Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Sahara Dust & The View from My Window

This was the view from my window one morning last week:

view from the window week of 17-6-2020

Then a plume of Sahara dust swept across the Atlantic into the Caribbean, not an uncommon event, but this was perhaps the worst in fifty years, they said.

saharan dust

And with the dust in the air, this was the view from my window on Wednesday morning. I could not see the hills!

Sahara dust view 24-6-2020

 

 

That plume of Sahara dust has moved past us, here in Jamaica, though they say another will affect us in a few days time. But tonight, at sunset, I could see the hills again…against a salmon-coloured sky…sunset 26-6-2020

 


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A is for Ackee: An Alphabet of Leaves

An ackee leaf on a morning after rain…

P1420303 ackee leaf

…given the scientific name Blighia sapida by a botanist at Kew Gardens in London in 1806, after the infamous William Bligh of Bounty fame. He wasn’t responsible for bringing the ackee to Jamaica, but for taking it from Jamaica to Kew in 1793. (B. W. Higman, in “Jamaican Food”)P1420302 ackee leaves

The ackee was most likely brought to Jamaica from West Africa by enslaved Africans.

“As a native of Africa, the ackee was familiar to core contingents of enslaved people, and in Jamaica the tree and its fruit have never had any name other than their African derivation, the Kru a-kee. Distinctively associating it with their homelands, the enslaved may have played an active role in the plants dissemination within Jamaica. Whereas former slave village sites contain only the occasional breadfruit tree, some of these abandoned settlements are indicated by large groves of ackee trees.” (Higman, p.154)

P1420298 ackee pods

In our garden, we have both the softer butter ackee and the firmer cheese ackee trees. I much prefer the latter, as the fruit keep their shape during cooking and aren’t as likely to crumble and become mushy.P1420295 ackee branch and fruit

The largest ackee tree we have in the garden is this cheese ackee tree, which sprung up in the spot where a massive male guinep tree had been. That guinep tree was the first to fall during Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and the ackee sprung up of its own accord, probably from a seed dropped by a passing bird. Bless you, passing bird!P1420304 ackee tree

It is an impressive specimen, though it did get a bit tilted in one of the storms that brushed past us in the years since Gilbert. We never get to eat the fruit from the very top of the tree, however. No stick long enough and no-one spry enough to get there.

“A” is for ackee. That’s good enough for me…


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“Stupidly Suicidal”: Esther Figueroa on bauxite mining in Cockpit Country

I read Esther Figueroa’ s column “Cockpit Country Still Under Threat From Bauxite Mining” in today’s Gleaner (Sunday, July 28, 2019) and decided to post it on my blog. So many voices pointing out where we are heading in this era of climate crisis and in so many ways we continue to ignore the warnings. We are rapidly entering a time when water…unpolluted water especially…will be far more valuable than the bauxite and other substances we mine, destroying the environment as we do so.

This is the final paragraph of Figueroa’s column, which you might want to read in full:

“When I was in Ulster Spring on May 27 for the Noranda EIA public meeting for SML 173, I looked out at the most perfect of Cockpit Country mountains, the unique conical shape completely covered in trees, and when I imagined that mountain butchered by bauxite mining my heart fell into the depths of despair. Strip mining is never good for the environment and it is never sustainable development. In a time of climate crisis with record high temperatures, unpredictable weather with long droughts and catastrophic storms, it is stupidly suicidal to be cutting down our trees and polluting and depleting our soil and water. All of Cockpit Country must be protected not just the Designated Cockpit Country Protected Area. We must not allow Special Mining Lease 173 to be granted.”

When bauxite mining began in Jamaica about 70 years ago, we may not have been aware of the full extent of the negative impacts. We have no such excuse now.

Links to Films

“Esther Figueroa, Ph.D. is an activist independent filmmaker who has been an integral part of the movement to protect Cockpit Country. Her films include Cockpit Country – Voices from Jamaica’s Heart and Cockpit Country Is Our Home. Her most recent feature documentary Fly Me To The Moon (to be released later this year) is about aluminum, modernity, the political economy of our material culture and consumption, and is a call for us to stop destroying the natural world that we all depend upon.” – Gleaner, 28/7/2019

Cockpit Country – Voices from Jamaica’s Heart

Cockpit Country - Voices from Jamaicas Heart - title - Esther Figueroa film

Cockpit Country Is Our Home

Cockpit Country Is Our Home - title - Esther Figueroa film

 

 


Tree in a Backyard: Minnesota

I stood in a backyard in St Paul, Minnesota, trying to take a photo of a bright red cardinal as it flitted from tree to tree. Such a beautiful bird, but it just wouldn’t sit still! Every time I moved slowly into position to snap a photo, the bird flew off to a new vantage point! So I got no photo of the bird….

This tree in the backyard, however, stayed still enough for me to take a number of photos, which I now share with you. If anyone can identify the tree for me, I would be grateful.

Here is its crown pictured with two other trees against a clear blue sky…MN backyard tree

It had beautiful blossoms in abundance…P1390472 - MN backyard tree

Here they are closer up…P1390473 - MN backyard tree

The tree had such wonderfully rugged bark…P1390481 - MN backyard tree

And if you look very carefully, up towards the right in this photo, you may see the branch on which the cardinal was sitting moments before I captured this image!P1390480 - MN backyard tree


Sargassum on the Beach!

The guard in charge of directing parking and taking entrance fees informed us that the water was dirty. When we asked what he meant, he said that there was a lot of seaweed in the water. Having driven out to Boardwalk beach, however, we weren’t about to turn around and leave without even taking a look. So in we went…P1380922 Boardwalk beach sargassum

Yes, there was a lot of seaweed on the beach…and in the water…IMG_20190508_090658_resized_20190508_090722933 beach seaweed

Sargassum……a type of seaweed found only in the Atlantic Ocean…IMG_20190428_125357_resized_20190508_092007576 beach seaweed

…is a kind of open ocean brown algae.IMG_20190428_125411_resized_20190508_091849377 beach seaweed shell

 

“The influx of the seaweed is believed to be related to increased accumulation in the Atlantic Ocean where nutrients are available and temperatures are high. The seaweed consolidates into large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards the Caribbean, washing up on beaches throughout the region.” (National Environment & Planning Agency website)IMG_20190428_123943_resized_20190508_091444580 beach seaweed

A few people went in to swim, despite the seaweed in the water. But not many. Most people were on the beach…P1380936 trees on beach

…in the shade…like me…P1380960 beach

or in the sun…like this vendor, who didn’t have much luck making sales, since few people were going into the water…vendor on the beach 2019

…because of the sargassum there….IMG_20190428_125503_resized_20190508_091734713 beach seaweed water

Note

“The excess of Sargassum washing up on beaches in the Caribbean originates from the Sargasso Sea, located in the open North Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda. This sea stretches 1000 km wide and 3200 km long and is estimated to hold up to 10 million metric tons of Sargassum (see image below). It is known as “the golden floating rainforest”. It is also found in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists suggest that the influx of Sargassum in the Caribbean is due to a rise in water temperatures and low winds, which both affect ocean currents. In essence pieces of the Sargassum are becoming entrained in currents which head towards the Eastern Caribbean Islands. These factors and the spreading of Sargassum has been linked to increased nitrogen loading due to pollution of the oceans through human activity of increased sewerage, oils, fertilizers and global climate change.” (Sargassum: A Resource Guide for the Caribbean, p. 4)