This blooming Poinciana tree…
…flamboyant fi true!
This blooming Poinciana tree…
…flamboyant fi true!
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.
“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
Sunset…Sunday evening…day’s end. We know that days end, that weekends end, that lives end. Sunset…Sunday evening…day’s end.
Ten years ago, on the night of May 22, 2009, there was a fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Ann, Jamaica. Seven girls died as a result of the fire and many others were injured. A Commission of Enquiry into the fire and its subsequent report revealed the horrific sequence of events that led to the fire and death of the girls and showed that the deaths were entirely preventable. Today, as we remember Armadale, I am posting an article by Alexis Goffe (my son), which also appeared in today`s Gleaner.
For most of my life, I was a loyal carnivore. I hated all vegetables except broccoli, which only interested me because I had it ingrained in my head from childhood that they were trees and I, the big bad hurricane. I despised peas and so I had to spend extra time at the dining table, after Sunday lunch, unable to leave until I finished the pile of red peas I had picked out of the rice. If you know my mother, you know she doesn’t mess around.
But then things changed when the fire happened at Armadale. A year later, I decided to give up eating meat, so every day, every time I think of what to eat, I remember Armadale. I wanted to ensure the nine-day wonder didn’t happen and I wanted to raise awareness of the incident.
If anyone asked me how come I didn’t eat meat anymore, I would tell them why:
On May 22, 2009, there was a fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Ann, Jamaica, that resulted in the deaths of seven girls. There were 23 girls in a room which was meant for five people. The girls were given seven bunk beds and 14 mattresses in the room to sleep on. They had been on lockdown for two weeks prior to the fire, which meant they did not have access to education, recreation or the bathroom.
The police were called to the premises that night because the staff reported that the girls were being unruly. A tear gas canister was thrown into the room, which landed on a mattress and reportedly started the fire. The door to the room was locked. To date, no one has been held accountable.
Following a commission of enquiry, it was found that the fire was caused by a tear gas canister thrown by Constable Lawrence Burrell. However, he was freed of the charges after the Crown conceded that it did not have sufficient evidence against him.
During the first year after my decision, I told over 700 people about Armadale. At the time I was living in the United States and I started to recognise a stark difference between the reactions of Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans. The non-Jamaicans generally had a sense of shock. The Jamaicans – not so much.
I will never forget the first time I heard someone say that they, the girls, deserved it. It was through this experience I realised how traumatised we are as a people, how normalised violence is and how we cope with it in order to get on with our days as humans at all stages – children in school, employees at work, families at home.
Then almost a year to the day of the Armadale fire was the Tivoli massacre, where over 70 people died at the hands of the State. Jamaica’s soul took a beating in the space of a year.
In truth, with our history of intense violence and gross violations of our rights and dignity, Jamaica’s soul has been taking a beating for several decades. Perhaps this was the straw that broke the mule’s back and placed us further along in our collective trauma, feeling helpless at the question – what can I do to stop this?
Even though it’s been hard to witness, I understand why year after year, as sure as day follows night, when I say the memorial of the Armadale fire is coming, I’ll get responses that can best be summed up in a sound – yawn. Yet still, it must be done.
So let me take a moment to interrupt your morning, afternoon or evening, your breakfast, lunch or dinner, in your home, at your office, or on the bus, wherever you are reading this, to remind you that today is the 10-year memorial of the fire at Armadale that claimed the lives of seven girls and caused lifelong injuries to many more. Let us remember the seven we lost, their families and friends and the survivors.
And to those who do not know about the fire at Armadale, you have a decision to make: to learn or remain uninformed. To those who know about Armadale, we also have a decision – to forget or to remember. We all have a choice to either be complicit in our silence and inaction or to act and unapologetically call for justice.
To anyone who believes that every child deserves love, respect and dignity, I ask you to pay attention. Because in the midst of the 10-year memorial of Armadale we must remember that the story continues and the first line of the next scene is already written, “Then there was the fire at Walker’s Place of Safety on January 16, 2018.”
– Alexis Goffe
This is the link to the short video on YouTube that is mentioned in the picture above: Armadale: 10 Year Memorial Video
On March 22, 2019, I made an Access to Information (ATI) request to the Office of the Children’s Advocate for the following:
All documents related to any aspect of the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of January 16, 2018, the death of the two girls as a result of that fire and any subsequent investigation into the fire or the resulting deaths.
After one extension of time, I received a number of documents last week Friday, May 17, 2019:
1) You will be granted access to copies of the following:
✓Letter from the Jamaica Public Service, regarding the account at 17 Lyndhurst Crescent, dated July 10, 2018;
✓Letter from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency with attached report from the Jamaica Fire Brigade Report dated April 5, 2018;
✓Letter from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency with attached report from the Electricity Division of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology dated March 15, 2018;
✓Letters from Mr. Downer to Mr. Emanuel Barosa, President and CEO of Jamaica Public Service where he requested certain information dated July 4, 2018;
✓Letters from Mr. Downer to Ms. Jennifer Williams, Customer Service Manager at the Jamaica Public Service where he requested certain information on the status of electricity on the premises prior to fire dated July 13, June 25 and March 14 2018 ;
✓Letters from Mr. Downer to Mr. Solomon Burchell, Director of Electricity at the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology dated July 18 and July 5, 2018;
✓ Letters from Mr. Downer to Inspector M. Anderson of the Half Way Tree Police Station regarding the police investigation, July 12, July 10 and July 6 2018;
✓Letter from Mr. Downer to Major General Antony Anderson, Commissioner of Police dated July 18, 2018;
✓ Letter from Mr. Downer to Mrs. Rosa-le Gage-Grey Chief Executive Officer, Child Protection and Family Services Agency regarding outstanding JPS bill balance and for the agency to clear that amount dated July 16, 2018;
✓Letter from Mrs. Diahann Gordon Harrison to Mr. Raymond Spencer, Commissioner. Jamaica Fire Brigade requesting a copy of the report dated February 1, 2018..
I was also told that all other documents had been denied:
2) You have been denied access to all other documents due to the nature of these documents and as they are exempt in accordance with Sections 17 and 22 of the ATI Act (2003) and Sections 44 and 45 of the CCPA (2004).
This morning I posted a thread on Twitter, sharing some of the questions and concerns raised by information in these additional documents:
There is obviously so much more to be learned about this tragic incident. I continue to use Access to Information requests to obtain more documents and I continue to hope that somewhere within the state’s agencies the full account is being compiled.
We have a pineapple patch in our backyard.
We will probably get a dozen pineapples this year, which is fewer than last year. Perhaps because of the drought…
This was the first pineapple of the season. “Was” because we ate it the day after it was picked. How sweet it was!
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…
Yes, there was a lot of seaweed on the beach…and in the water…
Sargassum……a type of seaweed found only in the Atlantic Ocean…
…is a kind of open ocean brown algae.
“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)
A few people went in to swim, despite the seaweed in the water. But not many. Most people were on the beach…
…in the shade…like me…
or in the sun…like this vendor, who didn’t have much luck making sales, since few people were going into the water…
…because of the sargassum there….
“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)