Archive | May, 2016

STB hails courage of Abaco community partner

Leading environmental group congratulates RDA on obtaining leave to apply for judicial review proceedings over controversial marina project

 

Little harbour 

The Supreme Court’s decision to grant concerned locals permission to apply for a judicial review of the Abaco Club’s proposed marina project has been hailed as another milestone in the cause of responsible development in The Bahamas.

Social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB) congratulated the residents of Little Harbor for insisting that government follow the law and ensure that developers consult local communities that may be affected by their projects.

Legal director for STB, Fred Smith, QC, who is representing community partner Responsible Development for Abaco (RDA) in the case, says activists will continue to resort to the courts for relief until government learns to respect local rights.

QC Fred Smith

“No one is against development; all that we are asking is that developers consult with the community which their projects are going to effect. Not only is it the fair and just approach, it is also the approach mandated by law.

“The government, which bears responsibility for ensuring that the laws of The Bahamas are carried out, should be defending public consultation more than anyone else. Instead, the current administration is seeking to amend the very progressive Planning and Subdivisions Act (PSA), which gives locals the right to have a say in what sort of community they will live in.”

Smith said that while Little Harbor – a small, 50-home community that runs almost entirely off solar power – represents an encouraging trend of Bahamians and residents coming together to stand in defense of their legal rights, the “astounding failure” of several government agencies to follow the law in this case continues to be replicated across the length and breadth of The Bahamas.

“The people of Little Harbor have demonstrated that they are at the forefront of a movement for change that is much needed in this country. We hail their courage could not be more proud to be partnering with them and with RDA in this effort,” he said.

“At the same time, the stubborn, anti-progressive stance of both the developer and the government is nothing new and part of a regressive trend that unfortunately, does not seem to be going away anytime soon.”

Smith said that STB will continue to work with concerned residents and advocacy groups to defend local rights and fight against environmentally destructive unregulated development – just as it has done in Bimini, Blackbeard’s Cay, Treasure Cay, Grand Bahama, Clifton Bay and several other locations around The Bahamas over the last three years.

 

Save The Bays YEA Volunteers Pour 400+ Hours into Grand Bahama YMCA Facelift, Y Director Calls Transformation ‘Breathtaking’

Stargazers with a cause – Friends and family of Grand Bahama’s famed athletes, including stars like NBA player of the year Buddy Hield and WNBA Coach Yolette McPhee-McCuin, gather for the big reveal – the creation of a room dedicated to athletic success at the Grand Bahama YMCA where almost all of them trained or practiced during their youth. The room is part of a major makeover by Save The Bays and volunteers from the program it sponsors, Youth Environmental Ambassadors.

Stargazers with a cause – Friends and family of Grand Bahama’s famed athletes, including stars like NCAA player of the year Buddy Hield and WNBA Coach Yolette McPhee-McCuin, gather for the big reveal – the creation of a room dedicated to athletic success at the Grand Bahama YMCA where almost all of them trained or practiced during their youth. The room is part of a major makeover by Save The Bays and volunteers from the program it sponsors, Youth Environmental Ambassadors.

Save The Bays YEA Volunteers Pour 400+ Hours into Grand Bahama YMCA Facelift, Y Director Calls Transformation ‘Breathtaking’ 

               They worked sometimes well into the night, and more than a few times until midnight but when they were done a group of eight volunteers with Save The Bays had transformed the auditorium of the Grand Bahama YMCA into a modern, bright and cheery performance arena – a conversion that was called breathtaking and included a room dedicated to the star-studded athletes who but the Grand in Grand Bahama.

Joe Darville Paints

               “It was a makeover worthy of HGTV,” said Save The Bays Chairman and YMCA Vice President and Program Director Joe Darville. “The Property Brothers have nothing on our volunteers who really gave it their all – and then some.”

               YMCA Executive Director Karen Johnson called transformation of the space “breathtaking.”

“We could never have done this without Save The Bays,” said Johnson. “The board of directors, staff, members and the children who use the YMCA would sincerely like to thank Save The Bays for taking the initiative to renovate the space that is widely used during the summer when 150-200 youngsters attend summer camp every day. To walk into the auditorium this summer is going to be breathtaking for most of the kids as it was for me and it will create an environment that will make the kids even more creative.”

Darville said volunteers dove into the work as if they were on a mission, donating their time and pouring at least 400 hours into the labour of love, hiring a professional only for those specific tasks that required greater expertise. 

