Pellucid

In an effort to keep my vocabulary growing, I signed up for Merriam Webster’s “Word of the Day” emails (go to http://www.m-w.com/ to sign up if you’d like). I’ve been getting the emails for about 2 years now but today’s word really struck me: pellucid. I’ve never heard this word before but I figured it had something to do with clarity (the ‘lucid’ bit). I open the email and the definition is as follows:

pellucid \puh-LOO-sid\ adjective
*1 : admitting maximum passage of light without diffusion or distortion 2 :
reflecting light evenly from all surfaces 3 : easy to understand

M-W also gives an example of how to use the word in a sentence, with the particular meaning indicated by an asterisk beside the relevant definition. The example was:

The coastal waters were clean and pellucid, allowing us to easily identify the
marine life on the ocean floor.

This definition is coming on the heels of me reading John Maxwell’s 5/21/06 Jamaica Observer column about the ravages of development on the environment. He’s written many columns about ours and our Government’s disdain for a clean, healthy and balanced environment but this latest column was about the so-called development taking in St. Ann. The column is here:
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/html/20060520t190000-0500_104995_obs_the_public_interest_and_the_environment_.asp). Do a search of the Observer’s site to see his other columns. He’s one of the last, true journalists that Jamaica has. He speaks plainly and is always educational.

Also over the weekend I received a link to a letter from Jamaican organization [Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA)] that is fighting to preserve our “scenic north coast area.” The link featured a letter sent to various news organizations about some massive hotel to be built in Pear Tree Bottom, Runaway Bay as well as a letter from a Jamaican overseas who is critical of our handling of the environment. I won’t be analyzing or regurgitating the information contained there here, so read it for yourself: http://www.jamaicancaves.org/pear_tree_bottom_2.htm. Please spread the word about it.

Now I’ll admit that preserving our environment is not an easy issue to tackle. The environment is an intangible thing and we take it for granted. Mother Nature is just ‘there’ and we use her, abuse her, and forget about her in the blink of an eye. I remember my first encounter with environmentalism back in 2nd or 3rd form when a shipment of nuclear waste was scheduled to pass through Caribbean waters en route to some disposal site in South America. Greenpeace sounded the alarm, there was coverage in the newspapers and I became an ardent environmentalist, swearing to hug trees forever. Now I’m just environmentally aware and I don’t do as much as I used to because, well, Nature is jus’ there.

Remember this: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Man, Mother Nature is one pissed off woman. Katrina and Ivan are but the tip of the iceberg…the tip melting icebergs up north. Vanity Fair’s “Green Issue” (April edition I believe) was dedicated to the issue of climate change and featured an essay by Al Gore (whose new documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” tackles the serious issued facing the environment). Good issue, even if it’s America-focused, because it’s bringing to the forefront the problems facing the environment. The issue has some very scary photos of ‘what if’ scenarios for DC, NY and other major cities should another Katrina hit those areas. Now not to be alarmist or anything like that but holy shit. If this is what major American cities are in for than poor likkle Jamaica will become a speck on the map. Not even our Rock can withstand a major hurricane with massive storm surges and winds unless we start cleaning up our act and hope that hurricane season, which begins on June 1, 2006 is kinder and gentler. Maybe Mother Nature will be soothed by our sincere efforts.

It is, in fact, inconvenient for us to face up the dilemma now being presented to us. Our unwillingness to give up on material things is going to be the rope that hangs us all. We don’t need things so much as we need clean air, a place to sleep, a warm but not hazardous sun, and a climate to that keeps our weather normal (i.e. not the unseasonably warm winters nor the brutally hot & humid summers we’ve been having).

Far from just problems with sporadic garbage collection, or dumping household waste into gullies, or dropping your patty bag at your feet instead of in a garbage bin, Jamaica has much bigger problems facing our environment. Not that these examples I’ve raised aren’t important but they’re only a piece of the puzzle.

Fact: Jamaica’s environment has changed radically in the past 15 years. I know this because I have witnessed the change. Daddy made the bold statement over the weekend that sharks don’t swim in dirty water. Eh? I’m still checking on that but at first glance, it appears true. He, I, and some of his friends were having a discussion about Kingston Harbour, the world’s 7th largest natural harbour, and he remarked that ‘when him was a bwoy’ (a frequent theme in our discussions) there was much swimming from the pier downtown and that there were sharks in the water. I told him we didn’t have to go that far back – when I was younger I remember driving over the Causeway Bridge and seeing sharks swimming around. Now all we see from the Causeway is murky, mossy green water. Other things jump out at me too: the air quality in Kingston, at least, has gotten really bad, the sun just seems more intense, there’s not as much breeze as there used to be. Fern Gully is not as dark as it used be. This really struck me to the core when I was home last. Used to be that when I was driving to the country with my grandparents and we hit Fern Gully, Grandpa had to hit the lights because the overhang was so gloriously dense and beautiful. Now, you just drive on through. We shouldn’t have been driving through in the first place. Look around, what else do you notice?

Why have the sharks disappeared? Why are fishermen having to go farther and farther out to get a good catch? Why did the scenery on the Palisadoes Spit shift so radically after Ivan?

