Cleaning Up the Mess's blog
Today, on Cleaning Up The Mess we present part one of a two-part guest column series by her Excellency Beatrice W Welters, US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago who tells us how the Americans, under the Obama administration, are tackling serious environmental issues
Americans pride ourselves on the natural wonders of our country. Hanging on the walls of US embassies worldwide are framed photographs capturing beautiful scenes of the mountains, rivers, fields and wildlife found in America’s national parks. The US Census Bureau recently published a fact about the United States that few people, Americans included, probably realise; of the country’s total land mass, 94 per cent remains categorised as undeveloped.
Cuba is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean with more than 11 million people.
In 1996, tourism surpassed the sugar industry as the largest source of hard currency for Cuba. Cuba has tripled its market share of Caribbean tourism in the last decade; 1.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2003, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion.
The rapid growth of tourism during the Special Period had widespread social and economic repercussions in Cuba, and led to speculation about the emergence of a two-tier economy.
Our guest columnist on Cleaning Up The Mess today is the Ambassador of Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago, Humberto Rivero, who tells us how his country balances development with environmental preservation.
In today’s edition of Cleaning Up The Mess, as we continue to bring you best practices from around the world, we feature part two of a guest column by Australian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Philip Kentwell who tells us how Australia protects its indigenous areas.
For tens of thousands of years indigenous Australians have looked after their country. By working together with Indigenous Australians, the Australian Government has been able to help look after the environment as well as local communities. To support the efforts of indigenous Australians to continue looking after their country, the Australian Government introduced a special programme called Indigenous Protected Areas. Indigenous Protected Areas director for the Australian Government, Bruce Rose, explains that a protected area is like a national park, set aside from development or agriculture to protect the plants and animals of a particular region.
Australia Day, yesterday, was devoted to its flood victims as the country was wracked by a flood crisis that began in November, killing 35 people, damaging up to 30,000 homes and businesses. In a Sunday Guardian interview with Ira Mathur, Australian High Commissioner Philip Kentwell said his government takes environmental management very seriously: “Our arid flat lands and desert will be severely impacted by climate change. The prospects for Australia are horrifying. We already suffer from fires, droughts and flooding. Our government is actively working to minimise the greenhouse gases impact, and protect our environment through efficient use of resources, and reduction in emissions and waste including reuse and recycling.” In this first of a two-part guest column Kentwell tells why and how Australians recycle.
Today, our guest columnist on Cleaning Up The Mess is Gary Aboud, of the Non Governmental Organisation Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, who is primarily responsible for organising the First National Conference on Environmental Management which will be held tomorrow, at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Newspaper headlines over the last year reveal a small glimpse into an environment that is crying out for action. Industrial waste water contaminates the Caroni Swamp; sewage is mostly untreated; oil spills continue unchecked; there is little or no conservation of wildlife even though the entire country is devastated by forest fires annually. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has recently highlighted that the twin-island republic ranked among the top ten worst nations on the emissions per capita indicator.
We begin the New Year disappointed. The promise to bring the beverage bill to Parliament, made last October, by the “end of the year” by Minister of the Environment and Housing Dr Roodilal Moonilal is yet to materialised . Fifty million plastic bottles continue to be dumped into our already toxic dumps. When heated they release the most toxic gasses that exist. Today’s guest columnist is a man who each day saves the environment in his own way.
Born and raised in Kenya, and now settled here, Erle Rahaman-Noronha is the owner of Wa Samaki Ecosystems (established 1997), a 33-acre formerly citrus estate undergoing a permaculture restoration while producing cut flowers, tropical fish and indigenous food crops. Noronha is the current national winner of the agroforestry division and national runner-up in the horticulture division for the National Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year 2009.
A few months ago we (Kyle De Lima, Marc de Verteuil and Stephen Broadbridge) formed an environmental facebook group called Trini Eco Warriors for the purpose of highlighting concerns we three had about wrongs being committed against our valuable flora and fauna. Within a very short time, we had assembled more than 5,000 facebook friends and noticed very active discussion. T&T seems to be becoming far more conscious of the natural environment. One can see this from the frequency of articles appearing in the media, even though some seem to be as filthy with littering. But what is this concern about? Why is it important to all of us to care for our environment? How does it actually effect us if we were to just destroy everything? T&T’s flora and fauna are presently under tremendous strain. Every dry season, we watch blazing forests, with no attempt to catch or prosecute the arsonists. Then the rainy season comes and we wonder why our streets are flooded and our properties are damaged. It is known that forested mountains retain water.
As the year draws to a close, it is natural that those of us working on the Guardian Multi Media series Cleaning Up The Mess, on CNC3, in the Trinidad Guardian, and on our facebook page, take stock. When we began this series we had no idea what we would find. We only knew that our litter laws were unenforced. As we dug deeper, saw our virtually condemned unhygienic dumps which are unlined and unfenced, which send toxins into our water table, our produce and air.
We saw that not only are existing environmental laws unenforced, but there has been no waste management legislation for over a decade. We have repeatedly asked: If Barbados can recycle up to 70 per cent of its waste why do we dump 50 million plastic bottles every month? Reliable sources from the EMA have admitted that the Point Lisas Industrial Estate is “largely unregulated”. It remains an area of darkness and speculation, especially as so few studies are available regarding the actual pollution in this area.
The following is the second in a two-part series on Cleaning Up The Mess, prepared by European Union office in Port-of-Spain, headed up by Stelios Christopoulos, Chargé d’Affaires, Delegation of the European Union, written exclusively for Guardian Medias Cleaning Up The Mess series. Eco-Management and Audit Scheme is the most advanced environmental management scheme presently available. EMAS has become a popular standard used by Europeans to assess the environmental performance of other organisations.
The core elements of EMAS are:
1. Performance: The environmental performance of a company is improved by its commitment to evaluate and improve its environmental impact.
2. Credibility: Independent auditors must verify and guarantee the value of both the actions taken and information disclosed by those companies involved in the scheme.
Introducing EMAS—Eco-Management and Audit Scheme—to Trinidad and Tobago. According to recent statistics, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most polluted countries in the world. A 2008 environmental performance ranking from a Yale University study  put this country at 89th out of 149 countries with a score of 70.4 out of a possible 100. (For some perspective, top performer Switzerland was at 95.5, while Niger scored the lowest with 39.1).
Additionally, our carbon dioxide emissions place us in the top ten (No 6) of countries in the world with the highest carbon footprint per capita (1980-2005)—beating out even the United States! It has been a long held belief that larger local companies—particularly those in the industrial and manufacturing sectors—bear the onus of environmental responsibility. But what of smaller enterprises—the restaurants, printers, and smaller manufacturing and retail establishments?