“The volunteers are all Bahamian internationally certified facilitators for Grand Bahama’s popular Youth Environmental Ambassadors program,” he noted. Now in its third year, the 10-week series funded by Save The Bays and held twice annually draws twice as many applicants as can be accommodated. Participants do classroom work, take field trips and get hands-on experience gaining knowledge of a broad range of environmental management practices from handling waste to reverse osmosis, from studying nursery habitats in wetlands to understanding the impact of greenhouse gases.

YEA - Dale Wells-Marcshall

               “The objective of YEA is to train young people to become stewards of the environment,” said Darville. “The environment is everything around us – it’s the water and the air, but it is also the community we create and in this case, we took on the project of transforming the space of the YMCA to help build a stronger community. The YMCA has been gracious enough to let us use the facility since we started the YEA program and it is at the heart of so much of the spirit of Grand Bahama.”

               Built in 1970, the YMCA is home to flag football, a fitness program, Easter camp, summer camp, an energy savings program and its popular SOS swim training, also supported by Save The Bays. But its stage where presentations take place and its largest indoor space were in need of serious repair after three and a half decades of constant use.

               In addition to ripping out battered wood and taking much of the auditorium to bare walls, replacing the stage and painting the entire area, Save The Bays created a room of fame featuring Grand Bahama’s best athletes.

“The unveiling of that room was the highlight of the evening,” said Johnson, referring to a May 6 celebration that brought together parents and friends of athletes who grew up at the Y, learning how to play basketball like NBA player of the year Buddy Hield, run track like Olympic gold medalists, Demetrius Pinder and Michael Mathieu of the Golden Knights, swim like Elvis Verance Burrows, four-time national record holder and qualifier for the Rio Olympics or take a sports leadership role like Yolette McPhee-McCuin, now head coach for a Division 1 WNBA team.

Dream big

“We can’t thank Save The Bays enough,” said Ms. Johnson, again lauding the fast-growing environmental movement that has called for strong Freedom of Information legislation, an Environmental Protection Act, an end to unregulated development and accountability for oil pollution among other measures. Its petition to stop the repeal of the nation’s best environmental protection legislation to date – the Planning and Subdivision Act 2010 – garnered more than 1,000 signatures in a matter of days and the organization has more than 20,000 friends on Facebook.  

Keeping the Magic of the Bahamas

Marc Yaggi

Keeping the Magic of the Bahamas  

By Mark Yagi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance

Growing up in landlocked Pennsylvania, I always was enamoured with the marine environment.  The Bahamas in my mind were a magical and mythical archipelago of sun-soaked beaches, friendly people, and crystal clear turquoise waters full of a vibrant kaleidoscope of fish. The islands captured our imagination through vehicles like Splash, Thunderball, and Flipper. People around the world have a vision of the Bahamas as paradise. Now having been to the Bahamas a few times over the past decade, I see that all of those things are true.  However, when you look closely, you can see that some of the magic of the Bahamas is getting tarnished.

I recently spent a day on Clifton Bay in New Providence with my friends Joseph Darville, Rashema Ingraham, Paco Nunez, and others from Waterkeepers BahamasSave the Bays,Clifton WaterkeeperBimini Waterkeeper, and Grand Bahama Waterkeeper.  Before joining the Waterkeeper team, I snorkeled at the same reef I had snorkeled about eight years ago.  It was very obvious that the reef had undergone significant stress, as there were fewer fish and the coral had clearly seen better days.  During a boat ride in the afternoon, the Waterkeeper team showed me more of the dark underbelly of this tropical paradise.  We saw massive oil plumes from the government’s Bahamas Electricity Corporation fouling some of the clearest waters on earth.  The stench of oil was dizzying. Nearby the utility, we saw diving boats and buoys covered in black oil. Adding insult to injury, Bahamians pay roughly three times a kilowatt hour than I do in New York. How is a sun-drenched island nation like this not leading the way in the solar revolution?

We further saw evidence of a private landowner dredging in the bay and creating an additional three acres of prime beachfront – effectively taking land away from the public and dramatically altering the marine ecosystem.  This activity included dumping plastic bags filled with sand and other materials on the bay floor, changing the natural movement of sand across the bay and diminishing the accretion of sand at Clifton National Park – home to one of New Providence’s few public beaches.  

