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La Educación
Número: (115) II
Año: 1993

Some Positive Responses

Increased emphasis on education about the environment has resulted, inevitably, in changes in attitude about, and behavior towards, the environment. The following will illustrate some of the positive responses to support this claim.

Save the Ibis Campaign

Trinidad and Tobago’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis (Endocimus ruber), roosts and breeds in the mangrove swamps and wetlands around the Caroni River. During the period 1974 to 1984 ornithologists in Trinidad and Tobago noted with concern that the numbers had been declining. Indeed, the Trinidad and Tobago Conservation Wildlife Act during that time permitted the hunting of up to five Scarlet Ibises per person, per day, throughout the year. Shooting is a popular pastime in Trinidad and Tobago, and the leniency of the law resulted in the rapid depletion of the Ibis population.

In addition, the pollution of the Caroni Swamp and feeder rivers resulting from unplanned development had affected the life-supporting systems in and around the swamp; and according to a (1986) report from the Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, this contributed to a large-scale migration of the birds to nearby Venezuela. It was clear that speedy action had to be taken if the Scarlet Ibis was to be saved.

In 1984, the Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, under the leadership of Ms. Molly Gaskin, embarked on a campaign to save the bird. The Trust lobbied relentlessly to have the relevant laws amended, and enlisted the support of school groups, environmentalists, and the general public. Their uncompromising approach resulted in an amendment to the law in September 1986, which prohibits the issuing of state game licenses for hunting the Scarlet Ibis. The Trust embarked simultaneously upon a captive breeding program, recording its first success in 1990. Result: a new lease on life for the Scarlet Ibis population.

Protecting Endangered Wildlife

Similar campaigns by the Forestry Division of the Governments of St. Lucia and Dominica have resulted in a new lease on life for the indigenous parrot populations of both countries. In 1975, David Jeggo, assistant curator of birds at the Jersey Zoo, concluded that the indigenous St. Lucia Parrot could not escape extinction. This was based on the fact that the numbers had been reduced to less than one hundred. Indiscriminate hunting and habitat destruction were considered to be the primary causes. An intensive decade-long public awareness campaign, spearheaded by Gabriel Charles and Paul Butler, with support from Forestry Division officers, resulted in improved legislation, a significant increase (more than double) in the parrot population, and an increase in public awareness which has benefitted other wildlife species.

The Conservation Education Program of RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), has also generated widespread support for conservation efforts in the Caribbean. The strategy encompasses a multi-media campaign to change people’s attitude towards endangered species and their habitats. The success of the program is widely acknowledged. In addition to campaigns in St. Vincent, Dominica, and St. Lucia to protect endemic parrot species, RARE has conducted successful programs to save the endangered Montserrat Oriole, the Bahama Parrot, the Grenada Dove, and the Brown Pelican, the national bird of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Techniques include the use of badges, posters, songs, billboards, bumper stickers, music videos, puppet shows, and school presentations to heighten awareness of the plight of endangered species and their habitats. The campaigns have prompted the establishment of reserves, the revision of wildlife legislation, and the building of nature trails.

Increase in awareness and informed public opinion played a big role in a recent (1992) decision by the Government of Grenada to discourage construction of a golf course on the last remaining habitat of the endemic Grenada Dove.

Spin-off effects of the program have resulted in other ecosystems being preserved. For example, in Nevis, the campaign to save the Brown Pelican increased awareness of the need to protect the island’s wetland ecosystem. The program has also resulted in a dramatic increase in public support for conservation measures across the region. In St. Vincent, four years after RARE’s Conservation Education Programme was completed, one local business, the St. Vincent Brewery, continues to fund the production of a monthly environmental newspaper and posters.

Towards a Nuclear Free Caribbean

Recent campaigns (1992) by the Caribbean Conservation Association and other regional and international NGOs have helped to heighten public awareness of the potential for widespread radiation pollution from the transport of nuclear waste (particularly plutonium) through the waters of the Caribbean.

Recognizing the danger which plutonium holds for the Caribbean, and the inertia of Caribbean governments, the CCA mounted an intensive campaign to educate both governments and people about the seriousness of the Japanese traffic in plutonium through the waters of the Caribbean. The campaign involved thousands of concerned Caribbean nationals who signed petitions and wrote letters to individual governments and to CARICOM requesting that they protest the planned shipments at the level of the United Nations. The print and electronic media were bombarded with releases which explained the danger which plutonium poses to humans and to the environment. In the end, the groundswell of support from NGOs across the Caribbean goaded CARICOM Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the United Nations to protest the shipment of nuclear and hazardous material through the waters of the Caribbean. The first shipment of plutonium was re-routed from Caribbean waters.

Youth in Action

In an attempt to garner the support of Caribbean youth in whose hands the future of the Caribbean environment rests, the Caribbean Conservation Association in collaboration with Shell Antilles and Guyanas Limited, launched a campaign to gauge the level of awareness of Caribbean youth about issues relating to the environment. The campaign took the form of environment projects which were undertaken by young people across the region between the ages of five and twenty-five. The campaign was launched in November 1991, and when the judging of the first phase was completed in May 1992, between seven and ten thousand young people from thirteen islands had been mobilized.

The theme of the campaign was “Towards a Better Caribbean”, and a wide variety of creative projects were entered under the categories “Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle”; “The Greening of the Caribbean”; “Historic Preservation”; and a “Research Project.”

The campaign revealed an extraordinary sense of awareness among Caribbean youth who produced some outstanding projects including the first phase of restoration of an historic church; Amerindian stones with petroglyphs; research into pesticide use, and several types of recycling projects.

The environment projects built upon an earlier initiative which had as its theme “Our World: What Can We Do?” The projects capitalized upon the awareness which has been built up as a result of ongoing education programs, and translated this awareness into positive action to help protect and preserve the Caribbean’s natural and cultural resources. The majority of the projects would be ongoing.