Written by Andrea Kay Intern with Pinelands Creative Workshop in Barbados
Under graduate Studies – York University, Canada
Bachelors in Environmental Studies, with Specialized Honors in Environmental Politics
Being in a tropical island 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, Barbados proves to be a tiny inhabitance within the Atlantic Ocean. Located on the eastern chain of multiple Caribbean islands like St. Lucia and Montserrat, Barbados holds multiple, unique qualities making it a distinctive island on its own. Part of these distinctive qualities include environmental differences, which can make environmental practices like conservation and mitigation difficult for this country; unique features like a coral limestone foundation may require separate and innovative strategies to be developed to accommodate it’s exclusive features.
Certain environmental vulnerabilities that Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean face from climate change are higher temperatures, drought, rising sea levels, more frequent and unusual severe weather, as well as changes in precipitation.
Currently within the hurricane season, Barbados is at the most vulnerable point of environmental disaster. This season is also when the polar effects of climate change can be noticed like intense precipitation, severity in heat, and constant, sporadic change in weather. According to USGS within 2015, there have been six (6) earthquakes that have been felt within the whole island of Barbados. On July 16th, five earthquakes occurred hours apart from each other, ranging from 4.7 to 5.6 on the seismograph readings. On July 19th, another earthquake occurred just off the coast of Barbados, scaled at a 4.5 magnitude. Although no damage or injuries were reported, shaking was felt within certain regions in Barbados, showing some structural and disaster protocol shortcomings.
To deal with climate change effects, adaptation and mitigation protocols are called upon. Obviously, government agencies usually have processes and managerial efforts to tackle the negative effects of climate change. As of currently, more effort is needed to educate the general population about climate change, including the understanding of climate change effects. More effort is also needed for the general population to understand the actions to take for stopping/reducing the negative climate change effects and know what to do in the event of a climate change-related disaster. Furthermore, local NGO’s (civil societies) must also understand thier role within the adaptation and mitigation processes of alleviating climate change impacts.
The Holetown-Weston Community Adaptation Plan is a prime example of what local efforts from the general population and NGO’s can produce, in order to mitigate climate change effects. It lists two main aspects that can be done to combat climate change. One is to reduce the heat-trapping green house gases that are being put in the atmosphere; the second is to take actions to cope with and prepare for the impacts of climate change.
The involvement of NGO’s is imperative to long lasting and thorough action to combat the negative effects of climate change within Barbados. However, at present they are the weakest active link in the involvement of environmental education, as well as adaptation and mitigation efforts within the wider community.
This article outlines some roles which civil societies can play in the education and adaptive strategies to complete the circuit of cognitive action towards a resilient and greener Barbados. To address the main aspects of Barbados within the article, we will address the two main sectors that Barbados economically relies heavily on: Tourism and Fisheries.
This sector is very most important to the economy state of Barbados, however, environmental issues like the Sargassum seaweed, the invasive Lion Fish and the dying coral reefs are main examples of natural elements that are affected by climate change and pose potential risk to the sector. These natural elements which are also main attractions to visitors, also impacts on small businesses that promote them and their ability to keep afloat.
The Sargassum creates higher acidity levels in the ocean’s PH, causing shellfish like crab and shrimp to be unable to live, due to the acidity eating away at their calcium-based shells. This same effect is also displayed amongst the coral reefs, in which their color drains and species like the Crown of Thorns (Sea Urchin), consume all the nutrients out of the reef’s supply. As the reefs fade, other reef-dwelling fish also dwindle, for their homes, protection and food have gone. Sargassum also chokes the sea turtles on the shoreline, and confuses them when navigating through the water. Sea turtles and coral reef attract a large population for tourists, especially for the glass bottom boat rides and catamarans. With these species dying off, these industries will also be fading. These species are the lifeline of the marine-tourist industries; without the lively marine life, these industries will become obsolete.
Due to their fast reproductive rate, young maturity rate and long life spans, the Lionfish has posed a threat to Bajan waters as well. They threaten the coral reef ecosystem for they are not a native species to the Caribbean, but originally from the Indo-Pacific. Due to having no predator, the Lion Fish’s population flourishes, in which they consume 56 different fish species native to Barbados. These fish tend to kill-off all of the other colorful reef fish that many people dive/snorkel to see, which may also deflate the tourist-boating industry.
This sector can be argued to be the second most important sector on the island. This is not only associated with the Tourism (Oistins Fish Market on Friday’s, fresh fish varieties not available in tourist home land etc), but it is associated with how most of the island nourishes itself and makes their living. In relation with the tourist sector, The Lion Fish have been causing issues for the local fisheries; as they consume the juvenile fish of the marine species that Barbados eats, when in the adult stage. Lionfish also eat the other fish on the reef, making it harder to fish other species for food. Sea turtles also play an important role in the marine food chain, which will severely affect multiple fish populations above and below it; this will ultimately affect the fishing industry if this fish species persists without mitigation.
Adaptation/Mitigation possibilities for tourism and fishery sectors
A few adaptation/mitigation strategies are listed for the community and small business owners to adhere to. Firstly, A mentorship program can provide opportunities for collaboration and support between small and large businesses. This can be an effective learning and development experience for small business operators. It would also solidify the foundation as to what small businesses operate on and minimize external, negative impacts.
Another approach can be developing education and awareness tools that speak to climate change impacts and adaptation in the local context. This is beneficial for the need of building on the existing knowledge that local communities have on the short-term weather impacts, focusing on the longer-term impacts and address challenges and/or opportunities. Applying this knowledge in different ways, through seminars and technology will help address multiple audiences. People in the community with high levels of authority or responsibility should provide the information as well.
The introduction of sea moss cultivation as an alternative or supplementary source of income will also be an adaptive measure the community can undertake. Using fish byproducts and sargassum will also be useful to generate income, as well as acting as a mitigation effort for this environmental issue.
The fishing, selling and marketing of Lionfish can also lower their abundant population and generate a separate, unique source of income which can provide a niche market for the edible fish industry in Barbados. Many tourists are already asking for the ‘delicacy’, as to which a high price is placed.
Construction and deployment of FAD’s (Fish Aggregating Devices) just off of the coast could stimulate the congregation of marine life in the area; these devices can also be deployed by local fisherman, providing further education and technological knowledge to update the current fishing methods.
Coral restoration could also enhance the marine life, restoring the fish diversity and population sizes.
These listed mitigation efforts above, are some of the ways the local community can be involved within climate change mitigation and adaptation procedures. More are listed under the PDF attached that outlines the Holetown- Weston Community Adaptation Plan.