Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jamaica’s Yearly Drought - Permaculture and Sustainability

There are two major factors that is guaranteed to affect economic growth and our standard of living, these two things affect us almost every year, at the same time. The effects of hurricane and drought on the Jamaican economy and society are well known and expected. It is not if the island will experience a storm, hurricane and/or a drought but more a matter of when the island will be affected by these two things, it is inevitable because of our geographic location.  It is inevitable regardless of which Political Party is in power at the time, both the PNP and the JLP are powerless to stop the events and only use them as excuse about why we have not achieved growth. Growth was always this close... if it was not for the Hurricane or the drought.

The Political Class long and short term solution... pathetic

Political Class and Technocratic Incompetence

There is very little we can do about storms and Hurricanes except prepare the very best we can and hope that the ride we are taken on by mother nature, is smooth with little destruction and that most of us make it out alive with our houses intact. However with regard to drought it is another story, yes we cannot control Mother Nature, we cannot make it rain, we do not have that power but what we do have some control over is putting in place measures to minimize the effects of the yearly drought during the dry season by taking certain actions during the rainy season and in Jamaica the drought and rainy season comes back to back. What amazes me is that in the face of certain suffering resulting from the yearly drought, we have done almost nothing to minimize the suffering it causes, except complain, which fixes nothing. It stands to reason that most of what we are going through at the moment is self-inflicted, we are doing this to ourselves because of our inaction.

Also please spare me the rubbish about political parties, when the JLP was in power they did nothing about it and instead waste our time with some grand over the top LNG project that never saw the light of day and since the PNP was elected they have also done nothing about it but instead waste our time with over the top 380 megawatt power plants and rare earth metal projects that have not seen the light of day and never will.

Summer Merriment and the Yearly Drought

This incompetence however does not stop with our political class, although there are those among us who sleep better at night placing 100% of the blame on the politicians and in between our constant complaining, our merriment loving and poverty screaming people spend their time borrowing money to attend weekend long merriment events we have done nothing by way of public activism for the greater good, we are not Nation Builder but destroyer of societies.

Why go to a water Party with Shower caps
During last year’s drought and in between the constant complaining, Jamaicans kept the most water parties and defended these water parties even though the dam was almost empty and no water was coming out of the pipes, reason for our over the top merriment making..  "a requirement to survive hard times". This year’s drought is no exception as the amount of foam, water parties and week end long merriment have reached record levels. The party lending company “Sprint Financial Services Limited” boasted that borrowing to attend summer merriment was at a record high and during the summer alone the company lend upwards of $2.5 million (and still tallying) in loans, were disbursed to party-goers, a whopping 56 per cent increase from last year, such is the extend of my people’s suffering that they must borrow to attend merriment events.

The company said “On average, we disburse $30,000 per person for a loan. The funds are then reimbursed through salary deductions, and 50 per cent of our clients have opted to use guarantors in order to secure loans” …Someone actually co-signed for these loans so that careless people can enjoy their nightly merriment.

The Island of Jamaica is not short of water, we have more than enough water to satisfy our demands even through our periods of drought. However what Jamaica is short of is insight, Jamaica lacks the ability to seriously plan and implement plans based on forecasting in the interest of human development. Jamaica lacks the ability to manage its own water resources and as I type this a large percentage of our ground water is simply running out to sea.

Our current water harvesting techniques was put in place at the turn of the 19th century, long time ago to solve early 19th century problems, to satisfy the needs of 19th century population but since then our population has increase and on the move and as such our needs have also changed, we are demanding more water but our harvesting abilities have not changed to meet that demand. 

We know drought is coming, we know we will go through water lock offs, we know the drought will affect our ability to grow our economy and still we have done next to nothing to prepare for the yearly drought but mark my words when I say the planners of the summer merriment are already planning next year’s season of merriment activities and party loans will increase over this year’s borrowings.

Turn Your Hand Make fashion – Water Harvesting
I was walking up Jacks Hill the other day when I came across a leaking fire hydrant which was dripping at about 1 drip per second, 60 drips per minute, that is 3,600 drips per hour, which is 86,400 drips per day which translates to 31,536,000 drips per year and apparently the person who lived beside that dripping fire hydrant must have also done the math because through a stroke of simplistic genius this is what he did to capture that drip of water and channel it into his yard. This to me represents everything about Permaculture, sustainability and self-reliance that I love. 60 drips per minute is about 8.64 gallons per day, which is 258.2 gallons per month(30 days) and 3,153.6 gallons per year of wasted water from that one leaking fire hydrant.

Most people who know me, know that I am fascinated by the concept and practice of Permaculture, which at its core is the concept of sustainability and self-reliance, in which water harvesting, recycling and reuse plays a big part, water security goes hand in hand with food security. Permaculture brings with it a sustainable way of looking at our consumption and usage patterns as well as identifying in nature where we can best utilize natures natural resources. Permaculture design always starts with identifying the best ways to access water to satisfy our needs. If one is going to buy a property, let’s say a farm then the first thing that must come to mind is an independent water source because without it you are certainly buggered.

