Today, April 22nd, is the Fortieth Anniversary of Earth Day. This very important event was started in the United States in 1970 but by 2000 had gone International.

We as Jamaicans have a very bad habit regarding many things. We talk a lot about our problems: crime, garbage, drought, the breakdown of our values. But how often do we actually do something about any of the things that bother us daily? Generally, we’re all bark and no bite.

Though Jamaica has many environmental issues, there are two of them which tend to stand out. The first is the disgusting condition of Kingston Harbour. The appalling thing is that this is so easily fixable. It has been suggested by environmentalists that 70% of the pollution in Kingston Harbour is a direct result of faulty sewerage plants operated by the National Water Commission. We have ourselves seen evidence to back this up. Recently, under our major water restrictions, friends took photographs of Kingston Harbour in which the Harbour looked as clean and blue as San San Bay. None of us in our lifetime have seen the Harbour look that pretty. Could it be that less water in our pipes generated less sewerage going through the treatment plants and therefore more efficient processing? Can anyone give a better explanation? Below is a photograph showing a very obvious red tide in the Harbour. Red tide is caused by very toxic algae which generates in polluted water. Not only does it kill fish and other marine life but, if it becomes airborne, it can seriously affect our health. Our health is also affected when we eat contaminated fish.

Red Tide in Kingston Harbour

At the end of the day, why are we pumping the waste of more than 1,000,000 people into an almost completely enclosed Harbour? We are all obliged to come up with ways to pull our public entity, the National Water Commission, into the twenty-first century. And, of course, there is still the 30% of Harbour pollution which is caused by other sources.

Our second major environmental issue is our reluctance to recycle. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the preponderance of plastic bottles which litter almost every square inch of our landscape.  About ten years ago, GraceKennedy installed blue recycle bins across the city to allow us to collect our PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottles for recycling. They eventually discontinue the exercise as people used the bins as general garbage tipsters.

According to the Jamaica Environment Trust we throw away 250,000,000 PET bottles every year, that’s 90 bottles for each man, woman and child in the country! The JET operates a recycle depot at Earth House, 11 Waterloo Rd. Most of us who live in Kingston and St Andrew drive past Earth House regularly. Would it be any trouble for us to place a bin in our home to collect plastic bottles and then drop them off once a month? We likely wouldn’t even be going out of our way! They will even pick up large quantities from schools and business places.

Jamaicans, do your part. Starting today pick up one new habit to help keep our beautiful Island clean and healthy. Buy a water bottle and fill it every morning before you leave home instead of drinking commercial bottled water. If each of us made a tiny change it would all add up to a huge difference.

Visit the Earth Day Expo at Hope Gardens

Read more about Jamaica’s Environment at Jamaica-Allspice.com

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