These photographs landed in a tweet from Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) on my timeline this afternoon, leaving me with a heavy feeling in my heart. I think they speak for themselves.
“I had never been confronted by bauxite mining in this way before,” confessed CEO of JET, Dr. Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie.
“Beautiful hillsides with lush forests and peaceful communities were now replaced with deep open pits, massive scouring of hillsides, and red dirt, everywhere. Right next to people’s homes, their farmland. There were schools that were right next to bauxite mining pits. And I saw several homes where if they walked right out of their front door or their back yard, there were these massive pits…”
“How is this OK? How are we OK with this? We hear about the importance of bauxite mining to Jamaica’s economy, and in 2020 JET did a study showing that in 2018 bauxite mining contributed approximately one billion US Dollars to our GDP annually. But it also found out that it had an approximately 18 billion dollar price tag in social costs, like public health and climate impacts.”
“This is not OK. Bauxite mining cannot come at any cost.”Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie, CEO, Jamaica Environment Trust, October 28, 2021
The study she refers to is “Red Dirt: A Multidisciplinary Review of the Bauxite-Alumina Industry in Jamaica.” You can read it here.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s negotiators, and our Environment Minister, are all arriving in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26. Jamaica will be asking developed countries for funds in order to adapt to climate change. They will be insisting that said developed countries mitigate climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of urgency. Now. We don’t have time.
And we don’t. Have time, that is. Not much more than a decade, in fact.
And yet – back home… the bulldozers are busy. Busier than ever. They don’t want to waste time.
How does one reconcile the nice speeches at the United Nations with what is actually happening on the ground? By the Jamaican Government’s own admission, bauxite mining activity “makes a significant contribution to the total GHG emissions in Jamaica.”
The 24-year-old climate activist from Uganda, Vanessa Nakate, recently said, ahead of COP26:
I see my task as drawing attention to communities that people may not have heard of, where lives are being upended and lost on a daily basis.Vanessa Nakate, Time Magazine, October 28, 2021
Gibraltar, St. Ann, Jamaica, is one of those communities.