Wed | Dec 13, 2017

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Sentencing the environment to death

Published:Thursday | October 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

There is substantive documentary and real-life evidence which details the effects on the environment due to mans' reckless actions. Big-game hunting and poaching have been responsible for the near decimation of many species, often driven by man's appetite for animal-derived elixirs that purportedly provide vim, vigour and vitality so the animals conspired to give us Viagra.

Climate change is a reality, despite those giving the issue a Trumping. The spate of powerful hurricanes in this year alone has put our fellow Caribbean island states in peril, resulting in losses of lives and homes and imposing severe hardships for thousands. Fortunately for Jamaica, we have been spared thus far. However, we remain an environmentally reckless people, both as individuals and through successive governments, failing to learn from other people's mistakes and experiences.

Our environment, comprising land, air and sea, is essentially a system of mutually dependent parts in that once any part of the system is disturbed, there are deleterious effects on the other parts. For instance, poor management of land-based waste in Kingston has resulted in waste products of all descriptions being washed into the Kingston Harbour whenever it rains, to the point where the harbour is bordering on being a cesspool.

 

LAND ISSUES

 

To exacerbate the problem, we pay minimal attention to drains, both in terms of construction and maintenance. Our lack of restrictions on the manufacture, use and disposal of plastic and Styrofoam products are major contributory factors to blocked drains. The result: most of the city's main thoroughfares become rivers during rains, with the likes of the Hagley Park Waterway, the South Camp Swamp and the Rio Hope(less).

The lack of a proper drain management system also means that we are channelling millions of gallons of potentially usable water into the harbour, rather than into the reservoirs. We assume that we will remain the "land of wood and water forever". Poppycock!

Gullies continue to be used as garbage disposal sites of convenience and we resort to knee-jerk reactions only in the face of pending emergencies or, sadly, in the aftermath. Invariably, the most hard-hit is the poorer segment of our population, while the manufacturers of 'scandal' bags and lunch-boxes ensure the drainage and water run-off in their upscale communities are not hampered by their products. Despite the realities, we continue to ignore the issues, leaving ourselves at risk and painting a bleak prospect for the future.

 

FOUR AIR

 

There are little if any standards, or enforcement thereof, for emissions from manufacturing facilities. Unfortunately for us, while this form of pollution may not be as evident, it has potentially serious long-term implications, as this is the air we breathe on a daily basis. If you want to get a good appreciation of what I am talking about, just go on the Palisadoes Road in Kingston and take some pictures of the city on a regular day. After the next city-wide rains, go back to the same spot and look; you will be amazed at the difference in the aerial view, but please don't look in the water.

 

DEAD SEA

 

What we call beaches today are mere reflections of what the said beaches were like 40-50 years ago. The same can be said of our fish stock. Parrot fish is the top-selling seafood dish, notwithstanding that they have a unique role in cleaning our reefs and facilitating the production of sand for our beaches. To add insult to injury, just look at the size of the mesh used to make fish pots; nothing escapes, not even the ticky-ticky.

Our environment as a system for sustaining life will soon pass the tipping point if we do not take drastic measures to reverse the ill-effects of our poor management decisions and actions.

Some people may argue that environmental management systems are unaffordable for the poor and that plastic bag solutions are sufficient. More poppycock! If we do nothing, we would have imposed a death sentence on the environment and, by extension, on future generations.

Food is becoming more expensive because it has become more difficult and costly to produce due to environmental degradation. The extent and cost of damage due to natural disasters is increasing at unprecedented rates, driving up insurance costs at the same time.

If we act soon enough we can still enjoy the 'natural mystic blowing through the hills', otherwise we are doomed.