By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The COVID-19 pandemic was seen by many as a time for nature to recover as humans retreated to their homes during lockdown and commercial activity, transportation, recreation stopped. The air had gotten cleaner, there was less noise, the sounds of nature were not drowned out, less garbage and pollution. Images from around the world were captured of wild animals exploring towns.
Unfortunately, activities harmful to the environment continue unabated.
“This dry season there has been a huge increase in manmade forest and bushfires which have been wreaking havoc destroying thousands of acres of land, wildlife habitat and resulted in the death of many animals, insects and other creatures in our forest”. The Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP), Akilah Jaramgogi and her group told the Catholic News.
The FACRP has commemorated World Environment Day since 1991. The observance is an important opportunity to highlight challenges facing forests and sensitive watersheds.
Focusing on the theme It’s Time for Nature, the FACRP shared what the forest, trees and earth would say to humankind: “You don’t deserve the oxygen we produce to sustain your lives, the fruits to nourish your bodies, the water to sustain your livelihoods and the scenic views to inspire creativity…we deserve respect and justice”.
Jaramogi said, “The lighting of forest and bush fires is illegal, so is the cutting of hardwood trees without a permit. We who know better must do better, educate others and lobby for change.”
The public is urged not to remain silent. There are consequences, “our hill turn to desert and our freshwater supply no longer exists”. Jaramogi said when water becomes scarce people will turn their anger to the Water and Sewerage Authority—which manages the water and sewerage sector— without realising the impacts of their own actions. The effects of climate change—higher temperatures, stronger winds, less rainfall, see level rise and consequent ‘salt water intrusion’ —are indicators of how interconnected and dependent humans are on the environment “being intact”, she said.
COVID-19 stopped the work of FACRP and programmes and events had to be cancelled. The lockdown, absence of staff caused many plants to be left untended and employees lost a source of income. A few members of staff volunteered to assist with extinguishing fires, managing the Clean Trees Organic Nursery and maintaining the facilities. Jaramogi is thankful for these efforts and said FACRP is exploring measures to bring temporary relief to the team.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, FACRP is using a “mixed approach” to raise awareness, highlight its donation drive and promote advocacy.
Action: Plant a fruit tree in your garden or in a large container to encourage wildlife. FACRP said to tag them and hashtag #facrp #itstimefornature #TrinidadandTobago instagram @fondesmandes_facrp
Donate: If there is a large fruit tree in your garden with lots of rotting fruits below, collect them in buckets and contact FACRP to deliver them. These will be put to germinate and dispersed in the areas of the hills affected by the 2020 forest fires within the watershed. Contact 471-2051 or 689-7794 to arrange the bucket drop off during the month of June; scheduling is mandatory in order to adhere to the national coronavirus restrictions. Remember to wear a face mask when out in public.
Advocacy: Post a photo of any wild creature encountered in the past and let them know what makes you appreciate nature. Tag Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project and hashtag #facrp #itstimefornature #TrinidadandTobago Instagram @fondesamandes_facrp
UN SEC GEN: Time to change course
“Nature is sending us a clear message. We are harming the natural world, to our own detriment” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his World Environment Day 2020 message. The theme for this year is Time for Nature.
He lists the effects: acceleration of habitat degradation and biodiversity loss, worsening climate disruption; more frequent and damaging fires, floods, droughts and superstorms; oceans heating and acidifying destroying coral ecosystems. Now coronavirus.
Guterres said, “To care for humanity we MUST care for nature; we need our entire global community to change course.” He appealed for people to rethink what is bought and used, adopt sustainable habits, faming and business models safeguarding the remaining wild spaces and wildlife.
“Commit to a green and resilient future. As we work to build back better let us put nature where it belongs at the heart of our decision making.”
POPE FRANCIS: We stand on holy ground
Pope Francis in his message for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day April 22 said, “We are called to cherish creation and all life within it, for the natural world is the ‘Gospel of Creation’, not a set of resources for us to exploit. To overcome our selfishness and rediscover a sacred respect for the earth, we need a new way of seeing—an ecological conversion—for the earth is also God’s home and we stand on holy ground”. To be authentic custodians of the earth and overcome the challenges being faced such as the coronavirus pandemic people must act in solidarity with each other. The Holy Father stated, “As the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ reminds us, we are one interdependent human family and so need a common response to the threats we face (cf 164)