The theme for World Environment Day (June 5) this year is a good one: Connecting People to Nature. The hashtag is #WithNature
It’s important for us to make that special connection with nature. Yes, we know it feels good. And yet I always thought we were part of it already. Perhaps the idea is to reconnect. Why do Jamaicans yearn for a day at the beach? Why do men love to go fishing? Why did my father love to jump into his single-handed boat and sail off over the horizon, whenever he had the chance? Why do Kingstonians love to run round the Mona Dam, or to picnic under the huge and stately trees in Hope Botanical Gardens?
Because being close to nature is what gives us peace, comfort, satisfaction… Is it even possible to describe that feeling? We just know it’s right. It’s where we belong.
Canada chose this year’s theme, and that figures. Canada is the Big Outdoors – sweeping forests, towering mountains, wild seas, cool lakes. We in the Caribbean are not on such a grand scale, at all. Very few of us go camping, or hiking, or canoeing; we certainly do not encounter grizzly bears.
What are we focusing on tomorrow in Jamaica – and for the rest of the week? The theme of National Environment Awareness Week is Protecting Paradise. We are thinking about tourism – and the concept of sustainable tourism. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has organised daily events, beginning tomorrow with an Expo in Cardiff Hall, St. Ann. This is on the north coast, once a pretty place but now occupied by huge, foreign-owned hotels with fake beaches. Still on the north coast, there will be a community transect walk for eco-tourism in Oracabessa, St. Mary on Tuesday June 6, and on Wednesday June 7 an Enviro Talk at Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School, back in town. On the same day, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and others will celebrate Earthquake Awareness Day out at Fort Charles in Port Royal – a town which slipped under the sea during the fearsome earthquake of 1692.
Amidst all this, it must be noted that our coastal areas are under particular threat from climate change and man-created environmental problems (not least of which is plastic pollution) – and tourism obviously ties into it all. The Government is especially concerned about our coasts, and so a Policy Dialogue on the National Guidelines on Coastal Management and Beach Restoration is on the agenda for Thursday, June 8 at the Montego Bay Marine Park. Finally, on Friday June 9 the Yallahs-Hope Project will host a student field trip to the Blue and John Crow Mountains in collaboration with the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust.
They will, one hopes, be connecting with nature.
Footnote: We are, of course, surrounded by the sea. World Oceans Day is on Thursday, June 8. I hope you will spare a thought for our oceans – or even for our little corner of the Caribbean Sea. The oceans – all connected, all one ocean – are in trouble.