Jamaica going up in smoke

One day last month, there was a pestilence of smoke in my neighbourhood. It wasn’t an act of God. Just one of my selfish neighbours burning rubbish in his yard. And it certainly wasn’t enlightened self-interest. This is an intelligent man who must know that smoke can’t be good for his health.

Soon after I started to smell the nasty fumes, I got a call from his next-door neighbour asking if I’d gone for my walk. I told her I was just about to when I smelled the smoke. She asked me to come and see. That made no sense. When I looked out, I couldn’t believe the density of the smoke. And I was several houses away from the source!

I immediately locked up all my windows, hoping to keep out the ash that was sure to come. I eventually went on my walk after the smoke had cleared. Of course, the ill effects were lingering. There was still the acrid smell and God only knows what was in the air.

dont-let-lung-health-go-up-in-smoke-thumb.jpgBurning rubbish doesn’t make it go away. It just turns into deadly particles of disease that attack your lungs. Why is that so hard to understand? Why do we persist in believing that smoke is harmless? Respiratory problems are a very high price to pay for not getting rid of rubbish.

BURNING OUT OBEAH

I was quite prepared to tackle my neighbour. But he wasn’t at home. Perhaps, he’d left before the fire was lit and I was falsely accusing him of negligence. If yu can’t ketch Kwaku, yu ketch im shut. In this case, it was the gardener. So I asked him why he had lit such a huge fire. He was burning out termites.

According to him, no other treatment was as effective as fire. Not true! Bleach and boric acid are a deadly combination. Believe it or not, a few days later, he was at it again. This time, it was a dead dog. Why couldn’t the dog have been buried instead of cremated?

Another morning, I confronted a gardener up the road who had set a big fire that was sending up clouds of smoke. When I asked him what he was burning, he said it was old clothes. I couldn’t believe it. So I asked why the clothes couldn’t have been put out in regular garbage. His response: “The lady don’t want nobody use her clothes do her nothing.” Words to that effect.

Mi couldn’t even get vex. Mi just had to laugh. As far as I know, that lady is a big Christian. But she was covering all her bases. Christian or not, she knew the power of obeah and was not taking any chances. She was just going to burn it out. Or at least the clothes!

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I keep wondering if my inconsiderate neighbours don’t know that it is illegal to light fires in residential communities. It’s not just a courtesy to one’s neighbours not to smoke them out. It’s actually against the law.

The problem, of course, is that the law is not enforced. I’ve actually called the police station to report illegal fires. You can just imagine the response. With all the crimes the police have to deal with, you know illegal fires are very low on their list of priorities.

Sometimes it takes a near-disaster to cure some people of their very bad habit of setting fires. A gardener who works in my neigbourhood had the fright of his life when a fire he lit got out of control. He was sure the fire was going to burn down his employer’s house. He ran away, fearful that he would be arrested for destruction of property.

He was very lucky. The fire was put out in time. By then, he was very far from the scene of the crime. You can just imagine his relief when he found out that the house was still standing. And he’s never ever set another fire. He learnt his lesson the hard way.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

We can’t continue with business as usual. We have to start a national campaign to educate Jamaicans about the dangers of setting fires here, there and everywhere. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is heroically doing what it can to bring the matter to public attention. But there’s only so much that one underfunded NGO can do.

It is the responsibility of the Government to come up with solutions to this persistent problem. In a press release issued last Monday, Diana McCaulay, CEO of JET, called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to use all of the regulatory agencies to deal with the problem of extremely poor air quality across the island. Chief of these agencies is the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

According to its website, one of NEPA’s seven core functions is “environmental management”. This is defined as “Pollution prevention and control; pollution monitoring and assessment; Pollution incident investigation and reporting”. I wonder how much of this is actually done daily.

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The Government absolutely must enforce the law against setting fires. Both domestic and industrial offenders must be systematically targeted. Until we start prosecuting lawbreakers for setting fires, nothing will change. Jamaica will just continue to go up in smoke. And not even obeah can save us.

