S. resident), Waterford, St. Catherine

On the road: Yet another young child – this time a six-year-old boy on his way home from school – was killed on the road. A sugarcane truck, loaded beyond the legal limit, ran over the little boy in Frome, Westmoreland. My condolences to his parents, who appeared dazed and distraught on the television news.

World Health Day 2014: About The Tiny Things That Kill More Than a Million

We have an implement called a “zapper” in our house. It is rather ugly, made of orange plastic and looks like a small tennis racket. But it does the trick.

It kills mosquitoes.

World Health Day 2014 info graphic.

World Health Day 2014 infographic.

This year’s World Health Day (which was today, April 7 –  or still is in our part of the world) focused on vector-borne diseases. Vectors are small creatures such as mosquitoes, sandflies and ticks. These tiny things are not just a nuisance. They affect more than a billion and kill at least a million people a year worldwide, putting more than half the world’s population at risk of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, river blindness and other terrible infectious diseases.

The Philippines Department of Health performs a "mosquito dance" to raise awareness of vector-borne diseases. (Jay Directo via AFP/Getty Images)

The Philippines Department of Health performs a “mosquito dance” to raise awareness of vector-borne diseases. (Jay Directo via AFP/Getty Images)

OK, so you might think this is a “developing world” problem that does not affect so-called First World countries? Not quite true. The West Nile Virus was carried by an airplane passenger from Africa and has caused many deaths in North America. The aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue fever virus, has spread almost worldwide. With increased air travel this is bound to happen. And I suspect that climate change might have something to do with it.

Let’s talk about dengue fever, which is familiar to Jamaicans. I have vivid personal memories of it, about fifteen years ago. There was an outbreak in Portland, eastern Jamaica, where we had been holidaying. It takes a week or two to catch up with you. I had pain behind the eyes, headache, and terrible sharp pains in my limbs. In Jamaica dengue is known as “break bone fever,” and with good reason. Then there is the high fever (mine was so high that I was hallucinating at times). This lasted for about two weeks, following which I was exhausted and depressed for another few weeks. It takes a while to come out of your system. Dengue fever is no joke.

There is no cure for dengue fever – not even any special medication you can take. You just have to wait for it to go away, and you must not take painkillers with aspirin in them as this can cause internal bleeding. There is a severe form of haemorrhagic dengue fever, which can kill you, especially if you are a child or an elderly person. Now, dengue fever has spread dramatically over the last few decades; according to the World Health Organization, 40 per cent of the world’s population is at risk. In 2013, 2.35 million cases of dengue were reported in the Americas, of which 37,687 cases were severe dengue.

An aedes aegypti mosquito.

An aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue fever and also the chikungunya fever which has now arrived in the Caribbean.

A new mosquito-borne disease has appeared in the Caribbean recently. It is called chikungunya fever, and it seems to have started in St. Martin. Today, Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson noted that it is now present in ten Caribbean nations. It is spread by the same mosquito as dengue fever, and the symptoms sound similar. Again, there is no cure and no vaccination against it.

What on earth can we do about all of this? While scientists try to find vaccines for this and other vector-borne diseases, we can take measures to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Apart from spraying chemicals around (and can we please keep this to an absolute minimum?) we know we should not have garbage lying around. We should avoid having even the smallest breeding spot where there is standing water in and around our yards. Sleep under mosquito nets. I always close the windows and doors for a while in early mornings and at dusk, when the mosquitoes are most active. You might consider window screens. And do invest in that zapper!

Here's what Carron Hall resident Isilda Leanor, 72, wants to see for World Health Day in Jamaica! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

Here’s what Carron Hall resident Isilda Leanor, 72, wants to see for World Health Day in Jamaica! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

P.S. Here in Jamaica, HelpAge International Jamaica has participated in a campaign spanning forty countries called Age Demands Action on health. Specifically, HelpAge in Jamaica is calling for an end to discrimination against seniors in the healthcare system. This should be a year-round campaign, I think. Do support it.

