#SaynotocoalJA and Other Stories: Environment and Climate Change News, Sunday July 31, 2016

Here’s my weekly news roundup, at home and abroad. I hope you find something of interest here… Please click on the links, some of which are embedded, for more information!

Jamaica and the Caribbean (starting with the bad news, but it gets better):

The Alpart plant in Nain was sold by former owners Rusal to the Chinese firm JISCo in February. Rusal shut down the plant in 2009 but reopened it last year.
The Alpart plant in Nain was sold by former owners Rusal to the Chinese firm JISCo in February. Rusal shut down the plant in 2009 but reopened it last year. Isn’t bauxite, like coal, a dying industry?

#SaynotocoalJA is the hashtag for the online campaign to protest the possible construction of a coal-powered plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth, as part of a US$2 billion “industrial zone” that will provide 3,000 local jobs over five years. It appears that China is trying to export its surplus coal supplies and its pollution overseas, by building power plants in developing countries that, like us in Jamaica, are desperate for jobs (see the article below re: Kenya). Ministers Mike Henry and Andrew Wheatley (of Mining and Energy, respectively) recently returned from China with the glad tidings that a Chinese company – Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCo) – has bought the Alpart bauxite plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth. They were accompanied by a representative of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). In his usual long-winded way, Minister Henry added that the development will benefit the surrounding rural community, as JISCo will assist farmers with their water problems. How exactly? Coal-powered plants gobble up water. Where is it to come from? We are not getting much detail; and does this surprise us, considering the way that Chinese state-owned companies seem to deal with our government? Transparency has not been the hallmark of such agreements.

This brilliantly colored scorpionfish was found at a depth of nearly 500 feet near Curacao. It was namedScorpaenodes barrybrowni in honor of Substation Curaçao and freelance photographer Barry Brown. (Photo: Barry Brown).
This brilliantly colored scorpionfish was found at a depth of nearly 500 feet near Curacao. It was namedScorpaenodes barrybrowni in honor of Substation Curaçao and freelance photographer Barry Brown. (Photo: Barry Brown).

New species of scorpionfish discovered in the Caribbean: The Stellate Scorpionfish is a new species found recently during an expedition by a manned submersible, Curasub, operated by Smithsonian Institution’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). It’s the deepest living fish of its genus. “Stay tuned for more new discoveries,” says DROP’s lead scientist Carole C. Baldwin. “We have only scratched the surface of our understanding of the biodiversity of tropical deep reefs.”

An Environmental Impact Assessment Licensing regime is on the way, according to Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz. He was speaking at a Caribbean Regional Policy Dialogue on Environmental Licensing and Compliance conference in Kingston on July 27, which was hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz (standing, left) and General Manager, Country Department, Caribbean Group, Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner Jones (standing, right), observe as (from left) Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell; Managing Director, Development Bank of Jamaica, Milverton Reynolds; General Manager, JN Small Business Loans, Gillian Hyde; and Programme Manager, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Allison Rangolan McFarlane sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism Project at Jamaica House, in St. Andrew, on July 28. Under the initiative, US$7.2 million will be made available to micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism and agricultural sectors to finance climate-change adaptation initiatives islandwide.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz (standing, left) and General Manager, Country Department, Caribbean Group, Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner Jones (standing, right), observe as (from left) Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell; Managing Director, Development Bank of Jamaica, Milverton Reynolds; General Manager, JN Small Business Loans, Gillian Hyde; and Programme Manager, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Allison Rangolan McFarlane sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism Project on July 28. (Photo: JIS)

A five-year Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism Project, a component of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience in Jamaica, has made available US$7.2 million in grants and loans for micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism and agricultural sectors, to boost climate change resilience among these entities across the island. This is with funding from the IDB.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Denzil Thorpe (right), with  Japan's Ambassador to Jamaica Masanori Nakano (centre), and the National Solid Waste Management Authority's Chairman, Dennis Chung, during the July 29 launch of the NSWMA's 'Waste Reduction through Waste Separation, Waste Diversion and Recycling' Pilot Project. (Photo: JIS)
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Denzil Thorpe (right), with Japan’s Ambassador to Jamaica Masanori Nakano (centre), and the National Solid Waste Management Authority’s Chairman, Dennis Chung, during the July 29 launch of the NSWMA’s ‘Waste Reduction through Waste Separation, Waste Diversion and Recycling’ Pilot Project. (Photo: JIS)

And another great project: The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) will undertake a $7.5-million plastic bottle recycling project in three communities, beginning in August. The Japanese Government, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has provided $6.5 million towards the six-month pilot project, which will involve 2,000 households. I hope it will become more than a pilot project, as such a concentrated effort is badly needed.

