Environmental Toxins in Jamaica, Destructive Floods, Hurricanes and Birds: More Environmental Stories, December 13, 2016


Here are some more stories on the environment and climate change, which I hope you will find interesting. Please click on the links for further information, and please share the articles, which I have selected carefully for your interest.

Jamaica and the Caribbean:

Dr. Aisha S. Dickerson of Harvard University speaking at the University of the West Indies Medical Sciences Building in Mona on December 13. (My photo)
Dr. Aisha S. Dickerson of Harvard University speaking at the University of the West Indies Medical Sciences Building in Mona on December 13. (My photo)

Environmental Toxins Related to Cancer: In a presentation at the Conference on Emerging Issues in Cancer Care & Research: Translational Challenges in the Jamaican Context at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus today, Dr. Aisha Dickerson (a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Departments of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) noted that Jamaican children have higher blood mercury concentrations compared with children in developed countries. In a invariable (simple) analysis, parental education levels, maternal age and levels of seafood consumption are significant factors connected to both Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and and high concentrations of mercury in the blood. Dr. Dickerson collaborated with a multidisciplinary team of investigators at UWI Mona to investigate exposure to six heavy metals as they relate to ASD. She also discussed crop contamination by heavy metals near bauxite mines; pesticide contamination of water sources, especially from coffee plantations; and levels of air pollution in Jamaica. More on this to follow on this. The conference was sponsored by the Jamaica Cancer Care and Research Institute and the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities.

Flooding on the main coastal road (North Coast Highway) at Runaway Bay, St. Ann.
Flooding on the main coastal road (North Coast Highway) at Runaway Bay, St. Ann.

What caused the destructive floods in St. Ann this week? Various reasons are being put forward for the incredible damage caused by floodwaters coming down from the hills, in particular near Runaway Bay, St. Ann this week. While the Gleaner opines that the main cause is poorly maintained infrastructure (in particular the North Coast Highway), others believe drains blocked by discarded debris from the pre-election bushing activities and garbage contributed to the chaos and major damage to roads and property. Environmental factors include: residents of St. Ann and St. Mary have repeatedly pointed to expected problems from the construction of the North-South Highway (several issues have not been properly addressed); poor planning and unregulated housing developments on the hills (stop orders on construction are often ignored); and deforestation from agricultural activities and developments on the hillsides.

An American Redstart that fell victim to Hurricane Matthew. (photo by Linda Barry Cooper)
An American Redstart that fell victim to Hurricane Matthew. (photo by Linda Barry Cooper)

Hurricanes and birds: We’re happy the Atlantic hurricane season is behind us now, after the terrible stress of Hurricane Matthew. How did it affect Caribbean birdlife though? Reports from our neighbors in Haiti and the Bahamas are not happy: much habitat has been destroyed. Here’s an article I wrote for BirdsCaribbean on some of the impact. There is more to study and learn on this topic!

The huge Royalton Negril all-inclusive hotel, to be opened early next year, complete with man-made beach. (Photo: royaltonresorts.com)
The huge Royalton Negril all-inclusive hotel, to be opened early next year, complete with man-made beach. (Photo: royaltonresorts.com)

Disaster risk reduction and the environment: This article suggests that the environment is not necessarily a problem, but a solution in disaster risk reduction. The author cites Negril as an example of coral reefs and seagrass beds providing up to 40% of protection from coastal erosion and storm surge. However, the huge Royalton Hotel development, now under construction in Bloody Bay, Negril has resulted in the destruction of coral reefs and seagrass, to allow a man-made beach and to build a wall and swimming pool – according to Negril residents. What permits were issued for this monstrosity, which now encroaches on Point Village? Will Royalton regenerate coral reefs and seagrass (if this is indeed possible?)

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Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is looking for a creative, energetic communications professional to work on its environmental public education campaigns in 2017 (contract expires August 31, 2017 but may be extended depending on funding). JET says: You need not have in-depth environmental knowledge, but you must care about good governance and proper management of Jamaica’s natural environment. This full-time position is suitable for someone who is prepared to develop and deliver educational materials on environmental topics, is comfortable speaking in public and who is willing to publicly represent JET on environmental issues. You must be comfortable working at many different levels in the society – with communities affected by environmental issues, private sector companies and government officials. Experience in developing environmental campaigns and/or formal environmental education would be an asset.” Send resume and a paragraph of no more than 300 words about why you would like to work with JET to sstanley.jet@gmail.com by noon on December 21, 2016. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted. Interviews will take place in early January 2017. For more details see JET’s Facebook page.