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Pearly Beach a no fi poor people

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

Last week Tuesday, January 17, di director of corporate communication fi UDC answer back mi email weh mi did send pon January 3. It tek whole-a two week. Anyhow, mi lucky fi get answer. Unu done know how dem govament office stay. Mi did aks wa mek Pearly Beach private; an which part inna St Ann have public beach weh yu can carry een yu owna food.

pearly-beach-entranceHear weh UDC seh: “Pearly Beach was developed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in line with the needs of our customers which were derived from market research. Consequently, the facility allows for group excursions ranging from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any group event. There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering.”

Mi no know a which market UDC do fi dem research. An mi no know a who a fi dem customer. Dem no talk to nobody weh waan go beach wid dem fambily? Wen mi call di St Ann Development Company, mi find out seh di cheapest price fi go a Pearly Beach a $87,375.00. Dat a fi from one smaddy up to 70.

From 71 to 100 smaddy, dat a $116,400. From 101 to 200 smaddy, dat a $174,750.00. An from 201 to 1,000 smaddy, dat a $291,250. Pon top a dat, yu ha fi pay security deposit. Dat a $30,000 fi all a di group dem. Dat no fair.

‘FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION’?

See one next part a UDC email ya:

“It must be stated that public access does not mean free or unrestricted access as nominal fees are collected from patrons for all beach facilities that the UDC operates. As it relates to Pearly Beach, please be advised that access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available relative to other public bookings.”

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A no true seh UDC price fi use all a dem beach “nominal”. Di four a wi weh did a drive up an down St Ann pon New Year’s Day a look beach wuda ha fi pay $21,843.75 – one, one – fi go a Pearly Beach. Pon top a dat, UDC can’t seh “access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination”. Wid dem deh high price, UDC kuda never expect poor people fi go a Pearly Beach. UDC a discriminate gainst poor people.

An mi no know a how UDC price di different-different group dem. Di lickle group dem pay more fi one smaddy dan di big group dem. Dat no right. Seventy smaddy pay $1,248.21 fi one.  One hundred smaddy pay $1,164 fi one. Two hundred smaddy pay $873.75 fi one. An thousand smaddy pay $291.25 fi one!

UDC better wheel an come again. A no so-so big event fi keep a Pearly Beach. It fi open every day fi everybody. An UDC wuda mek nuff money offa all a wi weh waan go a good beach. An unu fi sign di petition to Prime Minister Andrew Holness pon change.org weh di Jamaica Environment Trust launch: “Better Beaches For All Jamaicans.” Di whole a wi!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Laas wiik Chuusde, Janieri 17, di director of corporate communication fi UDC ansa bak mi iimiel we mi did sen pan Janieri 3. It tek uola tuu wiik. Eniou, mi loki fi get ansa. Unu don nuo ou dem govament afis stie. Mi did aks wa mek Pearly Beach praivit; an wich paat iina St Ann av poblik biich we yu kyahn kyari iin yu uona fuud.

market-researchIer we UDC se: “Pearly Beach was developed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in line with the needs of our customers which were derived from market research. Consequently, the facility allows for group excursions ranging from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any group event. There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering.”

Mi no nuo a wich maakit UDC du fi dem risorch. An mi no nuo a uu a fi dem kostama. Dem no taak to nobadi we waahn go biich wid dem fambili? Wen mi kaal di St Ann Development Company, mi fain out se di chiipis prais fi go a Pearly Beach a $87,375. Dat a fi fram wan smadi op tu seventi.

Fram seventi-wan tu wan onjred smadi, dat a $116,400.00. Fram wan onjred an wan tu tuu onjred smadi, dat a $174,750. An fram tuu onjred an wan tu wan touzan smadi, dat a $291,250. Pan tap a dat, yu a fi pie sikuoriti dipazit. Dat a $30,000 fi aal a di gruup dem. Dat no fier.

‘FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION’?

Si wan neks paat a UDC iimiel ya:

“It must be stated that public access does not mean free or unrestricted access as nominal fees are collected from patrons for all beach facilities that the UDC operates. As it relates to Pearly Beach, please be advised that access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available relative to other public bookings.”

