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  • Writer's pictureSarah Miles

Saving our Islands: A Beginner's Guide

There's no beating around the bush. The Caribbean is a drop dead gorgeous place. Whether you're a local or tourist, I'm sure we can all agree that our tropical landscape is without a doubt one of our main attractions. For many, is not all of the islands, this natural beauty is in itself a major source of income. We are so reliant on the tourism industry, so naturally we should be protecting the environment...right?

Now hold up. I'm not a marine biologist, or an environmentalist, or anything of the sort. I'm a 20 year old Sociology student trying to find out what I want to do in life and wondering whether or not I should take a chicken breast out of the freeze for dinner. But, in light of the UN's report regarding climate change, the reality that we face in the Caribbean is terrifying. From pollution to rising sea levels, we are the target as various environmental issues that can effect our populations in various aspects. Whether it's economic crises due to declining tourism or loss of property and lives as a result of hazardous flooding, we need to be proactive in order to mitigate the onset of these effects. Ultimately, in some way or another, we need change.

Look at that beautiful sea water. Doesn't it look great at that level? Let's not make it rise anymore.

As West Indians, we need to be held accountable for the decisions we make that may contribute to this global crisis. Steps towards positive change are necessary, no matter how big or small. Not only for our nations, but for the whole world. We need to #beboutdatsustainablelife. Jah feel??

I try to find ways daily how to make a positive impact, by any means possible. No matter if it's just a small drop in the bucket. I'm not always ~super conscious~ and that's fine because we all have our faults. But even if this article causes one person to make a difference, whether as a local or visitor, then I'll be more than happy.

Here are some ways.

Break up wid Parrot Fish

Hey gyal...I think it's time to break up with Parrot Fish.

It'll be okay, there's plenty fish in the sea.

There is nothing better than eating some fried fish with some escoveitch sauce, and festival on a beach with friends or family. Try to prove me wrong, you can't. I wasn't always conscious about which fish I preferred. My dad always got snapper, so I would ask for snapper. Hell, I assumed that all fish in the Caribbean sea were snapper. It wasn't until a few years ago, however, that I knew how important it was to ask what type of fish was being served.

Parrot fish is a staple for many fish vendorrs, and Jamaicans on a whole. While we may not realise it, what seems to be a relatively simple food choice is proving to be more and more detrimental to our island. I'm no expert, but parrot fish play an integral role in the maintenance of a balance ecosystem. They feed on the algae and seaweed and help to produce the sands of the beaches we adore. Essentially, our practices of overfishing, whether intentional or not, is setting us up for both short-term and long-term negative- our beaches can deteriorate, seaweed will plague the island, and most importantly, the survival of the specie itself is increasingly at risk. Going to Hellshire for fish and complaining about the lack of beach? Well, this is one of the reasons why.

Nuff of us cuss bout this issue on social media, but not everyone has access to the platforms we do. Speak about it in person and vocalize your stance. Parrot Fish are beautiful, but I'd rather let them do their thing in the ocean. I think you should too. Just ask for Snapper.

Pass on di Plastic Straw

Restaurants and parties love to provide straws in their drinks. While they do have their functionality, for example for people with disabilities or for hot gyals at parties who don't want to smudge their lipstick, plastic straws are a nuisance to the environment. I know I'm not the only one who has seen a clear plastic straw floating in the sea before, so doh lie.

Not only can the plastic in the straws contain toxins that are horrible for you, but they're usually very hard to recycle. The plastic will be in this environment for way longer than you, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren combined. A lot of this plastic, that just won't gweh, ends up in our seas. Many animals, fishes, and the poor sea turtles, ingest these products. It's just not worth it.

If you're deadset on the use of straws, there are so many alternatives: from sustainable steel to bamboo. I've been searching for Jamaican made versions of these products, so please contact me if you know of anyone who does so!

Ditch di Scandal Bag

Do you ever feel, like a scandal bag?

Drifting in the wind, wanting to stop pollution?

While many nations have decided to say 'chat to mi back' to scandal (plastic) bags, we all know the West Indians have that bag of bags under dem kitchen sink. Even though it is applaudable that we do reuse these bags, they end up polluting our environments at the end of the day. It is always better to opt for reusable bags, whether canvas, jute or cotton. I always like to have one just incase I end up running errands and have no where to put them. There are endless locally made brands, such as Sun Island Jamaica, that have a wide range of products to choose from.

Like plastic straws, nuff of these bags end up in our seas. The worst part? Fish eat this plastic waste...and we eat fish. Next time you get a scandal bag from the supermarket think of the sea turtle who will think it's a jellyfish. OR think of how good the plastic will taste in the fish paired with a bit of escoveitch.

Make Reusable Bottles your New Bredrin

You get the jist of why plastic is bad right? Reusable bottles are such a huge part of my life in Montreal, I don't go anywhere without my bottle. I have bottles for home and bottles for the road. It has changed my life so much, that I started practicing this in Jamaica. Everyday in high school, I used to drink two CranWatas. Not only was my poor body begging for mercy, but so was the environment.

While I can't speak for people who drink sodas or flavoured drinks (maybe go for boxed drink alternatives), everyone drinks water. So why aren't we travelling with this water? If you're worried about your water getting hot throughout the day, make an investment in well insulated, stainless steel bottles. In Canada, I use a Swell bottle, but I still am searching for Jamaican alternatives. While spending so much money on a bottle feel like it a bruk mi pocket, it's worth it at the end of the day. Not only am I helping the environment but I am quenching my thirst with some ice cowl wata.

Plastic bottles are that friend that you knew a while back and you suddenly realise you don't rate them anymore. You're just no longer compatible. At this point, just block plastic from the group chat, they're no longer invited to the fetes anymore.

Participate in Local Thrifting

Every mikkle, mek a mukkle.

While this point is bit of a self-promotion, it is for a good cause. Thrifting locally creates a nationwide sharing community that helps prevent clothes from being improperly disposed and ending up in landfills, but also helps to combat fast fashion. Shopping can be exciting even if clothes are pre-loved and not 'brand new'. They'll just be 'new' to you!

For all my Jamaican yaadies, I assisted in the co-founding of a semi-annual pop-up thrift shop called Mukkle Thrift. All of our thrifted items are $1,500 JMD or under, and proceeds go towards causes in need across the island. We have an upcoming show on December 22nd and I will definitely share more details about it in future blog posts, as I have in the past!

Call out Yuh Friends

It's good to make steps toward sustainability, but encouraging your friends to as well is HYPE. The reason I hate plastic bottles is because my roommate despises them. She called me out, now using a reusable bottle is part of my lifestyle. Any little impact, is an impact that wasn't there before.

Change is made when people are held accountable. It could be you, a corporation, your aunty, a fish vendor, or that wasteman in front of you in traffic who toss dem KFC big deal box out di window.

As West Indians, we need to be conscious that our islands are at a huge risk to the effects of global warming and climate change. Adopting sustainable practices is necessary for our survival. If we don't, the changes can and will be detrimental. Hot gyals, take action, that beach you love to pose up on for #SetbackSatdehs may not be the same in a few years.


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