Because we’ve been pumping untreated sewerage into our waters for years now. Yeah the stuff you flush down your toilet has been going into the Caribbean Sea whether directly or via our rivers. Years. The same water we swim in at Hellshire and Fort Clarence and the same water we expect tourists to pay us to swim in. We have built massive hotels on our fragile coastline and done little to protect our coral reefs. Witness how hotels seem to have ‘moved closer’ to the sea over the years. That’s really the sea coming in to meet them because our coral reefs are so damaged they can no longer carry out their roles. The result: our coastline is eroding at a rapid rate.

We have dumped up the important marshes lining the Causeway in the name of a toll road and four-lane highway. Next time you drive there look at how they have hardened, and look also at the marshes on the way to Port Royal that have also hardened. They are being cut off from the sea or dumped up with crap – from ‘development’ projects or households. The marshes in particular really tick me off. First form may be a little fuzzy (and boy was it awkward) but I remember our Geography teacher telling us about the importance of the marshes in cleaning out the crap from the sea. They are nature’s own filtration system and home to thousands of species of animals and plants that together play a crucial part in our fragile ecological balance. Just as the sharks played a role that have now disappeared or been filled by some other predator. We learned all of this in 1st form…does it mean that as you grow older and get all the letters back ah yuh name you forget the fundamentals? I am hoping not but it sure seems that way with our leaders and other people placed in positions of trust. Can you imagine a basketball player who forgets the fundamentals of footwork? Traveling and offensive foul calls galore. Or the fundamentals of defense? Word to Detroit. We cannot forget the basics…we cannot.

Past generations always seemed to be in tune with the environment, intrinsically understanding that there is a balance to things that must be maintained. But as the march of progress and development has picked up speed we just trample the natural habitats around us, never fully recognizing how much we depend on them. We need to reconnect with this balance, and it will be gradual for sure because breaking a habit is always hard and takes time.

This is why it’s important to create incentives for change. Not bribery but incentives. Economists like to say how consumers are information driven and incentive conscious in how they make choices. I think there’s a bit more to buying habits and the like but they have the general idea right. Incentives do make a difference. What incentive can we create to preserve our environment?

Tourism.

How? By revamping our tourism sector.

The letter at bottom of the Pear Tree Bottom site alludes to this when the writer says that tourist are now more conscious about where they go and how they spend their money. I agree. She’s right that people don’t want to be sequestered in hotels for the duration of their stays, or subjected to blaring music from congested towns. People go on vacation to relax. Most want peace and quiet even as they are being stimulated by the surroundings. What we have to offer is pretty decent but it isn’t enough; it isn’t diverse it’s one-dimensional. It is lazy and it is harming our earning potential.

For quite some time now I’ve had the idea that Jamaica needs to make a serious eco-tourism push. Aside from the fact that it’s becoming boring to sell Jamaica as a wedding destination or that you must “come to Jamaica and feel alright,” there are millions – perhaps billions – of dollars spent in the travel industry by savvy vacationers who want to know that where they’re going is an environmentally conscious place. They want to go somewhere, not have a blaring TV and pushy craft vendors in their faces all the time and just relax and discover. Believe when I tell you people are flocking in droves to South America, Southern Asia, Australia and countries on the African continent for a different experience. Rafting down Black River and hiking up Blue Mountain ain’t cutting it any more. Sand, sea, and sun are now inadequate and a lazy way to market our home, especially since the beaches are disappearing and polluted the sea is dirty from all the crap we put into it, and the sun is becoming harmful because we put too much crap in the air damaging our ozone layer (including too many inefficient four-wheeled beasts).

We need to take a serious look at how we can change the culture of the tourist industry to cater to people who want to see the true beauty of Jamaica. Not only will we be catering to a sophisticated and wealthy clientele but we’ll also be thinking of ourselves for a change. Too much of Jamaica’s economy is externally oriented – too much looking out for solutions when the answers must begin from within. Time and time again we don’t look amongst our own to find the solutions to our problems. Yes, sometimes we need help; no man is an island. But we need to make the decision to change ourselves first or no amount of help from somewhere else is going to solve our problems. While adopting an eco-tourism focus is still depending on those outside of Jamaica we will also have a tremendous opportunity to harness the expertise and imagination of ordinary Jamaicans. We have an opportunity to start changing our future and solving our problems by changing how we do things and how we take care of our surroundings, and then inviting someone to share in that transformation.

Tackling the preservation of our environment in this way is but one spoke in the wheel. We need to be planting trees like crazy to stem the deforestation and erosion of our mountainsides. We should be cleaning up our gullies and organizing our communities to deal with sporadic garbage collection. Labour Day any one? Downtown Kingston, and other major city centres for that matter, should be cleansed from top to bottom of the grime that covers everything. We need to be pressuring our Land and Environment ministry to provide for better treatment of household waste. We need to change our energy policy to make it more efficient and environment-friendly.

But this is a hard task to tackle. Start small. Look around you. What can you change to make your country a better place? From that time in 2nd/3rd form I have come to realize that the necessary is rarely easy. But it can be done.

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  1. […] I’ve written about the world’s seventh largest natural harbour aka Kingston Harbour before in Pellucid.  I and others have mentioned the damage being done to the Palisadoes Spit.  The Kingston […]



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