A no chruu se UDC prais fi yuuz aal a dem biich ‘nominal’. Di fuor a wi we did a jraiv op an dong St Ann pan Nyuu Ierz Die a luk biich uda a fi pie $21,843.75 – wan, wan – fi go a Pearly Beach. Pan tap a dat, UDC kyaahn se “access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination.” Wid dem de ai prais, UDC kuda neva ekspek puor piipl fi go a Pearly Beach. UDC a diskriminiet gens puor piipl.

An mi no nuo a ou UDC prais di difran-difran gruup dem. Di likl gruup dem pie muor fi wan smadi dan di big gruup dem. Dat no rait. Seventi smadi pie $1,248.21 fi wan. Onjred smadi pie $1,164.00 fi wan. Tuu onjred smadi pie $873.75 fi wan. An touzan smadi pie $291.25 fi wan!

UDC beta wiil an kom agen. A no suo-so big event fi kip a Pearly Beach. It fi opn evri die fi evribadi. An UDC wuda mek nof moni aafa aal a wi we waahn go a gud biich. An unu fi sain di pitishan tu Praim Minista Andrew Holness pan change.org we di Jamaica Environment Trust laanch: “Better Beaches For All Jamaicans.” Di uol a wi!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

PEARLY BEACH NOT FOR POOR PEOPLE

Last Tuesday, January 17, UDC’s director of corporate communication responded to my email sent on January 3. It took all of two weeks. Anyhow, I’m fortunate to have got an answer. You know how government offices operate. I’d asked why Pearly Beach is private; and where in St. Ann there are public beaches to which you can take your own food.

Here’s UDC’s response: “Pearly Beach was developed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in line with the needs of our customers which were derived from market research. Consequently, the facility allows for group excursions ranging from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any group event.  There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering”.

I don’t know in which market UDC did their research. And I don’t know who are their customers. Didn’t they talk to anyone who wanted to go to the beach with their family? When I called the St. Ann Development Company, I found out that the lowest entry fee for Pearly Beach is $87,375.00. That’s for from one to seventy persons.

From seventy-one to one hundred persons, that’s $116,400.00. From one hundred and one to two hundred persons, that’s $174,750.00. And from two hundred and one to one thousand persons that’s $291,250.00. In addition, there’s a security deposit. It’s $30,000.00 for all of the groups. That’s not fair.

“FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION”?

Here’s another bit of the email from UDC: “It must be stated that public access does not mean free or unrestricted access as nominal fees are collected from patrons for all beach facilities that the UDC operates. As it relates to Pearly Beach, please be advised that access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available relative to other public bookings”.

costs

It’s simply not true that the UDC fee to use all their beaches is “nominal”. The four of us who were driving up and down St. Ann on New Year’s Day looking for a beach would have had to pay $21,843.75 each to get into Pearly Beach. In addition, UDC can’t claim that “access to the recreational facility is available to all and refers to accessing same, free from discrimination”. With those high entry fees, UDC could not expect poor people to be able to afford to go to Pearly Beach.   UDC is discriminating against poor people.

And I don’t quite understand how UDC costs the different categories of fees. The small groups pay more for each individual than the big groups. That’s not right. Seventy persons pay $1,248.21 each. One hundred pay $1,164.00 each. Two hundred persons pay $873.75 each. And one thousand persons pay $291.25 each!

UDC had better wheel and come again. It’s not only big events that should be kept at Pearly Beach. It should be open every day for everybody. And UDC would make lots of money from all of us who want to go to a good beach. And you all must sign the petition to Prime Minister Andrew Holness on change.org that the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has launched: “Better Beaches For All Jamaicans”. All of us!

Chanting down greedy hoteliers

Last week’s post, ‘No Beach For Local Tourists’, touched a very sensitive nerve. I got so many emails from both Jamaicans and other Caribbean citizens who are very concerned about the way in which hoteliers dominate the conversation about public access to our beaches.

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Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), highlights this troubling issue of special interests in her excellent article, ‘The Problem of Beach Exclusion’, published in The Gleaner on Wednesday, January 11: “In 1997, the NRCA [National Resources Conservation Authority] began work on a beach policy to address issues surrounding public access and a Green Paper was drafted which proposed open access. There was immediate pushback from the tourism industry”.

