Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Here come the carbon criers

Published:Sunday | February 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ronald Mason, Contributor

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), founded in 1948 in France and housed in the pristine village of Gland, Switzerland, has weighed in on the Goat Islands issue. Now here come the big guns to tell us everything we never needed to know about their airy-fairy carbon sequestration, but not a word about feeding, housing, educating and providing jobs for our human resources.

Now we know that carbon sequestration means to capture carbon (CO2), or storage of carbon underground through a family of technologies. The IUCN goes on to state that sequestration or capture of this magnitude from our mangrove forests in Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) is worth US$45 million per year.

Nothing to date speaks to the cost of this burial or how this will be converted into cold, hard cash for the benefit of Jamaicans. Only God knows how many unsubstantiated assumptions went into this calculation. It strikes me as more of the same from those who will bleat about letting this region remain pristine while people continue to suffer.

This same group, the IUCN, speaks to the survival of the many threatened species. Yes, the interest of the iguana, Eleutherodactylus (never heard of those frogs before). Remember these are the big boys, the world's authority on biodiversity conservation. Do not forget, they also have listed the urgent need for survival of the Thunder snake and Blue-tailed Galliwasp and the Bahama Mockingbird Mimus. How ironic we are being mocked as a country!

Ecologically Sustainable

The mission of the IUCN is to influence, encourage and assist societies to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resource is equitable and ecologically sustainable. They do this with the willing participation of 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries. It is always going to have some scientists to say our use of a natural resource results in the displacement of a frog or, God forbid, a Thunder snake, and that it's an act against humanity.

This group also reminds us that were we to accede to its interpretations and make the designations they deem appropriate, we will attract much investment from the international conservation and donor countries. It would be beneficial if they were to provide Jamaica with a verifiable report on the potential donation for Goat Islands. While they are at it, is the donation to be made available to our home-grown environmentalists? The same ones who always seem to be very well funded.

Pray tell what would be the rate of return on the cost of burying carbon underground that is reported to be US$45 million per year. One must acknowledge that experts have divergent views on the economic and technical feasibility of commercial-scale carbon capture and storage. Everyone agrees that it will not be cheap. Once the carbon is captured, it needs to be liquefied, transported to some appropriate site, buried in suitable geological formations, deep underground in saline aquifers or disused oil fields (Guardian, March 9, 2011). None of the above means this fairy tale really has much relevance to Jamaica.

The IUCN has, however, suggested the same old standby for Jamaica to anchor its development: tourism. The Portland Bight Protected Area will be just great "particularly because of its proximity to Kingston". This is the same industry in which we are heavily invested. Strange, this area has been known, yet no one sought to develop the alleged tourism potential in the same manner that has been done on the north coast.

Diversify Development

Tourism is the same industry that thrives best on our people's ability to bow deep and scrape for the tips. Can we at least try to diversify and not place all our development eggs in the same basket? Tourism, the same industry that employs only 80,000 persons at menial wages of an eligible workforce of 1.3 million.

It is expected that our home-grown environmentalists would seek to create obstacles for the project. That has been their history. They will state that they do not oppose development, just 'this' development. Now, the international community has been summoned. Here comes the cavalry.

This IUCN group has been in Jamaica for some 20 years with an interest in iguanas, but up to now no record can be found of prior emphasis on Goat Islands. Suddenly, the fact that iguanas are to be found in Hellshire is not mentioned. Iguanas are eaten in Belize, can you recall? Waiter, I am ready to order.

Poverty is the bane of our existence. We have mismanaged other natural resources over the decades. The marine industry affords us some world-standard advantages. As a people, we need to responsibly - not to the exclusion of all other developmental activities - use the resources with which we are blessed.

Proximity to the world's shipping lanes, the depth of our waterways, the adaptability of our trainable workforce, and the existing world supply chain demands must be utilised. Those of us with the ability to envision, nurture and cajole for development have a duty to do so.

Use the technology to leave the smallest footprint; cut and carve the least; manage the waste, pollute the least. But for the sake of our generations to come, let us get on with the business of development NOW.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney/mediator/talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.