Very Mixed and Confused Thoughts on World Oceans Day

It’s a hot, breezy World Oceans Day in Kingston, Jamaica. Down in Lionel Town, Clarendon, the energy-filled Voices for Climate Change are singing their hearts out at a community concert. “Save the world…” is one of their choruses. Irie FM is there. I know the atmosphere will be joyful, the music will be compulsively catchy and at the same time, the messages on climate change will be out there.

The fabulous Anthony Cruz with a community member on stage at the Voices for Climate Change concert today in Lionel Town, Clarendon. (Photo: Twitter)

There was also an upbeat mood at the National Arena when I dropped by at the Green Expo this morning for a chat on recycling and plastic. No one mentioned World Oceans Day – we were more focused on the technical, practical issues surrounding recycling in Jamaica, which remain in some ways challenging. The energetic Shelly-Ann Dunkley of Wisynco Eco and Frankie Chalifour (one of the chief instigators of the recycling efforts through Recycling Partners of Jamaica) chatted with expo participants about the plastic bag ban, developing a culture of recycling, and more. Ms. Dunkley has started a fierce competition among schools. Since the project began, the diligent schoolboys and schoolgirls have collected no less than 7.5 million plastic bottles – 3.4 million of them in 2018. “Recycling plastic feels fantastic” is their slogan.

Mr. Chalifour suggested that “slow is fast.” We are heading in the right direction. By the way, did you know that 42 percent of plastic bottles in Colombia are now made from recycled material? “We want to get there – in three to five years,” said Mr. Chalifour. Yes, slow is fast. And did you also know that Jamaica’s CPJ has prepared land for a plant in Montego Bay that will manufacture roof tiles out of recycled plastic? Slow is fast, but steady progress is being made.

At the talk this morning, a group of young students in bright red T-shirts took their seats, with their teacher. They were from St. Andrew Preparatory School’s Environment Club. They are participating in the Wisynco Eco program, furiously collecting plastic bottles. During the conversation, we asked if there were any boys in the Club. No, there were none, we were told. They are too busy playing football and training for track and field. They weren’t interested.

Wolmer’s Boys’ School with a substantial cheque – as winners of the Wisynco Eco competition. (Photo: Wisynco Eco/Facebook)

There is a serious gender division here, clearly. However, I felt somewhat relieved to learn that the Wolmer’s Boys’ School in Kingston actually won First Prize in last year’s Wisynco Eco competition. Hooray for the boys and girls!

Meanwhile, I have seen some wonderful images recently online of our nearby Jamaican waters and coastal areas – and some dreadful ones. The Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (find them on Facebook and Twitter) posted some footage of West Indian Manatees splashing around off the coast of the Portland Bight Protected Area. What a rare and happy sight to see!

At the opposite extreme, journalism lecturer and photojournalist Andrew Smith posted some downright distressing photos of Holland Bay in St. Thomas. I remember going down there once. A fierce wind was blowing and the sand was thick and coarse. It was wildly beautiful. That was a few years ago. When Mr. Smith tweeted a photo of the current situation there, my heart sank. As he says in his blog, the only thing preventing vast amounts of trash from entering the sea is a layer of sargassum seaweed.

Holland Beach, St. Thomas. PhD reconnaissance in Duckenfield and Morant Point on May 22, 2019 (Photo: Andrew P. Smith Images)

So…what can one do, personally, for the oceans? Let’s not throw up our hands. This article suggests a few things you can do. Including – watch a documentary? Yes. How about Chasing Coral? Blue Planet? They are on Netflix, so do some bingewatching! We need to understand, deeply, what is happening to our oceans…and what we humans are doing to it.

Happy/Unhappy World Oceans Day!

St Andrew’s Prep Environment Club taking a leap with Wisynco’s Shelly-ann Dunkley and Frankie Chalifour. (Photo: Green Expo)


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