Greening the Blue

I’m sure you’ve heard it! All that talk about how ‘going green’ can save the environment and reduce poverty. But there’s more to it!

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”. Much work is underway on how countries can benefit from making the transition to a green economy, with players such as China, India, Ecuador and Brazil, among others, taking steps to reap promoted benefits. These benefits are many, and include poverty reduction, natural resource conservation, adaptation to the impacts of climate change, generating renewable energy, and improving health and well-being, to name just a few.

But what does all this mean for small islands like those of the Caribbean, like Saint Lucia, that are surrounded by large expanses of blue sea?

Source – The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org)

NatureConservaney

The economies of the islands of the Caribbean are more dependent on natural resources and well-functioning ecosystems than many other parts of the world. Saint Lucia, like most small island states, traditionally depends heavily on a healthy marine environment for a number of economic and social activities, including human settlements, job security, communications, fisheries, transportation, trade, tourism and recreation.

However, Saint Lucia’s coastal waters, like those of most of the countries within the Wider Caribbean Region, are under increasing threat from human activities in the marine environment, and from land-based pollutants like oil, nutrients, pesticides, litter and marine debris. This is compounded by other problems like unsustainable fishing practices, habitat degradation and ecosystem modification. Specifically in the case of Saint Lucia, inadequate and improper sewage treatment and disposal, pollution from grey water (from household sinks, showers, tubs, etc), sedimentation from deforestation, erosion during heavy rainfall and other poor land use practices, have been identified as the biggest threats to public health and to the integrity of the island’s coastal waters and marine habitats.

The Government of Saint Lucia has long recognised the heavy dependence on its coastal and marine resources and has been actively engaged in various national and regional initiatives to address the increasing threat to the marine environment from land-based pollutants. For starters, a number of policies, legislation and institutional arrangements have been put in place to facilitate sustainable development of the island’s natural wealth, i.e. management which allows us and coming generations to enjoy the same benefits today and in the future. Further, in fulfilling obligations set under the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention), which Saint Lucia ratified on 30th November 1984, efforts to reduce, control and prevent pollution of the marine environment from land based sources, are ongoing, alongside measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, and the habitats of depleted, threatened or endangered species. Saint Lucia was also the 4th country to ratify the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution (LBS) Protocol in January 2008 and works to address the problem of land-based pollutants that enter the marine environment. Plans are currently underway to develop a robust water quality monitoring programme, and a policy and action plan for wastewater management.

These and many other steps have been taken to address marine pollution in Saint Lucia. And to ensure that the coastal and marine resources are kept in tip-top shape to support lives and livelihoods. However, these arrangements have been inadequate, and coastal resources remain vulnerable to overexploitation, pollution and the impacts of natural disasters. The Caribbean Sea continues to be under threat!

But we, too, have parts to play in protecting and sustainably managing marine resources.

What can we do?

Start with these tips (Source: www.savethesea.org):

  1. Reduce “household pollution”
    The less herbicides and pesticides you use, the less you will swim in! Use lawn clippings, compost, or manure to fertilise your lawn and garden. Use phosphate-free laundry and dishwasher detergent because phosphates in rivers can encourage algae growth, which can suffocate aquatic life. Try non-toxic products, such as baking soda or vinegar, instead of hazardous chemicals for cleaning.
  2. Reduce run-off
    DO NOT LITTER! Put trash in the bin instead of the gutter. Use soap sparingly when washing your car. If you must use chemicals on your lawn, don’t spray on a windy day or when rain is expected. To improve drainage and decrease run-off, avoid landscaping with hard surfaces and instead select vegetation, gravel or other porous material. Sweep your driveway and sidewalk to collect any toxic materials that could be washed into gutters and rivers, and properly dispose of the waste. Redirect rain gutters onto your lawn or into collection barrels to water your garden. Scoop pet waste and prevent it from flowing to the sea.
  3. Recycle or dispose of all trash properly
    Never flush non-degradable products, such as disposable diapers or plastic tampon applications, down the toilet. These products can damage the sewage treatment process and end up littering beaches and waters. Never throw cigarette butts on the ground or out of car windows. Pick up litter and avoid using disposable products if at all possible.
  4. Reduce oil pollution Fix car leaks!
    More oil enters the ocean from large tanker spills. Recycle used motor oil. Much of the oil pollution in surface waters is caused by people dumping used oil into storm drains. Buy a fuel-efficient car. Even better, drive less! Walk, bicycle, carpool or take public transportation. Check underground heating oil tanks for leaks.
  5. Be considerate of ocean wildlife
    Never dispose of fishing line or nets in the water. They could entangle, maim, injure or kill unsuspecting fish and wildlife. Don’t release helium balloons outside. They could end up in the ocean and harm animals that mistake them for food. Minimize your use of Styrofoam, which degrades into smaller pellets that also resemble food. Cut open plastic six-pack rings; they can entangle ocean life.

Written by Lavina Alexander

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