Pickersgill: Let’s Protect the ‘Lungs of the Earth’

December 2, 2015






SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill made a startling admission at a land-titling ceremony in this south-central town last month.

“I must make a confession: When the prime minister (Portia Simpson Miller) appointed me as the minister of climate change I was wondering what was happening because, I must confess, I knew very little about it,” Pickersgill told his audience, which included a smiling Simpson Miller.

Four years on, Pickersgill has seen — at close quarters — the dire consequences of rapid climate change. Hitting home hardest of all has been extreme drought in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean over the last two years, which environmentalists say is largely the result of global warming.

Pickersgill told his listeners at the St Matthew’s Church Hall in Santa Cruz that the records showed the last “two years to be the hottest in the world since 1880”, when such comprehensive record-keeping begun.

For Pickersgill, Jamaica’s experience — particularly in relation to drought and other extreme weather conditions — underline the importance of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference which is now taking place in Paris.

Scientists say the growing level of carbons and other harmful emissions in the atmosphere — as a result of rapid industrialisation over the last 200 years,– particularly in northern hemisphere countries — is leading to global warming and other forms of environmental degradation.

Among the dangers, a warmer globe will likely lead to melting of the polar ice caps resulting in rising sea levels and imminent danger to land masses, not least small island states such as Jamaica, experts say. Scientists and environmental experts say if global warming is not arrested, natural ecosystems will be endangered and human health and well-being will come under threat.

Diplomats, delegates and political leaders now gathered in Paris are expected to find a way to an agreement that will reduce harmful gas and industrial emissions.

A target of the Paris conference will be to limit rising temperatures in the 21st century to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that, the globe will be in “uncharted” territory, scientists say.

Some scientific sources suggest that global temperatures have risen by more than 0.7 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years, and by more than 0.4 degree Celsius since the late 1970s.

Pickersgill told his Santa Cruz audience that part of the drive to contain emissions at the Paris conference will be an effort to set up a “green climate fund of US$100 billion” to benefit countries, including Jamaica, which have committed to environmental recovery.

While Jamaica’s role in degrading the planetary environment has been minuscule, Pickersgill told land-titling beneficiaries in Santa Cruz that they and their neighbours also had a role to play in environmental recovery through proper land use.

More to the point, the droughts of the last two years should have brought home to Jamaicans the need to protect the forests, which in turn protect the nation’s watersheds, Pickersgill said.

Trees, he emphasised, “are the lungs of the Earth” and must be planted, nurtured and protected.

“If our watersheds are degraded: If trees are being cut down and our forests are utilised in an unsustainable manner… if our air and water are being polluted by human activities, then it goes without question that our environment is dying and, by extension, our communities are also dying,” Pickersgill said.

The minister told farmers that, “while you need to earn a living, I also encourage you also to preserve the environment through environmentally friendly farming techniques and practices. Economic development cannot and must not come at a cost to the environment.”

“One method of ensuring that your land and your community are healthy is by planting, and where necessary replanting trees. By doing so, you will improve your air quality as trees sustain life by absorbing the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels and providing life giving oxygen,” he urged.

He identified the Cockpit Country embracing northern St Elizabeth, southern Trelawny, and parts of St James as a crucial watershed area which must be protected. The Cockpit supplies five rivers — Black River, Great River, Martha Brae, Montego River and Rio Bueno and is Jamaica’s “largest remaining connecting rainforest”.

Pickersgill had a warning for those, including chainsaw operators, who thoughtlessly cut down trees, sometimes for “foolish” roadblock demonstrations.

“Let me just say that if you have a chainsaw and it’s not licensed, the fine is $50,000 or one year in prison; and to license the saw is $15,000, …and we are serious about that,” said Pickersgill.

More than 100 St Elizabeth residents collected land titles at the Santa Cruz ceremony as part of the Land Administration and Management Programme/Geoland Titling initiative, which is aimed at accelerating certified landownership across Jamaica.






Re-posted from: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pickersgill–Let-s-protect-the–lungs-of-the-Earth-_19241485




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