Greening Bridgetown

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July 2019 was the hottest month across the globe ever recorded, according to data released by the European Union’s satellite-based Earth observation network.

Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service Jean-Noel Thepaut said, “While July is usually the warmest month of the year for the globe, according to our data it also was the warmest month recorded globally, by a very small margin. With continued greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impact on global temperatures, records will continue to be broken in the future.”

The experts tell us that every month in 2019 they have been recording higher than usual temperatures in many parts of the world. Europe just witnessed heat waves breaking heat temperature records in several countries. We in Barbados have not been exempt, and many have been complaining of the excessive heat on our tiny island.

Global warming, despite the several critics saying otherwise, is clearly happening right here and now. Greenland which many of us don’t usually think about except as a huge island of ice is melting at a phenomenal rate. Scientists have estimated that “more than ten billion tonnes of ice melted in 24 hours in Greenland last week.” It is expected with this amount of ice melting sea levels will rise irreversibly across the globe significantly impacting coastal communities and islands like Barbados.

Human beings’ demands for material gains, food and other resources are outstripping what the earth can produce and provide for these wants and needs. There is an annual day called “Earth Overshoot Day”. That day was set to occur on July 29 this year, three days earlier than last year.

The Global Footprint Network explains what the day is about: “That’s the day when we will have used up all the resources that Earth’s natural systems can provide and replace in a year.” For example: “We’ve got a certain amount of food that has to last us all year. We’ll have eaten all of it by July 29. Everything we’re eating after that, we’re taking from next year’s supply, and the year after and so on.”

But it is not only food that Global Footprint Network is looking at. Note the excerpts from an article published earlier this year by environment reporter Nick Kilvert for Life Matters: “Global Footprint Network bases its calculations primarily on United Nations data, and considers consumption of things like crops for food and fibres, as well as livestock, seafood, timber and forestry harvest, urban infrastructure development, and preservation of carbon sinks like forests.”

“They use that data to calculate the average consumption or ‘footprint’ per capita for more than 200 countries, and the Earth. And while the world will make it to July this year, Australia’s Earth Overshoot Day flew by on March 31. If everyone on the globe lived like us, we’d have broken the bank in 90 days.

“Not great, but it could be worse. The United States overshot on March 15. The UAE on March 8. And if we all lived like Qataris, who overshot on February 11, we’d need 8.7 Earths to provide the goods. While Kyrgyzstan makes it to Boxing Day, no country’s people consume resources at a slower rate than they can be replaced.” The article is worth reading in its entirety and can be found at https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-07-25/population-growth-world-overshoot-day/11320990

There are several salient points which I think even us on this small island can consider. Human beings are, by and large, an invasive species. We move into an area and there being no predators, we expand beyond what is termed our “carrying capacity” and “diminish the food and resources [we] need to carry [ourselves]. Developed countries are in that category, consuming significantly more than they can produce. Given this trend, modern medicine and technology have facilitated that boom. Things that used to kill us don’t, and we can exploit resources much further afield and faster than during all of our history.”

Some so-called experts tend to argue that overpopulation is the problem, but the reality is that over-consumption by a minority group of super-rich countries and societies is very much the issue. “Even if the global population stabilised today, the rate of consumption in wealthy nations is much higher than the world can sustain.” Add that to the failure by these same countries to give back to the earth what they have taken many times over from it and one finds a deadly cocktail for earth’s destruction.

The article points out, “The good news is that the things we can do to reduce our footprints have a lot of other benefits too. And research shows that rehabilitating degraded habitats and increasing tree cover can have great restorative benefits to our environment.”

We should aim to practise “mindful consumption,’’ said Gayle Sloan, CEO of the Waste Management and Resource Association of Australia. “Think about ‘Do I need that?’ ‘Am I going to use that?’ We can avoid mindless consuming,”  Sloan said.

A few columns ago I spoke to my support for the Botanical Gardens and the many benefits I envisaged would come out of such a worthwhile initiative. Pleasantly and appreciatively, I received a letter of commendation for that column signed by three persons apparently from Canada as I gleaned from the postage stamp. They offered several more suggestions, especially for Bridgetown, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The greening of Barbados must take on new vigour and enthusiasm. I am happy that this is on the agenda of the present Government. And I am pleased to hear of several plans to make Bridgetown more environmentally appealing and greener.

I heard a caller on a local call-in programme objecting to the tearing down of the old NIS Building in Bridgetown and replacing it with a green space. He was suggesting that buildings define capital cities and cited the examples of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Big Ben in London. I disagree, let our historic Parliament Buildings and two bridges define our capital city of Bridgetown and let the rest of our capital become famous for its green spaces.

The reality is that like several capital cities in other parts of the world Bridgetown is dying because of the move away from the city of many offices, government and others, and other amenities and businesses. Bridgetown does not have the space to expand to accommodate increasing vehicular traffic experienced daily on our roads. It is therefore a wise decision to try to bring life back into our UNESCO Heritage capital city by looking at new ideas and working with the existing businesses that have remained loyal to Bridgetown.

Greener spaces, parks and other outlets for food stalls, recreational activities and nightlife are all ways of bringing interest back into Bridgetown. And it helps the environment. Having access to clean, suitable accommodation in the city and its environs also help to make Bridgetown an attractive place to reside. The discussion recently surrounding July 26 and making Golden Square even more iconic and reflective of its historic significance is excellent and part of the heritage tourism that Bridgetown can yield.

And I accept that Government does not have the financial capacity to do it all or even most, but joint private/public partnerships can work. Where there is a vision and a determination ideas can become reality. The small Jewish community in Barbados made it happen at the Synagogue and around it.

All the above is in our effort to give back to our island after taking so much from it over the centuries.

(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI and a Childhood Obesity Prevention Champion. Email: [email protected])

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