The Antillean Nighthawk loves to feed on mosquitoes.

The Antillean Nighthawk loves to feed on mosquitoes.

And one more thing: Did you know that many Caribbean birds actually eat mosquitoes and other flying pests? The Antillean Night Hawk – that bird with the rattling cry that begins to dart around at dusk – and all the swifts and swallows. Migratory birds such as our winter visitor warblers, and even hummingbirds will eat mosquitoes. Yes, birds are very useful creatures.

ADA leaders in El Salvador join the campaign by calling on their authorities for better access to healthcare! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

ADA leaders in El Salvador join the campaign by calling on their authorities for better access to healthcare! (Photo: HelpAge International Jamaica Facebook page)

World Health Day 2014 in Timor-Leste (East Timor) in southeast Asia - a region especially badly affected by vector-borne diseases. (Photo: Twitter)

World Health Day 2014 in Timor-Leste (East Timor) in southeast Asia – a region especially badly affected by vector-borne diseases. (Photo: Twitter)

Birds Do So Much For Us: A Special Webinar for the Caribbean

The Caribbean Endemic Birds Festival and BirdsCaribbean invite you to a Webinar on “Why Birds Matter” on Monday, April 7, 2014 from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. EDT (that is 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Jamaican time).

Scott Johnson (in yellow, left) talks to a group of Grenadian Boy Scouts at last year's

Scott Johnson (in yellow, left) talks to a group of Grenadian Boy Scouts, who volunteered at last year’s 19th Regional Meeting of the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds (now renamed BirdsCaribbean) at St. George’s University, Grenada in July, 2012. Also sitting in is Lester Doodnath, a member of BirdsCaribbean’s Media Working Group from Trinidad and Tobago. (My photo)

Scott Johnson, Education Officer at the Bahamas National Trust and Chairperson of BirdsCaribbean’s Media Working Group will be speaking on the topic “Ten Reasons Why Caribbean Birds Matter” - the theme of the 2014 Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival - which is celebrated throughout the region from April 24 to May 24, 2014.

Although often unknown or unnoticed, birds play many indispensable roles that enrich the ecosystems and economies of the Caribbean. They act as garbage men, gardeners, fish-finders and tourist attractions. The Caribbean as we know it couldn’t exist without them. Best of all, they do all this work for free!

But for all the good things birds have given us, what have we given back to them? Please join us to learn about these amazing creatures and find the answer to this timely question.

To register for the webinar, copy and paste this link into your browser: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2076749123836784130

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BirdsCaribbean - formerly the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) - is a non-profit organization, a vibrant network of members and partners committed to conserving the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats. Its mission is to conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats through conservation, education, capacity building and research. Its overarching goal is to increase the capacity of Caribbean ornithologists, resource managers, conservation organizations, institutions, and local citizens to conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats. More than 80,000 local people participate in our programs each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region.

BirdsCaribbean works by building networks and partnerships with local, national and international organizations and institutions that share our bird conservation goals to develop regional projects, activities, and materials that facilitate local research, management, conservation, education and outreach. We have partners and members on every island. Some of our international partners and supporters include US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Royal Society for the Protection of Caribbean Birds, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Wetlands International, and BirdLife International.

BirdsCaribbean’s programs are implemented through working groups, which are informal networks of experts and enthusiasts. Some of the most active groups include West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands, Media, Seabirds, Invasives, Bird Monitoring, Caribbean Wildlife Art, Parrot, Bicknell’s Thrush, Diablotin (Black-capped Petrel), and others.

BirdsCaribbean works throughout the insular Caribbean, including Bermuda, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and all islands in the Caribbean basin.

For more on BirdsCaribbean, visit the Birds Caribbean Facebook page, follow on Twitter @BirdsCaribbean or visit the website: http://www.scscb.org

Support our birds! They support us!

