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Earth Today | ‘Restoring Earth’

Local stakeholders identify priority actions

Published:Thursday | April 22, 2021 | 12:09 AM

AS THE world turns its attention to restoration this Earth Day, local players from the environmental sector are making their voices heard on how to make that happen, certainly in this part of the globe.

“‘Restoring Earth’ seems like an insurmountable task, but we have to be strategic in our approach. It requires interventions that include stopping our destructive activities, conserving ecosystems and rehabilitating what has been damaged,” said Professor Mona Webber, ecologist and head of the Centre for Marine Sciences (CMS) at The University of the West Indies.

Her comment comes against the background of this year’s theme for Earth Day, ‘Restore our Earth’, and a world changed by the assault of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year.

Coastal ecosystems, Webber said, should be among the priorities “due to their tremendous value in ecosystem services and the dependence of our populations – many of them marginalised – on these systems”.

For its part, she said the CMS has been taking action.

“CMS has been taking a strategic approach to restoration of coastal ecosystems and involving determining why coastal systems are being damaged, what is really causing the need for restoration and executing or conducting the restoration with the involvement of as many stakeholders as possible, especially the people who benefit directly, the vulnerable coastal communities,” Webber told The Gleaner.

“We are also educating and informing; letting people know that it can be done and how. Indeed many of our funding agencies are requiring community involvement as this offers better likelihood of success and sustainability,” she added.

For environmental advocate and head of Change Communications, Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, what is required is sustained climate action.

“Internationally, lockdowns have been good for reducing our carbon emissions. In some areas we are getting much cleaner, fresher air, for example. So we need to ask some tough questions: do we NEED to move about as much as we used to in pre-COVID times? What should we prioritise for action going forward? One international priority has to be sustained climate action,” she said.

“At the national level, as Jamaica works to restore our economy, we have to act on our commitments re the green economy and prioritise more sustainable eco-livelihoods. For example, more farmers should access climate-smart agriculture options, such as aquaponics and greenhouse farming,” Mclymont-Lafayette added.

There is also need for individual action.

“We have to look at what we are doing in our own space. I want to make sure my work in the policy arena is matched with practical action. So, for example, I serve on the Communications and Public Education Committee for Redd+, an initiative that will see Jamaica being paid to preserve our forests, but I also on Earth Day will be a part of The Forestry Departments Past Students Tree Planting at Clarendon College,” she said.

“Also since COVID, I have been working more from home and looking seriously at backyard gardening. Last week, for the first time, we got a pumpkin from a few seeds we had thrown in the backyard. Proudness buck say mi a eat weh mi grow! So it can be small things, but let’s start!” the Change Communication boss added.

Barrington Lewis, chief executive officer for the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), said there is need to innovate against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am very pleased with the theme ‘Restore our Earth’ that was chosen for this year. It focuses our attention on emerging green technologies and, importantly, innovative thinking that can impact positively the world’s ecosystem. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to think outside the box and the Earth Day theme is also doing that,” he noted.

“We know climate change has been discussed and efforts have been put into mitigation and adaptation activities, but the theme has called for new ideas and new thinking. I support all efforts, and at the EFJ we have been encouraging new ideas,” Lewis added.

As for actions being taken by the EFJ in favour of a restored Earth, Lewis said, “We have recommendations on simple acts of ‘green’ that you can do; activities such as recycling, composting, turning off lights, etc., will go a far way in reducing our carbon footprint.

“I am also happy to announce that the NGO sector can look out for us opening another call for proposals very soon, where they can once again apply for grants. More details will follow in the print and social media as well as on our website,” the CEO noted.

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