Of course, there was pushback! Hoteliers don’t want open access to beaches because this will reduce their control of valuable resources. Their all-exclusive hotels would become much too inclusive for their liking. They want to erect barbed wire fences, stretching into the sea, to keep out the locals.

We cannot sit back passively and allow our beaches to be captured by greedy hoteliers, irresponsible politicians and all those who benefit from the current state of affairs. We have to take action. We, Jamaicans, like to think of ourselves as militant. We boast about our Ashanti warrior heritage. But we don’t always put up a fight for important causes. We need to follow the example of our uncompromising Caribbean neighbours who refuse to be shut out of their beaches.

VIRAL PROTEST

I got an inspiring email from Antigua. Here’s an excerpt. I’ve deleted the name of the hotelier: “A few years ago, [a Jamaican hotelier] tried to get the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to ‘allow’ him to turn one of our most visited and, by far, favourite beaches – among locals and visitors – into a private enclave for his guests. The protests from the locals and nearby residents were not only unrelenting, but in your face. Some of the protests even went viral. He eventually backed away and the Government did not have to intervene … the people with the power had spoken.”

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One of the most outspoken warriors in the fight to keep Caribbean beaches out of the grasp of hoteliers is the Barbadian calypsonian The Mighty Gabby. His 1982 calypso, “Jack”, was a classic piece of throw word confronting Jack Dear, chairman of the Barbados Tourist Board. Dear, who was certainly not dearly beloved, had declared that hotel owners had the right to develop their property up to the waterfront of the island’s beaches.

This is how Gabby launched his counterattack:

“I grow up bathing in seawater

But nowadays dat is bare horror

If I only venture down by the shore

Police telling me Ah can’t bathe no more

Cause Jack don’t want me to bathe on my beach

Jack tell dem to keep me out of reach

Jack tell dem I will never make the grade

Strength and security build barricade

Da can’t happen here in this country

I want Jack to know dat di beach belong to we

Da can’t happen here over my dead body

Tell Jack dat I say dat di beach belong to we”.

Gabby knows that the barricades are all about the tourist dollar. And he’s not prepared to sell his birthright:

“Tourism vital, I can’t deny

But can’t mean more than I and I

My navel string bury right here

But a tourist one could be anywhere

Yet Jack don’t want me to bathe on my beach”.

Gabby’s use of “I and I” is an assertion of Rastafari consciousness. It empowers him to chant down the forces of oppression.

BIG UP WI BEACH

Tourism is now vital to our economies across the Caribbean. But we have to find a way to balance the requirements of the tourist industry and the needs of citizens. We can’t just fence in tourists and fence out locals. Many hoteliers assume that their property is like a cruise ship. And the ship is the destination. But some tourists actually want to escape the all-exclusive prison. They want to meet the people outside the barricades.

Diana McCaulay shows us the way forward: “It is true that harassment is a problem for the tourist industry – or indeed for any visitor to a Jamaican beach. But the response cannot be exclusion. The response has to be commitment to a set of articulated principles – frequent access points; provision of well-managed public beaches, including the requirement for behaviour by beach users that does not present a nuisance or threat to others or to the beach itself”.

thThis week, the Jamaica Environment Trust launches ‘Big Up Wi Beach’ on Facebook. It’s an open forum for debate on beach access and related issues such as beach erosion. Readers are invited to post images of their favourite beaches and to write about their memories of great beach outings.

JET is also developing a petition to the Government advocating a definitive policy on beach access for all Jamaicans. I trust that the Urban Development Corporation will support the petition. I won’t hold my breath. I still haven’t gotten an answer to my email to the director of corporate communications about access to Pearly Beach. And I hope Jamaican musicians will create a song in support of the campaign. Like Gabby, they simply must chant down greedy hoteliers.

Time to ban Styrofoam containers

12657408_1548330095477145_2094982700033069835_oLast month, I took part in a cleanup of the beach along the Palisadoes strip. There were about 50 of us and we collected 60 huge bags of garbage in just about two hours. We left the toilet and microwave oven that someone had deposited on the beach. What kind of person would do a thing like that?