Why Birds Matter

Why Birds Matter

Tyrone Wilson: “No ‘BS’”

Tyrone R. Wilson is a serious young man. It’s hard to coax a smile out of him. As he sits down across the table from me in his office at the University of Technology’s  (UTech) Technology Innovation Centre, his gaze is alert and intelligent.

Tyrone Wilson.

Tyrone R. Wilson. (My photo)

“People call me a tech entrepreneur,” Tyrone tells me. “But I am a new media entrepreneur.” As Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive, Tyrone believes, first and foremost, in a good story - “And good stories travel faster than bad ones,” he observed. The technology is the vehicle for his digital e-zines and his online television station, iVutv – all producing original, local, excellent quality content. eMedia Interactive thrives on creativity and innovation, and aims to become a digital media leader in several geographical markets. Last year, eMedia Interactive offered branded eZines to the North American market, a part of Tyrone’s expansion plan.

Tyrone has his own inspiring story, too. He attended Jamaica College (a Kingston high school), he told me. Then, as a University of the West Indies student (he has a degree in Banking and Finance) he made up his mind that he had to sell his own story, his vision for a business. “I believe in pitching,” he said. “I am always pitching – daily!”  

Tyrone Wilson (centre) shows off some of the latest technologies to Sagicor Life president Richard Byles (right) and PanCaribbean CEO Donovan Perkins. Pan Caribbean invested US$350,000 into Wilson’s business. (Photo: Jamaica Observer, MARCH 2012)

Tyrone R. Wilson (centre) shows off some of the latest technologies to Sagicor Life president Richard Byles (right) and PanCaribbean CEO Donovan Perkins. Pan Caribbean invested US$350,000 into Wilson’s business. (Photo: Jamaica Observer, MARCH 2012)

How did Tyrone R. Wilson end up as CEO of his own company, at the age of 22? It all started when Tyrone’s mother bought him a ticket to a corporate dinner for Jamaica College alumni. He took advantage of the opportunity. He knew no one in corporate Jamaica; but he did know what he wanted to achieve, and he was passionate about it. He learned to be patient. He learned how to network; he was persistent in getting appointments to meet with people he thought could advise and hopefully support him in fulfilling his vision. He made a direct approach to businessman Richard Byles to be the Chairman of the board. Byles agreed. He was “sold” on the vision:“When you look at the creativity and talent we have here in Jamaica… I was moved by Tyrone’s confidence in himself and his understanding of the business.” Williams, then Managing Director of NCB Capital Markets and now President and CEO of Proven Investments, and NCB’s Sheree Martin also gave invaluable mentorship and formed the firm’s advisory board.

The Technology Innovation Centre is a special unit of the School of Entrepreneurship, College of Business and Management at Kingston's University of Technology (UTech). (My photo)

The Technology Innovation Centre is a special unit of the School of Entrepreneurship, College of Business and Management at Kingston’s University of Technology (UTech). (My photo)

eMedia came into being in June, 2008 at the Technology Innovation Centre, which provides support for small businesses through its Business Incubator. Tyrone is grateful to the Centre’s Dionne Palmer, who provided strong support in the firm’s establishment. Initially eZines Limited, it produced a digital magazine Your Money. It was a challenging time for a start-up; the economic downturn overseas affected Jamaica adversely and resulted in a downsizing of the company. But eMedia went on to produce three more eZines and has built a readership of over 32,000.

Then in April 2012, eMedia took another leap, launching Jamaica’s first online television network, iVutv, after raising US$350,000 in a private placement managed by PanCaribbean Merchant Bank and Sagicor Investments. The company is in the final stages of building out mobile applications for their smartphone and tablet platforms in addition to their websites, giving users a more interactive reading and viewing experience and their advertisers more value for their money.

