In a drought prone area there is much cause for celebration when the rains finally fall. Since October we have supposedly been in the rainy season. Though the air is much cooler, the rain has not fallen much. It is essential for the survival of the next years crops that the rain sufficiently fall. In some ways the farmer’s are much more aware of the climate change than the regular people. As a general rule farmers are directly affected by climate and the changes occurring can reek havoc on their planting/harvesting schedule.
Farmers will talk about how the trees no longer call the rain. There are some who think farmers are not very educated, but in reality there is truth to this statement. Due to a chemical process called evaporations and transpiration water is released from the trees and other plants back into the air, which in turns creates air moisture, when enough of this builds up in the atmosphere and the temperature is right rain falls. Sadly trees do the majority of this job and they have been over harvested and take a very long time to hit maturity which will increase the rainfall. In areas of great drought you can see the direct effects of massive deforestation.
As a child I grew up in a logging town. I do not often talk about this, mostly because I am ashamed of it. I am ashamed of the mental model I was forced to hold dear for so long. I am ashamed of the ignorance that I was forced to perpetuate even when I saw the dangers. I am ashamed that my growing up years were spent trying to adapt instead of personal growth because financially adapting was the only path to survival, or was it? I saw the dangers of deforestation. Right in my own backyard, we had a pond when we first moved out there. I remember that first winter the pond was frozen over and we used it to “skate” that winter. Over the years we had cows and logged some of the property, as did the neighbors. What I noticed was the pond was shrinking. I could physically see it and it concerned me. As a child I collected frog and salamander eggs to chart and graph the growth rates. (Yes I was a dork and had limited friends and limited access of escape from home.) Over the years, I noted that the eggs were not so easy to find. As the water receded there was less and less available space for the new embryos to grow and thrive.
Eventually the water completely receded. It went underground. Essentially due to the cows and the logging that went on in the raparian zones the grasses and reeds grew up over the water and it eventually seeped under the ground. The temperature also rose in that area, you could see the change in wildlife, and the ground still muddy and wet was much firmer than it had been a decade before. My family is probably not completely to blame but we certainly did not mitigate or preserve our resources appropriately. Growing up in a wet area we had a distaste for marshes, swamps and bogs. Our goal was to get rid of them, when what we should have done is try to understand their essential purpose.
A Walmart went up in a nearby town. (I hate Walmart and all it stands for, but this is not what I want to point out here!) To build it they had to “build-up” the wetlands in the area. For months rock and gravel and sand was brought in to build up this area. Two years after the Walmart was opened the worst flood to ever occur in that area happened. Right near that Walmart the highway actually flooded over and had to shut down. In fact there was not getting in or out to the north for almost a week in 1996. They called it a 100 year flood, but an amazing thing happened and another 100 year flood occurred a few years later. (100 year floods are supposed to be so incredibly bad that they only actually happen every 100 years of so.)
What I am ashamed of is refusing to see reality in this case. Defending a way of life that is so damaging that it might destroy us all. I am ashamed that I refused to speak up, until it was too late. People complained about environmental regulations and how it ruined jobs and destroyed entire communities. The reality is you destroyed your own livelihoods and communities by not planning on and seeing the dark side of environmental destruction and lack of planning. You did not see mitigation as a viable course of action. Instead of strip logging, you could have logged sections and replanted leaving a large portion of forested areas in tact, but no you would rather cash that pay check. Greed is the enemy, not the animals or the people who want to save the environments. Unmitigated greed is what the Bible was referring to when it said “for the love of money is the greatest sin!” Since I grew up in a religious background my shame is directly related to the Christian religion in a general form.
When you preach about God and love and forgiveness and sin you pick and choose those subjects you want to pander to. Instead of focusing on greed there is a focus on homosexuality and sin. Instead of focusing on stewardship there is a focus on tithes. Instead of focusing on loving our neighbors there is a focus on the sins of our neighbors. I can look back and see how this is directly related to bad environmental practices. Instead of being good stewards of the land understanding that resources are finite or that there is a limit to how long you can rape the land, instead there is a focus on the perception of being a good Christian. The fact that there is no direct correlation should have a God, if there is one, smashing us down with bolts of thunder and plundering us into eternal damnation based solely on our inability to recognize our own shortcomings. But alas, this blog is not about the lack of environmental action on Christians, and pardon me if you fall outside of the spectrum I painted here, this is solely based on my experience growing up and my understanding and resentment of my childhood beliefs. So by all means if you are a Christian and this is not how you believe, then this is not about you but about me and my belief system and I apologize if it felt like an attack.