I was really surprised at the amount of Styrofoam littering the beach. There were clean white plates that looked as if they had recently blown away before use. And then there was a whole heap of dirty Styrofoam that must have been left ages ago. A total mess.

Styrofoam is the brand name of a petroleum-based plastic that does not biodegrade. It breaks apart into bits and pieces that keep getting smaller and smaller until they turn to dust. But Styrofoam doesn’t disappear. It lingers on and on for centuries! That’s no exaggeration. You just can’t get rid of it.

So-called ‘disposable’ Styrofoam food and drink containers are not actually disposable. They are disposable only because they are thrown away after a single use. What a waste! Just think how many Styrofoam containers we dash weh every single day in Jamaica. And where do they go? To the dump, taking up valuable space.

Masses of Styrofoam containers also get away into the sea. Fish eat the Styrofoam. And we end up eating the fish. We might as well gobble down the Styrofoam container along with the food. Because the Styrofoam is already in the food chain!

DUPPY WHISPERER

I keep thinking of the good old days of the ‘shut pan’. Or ‘shet’ pan. The Dictionary of Jamaican English describes it this way: “A vessel of tin or other thin metal, cylindrical, with a cover having a flange that usually fits inside the upper edge and makes a tight closure; the cover frequently has a small fixed handle. The shut pan is chiefly used to carry food.”

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Note chiefly! The Dictionary states that the shut pan was also used to catch duppies. Seriously! Talking of which, mi nearly dead wid laugh the night I went to see Patrick Brown’s ‘Duppy Whisperer’ at Centerstage. It was a benefit performance for my friend Scarlette Beharie, a vibrant theatre practitioner fighting Stage Four cancer. Scarlette made a brief appearance and told us to enjoy the show despite the serious cause. And we certainly did.

Before the play started, I got into a little situation with the mother of young woman whose hairstyle was blocking my view of the stage. She had natural hair, swept up and out into a huge ball. It was like an Afro on steroids. I gently told her that her inconsiderate hairstyle really wasn’t appropriate for the theatre, especially our makeshift venues that are not purpose-built.

The rows are all on the same level instead of being graded. And the seats are not staggered. You look directly into the ‘head back’ of the person in front of you, rather than to the side. The mother was unimpressed by my frankness and told me I was against her daughter’s hair because it was natural! I was lucky to be able to switch seats.

CONSTANT WASTE

The shut pan for food, not duppies, was an excellent idea. It was certainly not disposable. There was no constant waste of containers. The pans had compartments stacked on top of each other that allowed food items to be kept separate. I’m not sure how these shut pans came to Jamaica. It may have been via India where they are known as tiffin boxes.

bombay-tiffin-250x250The old-time shut pan is no longer in fashion. But there are new models all over on websites like Amazon. Instead of buying cooked meals served in Styrofoam, why can’t we carry our own reusable food containers to takeaway restaurants?

Another option is to replace Styrofoam with biodegradable containers made from materials like sugar cane, wheat and corn. These are much more expensive than the cheap plastic products. But the cheapest almost always turns out to be the dearest.

There was a local company that used to manufacture truly disposable containers, facilitated by a government subsidy on imported materials. But the subsidy was cut and the cost of making the ecofriendly products was just too high. And that was the end of that.

NUH DUTTY UP JAMAICA

The Palisadoes cleanup was organised by the Japan International Corporate Agency (JICA), in partnership with the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and the ‘Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica’ campaign. Cleverly billed as ‘Garbie Walkie’, the cleanup combined exercise and public service. We had a lot of fun.

As I was leaving the beach, I heard a woman say, “I don’t want to use Styrofoam ever again!” She admitted that she couldn’t say she absolutely wouldn’t. Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Supermarkets pack fruits and vegetables in Styrofoam containers. But if enough of us decide we’re not going to buy products packed in Styrofoam, things will change. Consumers do have power.

NDUJ_logo_AW-01And as for the campaign to stop duttying up Jamaica! It’s an uphill battle to persuade some people that garbage is everybody’s business. They think that when they fling rubbish out of a bus or car, it’s no longer their problem. They are so short-sighted. That’s how you end up with a toilet on the beach. Pure crap!