Danny Williams is a former government minister and successful businessman. He is still active in public life, having recently taken over as Chairman of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). (Photo: Gleaner)

Danny Williams is a former government minister and successful businessman. He is still active in public life, having recently taken over as Chairman of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). (Photo: Gleaner)

Tyrone Wilson motivates young tech entrepreneurs at the recent Digital Jam 3.0 (Caribbean Edition) at the World Bank offices in Kingston. (My photo)

Tyrone Wilson motivates young tech entrepreneurs at the recent Digital Jam 3.0 (Caribbean Edition) at the World Bank offices in Kingston. (My photo)

I asked Tyrone about his early inspirations. He says the germ of his idea sprang from a TED talk. He also admired Steve Jobs’ over-arching vision: “Apple wanted to change the world.”  Here in Jamaica, he was inspired by the leadership and determination of the former CEO of Life of Jamaica (now Sagicor) Danny Williams, who is a huge role model for him: “He is a good Jamaican.” A Jamaica College alumnus like Tyrone, Williams’ parents struggled to send him to school; he sold cigarettes to supplement his income.

By the way, eMedia’s revenues grew by 65 per cent last year; good going in this challenging economic landscape. So what is the key to success? It’s important, Tyrone told me, to build a group of supporters around you. As eMedia grew, this is what he did. Whether it’s your parents, your peers, potential team members, board members – don’t be afraid, he said, to garner their expertise. Tap into “those with the knowledge.” Many young entrepreneurs feel they can go it alone. But that is really hard. It’s really hard, anyway. As Tyrone has found, the entrepreneurship road is full of dips and curves.

Tyrone’s advice to budding entrepreneurs: “Become a student of entrepreneurship, eager to learn.” And, even more importantly: “Be more humble…Arrogance will get you nowhere in business. Be honest.”

With half a smile he adds, “No BS.”

Tyrone Wilson, Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive.

Smiling: Tyrone Wilson, Founder and CEO of eMedia Interactive.

 

Top 10 Sexist and Heterosexist Moments in Caribbean Politics

petchary:

I sometimes wonder if we are going backwards in terms of minority rights and gender equality in the Caribbean. Or rather, in terms of attitudes. This blog post, giving examples of the most appalling behavior by some of our leaders, who should be setting an example, sent me reeling. Take a deep breath before reading…

Originally posted on Feminist conversations on Caribbean life:

Contribute to the final list of top 10 sexist & heterosexist moments in Caribbean politics by leaving your suggestions in the comments below.  Here are what i’ve been able to come up with in no particular order. Thanks to all who sent suggestions via facebook and twitter.

1. Trinidad & Tobago: Minister of People and Social Development claims “severe fatigue” after a flight attendant alleges that he touched her breasts when he grabbed her name-tag and threatened to have her fired because she asked him to stow his luggage correctly.  The Prime Minister then fired him.  Before the dust could settle on this one, police were investigating reports that the Minister of tourism had physically assaulted his former partner, causing her to lose consciousness.

2. Barbados: Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development “issued a warning” the staff of the Bureau of Gender Affairs after…

View original 1,181 more words

Earth Hour in Jamaica and the Caribbean

It was a warm night in Kingston, Jamaica. Down at the National Stadium, the annual high school athletics championships were drawing to an end, in a resounding climax of noise, vuvuzelas ringing (yes, we still have vuvuzelas in Jamaica, a throwback from the last football World Cup). For the sports fans and supporters of their respective schools (including those watching the live broadcast at home), there was no way that they were going to shut down for an hour.

Earth Hour at home in Kingston. Backdrop: Neighbors' loud party music!

Earth Hour at home in Kingston. Backdrop: Neighbors’ loud party music!

This was a pity, because from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time (everywhere, globally) millions celebrated Earth Hour by simply switching off. This was an easy thing for the two of us to do at home, since we had no interest in “Champs” anyway. We turned out all our lights and appliances at 8:30 p.m., lit candles and our oil lamp, and sat quietly in the dark, sipping wine and chatting. However, even then our reflective mood was completely spoiled by a close neighbor, who was having a party. Now, Jamaican parties are loud. They are non-negotiable. The music takes over. So we endured a great deal of distorted hip hop and dancehall music from our neighbor’s loudspeakers – before, during and after Earth Hour.