Rest of the world:

In this July 1, 2016 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a pilot whales swim off the coast of Hawaii. Researchers returning from a 30-day expedition to study whales and dolphins around the Hawaiian islands are looking for clues to help sustain healthy populations of the marine mammals. NOAA scientists told reporters Thursday, July 28, 2016 that gathering data on the animals is often difficult, especially around the windward coasts of the Hawaiian Islands. NOAA via AP
In this July 1, 2016 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, pilot whales swim off the coast of Hawaii. Researchers returning from a 30-day expedition to study whales and dolphins around the Hawaiian islands are looking for clues to help sustain healthy populations of the marine mammals. Gathering data on the animals is often difficult, especially around the windward coasts of the Hawaiian Islands. 

Drones and whales: Scientists are now tracking the movement of pods of dolphins and whales around Hawaii. Drones do not disturb the animals and you can find amazing video footage and photographs of these magnificent creatures as they make their way across the ocean. Read more: http://norcal.news/news/22006-ecologists-use-drones-create-accurate-lists-whale-dolphin-pods-near-hawaii Here’s some beautiful footage.

Novelist Annie Proulx. (Photo:Marc McAndrews/Getty Images)
Novelist Annie Proulx. (Photo:Marc McAndrews/Getty Images)

“Barkskins:” An Environmental Epic: Annie Proulx is probably my very favorite novelist. She has a sensitivity to the land that I find remarkable; and if I could write even one-tenth as well as her I would be very happy. She has written a 700-page plus novel, Barkskins, a historical family saga that centers around the destruction of forests by humans, “with each generation reflecting the further depredations of man against nature,” as this review notes. Sounds like heavy going, but it also sounds brilliant!

A worker loads coal onto a truck at the Sanyuan mine in China. The Lamu coal plant is meant to open Kenya’s northern frontier as well as increase Kenya’s power generation capacity. 1,400 Chinese will be imported to build the plant. (Photo: Business Daily/Kenya)
A worker loads coal onto a truck at the Sanyuan mine in China. The Lamu coal plant is meant to open Kenya’s northern frontier as well as increase Kenya’s power generation capacity. 1,400 Chinese will be imported to build the plant. (Photo: Business Daily/Kenya)

Now Kenya is to get its very first coal-powered plant, courtesy of the Chinese (who else?) This article notes: “East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant…has been criticized as backwards, unnecessary, and harmful to the health of the country’s people and environment. Now, the $2 billion project… is also being accused of taking jobs away from local Kenyans..Power Construction Corporation, or Power China, has been contracted by Amu Power to build the Lamu coal plant.” This article is very relevant to Jamaica, and should be read carefully.

Georgia Locock is a 15 year-old Wildlife Blogger. Naturalist, Photographer and Filmmaker with A Focus on Nature, a British organization for 16 to 30 year-olds with an interest in conservation. (Photo: www.afocusonnature.org)
Georgia Locock is a 15 year-old Wildlife Blogger, Naturalist, Photographer and Filmmaker with A Focus on Nature, a British organization for 16 to 30 year-olds with an interest in conservation. (Photo: http://www.afocusonnature.org)

British youth prioritize environment: Two-thirds of 16- to 34-year-olds consider environmental and wildlife policies a top voting priority, according to a recent survey by CensusWide. This follows a recent report by the youth environmental group A Focus on Nature  called Vision for Nature: Young People’s Vision for the Natural World in 2050. 

It may not be self-evident to all, but it is to me: Our mental health is linked to the health of our environment. This article from The National newspaper of the United Arab Emirates points out: “Psychological well-being has a reciprocal relationship with the health and integrity of the natural environment. If our environment hurts, ultimately we hurt.” It’s not a long read, but serious food for thought.


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