In late February, GCM made its maiden voyage to Jamaica to train two very different communities on our tried and true Bucket Brigade, as well as launching a few new monitoring tools from our toolkit – water & soil monitoring.
Well, the sunburn has faded and the nasty head-cold, that seemed to be passing on island time, has finally run its course. So, here’s what we learned:
1. Jamaicans are awesome.
From the time we arrived to the day we left, everyone that we worked with was very well organized and ready to take the Bucket Brigade project head on. Our training packed churches and schoolhouses, and everyone was interested in participating.
For this project, GCM partnered with the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), an an environmental education and advocacy organization that has been working with communities all over the country.
The two JET staff members that are
coordinating the project are not only lawyers, but also fierce community organizers. Together we identified two heavily impacted communities, planned the project out with the community leaders, tied up (almost all of) the logistics and set out on a walking tour of the neighborhoods to get a better idea of sampling locations.
AND – these folks are most definitely experts of their community! They told us all about the sediment slide, caused by Caribbean Cement Company and their gypsum mine in the Ten Miles community, in 2002 as they were shepherding me down to
eroded river bed. They remembered every detail from 2002 while alerting me to every loose rock where I could lose my footing. The dust in this community is so bad that you can see it rising up through the trees from the bottom of the mountain, right in front of an elementary school.
The other community tour was no different with the community leaders expressing deep concern regarding the overflow of wastewater from Jamalco’s aluminium mine, while pulling me out of the way of an angry (and kicking!) donkey.
Bottom line: These folks have what it takes to be successful – knowledge, persistence and determination. They are ready to take on community monitoring with the Bucket Brigade; they just need the tools to do it.
3. The Red Stripe tastes better.
Unfortunately, Lagunitas Brewing Company has yet to expand their distribution market to Jamaica. DO NOT PANIC! The Red Stripe beer actually tastes much better in Kingston than anywhere I’ve tried it in the States.
Also worth noting, if given a choice between eating Saltfish and Ackee or a Lobster Patty, go with the Lobster Patty! Although Saltfish and Ackee is delicious, the Lobster Patties are by far the best thing I’ve ever consumed in my life; and honestly you’ll have multiple opportunities to try the Saltfish and Ackee, but never pass up goat curry cooked by the native villagers.
4. Industry will be industry.
Over the years, we at GCM have seen lots of different industry, but more often than not, the company’s main focus is “dollars and cents, instead of common sense”. And, unfortunately, this careless company principle crosses many borders. From toxic waste water overflow in New Town from the aluminium refinery, to toxic waste sediment in Bull Bay from the gypsum mine; environmental injustice is worldwide.
BUT – so is the crazy idea that community organizing can change that and recreate a truly sustainable environment for the next generation.