This tweet was sent with a photo of the acoustic concert: "Lanterns making their way to the sky in recognition of #EarthHourJA while #Nature brings "world peace" #greatmoment "

This tweet was sent with a photo of the acoustic concert: Lanterns making their way to the sky in recognition of #EarthHourJA while #Nature brings “world peace” #greatmoment 

Representatives of the telecoms firm Flow, together with Rootz Underground singer Stephen Newland (hidden, in the middle) release a lantern at the end of the Earth Hour acoustic concert in Kingston.

Representatives of the telecoms firm Flow, together with Rootz Underground singer Stephen Newland (hidden, in the middle) release a lantern at the end of the Earth Hour acoustic concert in Kingston.

This, too, was unfortunate – especially since our neighbors rarely indulge in parties these days, but chose this particular night to do so. Not too far away, though, a special Earth Hour acoustic concert was taking place at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. The concert was free and open to the public; several local firms were sponsors, with some of them holding special Twitter events and photo competitions. It was really good to see the private sector on board; and to read the many comments from appreciative participants.  Lanterns were released into the night sky. There were glow sticks and bangles, and sparklers (what Jamaicans call “starlights”). There were “good vibes.”

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, other countries held their own celebrations – small, private or public, it mattered not. The important thing was to recognize and honor our Planet. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got.

Please see below some more photos of Earth Hour in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean… I don’t have live photos of all the events, however, although I gleaned as many as possible from Facebook pages.

Earth Hour Barbados.

Earth Hour Barbados.

Earth Hour 2015 in the Caribbean will be even bigger and better!

Earth Hour 2015 in the Caribbean will be even bigger and better!

Earth Hour at the University of Belize.

Earth Hour at the University of Belize.

Earth Hour Curacao.

Earth Hour Curacao.

 

Hora Del Planeta in Dominican Republic.

Hora Del Planeta in Dominican Republic.

Students from Bishop Anstey Trinity College East Sixth Form celebrating Earth Hour in Trinidad and Tobago.

Students from Bishop Anstey Trinity College East Sixth Form celebrating Earth Hour in Trinidad and Tobago.

Spiderman was out in support at the Trinidad Hilton.

Spiderman was out in support at the Trinidad Hilton.

Earth Strong TT and Trinidad Carnival Diary prepared solar-powered lanterns for Earth Hour.

Earth Strong TT and Trinidad Carnival Diary prepared solar-powered lanterns for Earth Hour.

Members of the Aruba Community Group get to work on some beautiful art for Earth Hour.

Members of the Aruba Community Group get to work on some beautiful art for Earth Hour.

Earth Hour at Fort Zoutman, Aruba. (Photo: Facebook)

Earth Hour at Fort Zoutman, Aruba. (Photo: Facebook)

The concert glowed...

The concert in Kingston just glowed…

Sparklers!

Sparklers! In Kingston

Flow's staff joined an Earth Hour promotion on Facebook.

Flow’s staff joined an Earth Hour promotion on Facebook.

Jamaica Yellow Pages' Earth Hour flyer.

Jamaica Yellow Pages’ Earth Hour flyer.

Are You Ready for Earth Hour?

Tomorrow – Saturday, March 29, 2014 – lights will go out across the globe from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., local time. It’s just over 17 hours away in New Zealand.

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour 2014.

Earth Hour is about much more than “lights out.” It is a global movement that aims to create an inter-connected global community that will create opportunities to create a sustainable world (and face the challenges, too!) This year Spiderman has just zoomed in as Special Ambassador for Earth Hour.