A lot of our rain water is wasted with regards to human consumption, I would say about 80% of our rain water is lost. With regards to our garden we want rain water to enter our soil, instead of running off into street gutters and we strive to design landscapes that allows for maximum rainwater absorption. What we want here is to control the flow of water in and around our space, if we are in control then we can decide how best to use this water, nothing should be left to chance. Roof tops should be designed with water channeling in mind, we want to control where that water goes once it is on our roof and where it comes off the roof to be stored in cisterns for use or directed to into the garden soil.

A lot of people in Jamaica are not waiting for the Government to solve their water issues and are taking matters into their own hands. They are designing and implementing various water harvesting techniques and features. Our roofs are lined with gutters in an attempt to capture and control the water runoffs and at every exit point we have pipes that leads into a plastic barrels positioned around the house. The ultimate goal is to link up all the gutters to channel the water to a central location serviced by 6 or more barrels in the same place and when one barrel fills the water runs off into the adjoining barrel with the main barrel used for natural filtration making sure we have clean water.

Even the yard is designed to control the flow of water, levels are used to control water runoffs and channels dug to direct the water to storage pits or just to areas of the yard that does not get enough water. If water is going to leave the yard then it is only allowed to leave the yard after you have used and reused it for primary or secondary purposes. Rain water can be channeled back into the house and use to flush toilets or for drinking if filtered properly.

The bathroom face basin is another point where water is wasted, the water going into a face basin is almost never contaminated because we use it to do trivial things like wash our hands after using the loo, wash our faces or brush our teeth. That water can be channeled into the toilet tank for flushing or captured in barrels for watering the plants as the soap in the water can be used to control a wide range of plant pests. The dishwasher uses a large amount of water that normally just enter the sewage but the dishwasher can empty’s the water into a series of barrels and that water is recycled, used for secondary purposes.

This is our simple set up, designed to capture water from the basin for watering plants, however the extraction hose can also be placed into the toilet tank for flushing the toilet with waste water.
Water use to water plants or flush the Loo
 The recycling possibilities in one’s home is endless but not every Jamaican cares about sustainability, there is a certain section of our society, usually the ones who scream poverty the loudest, do not think about sustainability, recycling and reuse because to them screaming poverty is an excuse not to. A lot of these people have decided they do not have to think because they stand by their principles that Government “A-fi” must look after them, give them stuff.

Most of these people have a well established/developed sense of entitlement and they represent the waste in our society, these are the people who throw garbage on the ground and then complain that Government not cleaning up after them fast enough. Water is constantly being wasted across Jamaica, fire hydrants and pipes left open and their justification for this is that Nation Water Commission are all thieves anyway, not realizing that they are not hurting a company but hurting themselves. These people can cause the most damage and scream poverty and oppression the loudest then demand Government must come fix it, such is the carelessness of their existence.

One of the many barrels we have around the house
I have found that people in richer, more developed first world countries with a higher standard of living are more inclined to adopt sustainable way of living than people in the developing third world and Jamaica is a perfect example of that. Which makes me wonder why people with the least and who lives closer to nature have a bigger sense of entitlement than people in richer countries. We are the first to turn our backs on tried and true traditional sustainable ways, which is what my aunt’s gardener did when he informed her that he does not drink water from the pipe but prefers bottled water, even though he could not even afford the bus fare to come to work. Jamaica in the 50’s and the 60’s was much more sustainable than Jamaica in 2015 but we were sustainable not because we wanted to be but because we had to be, it was just the way things were.

However we have defined those days as the dark backwards days, never to be repeated and these days as modern even though these modern, pretentious times is not sustainable to us or beneficial to Jamaica and the planet. 

Portland residents can now generate green electricity simply by turning on their water taps and flushing their toilets. Fast Company reports that the Oregon city is using a state-of-the art system to capture energy from water flowing through the city’s pipelines.

The entire sustainable movement came about because we have seen modern time and found it wasteful and lacking. We realized that as a people we cannot continue to live this non sustainable lifestyle, it simply will not last, it is self-destructive and counterproductive. We have identified some past practices as the most beneficial way of existing, some by applying modern development to them as in the case of using solar energy. As a people we need to start thinking and acting out of the box, moving closer to nature and seeing value in simple things.

After two days of Rainfall

Nine Miles water catchment area for the village

Drip Irrigation System

No Gutter, No Control, Wasted water

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Campaign to Protect Rural Jamaica

There is a general perception in Jamaica that money is the beginning and the end of everything, as the lack of money in Jamaica and the lack of material goods are used as the mother of all excuses to keep up the most almshouse (disgusting) behaviour. I feel however that it is the lack of class, self-respect, lack of respect for others and of one’s surrounding, coupled with the lack of morals that condemns a person to a life of poverty because money does not make the man and for some, money and material goods are like pearls before swine, they are just low class people with money.

