Plant a tree today

April 22nd was Earth Day and after all the noise and hoopla from Copenhagen to Cancun the climate change hucksters in the Caribbean are largely silent!

The regional environmental agenda has been hijacked by pirates — a network of consultants many of whom are not environmental scientists or scientists at all, who are caught up in a report writing cut-and-paste game begging to be sued for plagiarism.

On the ground the environmental challenges have largely remained unaddressed and it is likely that our failure to act will be the root cause of degradation before the certain reality of climate change and sea level rise hits home.

Smart policy makers in Barbados and Jamaica have realized that their western exposure to the rumbling volcanoes below the Caribbean Sea necessitate the urgent reconstruction of roads inland and they have sliced huge chunks of new highways across the interiors of their islands.

In a sad repetition of insane action, other countries continue to repair roads that are battered by frequent and predictable sea surges and which can be closed in an instant after a protracted rainy downpour. Caribbean coastal roads will surely disappear should a tsunami result from the eruption of the active underwater volcano which is located 5 kilometres off the north coast of Grenada.

For many Caribbean island-states, the dumping of untreated sewage and wastewater into the sea and waterways remains the status quo. Pollution of our seas has a significant negative impact on the health of coral reefs and marine ecosystems and will likely cause irreversible damage long before sea level rise strike the final blow.

Environmental management in the Caribbean has traditionally been addressed as public health concerns within the Ministries of Health. The idea that the environment is more than solid waste management and vector control and must be main streamed into every sector of development planning and national budgets has yet to hit home.

Last year there were bush fires in Grenada that cleared hundreds of acres of hillsides. The fires were a combination of poor farming practice, the action of arsonists and the large amount of wood fuel due to the passage of hurricanes Ivan and Emily that damaged the trees in many forests. This year there has not been a dry season and the rains have given rise to landslides, flash floods and growth of invasive species.

An appropriate response to this challenge is planting of deep rooted trees and reforestation of hillsides. Government’s stimulus package of providing employment to debush the roadsides should then be converted into a hillside tree planting and restoration program.

Trees provide valuable functions in the earth’s cycles of water, carbon and oxygen and provide us with the fresh air that we need to survive. Beyond their positive impact on global climate, trees aid in soil building, provide habitat and forage for wildlife, food and forest products for our consumption.

While we wait for our governments and their advisers to stop blaming the industrial countries with their hands stretched out for more money, get up and start to make a change by planting at least one tree.

Make Earth Day every day!