Elsewhere in the World:

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 06: Activists at Oceti Sakowin near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation brace for sub-zero temperatures expected overnight on December 6, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Native Americans and activists from around the country have been at the camp for several months trying to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The proposed 1,172-mile-long pipeline would transport oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CANNON BALL, ND – DECEMBER 06: Activists at Oceti Sakowin near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation brace for sub-zero temperatures expected overnight on December 6, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Native Americans and activists from around the country have been at the camp for several months trying to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The proposed 1,172-mile-long pipeline would transport oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Major oil spill in North DakotaA pipeline has burst – about 150 miles from where thousands of protestors have been camping out for months over the Dakota Access Pipeline’s threat to the Sioux Indians’ water supply and sacred lands. On December 12 the pipeline spilled approximately 176,000 gallons (4,200 barrels of crude oil) into the currently frozen Ash Coulee Creek near Belfield. The Wyoming-based True Companies, which owns the pipeline, has reported 36 other spills in the past ten years, totaling more than 320,000 gallons of oil. On December 5 the Army stopped construction of the pipeline and President Obama announced last week that it would not grant permission for further construction; but the developer is confident this situation will be reversed once Donald Trump is sworn in as President. Meanwhile, Standing Rock Sioux chairman Dave Archambault II says he wants to meet with Trump and some protestors are still out there, despite the bitter winter weather.

Chinese satellite to monitor greenhouse gases: The Chinese Government says it will launch its first satellite to monitor distributions of greenhouse gases around the planet next year. The People’s Daily reports: “The satellite’s launch will not only prove China’s progress in greenhouse gas monitoring, it will also lift China’s international discourse.”

Wisdom with her new arrival. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Wisdom with her new arrival. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

World’s oldest bird lays an eggWisdom is a Laysan Albatross, and at age 66 she is the oldest known wild bird in the world. And she has just laid another egg – her 41st – at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific – where she was spotted incubating an egg on December 3. Scientists are amazed (albatrosses do live long, on average for about forty years). Learn more about this wonderful bird here.

Giraffe populations have dropped by 40% in the past 30 years. (Photo: IUCN Library/Alicia Wirz)
Giraffe populations have dropped by 40% in the past 30 years. (Photo: IUCN Library/Alicia Wirz)

Giraffe population dwindlingThis beautiful and beloved African animal, like many other large species on the continent, is dwindling in numbers and has recently been listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The causes are (inevitably) poaching, habitat loss, and wars.

A sandstorm near the Nile in Sudan.
A sandstorm near the Nile in Sudan.

Desertification could make parts of Sudan uninhabitable: Climate change is biting in Sudan. Much of the northern part of the country is becoming increasingly difficult for agriculture and habitation, with the country experiencing both droughts and floods. This is affecting around two million people and will certainly create much internal displacement – in other words, climate change refugees. The Sudanese Government has released a National Adaptation Plan, aimed at protecting rural populations  – 70 per cent of whom are reliant on traditional rain-fed agriculture for both food and livelihood, while 80 per cent of the population rely on rainfall for their water supply.


3 thoughts on “Environmental Toxins in Jamaica, Destructive Floods, Hurricanes and Birds: More Environmental Stories, December 13, 2016

  1. Thanks for this wonderful summary! I just finished reading Wisdom’s timeline – wow, how can one’s heart not expand and almost burst with love?!!! What a great story – thanks!

    The pipeline spill, a serious problem, does help justify the actions of concern at Standing Rock – and in other areas of the world.
    The newest resort? – as with the above, money seems to trump nature; will ‘man’ ever learn?

    Like

    1. Yes, that was one environmental story that made MY heart full, too! Unlike many of the environmental stories I post, which are often so depressing. Yes – it does vindicate the activists at Standing Rock, doesn’t it? Problem is, their’s is a fragile victory. We shall see. Money (especially tourism dollars) always seems to win out over nature on our poor little island. Man, it seems, cannot and will not learn! Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

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