Evidently, my favourite thing to do is to just up and move halfway across the world. This time it’s Jamaica! I am currently working as an (unpaid) intern, doing communications and outreach for an environmental NGO. Really living-my-best-life kinda stuff. And it feels like it! I can already see that I am gonna be very sad when I have to leave, and I’ve only been here one month.
Environmentally, Jamaica is gorgeous. But for somewhere blessed with a natural beauty only rivalled by other tropical island nations, they don’t seem to be too keen on preserving it. The environmental consciousness is almost non-existent here. And as someone said to me, quite rightly so – where so many people are struggling on the breadline, there are more important things to worry about.
Despite this, a national single-use plastics ban was imposed. This was originally for (big) plastic bags and straws, but was expanded this January to include styrofoam. And yet… since I have been here, I have been offered so many plastic bags. Often when I’m like “I don’t need a bag”, they look at me like I’ve just told them my darkest secret. Par example, I was buying sweet potatoes in the supermarket and the look that came over the cashiers face when she asked if I hadn’t seen the bags available, was that of sheer panic. Followed by confusion, when I assured her my potatoes were bag-less by design, and that I didn’t want one. When I spoke to people about the ban, the problem seems to be that no one was consulted, or even warned that it was going to happen. The ban was just imposed and people had to deal with it. Paper bags and paper straws are now commonplace here but more because they have to be. How do you change a nation’s mindset?
While there is a lot to be desired in terms of environmentalism, there are so many things to be celebrated. There seems to be an increasing environmental awareness occurring. I’m not sure if this is because it’s my job to notice environmental activism, and those who are striving to make improvements. Mostly, I’ve noticed a lot about water preservation. In a drought-prone country, this is essential but it was nice to hear it on the radio in the morning. They were even discussing the water footprint of meat and encouraging people to eat more vegetables!
The Jamaica Environment Trust has a Campaign ‘Nuh Dutty up Jamaica‘, where they are aiming to instil recycling and other environmentally sensitive ideals onto the Jamaican consciousness. And from what I can tell, they’re doing a pretty good job – by bringing a bag of recyclable plastic to one of their events, you can win a prize!
It’s exciting to see change happen in real-time. Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments!