Archive | October, 2015

STB ready to tackle climate change head on


Executives from leading Bahamas NGO join top international scientists and conservationists at high level workshop led by former U.S. vice president Al Gore

Senior executives for Save The Bays (STB) say they are better equipped, prepared and more energized than ever about tackling the looming specter of climate change.

Returning from a high level training workshop in Miami led by former U.S. vice president Al Gore, newly-elected STB chairman Joseph Darville and CEO of the fast-growing social and environmental movement, Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, are eager to help educate and engage Bahamians on the realities of this enormous threat to the geographical, social and economic fabric of The Bahamas.

“This country is particularly vulnerable to the dangers of climate change due to its low-lying geography and tourism dependence,” said Darville. “We must do all we can to make this a national priority before it is too late.”

Climate group shot

The Climate Reality Leadership Training Corps gathered scientists, conservationists and climate experts from around the world to discuss the way forward in seeking to mitigate the effects of what the United Nations has called one of the most serious threats to life and livelihood facing the world.

The event’s relevance to The Bahamas was tragically heightened following the passage of the devastating category-four Hurricane Joaquin, Darville noted.

“Climate change threatens not just our environment, but our very continued existence as a country and a people,” he said. “As a Small Island Developing State (SID) The Bahamas is uniquely vulnerable to the risks that climate change will create, such as intensified hurricanes and rising sea levels, as was recently demonstrated in the southern Bahamas with such tragic consequences.

“Save the Bays is committed to preserving and protecting the Bahamian environment and helping establish strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change, recognizing that in the long-run, this means defending The Bahamas’ future as a country.”

Darville and Haley-Benjamin said they were honored and excited to meet dozens of inspirational leaders in the area of environmental conservation and climate action and felt encouraged by their commitment to the cause.

“We have returned from the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training even more energized and equipped to play our part in protecting the Bahamian environment for future generations,” said Haley-Benjamin, who also serves as executive director of Waterkeeper Bahamas. “The Bahamas must begin taking mitigating action now if we hope to reduce the impending threat climate change poses to everything from our tourism sector to basic necessities such as our fresh water supply.

“A key to this will be building resilient communities across our archipelago of islands. Uncertainty is an inherent part of the climate change problem; we cannot know when and in what form severe challenges will arrive. Therefore, we as a country must develop locally-led response strategies as well as plans to deal with long-term effects.”

Joe and Vanessa

During the three-day event, Darville and Haley-Benjamin heard from a host of experts about the science behind the climate crisis, as well as from leaders in the environmental conservation sector worldwide on how they have been able to educate and engage individuals on the need for action. They participated in exercises aimed at fortifying the capacity of groups like STB to enact change through storytelling, public speaking, social media networking and media engagement.

A highlight of the training was hearing from Climate Reality Project chairman and founder, former U.S. vice president Al Gore. Gore is the subject of the hugely influential documentary on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth”, and co-recipient, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.”

Help Us Rebuild


For 36 hours, Category 4 Hurricane Joaquin beared down on the southern islands of The Bahamas. This hurricane grew to a monstrous size, going against all predictions made. With very little warning coupled with Joaquin stalling over the southern islands, this resulted in entire settlements being wiped out. Residents sought the refugee of their bathrooms, pleading and praying for it to just stop. Others had to leave in 125mph winds to take their family to safety, only with the clothes on their backs. Long Island, Crooked Island, Acklins, San Salvador, Rum Cay and Mayaguana were the hardest hit islands. These islands are still cut off from the rest of us. Communication has been completely lost with some of the hardest hit areas still remaining inaccessible.

Can you imagine loosing EVERYTHING? I have never experienced such devastation so close to home.

While citizen-led groups have rallied together to address the immediate basic needs of food, water and clothing, we have to think beyond that to the rebuilding stages.

We have all heard about Climate Change and its impacts and how our world is changing. Have you ever thought about what that means for island nations? It’s a matter of survival!

Climate change to me means, (1) ensuring our food and water security, (2) rethinking human settlement, (3) constructing innovative and resilient infrastructure, (4) safeguarding public health and, (5) developing climate change migration policies. With predictions that 80% of The Bahamas will be underwater by the end of the century, we have to TAKE ACTION NOW!

For all the naysayers, our climate IS changing and it IS changing in our lifetime, with hurricane Joaquin being our most recent example, climate change is OUR REALITY.

The Bahamas Climate Change Adaptation Program is a Collaborative Partnership between Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas, each with its own strengths and expertise to address environmental challenges in The Bahamas. We are registered as a non-profit organization, public charity with 501(c)(3) status.

Waterkeepers Bahamas is a citizen-led advocacy group providing solutions to address climate change, unregulated development, pollution and overfishing while promoting fishable, swimmable and drinkable water in The Bahamas.

Save The Bays mission is to protect the Bahamian environment through advocacy, policy change, education and where necessary, legal action.

The Bahamas Climate Change Adaptation Fund will immediately provide support to the Southern Islands impacted by Hurricane Joaquin so these small island nations can effectively adapt to Climate Change while building resilient communities that are self sufficient and sustainable.



In the short term:

  • Help them help themselves: Provide solar powered chargers, lanterns and generators.
  • Give them a sense of peace: Restore healthy drinking water.
  • Get them back on their feet, stronger than they were before: Rebuild homes making them more resilient to coastal flooding and less dependent on fossil fuels.
  • Help them get back to work: Rebuild eco-friendly resorts and bonefish lodges to get those that depend on the resources quickly back up on their feet.

In the long term:

  • Get back to the normal flow of things: Restore the normal function of mangroves and blocked creeks whose natural function is to mitigate against severe flooding events.
  • Strengthen local climate change policies: Advocate for coastal zone management and coastal migration policies.
  • What about our fishery? Understanding the effects of ocean acidification on our fisheries such as conch and lobster.

Yes we are looking for funding but we are also looking for innovative partnerships and collaborations, expertise and resources.

Joseph Darville Named Save The Bays Chairman

Educator, environmentalist and certified Climate Change Reality Leader Joseph Darville takes the reins of Save The Bays from current chairman Fred Smith, QC, who continues as director of legal affairs for the fast-growing, grass roots organization. Darville is pictured in the wetlands of Bimini.

Educator, environmentalist and certified Climate Change Reality Leader Joseph Darville takes the reins of Save The Bays from current chairman Fred Smith, QC, who continues as director of legal affairs for the fast-growing, grass roots organization. Darville is pictured in the wetlands of Bimini.

Respected educator, co-chairman of the Bahamas National Drug Council and well-known environmental and human rights advocate Joseph Darville, M.A., has been named chairman of Save The Bays, the fast-growing grass roots environmental movement with more than 18,000 Facebook friends and followers.

Mr. Darville, a native of Long Island and resident of Freeport, Grand Bahama, takes the helm from Fred Smith, QC.

“This is a critical time for safeguarding our environment which is coming under increasing pressure and I can think of no one better positioned to lead the charge of protection and preservation than Joe Darville,” said Mr. Smith. “I have worked with Joe for more than 30 years on sensitive human rights and environmental issues and I never cease to marvel at the progress he makes in his own politically neutral, dedicated way, packed with purpose and passion.”

Mr. Darville will head a distinguished board of directors that includes leaders in the environmental movement internationally as well as locally including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance.

“We welcome Joe to the chairmanship of Save The Bays at this critical juncture, helping to raise awareness about how fragile our nation’s resources are,” said Save The Bays CEO Vanessa Benjamin. “Joe will help guide us through a labyrinth of issues that we are working on in court and in the court of public opinion — Crown Land, unregulated development, pollution in Clifton Bay and protection of coral reefs among them.”

Save The Bays, launched less than three years ago, has helped lead the siren call and growing demand for an effective Freedom of Information act. Hundreds, including journalists and members of other civic minded groups and Save The Bays community partners, are part of the growing movement demanding the right to information and the government has recently stepped up the pace of draft legislation for review. Save The Bays has said from its start that transparency is the very root and foundation of democracy.

“We would like to thank Fred Smith who has done an incredible job bringing these issues to the public’s attention during his term as chairman,” said Ms. Benjamin. “Fred is actively engaged in complex legal battles to resolve these issues so we are even that much more appreciative of his attention to the need to make everyone realize that environmental protection is not something you leave to scientists and marine biologists. It affects all of us and we all must care. Fred has helped make us care even more.”

Mr. Darville called the appointment “one of the greatest honours and one of the most important tasks of my life.” Having recently completed intensive training along with the CEO Benjamin under Al Gore to become a Climate Change Reality Leader, Darville is expected to place more emphasis on climate change.

A former teacher at St. Augustine’s College and Queen’s College in Nassau, he spent eight years as Director of Workforce Development at the Grand Bahama Shipyard following his retirement from education. He has held many offices, including Past Vice-President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers, founding member and Past President of the Bahamas Counselors Association, Past President of the Grand Bahama Mental Health Association, Past Vice President of the Caribbean Federation of Mental Health, Founding member and Chairman of Operation Hope, [volunteer drug prevention, education & rehabilitation program], Co-Chairman of the Bahamas National Drug Council, Founding member and Past -President of Grand Bahama Human Rights Association; presently vice-president, Founding member of the Caribbean Human Rights Network, Administrative Vice-President of the Freeport YMCA for past nine years.

He is an Advanced Master/Teacher in Reiki training, a natural energy healing method, as well as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. He has received numerous awards for outstanding service and achievement in teaching, communication and citizenship, including the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Silver Jubilee Award for Outstanding Contribution to National (Community) Development.  He is married with two children.

In support of the victims of Hurricane Joaquin

Dear Editor,

Crooked Island_Royal Navy

On behalf of the members and directors of Save The Bays, I would like to express our heartfelt and  profound grief at the suffering of our fellow Bahamians in the islands impacted by the devastating force of Hurricane Joaquin.

I am sure that each and every one of our community partners also joins us in lamenting the extreme trauma and ongoing hardship that has befallen our countrymen in Acklins, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Inagua, Long Island, Long Cay, Mayaguana, Rum Cay and San Salvador.

The images of devastation and suffering that have emerged over the last few days can only be described heartrending. It is clear that the road back to a normal life will be a long one for many in our island communities.

At the same time, the response from Bahamians far and wide – the donation of funds, supplies, time and labor – has been nothing short of incredible. It is a source of profound encouragement to note that despite all the argument and contention that usually punctuates our daily lives as Bahamians, when our fellow citizens need us most, we as a people know how to join together and come to the rescue of those in distress.

A number of Save The Bays members are already on the ground in the worst affected islands, rendering what assistance they can, and we are preparing to undertake a number of initiatives as an organization to help ease the pain that so many of our people are feeling.

Finally, a message to those suffering as a result of this tragedy: Know that all Bahamians are on your side. We will do all that we can to restore your lives to some semblance of normalcy in the shortest time possible. You are in our hearts and in our prayers at this time, and we will not abandon you. In this most challenging moment, we will prove that we are – as our forefathers charged us to be – one people, united in love and service.

– Vanessa Haley-Benjamin

CEO, Save The Bays

Crown Land, Give It Back!


Really? Taking back crown land that provides opportunities for Bahamians but NOT crown land that doesn’t?