Back to my farmers. Farmers are directly affected by climate change and they can see the changes in the seasons. Most are very concerned and fear the changes are going to be more and more drastic as the years go by. They are not far from the truth. As I look around my beautiful adopted home country, I see the light and darkness of all that I know. I see the plastic in the oceans and rivers, I see the random destruction of land for progress and I see the financial affects of the environmental destruction, but mostly I see a struggle to get access to water for longer and longer segments of the year. How do we turn back the clock? How do we reverse the damage?
First off, we cannot. Secondly we need to take a deeper look and realize that Jamaica follows the “first World countries” in style and mind-set. They cannot help it, they are so directly affected by them. Jamaicans have said to me when America sneeze, Jamaica catch cold. Not only does our economy directly reflect in theirs, our poor choices are also directly reflected in attitudes on the island.
Let me just give you an example of a day in the life of a typical Jamaican, doesn’t matter the job, just how life goes on. You get up and if you have a job that requires a uniform you get up and press that uniform and put it on. You get ready, ladies use make up and many styling products including hair weaves. Going natural is hit or miss here. Some do, some don’t, but most are very aware of their hair, not unlike women in most of the world. You then catch a taxi, which may take some time. If you have kids you get them off to school or to a person to get them to school on time first. A taxi may be quick or it may take time to catch one. It all depends on how many taxis are running, how early they get going and how many persons are waiting for taxis. Once you get to work, you might stop at a cook shop or a street vendor for a porridge in a styrofoam cup, or you might run into a patty shop to get a patty for breakfast. Breakfast is often on the go. Life can be hectic when you are totally dependent on taxi services. At lunch time you might run to a fast food restaurant, BK and KFC are huge here, of you might find a cook shop and get an inexpensive lunch served in a styrofoam box with a plastic fork, do not forget your soda bottle with a straw. Then at the end of the day you head back, hoping it does not take so long to get a taxi home. If the day has been long and tiring you might stop at a local cook shop for a box dinner to go. You could also skip dinner, or have bun and cheese. Mostly the day is over and time for relaxation or church.
For those who do not have a steady job, the day likely consists of trying to get an odd job to buy a box lunch and a bottle of beer, or playing the cashpot. In all of these situations the results are the same. The food is served in a disposable way. There is much trash produced and then it might go in a trash bin or just on the ground. Sadly the bins have their own issues. The dogs often break into the bins and strew trash around. It is not always the people tossing things along the roadside. If the garbage truck has not come in some time, then people will burn the trash. They might do so even if the truck does come regular. One thing Jamaicans love to do is burn things. Be wary of getting pre-roasted breadfruit, they might have roasted it on a fire burning styrofoam and plastics! So what does this have to do with rain? Welllll………..
With all the food container waste around when the rain falls guess what happens to that which is not picked up? You might find it in the river at the bottom of the gully or in the Ocean, where it will all eventually end up. Why is this an issue, it gets cleaned up this way, right? Well not so much. It ends up in the rivers, where local tourism can be affected. No one wants to swim in a river full of trash. It also can kill off the local animals, they can eat it or it can create a chemical hazard to the local flora and fauna. What about the ocean? Well again tourism is affected, but more than that, there is an island of garbage that is huge in the ocean. There is a prediction that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, in a culture that is dependent on fish this is concerning.
What does all this have to do with the rainfall? There is a direct correlation to rainfall and pollution. First off let us just consider the burning of the trash. This releases toxins in the air. This causes air pollution and eventually it will affect the rainfall. You may still get rain, but it will be toxic rain and do much more damage to the earth than the lack of rain does. The plastics in the ocean limit the accessibility to the water. When evaporation occurs water is released into the air. With trash in the ocean the bio-avialabilty of the water as it evaporates is inherently limited. It is akin to sitting inside of a terrarium. The water is trapped by the non-permeable substances at the surface and then returned to the lower sections. The danger here is the toxins that can and are within the plastics. We as a society have known for some time that most plastics are harmful. The fact that they may have contained dangerous chemicals only increases the harm. Plastics typically over time leach out things like phthalates. So for me living here is very hard. It weighs on my soul about the amount of plastics and styrofoam I use. I try to limit my to go eating and I try to only buy fresh foods. I do look for things packaged in glass containers and will be more likely to buy those items, sadly there are not so many of those around, shipping costs may have something to do with their usage. I miss my co-op with refills on things like laundry and dish soap, shampoo, conditioners and lotions. Food items like maple syrup, vinegars, oils and various dried goods are much more economical and better for the environment. I loved that here we could carry any ole container down to the local shops and purchase things like rum or vegetable oils for a much lower price. Sadly these are items I do not purchase so readily, if they had coconut oil I would be in heaven!
So my goals here are to try to showcase a way to reuse the plastics and styrofoam and help mitigate the droughts that have been plaguing the area, by coming up with drought resistant farming ideas, so if you have any ideas please let me know! When the rain comes I spend a lot of time thinking of projects and ideas to come up with since most Jamaicans will not be out and about in the rain.