Illegal Wildlife Trade, Sand Mining and Island Invasives: Environment and Climate Change Stories, March 5 2017


At last, I am back with some more stories on environmental and climate change issues. I try to pick those that are relevant to Jamaica and the Caribbean, but some stories are of such extraordinary interest I feel bound to include them. Please click on the links for more information.

Please don’t forget also that the Call for Proposals from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) is out! Find full details on the EFJ website (and “like” the EFJ on Facebook, follow on Twitter @The_EFJ). Apply today for funding!

Jamaica and the Caribbean:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness learning how to use a backhoe while breaking ground recently. (Photo: Gleaner)
Prime Minister Andrew Holness learning how to use a backhoe while breaking ground recently. (Photo: Gleaner)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness climbed into a backhoe recently to break ground for a new sewage system upgrade for Bay Farm Villas and neighbouring communities in Kingston. The old pump house is over forty years old, often breaking down and pouring sewage into gullies and hence into the sea. The National Water Commission has created a long-term financing opportunity for the upgrade of several systems across the island with funds from the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW). The current project is funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Good news for the environment!

The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) has put together a new information package on the role of government in climate change adaptation in the Caribbean. It includes a range of reports, best practices, presentations, videos etc. on the Caribbean experience in building climate resilience over the past ten years of projects. The CDKN concludes that government continues to play an important role in providing strategic oversight, access to climate finance and must offer the leadership to drive climate action at the local level.

Scott Johnson of the Bahamas National Trust (right) speaks to Bahamian and Turks and Caicos Islands enforcers on wildlife smuggling during a workshop. (Photo: BirdsCaribbean, courtesy of Scott Johnson)
Scott Johnson of the Bahamas National Trust (right) speaks to Bahamian and Turks and Caicos Islands enforcers on wildlife smuggling during a workshop. (Photo: BirdsCaribbean, courtesy of Scott Johnson)

March 3 was World Wildlife Day globally, and the struggle against wildlife trafficking around the world continues. Here in the Caribbean, Scott Johnson, Science Officer with the Bahamas National Trust is working hard as a member of the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been training emerging young conservation professionals around the Caribbean to tackle wildlife conservation problems. Some CLiC members have formed a group called CAWS (Caribbean Against Wildlife Smuggling) – follow them on their Facebook page! 

The CAWS log, showing some of the animals that are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.
The CAWS log, showing some of the animals that are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.
Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley (centre), officially launches the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Master’s Degree Programme at the University of Technology (UTech). Others (from left) are Charge d’Affaires at the German Embassy, Michael Dumke; Dean, Faculty of the Built Environment at UTech, Dr Garfield Young; President of UTech, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, CD.; UTech’s Sustainable Energy Head, Dr Ruth Potopsingh; Manager, Energy, CARICOM Secretariat, Dr Devon Gardner, and Representative from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) in the Dominican Republic, Anya Shwerwin. (Photo: JIS)
Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley (centre), officially launches the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Master’s Degree Programme at the University of Technology (UTech). Others (from left) are Charge d’Affaires at the German Embassy, Michael Dumke; Dean, Faculty of the Built Environment at UTech, Dr Garfield Young; President of Utech Professor Stephen Vasciannie; UTech’s Sustainable Energy Head, Dr Ruth Potopsingh; Manager, Energy, CARICOM Secretariat, Dr Devon Gardner, and Representative from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) in the Dominican Republic, Anya Shwerwin. (Photo: JIS)

The University of Technology (UTech) launched a Master of Science degree in Sustainable Energy and Climate Change last week, through its Caribbean Sustainable Energy and Innovation Institute and Faculty of The Built Environment. This is really great news – and so encouraging to hear Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley say that Jamaica is well ahead of its (very modest) goal of 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

At the launch of the Alligator Head Foundation in Portland one year ago. It has been instrumental in setting up a new marine protected area and fish sanctuary. (My photo)
At the launch of the Alligator Head Foundation in Portland one year ago. It has been instrumental in setting up a new marine protected area and fish sanctuary. (My photo)

Starting with the agreement with the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, which I wrote about recently, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is implementing its Coastal Protection for Climate Change Adaptation in Small Island States with eleven projects in the Caribbean with funding from the German Development Bank, KfW. Four of the projects are in Jamaica (the other three are the University of the West Indies Centre for Marine Sciences, working in the East Portland Fish Sanctuary; the Westmoreland Parish Council, working in the Negril Environmental Protected Area; and the Urban Development Corporation, working in Montego Bay.

Global Issues:

Sand mining from the floor of Poyang Lake in China.
Sand mining from the floor of Poyang Lake in China – the largest sand mine in the world.

There is a burgeoning demand for sand for construction purposes, at least in some parts of the world. It’s not much talked about, but sand mining is creating all kinds of environmental problems. China’s largest freshwater lake, for example, is rapidly drying up; the vast amounts of sand mined (roughly 236 million cubic metres of sand annually) have changed the flow of water into and out of the Poyang Lake. A year or so ago we were very concerned about the removal of sand in Negril; is there now a beach sand policy, as  Daryl Vaz suggested at the time? Are our sand mining activities properly monitored and regulated? What is the extent of illegal sand mining in Jamaica?

The WHO's global map of air pollution. Based on this, one is tempted to go and live in Australia!
The WHO’s global map of air pollution. Based on this, one is tempted to go and live in Australia!

Where is the city with the worst air pollution? Surprisingly, in Nigeria. Nor is China the country with the worst air pollution – India takes that prize. Air pollution is once again a key topic for discussion at the World Economic Forum’s 2017 summit. Last September the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a global assessment of ambient air pollution and its health impact, concluding that 92% of the world’s population is breathing air above the WHO’s safe limits. See an interactive map here. Much of the health effects of air pollution is still being explored (it’s not just about asthma and lung disease, although that’s serious enough). Nature magazine has reported findings that an increased risk of dementia may be a side effect. I would like to see the results of air quality measurements across the island, especially for Kingston, published on a regular basis. The public needs to know. I repeat: Can we please stop burning? Recently heading out of Kingston, we have seen cane fires in St. Catherine and a fire (tyres) in the vicinity of  Spanish Town. Please stop!

Water and other climate-change related issues affect poorer communities more deeply. (Photo: jamicamyway.com)
Water scarcity and other climate-change related issues affect poorer communities more deeply. (Photo: jamicamyway.com)

Have you ever thought about climate change in a broader context? It creates a complex web of human rights and justice issues. Even politics is involved. Here’s a digestible but highly informative blog post that puts some of these issues in perspective in quite a challenging way. For example, have you ever thought that climate change deepens inequality?  Communities (and countries) have varying capacities to build resilience and cope with natural and climate change-related disasters. There’s a lot of food for thought in this article.

The Island Invasives Conference logo.
The Island Invasives Conference logo.

 

The third Island Invasives Conference, with support from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will take place at the University of Dundee, Scotland from July 10-14. Island flora and fauna are particularly vulnerable to Invasive Alien Species, and experts are daily learning more about this growing issue, and best practices for managing it. For papers from the two previous meetings, go to this page.  And yes, this is certainly an issue for Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Program for Rain Enhancement Science is an international research initiative designed to advance the science and technology of rain enhancement. It offers grant assistance to selected teams of researchers. The organization hosted its first International Workshop last month and is now seeking proposals for its third round of grant awards. This is all about cloud seeding to produce more rain; of course, the UAE and the entire region is dry, and becoming drier. Water is a priority. But does cloud seeding work? Is it safe? That’s what researchers are seeking to find out.

 


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