Protect children, future

The following is an Earth Week message from Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Minister of Planning, Communications, District Administration and Information Technology.

It is my pleasure to extend greetings to residents of the Cayman Islands on Earth Week and to share in the celebration of the 35th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, together with millions of people worldwide.

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is Protect Our Children and Our Future. Residents who celebrate Earth Day in the Cayman Islands will be joined by hundreds of countries whose people are taking part in this global movement to protect our planet, our children and our future.

There has never been a more important time than now to appreciate the natural resources of Cayman, including our treasured children. Though Hurricane Ivan ravaged our Islands’ pristine landscape and damaged our homes, we emerged from the experience with a new appreciation for our lives and a powerful will to rebuild.

Hurricane Ivan was a humbling experience for many of us and the entire Cayman Islands shared in the material losses and emotional distress. We can all agree that what we valued most after the storm was the health of our children, family, friends and co-workers.

Now, however, we must turn our attention to the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society who need protection from harm – our children.

Everyone in the Cayman Islands can take positive steps to improve the lives of our children and the health of the environment in which they grow. Making a change to save the earth begins with taking care of our island and the responsibility falls on all of our shoulders – government, political leaders, activist groups, community associations, corporations, church groups — to contribute.

I encourage everyone to participate in an Earth Week event this year and to share the experience with your children. Earth Week organizers have arranged many events for the enjoyment of children and parents, such as the National Gallery’s annual Eco-Art Party where participants make art from recycled objects, and the annual garbage clean up at which parents and children of all ages make a difference by picking up litter from beaches and roadsides.

Some of you may seize the opportunity to get up close with nature with your children on a tour of our mangroves and marvel at the life that exists in its ecosystem.

To celebrate Earth Day, students in several schools will also learn about and plant native species of trees and many people will be thrilled to visit the Cayman Turtle Farm which offers a free day for residents.

When Earth Week ends we must continue to set a good example for our children and watch over them.

When playing outside with them we must ensure protection from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing sun screen and hats.

We can also improve in-home health by keeping interiors clean and clear of pollutants, including dust and harmful chemicals that may lead to allergies and illness.

As you know, my heart resides in two places – Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands.

Recently in the Brac, I noted the new crops of mangoes, breadfruit and papaya ripening on the trees and was saddened when I thought of the loss of trees on Grand Cayman. Now is surely the time to strengthen our land by planting indigenous trees such as Cayman Mahogany and Ironwood.

I ask all parents to take some time and join your children in beautifying your yard by planting a fruit tree or a vegetable garden and enjoying the taste of fresh food grown by your family.

I must make special mention of the Dart Foundation’s contributions, particularly the outstanding public parks they have constructed, in partnership with Government, across the island.

These parks bring joy to the hearts of children and create an activity centre for the districts; both are beneficial to good health. In the fine tradition of charity, several corporate, community and church groups have also sponsored public libraries, sporting and cultural events which also contribute to the well-being of our children.

I have taken action in my ministry to make positive changes for Cayman’s environment.

The recent passing of the Electricity Regulatory Authority Law will encourage the generation of electricity from renewable resources – including wind, solar power and ocean thermal exchange, when future solicitation for new generating capacity occurs.

My ministry is also responsible for the Department of Environmental Health, which has worked tirelessly to improve the health and cleanliness of the island, especially since Ivan.

The DEH has plans to expand its recycling programme and they endeavour to improve solid waste collection and management of the landfill.

And now, I ask my fellow candidates to include the needs of children and the environment in your agenda for this year’s national elections. Children are our future leaders and we must invest in their health, education and morals.

Meanwhile, by participating in Earth Week activities, all residents of the Cayman Islands will join a worldwide effort to save the environment and protect our children.

The steps we take now to improve their lives and enhance our environment may seem small, but when they are multiplied by the actions of millions of people across the globe, they will make a remarkable and vital positive change.

Ms O’Connor-Connolly

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