No ignorance on Cockpit Country boundaries
THE EDITOR, Madam:
WE NOTE the statement in a Gleaner article published on June 3, ‘Cockpit Country row still simmering – Montague’, from “an expert who has close knowledge of the creation of the CCPA (Cockpit Country Protected Area) boundaries”, that suggests that there is “ignorance” about the two boundaries of Cockpit Country.
We refute this claim that there is ignorance or misunderstanding of how the two Cockpit Country boundaries were delineated by those advocating for its protection.
On August 11, 2019, The Gleaner published a commentary, ‘Expect more ‘noise’ on Cockpit Country’, signed by 28 representatives of the environmental sector and civil society, including Windsor Research Centre (WRC) and the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). That commentary explained the various Cockpit Country boundaries presented by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to Parliament on November 21, 2017, and noted that “…the prime minister referred to the boundary identified by Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr in 2005, based on geomorphology – the upturned eggbox shapes we all recognise – as the Cockpit Country”. The commentary further stated: “A different boundary [for] the proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area was presented by the prime minister...,” and went on to explain how features of heritage, hydrology, geomorphology, and biodiversity were excluded by the CCPA boundary.
The issue for those advocating for Cockpit Country’s protection is that the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has presented a boundary for the protected area that prioritises its geology and geomorphology. In fact, the British and the Maroons were using the name ‘Cockpit Country’ for more than 70 years before the discipline of geological surveys was created in the 19th century, in part by geologist Henry Thomas De la Beche (b. 1796). Interestingly, De la Beche was a relative of British Colonel John Guthrie, who signed the peace treaty with the Maroons in 1738/39.
The geomorphologic term ‘Cockpit Karst’ was coined in the 1950s. In such karst limestone environments, it is incorrect to present geomorphological features as if they are unconnected from other elements of the environment. Geomorphologists typically present karst limestone environments as ‘karst-scapes’ and not ‘landscapes’. This ensures that below-ground and above-ground features of the karst-scape are included, including how they shape patterns of human settlements.
We reiterate that geomorphology should not be given priority to define an artificial construct of a ‘core’ Cockpit Country over other natural and heritage features. Cockpit Country should be defined by its characteristic features: heritage, geomorphology, hydrology, and biodiversity. The CCPA boundary as presented by the GOJ excludes large sections of Cockpit Country to the north-east and west-south-west on this basis.
For more information on how the CCPA boundary relates to natural and cultural-heritage features, visit:
Windsor Research Centre, Cockpit Country
Jamaica Environment Trust