How did Earth Hour get started? It started with one city – the beautiful city of Sydney. Then Communications Director with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia Andy Ridley convened a think tank in 2004 to discuss one simple action that would turn the spotlight on climate change. On March 31, 2007, over two million households and 2,000 businesses in Sydney turned their lights out for the inaugural Earth Hour. Since then, Earth Hour has steadily gathered momentum. It has garnered the backing of tens of thousands of businesses, including Google, Blackberry, HSBC, IKEA, Nickelodeon, PwC and many other multinationals. Earth Hour has also attracted support from governments at all levels and high profile global ambassadors including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If you look at the Earth Hour website you will see how many countries are involved this year (roughly 150!). Earth Hour Global is now headquartered in Singapore. The movement also serves as a platform for a number of climate change-related projects globally, some of them crowd-funded.

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean...

Check in with F1rst during Earth Hour in the Caribbean…

Several Caribbean countries are getting involved in Earth Hour. And the plan is to make this a regional, coordinated effort in coming years. Under the theme “Earth Hour Blue,” Caribbean people, organizations and businesses across the region will be raising awareness of our changing climate. We are small islands, but we can do something to keep the balance. The focus will be on living sustainably, acting responsibly and eating locally.

In Jamaica there will be a free acoustic concert at the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m., featuring Rootz Underground and many other local performers. A number of local businesses, including telecoms firm Columbus Communications (Flow) have come on board. “Our partnership for the Earth Hour concert enables us to demonstrate our commitment to action on climate change via initiatives to minimize our negative impact on the environment,” says Flow’s Corporate Communications Director Gail Abrahams.

Stephen Newland with teachers at the Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

Stephen Newland with teachers at the Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

A word on Rootz Underground: Earth Hour Caribbean movement has selected the band’s frontman Stephen Newland as “one of the Caribbean’s Earth Superheroes.” Earth Caribbean notes on its Facebook page:  “As lead singer of the popular reggae band Rootz Underground Stephen and his band mates have always made an effort to promote an interest in agriculture amongst the younger generation through their music. In October 2012 he launched the Lasco Releaf Environmental Awareness Program (R.E.A.P.) which is a recycling, conservation and tree planting initiative in primary schools. R.E.A.P aims to get primary-level school children more actively involved in the environment around them. One practical way to combat climate change is to plant more trees in order to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere. Younger trees absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing. Tree planting initiatives are therefore always welcomed in the fight against climate change. For his efforts to make young people more aware of their environment and using tree planting as a preventative measure against Climate Change we salute Stephen Newland, our Caribbean Earth Superhero!”  

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

Earth Hour Acoustic Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.

What can we do on an individual basis? Before, during and after Earth Hour 2014, let’s find out more about what we can do for our blue planet. Join an environmental action organization in your neighborhood (or start one). Support causes that can help our environment live and breathe – after all, we are the environment! Get some “green” practices going at home, in your workplace and in your community.

Use Your Power to…

raise consciousness

connect with your customers

find new partnerships

support each other

and simply celebrate our beautiful, blue Earth!

You Have the Power: At the very least, turn your lights out for an hour tomorrow night. It’s a time for reflection.

For more information on Earth Hour 2014, go to: www.earthhour.org., “Like” Earth Hour and Earth Hour Caribbean on Facebook and follow on Twitter @earthhour and @EarthHourCARIB.

From Blue to Green…

A gentle reminder to join the inaugural Portland Bight Green Run on Sunday, April 27. It starts at 7:00 a.m. sharp at Vere Technical High School in Clarendon and ends in Pawsey Park, Lionel Town. The run is in support of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation’s (C-CAM) work in the Portland Bight Protected Area – which, despite the threat of a port to be built in the Goat Islands area, is celebrating 15 years as Jamaica’s largest Protected Area. To register and obtain more information, call: 289-8253 or email: ccamfngo@gmail.com. Also you can find C-CAM on Facebook!

Do join and support the inaugural "Green Run" in aid of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation's great work in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

Do join and support the inaugural “Green Run” in aid of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation’s great work in the Portland Bight Protected Area.