The Return of Green Expo Jamaica


Green Expo is returning, after an eight-year hiatus, and we are happy about it.

Conceptualized in the early 1990s, the first Green Expo was in 1996. It filled a need to offer practical environmental education for the “man/woman on the street” – including products and services available, as well as technical advice and financial support.

When our son was a young boy, we took him to the Expo every year and spent hours there. When he was older, he did a volunteering stint there one year. He was put in charge of a Jamaican Boa and spent a day or two trying to prevent excited schoolchildren from manhandling the poor creature.

Minister with responsibility for climate change and environment Daryl Vaz (left) shares a joke with the Chair of Green Expo Robert Stephens. In the background, Anthony McKenzie of NEPA and Una May Gordon of the Climate Change Division are having a chuckle. (My photo)

Ah, those were the days. The good news is that this year all roads lead to the National Arena for the weekend of June 7 – 9, at the end of Jamaica’s Environment Week. It will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, until 8:00 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance is J$500 for adults; and for children under 12 years and students with ID, $200. It is organized (as it always has been) by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT), the non-governmental organization that administers the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site that extends over close to 102,000 acres). Take a look at JCDT’s lovely and informative website here.

This year, the main sponsors are the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Jamaica Energy Partners and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ). The others are the Climate Change Data Management Project, the Spanish Jamaican Foundation and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. I hope that more corporate sponsors will come on board in the future. Step up to the plate, private sector! It’s time you did.

The Last Call for booth or table space is out for the Expo! If you are interested in exhibiting, contact them ASAP at jamaicaconservation@gmail.com or tel: (876) 920-8278-9/960-2848-9 or mobile (876) 355-7717. You can also find Green Expo on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – there is a lot happening on social media.

At the launch this week (in a crowded, rather warm room at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation) CEO of the EFJ Barrington Lewis pointed to his organization’s continuous commitment and support for JCDT and Green Expo – to the tune of 56 grants valued at J$192 million – a “long and significant” relationship. Mr. Lewis added that the EFJ has been “there from the start” with Green Expo. Bravo!

Barrington Lewis, CEO of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.

The theme of the Expo is “A Better Environment is a Better Life…Do the Right Thing.” Dr. Susan Otuokon, who is JCDT’s Executive Director, pointed out that the aim is not to “preach to the choir” but to really explain and challenge the Jamaican general public to answer the questions: “What can I do for a better life (better environment)?” and “Where can I get what I need to do it?” 

Clearly, in the past several years since the last Green Expo, the emphasis has shifted. Adaptation to climate change, plastic pollution, water conservation, organic agriculture, and renewable energy will be among the areas covered by various exhibits and activities – perhaps not as high on the agenda a decade or so ago. Will it open people’s eyes to the insidious, endless degradation of our environment? Will it open up options to Jamaicans – what to do, how to do it – to protect and conserve the environment, and at the same time create a “better life”?

The Green Expo theme is appealing to the selfish side of us: “Think about yourself. Everybody wants a better life. The way to do that is to care for our environment,” says Dr. Otuokon.

I also like the fact that the Expo is a call to action. It is about what you can do! It’s about “I did this; you can do something too,” as Dr. Otuokon put it. There is nothing to stop “ordinary” Jamaicans starting, or organizing, a community or beach clean-up, or a tree-planting session. Just get a few supporters together and do it!

Dr. Susan Otuokon, Executive Director of JCDT, gives an interview for the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica. (My photo)

The Expo will also stimulate information, discussion, and dialogue, with seminars and workshops over the weekend, sponsored by the EFJ, Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP) and others. It will be about conservation through education, and schools and teachers will be involved.

As always, the younger ones will not be bored. There will be a Children’s Pavilion, with a petting zoo, games, children’s drummers and more, to keep them occupied and to stimulate that interest. Friday, June 7 will be a special day for children, including quizzes and a career day highlighting careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well of course as wildlife conservation. There is also a Youth Photo Competition (flyer below) for which the deadline is May 31.

The central exhibit, titled “The Good, the Bad – Which Will You Choose?” is going to be creative and thought-provoking, put together by recent graduates of the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts. Stay tuned.

The JCDT needs funds to manage the beautiful and uniquely precious National Park. It is part-funded by the Government of Jamaica, but needs more support from the private sector and from the public in general, in Jamaica and overseas. You can become a Friend of the Blue Mountains (as an individual or a corporate entity) by making an annual contribution. You can apply to be a Friend here.

As for the Green Expo, said Dr. Otuokon, it is seeking sustainability, with seed funds so that it can go on now from year to year. Kudos to sponsors like Jamaica Energy Partners, the largest independent power producer in Jamaica, a member of the regional Interenergy Group. JEP gets involved in a number of environmental events and with non-governmental organizations. It is also moving towards renewables.

Minister Daryl Vaz (left) and Joseph Matthews, Environmental Specialist at Jamaica Energy Partners. (Photo: Green Expo)

Without a break. Because we need, at the very least, this annual reminder.

“We missed the Green Expo,” said Lehome Johnson, Project Manager of the Climate Change Data Management Project of the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

Yes, we did miss it, and we hope it is back to stay, this time. The best thing we can do is to come and support it!

 


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