Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Jamaica: Youth Request Greater Commitment to Environmental Sustainability


Nine youth groups, headed by the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council, have sent an Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Most Hon. Andrew Holness. Here is the text, which they shared online today (November 19, 2020). Congratulations to the driving force behind this, #Youth4PuertoBueno.

Dear Prime Minister:

On behalf of Jamaicans who have expressed dissatisfaction of the reversal of NEPA’s rejection of the environmental permit application to allow mining in the Dry Harbour Mountains, and on behalf of the future generations of Jamaicans who will inherit this land and its resources, the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council and other youth environmental groups are calling on you, Hon. Prime Minister, to reinstate the NEPA/NRCA decision to deny this permit application.

We, as a youth coalition that supports sustainable development, recognize the importance of economic development in ensuring our survivability as a country. We also fully appreciate the role of job creation as a part of this process and even more so during this difficult time, as we collectively seek to make our way through this pandemic. Notwithstanding, we believe the decision to permit mining in such an ecologically important area lacks foresight and does not augur well for the future of our country.

There have been many global studies pointing to the irrefutable fact that mining, and other extractive industries, are dying, primarily due to their lack of sustainability. Mining as an industry can only exist as long as there are resources to be mined. Once depleted, mineral rich countries like Jamaica will be left to bear the cost and negative externalities of the industry. This and the fact that mining industries only provide short term employment and economic benefits, make the associated costs of the environmental and public health consequences too large a risk to permit mining in such an ecologically and hydrogeologically important area.

The Puerto Bueno region is home to over 50 species of birds, including endemic and protected species, as well as a critical habitat for the Jamaican boa, an endangered reptile protected under Jamaica’s Wild Life Protection Act. These biodiversity considerations make the region invaluable to Caribbean biodiversity and ecology. Disruption to the limestone coastal forest of Puerto Bueno will have long lasting negative impacts on one of Jamaica’s important watersheds, further impacting water availability feeding into the national supply.

In a time when many areas of the country are without consistent water supply, it is unconscionable that the government would risk sabotaging such a precious resource. Quarrying is destructive during and post operation. There is no way to repopulate an endemic forest area once it has been mined or quarried out. There is no “buffer zone” that will protect people in the area from the dust, noise, and other health hazards generated from the activities involved in the process.

Climate activist Eleanor Terrelonge (below right) participated in a lively discussion with youth from the Cayman Islands during last week’s Caribbean Environment Week. She and her colleagues have been busy airing their views on radio and television this week.

Considering the importance to our future and the value placed on this area by the Jamaican people, we ask that this government uphold its promises and commitment to sustainable development and environmental responsibility. It is not enough to say that you will observe environmental due diligence, but we demand action, which starts by giving deference to the decisions of the experts. We are now living the realities of the impacts of climate change; we are seeing where the impacts are costing people their homes, livelihoods, and their lives. To operate in 2020 without prioritizing the environment and its myriad services in the national development agenda is counterintuitive to sustainable development. Despite Jamaica being lauded internationally for being a leader in climate resilience, we see time and time again, when the rubber meets the road, our natural environment is sacrificed in the name of short term fiscal goals.

Climate and environment activist Ayesha Constable (right) engages with youth at an event in Portland last year. (My photo)

As young people, we are disappointed, not just with this decision, but what seems to be the Prime Minister’s negative attitude toward environmental stewardship. Even though, in his Heroes’ Day address, he called on us to be “environmental heroes,” we are being consistently and publicly disrespected and ignored. The Prime Minister seems to have taken over the role of the technical experts in making decisions. This is far from the democratic model on which our government is expected to operate. To restore confidence in your leadership of the environment agenda and to restore the confidence of the youth of Jamaica that was promised a future, we ask you to consider the following:

  1. Move NEPA to its rightful home as an agency within the Ministry of Housing, Urban Development, Environment & Climate Change (HURECC) as a display of commitment to prioritizing the environment in development.
  2. Commit to review of the legislative framework governing the environment starting with the NRCA Act and EIA process.
  3. Commit to no further mining within the Cockpit Country and revisit the CCPA boundaries previously declared.
  4. Commit to complete transparency of any decision-making process involving our environmental assets.

We are the generation that will have to live with climate change and the negative impacts of today’s decisions. It is therefore important that our seats at the table be seats of value and our involvement in the decision-making processes of our country are given the deference it deserves.

Yours faithfully and respectfully,

Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council

In collaboration with the following youth organizations:

GirlsCare

Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica

Caribbean Youth Environment Network (Jamaica Chapter)

Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change Group

UWI STAT Vice Chancellor’s Ambassadors

Youth Climate Change Activists

Jamaica Environmental Entrepreneurs Advocacy Network

The #Youth4PuertoBueno Movement

Climate change activist Jhanell Tomlinson speaks at a youth climate change event at the College of Agriculture, Science & Education (CASE) in Portland, in June 2019. (My photo)


10 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Jamaica: Youth Request Greater Commitment to Environmental Sustainability

  1. honorable Andrew holness you should be ashamed of yourself you promise the people of Jamaica that you will protect the mountains of Jamaica the environment of Jamaica you let us down you do not understand that the young people of Jamaica it’s not the old people that run politics back then There are a new set of reeds and if you do not do right by the young people I’m by the people of Jamaica I’m by the people that lives abroad they’re going to vote you out do the right thing on MP you have small children and those small children they’re going to have children although when older you prime ministers of Jamaica finish WIC Jamaica you all go away to the United States and spend our money here it’s a shame mr. MP it’s a shame it’s a disgrace to our country

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      1. When there is no water because all the forests are gone what next ? Desalination is not a cure, loss of fragile ecosystems that support life including humans should be held sacred. It wasn’t enough to rip up the mangrove forests not understanding their critical role in hurricane management, being nurseries for crucial species and other essential reasons. Now the extermination of forests in Jamaica seems to be at the fore front. Places like Puerto Bueno and Cockpit are watersheds as well, all that lovely water filtered by limestone can’t be bought with money when the forests are gone. Listen to what young Jamaicans have to say about where they will live in the future. Jamaica means land of wood and water. Where there is no wood there is no water.

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      2. What next indeed? Yes, I am very proud of these young people, and happy that they are drawing more of their peers in, to take an interest and learn more. Water is a critical part of the picture with Puerto Bueno and definitely Cockpit Country. You are right and very well put – wood and water go together, you cannot have one without the other. They are critical to the health of the environment and our own health also!

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