Here’s the latest selection from me. I have included links to click on! Enjoy… although I am afraid there may be more “bad news” than good, this week!
Jamaica and the Caribbean
Another possible threat to the Old Fort Bay area: As noted in my earlier post, property owners in Old Fort Bay, who have been strongly protesting environmental damage caused by the construction of the North-South Highway (an issue which has been by no means resolved, with damage already done!) are now becoming concerned about the construction of a large hotel by the Chinese in the Top Fort area on the north coast (St. Ann). 1,200 acres were promised to China Harbour Engineering Company (owned by the Chinese Government) as part of the highway deal, so essentially this piece of Jamaica now belongs to China. However, it will still require the necessary environmental permits. The Old Fort residents have written to the Urban Development Corporation and National Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA). It is not clear what approvals have been given, so far. What is the situation please, Jamaican Government? Has ground already been broken for this major development?
Chinese building huge development on St. Maarten: Now the tiny island (well, half an island) of St. Maarten is to have a 326-room hotel with a showroom and 450 executive apartments on its Belair beachfront. Plans for the “Pearl of China” project have already been approved by Government and the ground-breaking for the project is slated for September 17. It should take some two years to complete. The St. Maarten Government says it has “struck the jackpot,” expecting a million Chinese tourists per year. Is a similar enclave planned for Top Fort/Old Fort?
Grenadines Seabird Team formed: A group of citizen scientists in the Transboundary Grenadines, led by BirdsCaribbean’s Will Mackin, has formed a volunteer patrol group to monitor seabird populations in the beautiful Grenadines. With the support of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and the NGO Sustainable Grenadines the group held a workshop on Union Island this summer for citizen scientists, including fishermen and tourism operators, from throughout the Grenadines, who learned how to identify seabirds, collect data, and report their survey observations.
State of the Marine Environment Report out soon: The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) met with experts in August to finalize a State of the Marine Environment Report for the Caribbean. More than 80 per cent of the pollution of the Caribbean Sea comes from activities on land – including deforestation, runoff from agricultural chemicals and farm waste, industrial and toxic waste, oil spills and siltation, littering and animal waste.
Success with coral reef nurseries: The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Centre for the Marine Sciences says it has had some success with coral nurseries in Portland and St. Ann, where it has been testing five types of coral for the past two years. These were slower-growing palm and brain-like coral types as opposed to the faster-growing finger-like types (there is a wide diversity of coral species). This project, and a similar one in Belize, is financed by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of US$665,000. Once the project is over, UWI wants to move on to successful spawning and fertilization of the corals.
The Rest of the World
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress 2016 opened in Honolulu, Hawai’i on September 1 and continues until September 10. The theme is Planet at the Crossroads. I was blown away by some wonderful tweets from the conference – in particular, some incredible simulations of the state of our planet from NASA. Here’s a brief overview from the Caribbean Climate Change blog. There is much more on the website, including updates on ocean warming, described as a “global warning” on climate change.
There was a major focus on wildlife crime (trafficking in wild animals and their parts) and the depressing news that four out of six great ape species are now Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. These include the Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan. The Chimpanzee and Bonobo are listed as Endangered. Other threats to our biodiversity, according to the IUCN update: Thirty eight of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed are now listed as Extinct and many others are threatened by invasive species; and three species of African antelope, as well as the Plains Zebra, are now Near Threatened, mainly due to illegal hunting and habitat loss. On a happier note, the Giant Panda and Tibetan Antelope (plus a few other less glamorous species) have been “upgraded” due to effective conservation efforts.
Strange wind event: This is a bit technical, and scientists don’t yet understand why, but there has been a strange wind event in Earth’s stratosphere that has never happened before – a disruption in the regular wind patterns in the tropical stratosphere throughout the first half of this year. NASA scientists think this could be due to the particularly strong 2015-2016 El Niño weather pattern, or the long-term rise in global temperatures.
Artificial islands in the South China Sea have created environmental havoc, it is reported. Apart from the total destruction of thirty square miles of coral reefs, Chinese fishermen have dug up the reefs to get at giant clams, a vulnerable species. After the fishermen finished their depredations, artificial islands were built on the now-dead or dying reefs, including military outposts and landing strips. A Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejected China’s claim of sovereignty in the area and ruled that it had caused extensive environmental damage. China rejected the ruling as “nothing but a scrap of paper.”
A “Planet B”? Scientists recently described a planet, Proxima B that is “potentially habitable.” It is orbiting Proxima Centauri, a “red dwarf” star that is nearest to our solar system. It apparently has properties similar to our own Planet Earth. With current technology though, it would take a few decades to travel there.
Ultimately though, and please be reminded…