“No Mangrove, No Mullet.”

Just as I was finishing up this post on Grenada’s suitability to lead the forthcoming Caribbean Political and Business Leaders Summit I spotted this excellent informative piece that highlights the environmental issues facing Carriacou, Grenada’s sister island.

Grenada Action Forum

While the ramifications of ecological decisions made by larger countries take longer to manifest, for a small country like Grenada, the impact is felt more quickly and dramatically. For small islands like Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the negative consequences of eliminating part of the ecological system shows up almost immediately.

One of the most important ecological system for tropical countries is the mangrove forest. It is rich in biodiversity and plays a critical role in mitigating coastal erosion and in sustaining a regions marine ecology. It protects coastal areas and reduces devastation to upland areas from the effects of strong winds, tidal waves, and floods that accompany tropical storms by absorbing the high-energy generated by such conditions. In addition, because the root systems trap and filter sediments and contaminants from upland run-off, mangrove habitats help improve water quality for offshore waters and coastal ecosystems, including coral reefs, sea grass, and…

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Start a new blog or rename an old one?

I need to start a new blog. Or at least that what my gut instinct tells me. My urge to create new blog sites as I reach new stages of my life is so strong it feels almost primitive. But it obviously can’t be. Yet I’m sure I posted somewhere that my autobiography would be called “And they shall know me by the trail of my blogs”. It’s a rather lame rip-off of but the fact that I can’t remember which blog I posted it on is indicative of my problem.

So as I come to the end of my postgraduate studies and get ready to re-enter normality (the non-academic world) it feels like my interest and focus as shifted… yes, again. I can’t bear to read over all of my five years worth of content and hopefully you won’t want to do that either but there has definitely been an evolution from the pop-culture, media obsessed angst-ridden posts that I poured out in my late twenties.

Your response has been far more interesting than anything I’ve written. Who would have thought comment (291 of them to be precise) would still be raging on the racism in Italy piece almost half a decade since I posted it! A big thank you to all of you who took the time to share your experiences, thoughts and insults. I hope it was a useful content and please do keep the conversation going.

But for me I’m returning to me roots, so to speak. I started off in journalism because I wanted to make a difference. Somewhere between wanting to run off and join the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the election of New Labour (yes I am that old) I fell down a rabbit hole that led me into a world of media luvvies, fashionistas, rock n roll superstars and lots and lots of money. Which wasn’t a bad thing. I met some great people along the way and have some pretty bizarre stories to tell.

Moving things along I want to cite a line from a movie that was so uncool that I’m almost too embarrassed to mention it here. But I quoted from it in the eulogy I gave at my mother’s funeral two years ago, so I guess it can’t have been that bad. There’s a line in The Bucket List (yes, I know but please keep you snooty comments to yourself 😉 where Morgan Freeman’s character says to Jack Nicholson’s:

“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions.  Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.  ‘Have you found joy in your life?’  ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”

Well pre-empting that question the balance in my life is unsatisfyingly tipped towards the personal pleasure side of the scales. The fact that I’m now mother to a darling little boy is probably the greatest driver I’ll ever have to do my bit to create a better world. And while I’ve loved studying African government and politics as part of my postgraduate degree the fact is that there is a hell of a lot of need for change to be made in Grenada, the island my family originates from and in the wider Caribbean.

So to go back to the original question (you’ll note that my tendency to wonder off from the point hasn’t improved much) I’ve decided not to start a new blog but to re-angle this one in the hope that you’ll stick with me on the journey. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I look forward to the next phase.

Can Grenada deliver for Branson at Caribbean sustainability summit?

In just over a fortnight’s time the leaders of Caribbean nations and corporate CEOs will join together to discuss potential solutions to the challenges facing the region in the fight to develop green economies.

Grenada’s recently-elected premier, Keith Mitchell will co-host the Caribbean Political and Business Leaders Summit alongside the British Virgin Island (BVI) leader at Sir Richard Branson’s private island in the BVI. It won’t be the first time Branson has acted as a matchmaker for social change initiatives. His Carbon War Rooms project connects entrepreneurs with funders to create clean technology innovations. For the prolific entrepreneur saving the world makes good business sense.

Aside from making his family home in the Caribbean, the Virgin founder is a keen champion of investment in the region (two years ago he launched the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in Jamaica) and is equally passionate about conservationism and the environment.

The tiny Caribbean island of Grenada caught the Virgin founder’s eye during his trip to the Rio +20 Conference in Brazil in 2012. During the talks Grenada’s Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas was hailed as a transformative figure in the fight for green economies especially for Small Island States.

In the run up to Rio, Thomas had urged the UN to ensure that the need for an adequate and legally binding global response to climate change to remained at the top of the global agenda and the island had carved out a well-respected place for itself and even consulted Nobel Prize winner Mohan Munasinghe to develop methodologies for mainstreaming environmentally progressive policies.

But with Thomas’ party swept out of power after a domestically disastrous term in office is the new Grenadian government up to the job?  As the head of one local NGO has asked, “Will government now seek to sell our environmental interest to investors to escape Grenada’s debt crisis?”

The environmental credentials of New National Party (NNP) are at best unproven. Worryingly they have recently reinstated the practice of sand mining from local beaches, which had been banned during Thomas’s government, despite opposition from environmentalists. In the island of Carriacou there NNP has renewed its push to move forward a marina project in Tyrrel Bay, which has the potential to have a negative impact on local mangrove ecosystems.

While the new Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, has promised to install Chinese LED light fixtures in government buildings to cut energy consumption, environmental issues are marked by their absence in the budget published in April.

As co-host of the event (alongside Orlando Smith of the British Virgin Islands) there will be a huge opportunity for Grenada to use its skills, influence and experience to drive change. The Summit aims to build and expand on the Caribbean Challenge Initiative commitments of placing 20 per cent of near shore marine area under protection by 2020 and developing sustainable finance mechanisms to finance the management of protected areas.

If Grenada is to play a meaningful role, environmentalists and local civil society have a tough job to do in persuading the government to take its responsibility seriously.