The large part of the Jamaican society exist in rural Jamaica, out into the countryside, off the main roads, up in the hills and down in the valleys. The length and breadth of Jamaica is littered with small villages and towns and most of those villages and towns dates back hundreds of years but are now in a very dilapidated state. The rundown dilapidated state of these villages and towns are a direct reflection of the mindset of the people who occupy them. The fact is our surroundings are a direct reflections of who we are as a people and some of us are as happy as a pigs in slop.

It gets even worse if one drives through a rural country villages after sunset because the four corners of every square is littered with gigantic speakers boxes with music blaring, roadside food on sale and garbage pile up throughout the night while patrons use the walls and bushes to relieve their bodily functions and by morning the entire area looks like a disaster area and smells like a pit latrine.

Each time I drive through a small village or a town I try to imagine how that village or town might have looked back in its heyday, how vibrant it must have been. Some of our villages and town are full of centuries old architecture that have survived the test of time, no thanks to the people who show no value in them and who have been trying to destroy them for decades, to some people these buildings are like pearls before swine. If we could somehow renovate these dilapidated small villages and towns, a restoration process to recapture their beauty and vitality then we could have a countryside everyone would be proud of. A countryside that attracts people from all over the world, as it forces people to stop and engage the local community on many levels.

Also imagine the mental transformation that would take place amongst the local people living in these places, it could be magical. But the process cannot start and is not sustainable if local people do not buy into the concept, have a natural love for themselves, their history, their surroundings and environment. Such a transformation would first have to take place amongst the local population, which puts us back to square one and where leaders with vision and some class comes in.

The Best Kept Village

One of the best countryside I have had the privilege to drive through is the English Countryside which is a countryside that is world famous for a reason and that reason begins and end with the people living in those villages and towns because without them the English Countryside just would not exist in its current pristine state. Decades of legislation have gone into protecting and preserving that countryside.
Large Village Winner - Modbury South Hams

What I like about the English Countryside, its towns and villages is how they continue to exist in their historical state, places are not bulldozed and replaced but are maintained to preserve their history and culture. Entire towns and villages are frozen in time, a snapshot to the past and people are proud of that. It was while driving through the Devon Countryside that I came across a sign declaring that the village of Modbury had won Best Kept Village within the county.

A best kept village is a village that has won one of the annual county competitions in the UK for its tidiness, appropriateness and typicality. The competitions have been nationally organized by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) for nearly 40 years. The CPRE makes it clear that the competition is not about finding "the most beautiful village, nor the most ancient, nor the most picturesque, just the one that is best cared for and its aim is to involve everyone in the village, encouraging them to take greater pride in their surroundings. Villages are judged on how clean and well cared for they are, as well as their impact on the environment.

Noted benefits include decreased littering, greater community communication, communal pride in homes and public spaces, a more attractive and welcoming appearance, name recognition for the village, and increased tourism and income for local businesses. The benefits can be extended to include cash for further village development and Tourist board promotion.

So I thought to myself what a wonderful idea and immediately started to think how such a concept could work in Jamaica. Could a village competition that is not based on direct individual eat-a-food gains but instead based on benefits to the entire community and surroundings work in Jamaica? Are Jamaicans civic minded enough for such a concept? These days we seem to have lost the art of communal thinking and exist in the Just-Me-Myself-and-I, Every-man-for-himself and God for me alone realm.

Entering a Village competition depends on Community Corporation and a spirit of volunteerism, people both old and young coming together, working together with a common sense of purpose and objectives. Taking pride in their contribution and in what they have created and want to share the fruits of their labour with the world. There is a lot of things us Jamaicans can do for ourselves, if we put our minds to it but maybe all this is wishful thinking on my part, so turn up the music operator till-it-buk-and-stuck, we are a merriment loving people.

Sometimes I feel like I wasted my youth, there is a lot of things I wish I had done when I had the chance but back then my perspective on life was different. I spent a lot of time living for the next party/session failing to slow down relax and enjoy beautiful Jamaica. I traveled around Jamaica but I still do not know Jamaica.

Now that I am older and slower I can appreciate different things like the peace, tranquility and beauty of the Jamaican countryside. To tell the truth the Jamaican countryside is the undiscovered country for me because we spent a lot of time driving around it trying to get to the next popular spots, to the event without even thinking of going into it, to explore its many wonders and beauties, for the most part we took Jamaica for granted. To us country was someplace out the car window, through that bush and up that mountain, off the beaten path and we had no interest in seeing it, we laughed at it and belittled it.

We needed to drive through and around country to get to Port Antonio for vacation or Ocho Rios for Easter weekend getaway so we went to country but we really did not go to country and now I want to get to know Real Rural Jamaica, I want to find those far out of the way places over the hill and far away. I want to meet the people living in those places, find out about their life and their history. I want to explore the Geology and Geography of inner Jamaica while taking my time to go nowhere in particular, just turn left or right and follow the road and see where it takes me.