Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Earth Today | Beyond the Cockpit Country petition

Published:Thursday | September 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMHugh Dixon

ON THE weekend of September 22, the Save Cockpit Country petition on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister registered in excess of 15,000 signatures.

The stipulation is that 15,000 signatures are required within a specific time frame to initiate a response from this high office.

The deadline for the petition to achieve this critical number of signatures is September 30, so the 15,000 signatures were achieved in advance of the stipulated deadline.

As the representative of Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency and a member of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group, I want to express a big thank you to all Jamaicans who contributed their signatures as an expression of concern for protecting Cockpit Country, this critical piece of Jamaican landscape.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

While Prime Minister Andrew Holness prepares his response, it is worth placing on the table recommendations for consideration to enrich the visionary and strategic direction in the best interest of the Cockpit Country environment and the prosperity of the Jamaican economy as a whole.

In this regard, we recommend to the prime minister the following:

- A bipartisan committee be set up by the prime minister with the power to recruit technically competent academics from local universities, business lobbyists, local civil society representatives, Cockpit Country stakeholders and Cockpit Country residents as necessary. The purpose of the committee would be to research and determine the range of economic development options that can be pursued utilising the resources of the Cockpit Country sustainably. The goal would be to present to the Government the opportunity cost of pursuing mining and quarrying as a non-renewable option as compared with the other feasible economic development options that are sustainable.

- The pharmaceutical and nutraceutical potential of the Cockpit Country's unique and endemic flora should be paramount on the research agenda. Preliminary indicators are that this is a multimillion-dollar industry.

- Careful assessment of the area's ecology, ecosystem services, natural heritage, landscapes, attraction sites and cultural traditions be undertaken to discern their contribution to alternative livelihoods for residents, contribution to other growth and development sectors in the Jamaican economy and how they help Jamaica to be resilient in the reality of climate change.

We believe any decisions regarding the Cockpit Country places Jamaica on the threshold of socio-economic and environmental degradation or on the cusp of a new dawning for sustained prosperity.

- Hugh Dixon is executive director for the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency. He can be contacted via email at info@stea.net.