There is a lot of work to do in order to repair the damage done by oil spills, illegal development, and other insults to this island nation’s water resources.  And there is a steep hill to climb, as the Bahamas lacks significant and meaningful environmental protection laws.  The one exception is the Planning and Subdivision Act of 2010, which currently is under threat.  Newly proposed legislation would remove many of the key provisions of the Act that help prevent haphazard development and conserve the natural heritage and resources of the Bahamas.

Joe Darville, May 7, 2016Fortunately, the Waterkeepers in the Bahamas are a great team, full of knowledge, passion, and commitment.  They recognize that outspoken, citizen-led advocacy is the only way to ensure the laws are enforced and that their waters, livelihoods, and health are protected.  They are educating the public about the importance of their critical water resources; advocating for a freedom of information law to increase transparency in decision making; defending the integrity of the Planning and Subdivision Act; pushing for renewable energy options; and enforcing laws to remedy existing violations.  They are demanding to be heard to ensure their communities are being protected and laws are being followed. It will be their grassroots advocacy that can ensure the Bahamas will not lose their magic.

We further saw evidence of a private landowner dredging in the bay and creating an additional three acres of prime beachfront – effectively taking land away from the public and dramatically altering the marine ecosystem.  This activity included dumping plastic bags filled with sand and other materials on the bay floor, changing the natural movement of sand across the bay and diminishing the accretion of sand at Clifton National Park – home to one of New Providence’s few public beaches.  

There is a lot of work to do in order to repair the damage done by oil spills, illegal development, and other insults to this island nation’s water resources.  And there is a steep hill to climb, as the Bahamas lacks significant and meaningful environmental protection laws.  The one exception is the Planning and Subdivision Act of 2010, which currently is under threat.  Newly proposed legislation would remove many of the key provisions of the Act that help prevent haphazard development and conserve the natural heritage and resources of the Bahamas.

Fortunately, the Waterkeepers in the Bahamas are a great team, full of knowledge, passion, and commitment.  They recognize that outspoken, citizen-led advocacy is the only way to ensure the laws are enforced and that their waters, livelihoods, and health are protected.  They are educating the public about the importance of their critical water resources; advocating for a freedom of information law to increase transparency in decision making; defending the integrity of the Planning and Subdivision Act; pushing for renewable energy options; and enforcing laws to remedy existing violations.  They are demanding to be heard to ensure their communities are being protected and laws are being followed. It will be their grassroots advocacy that can ensure the Bahamas will not lose their magic. 

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Marc Yaggi is , the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water. Marc has dedicated his entire career to environmental advocacy and has been instrumental in expanding the Waterkeeper movement around the world for nearly 20 years. Marc leads with a deep, personal passion for clean water and provides organizational leadership by developing strategic partnerships and promoting the Waterkeeper model of advocacy. Marc works daily to raise public awareness about the issues central to the organization’s vision for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water worldwide.

 

 

Grand Bahama Students on Track to Become Next Generation of Environmentalists

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28 Teens, Pre-Teens Graduate from Save The Bays YEA Leadership Training Program

 

At 14, Lavonne Mack may have found her life calling. With several guest radio appearances already under her belt on “Rise Up Bahamas,” a weekly radio show airing Saturdays on Love 97.5, Lavonne just may become the voice for the next generation of environmentalists.

Lavonne is among 28 of Grand Bahama’s most promising young people, selected from nearly three times as many who applied for a place in the Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) course – a 10-week series sponsored by Save The Bays in connection with the internationally acclaimed Center for Creative Leadership, a global provider of leadership development which ranks No. 4 overall in the Financial Times worldwide survey of executive education. The training course immerses participants in hands-on environmental education from wading across wetlands and kayaking through mangroves to listening to lectures by ecology experts. Radio guest spots sharing experiences and discussing what they’ve learned is an extra benefit.

 Joe Darville with YEA students

“On radio, a lot of the participants talk about values and how their values tie into appreciation of the environment,” said YEA facilitator Rashema Ingraham of the broadcasts. “Lavonne was a guest on the show quite a few times. I think she really found a good comfort zone.”

 

While more than 80 youngsters applied to become ambassadors, only 40 were accepted because of space limitations. By the end of the two-and-half month period, 28 of that group made the final cut, striding across the stage at YMCA Grand Bahama on May 7 to receive their official certificates and pins. For the second year in a row, students marked the closing of the session by showing off their percussion skills.

image004 

“We use drumming to loosen them up and bring them together as a group so they can see beyond the theory of what we’ve been telling them, and bring them into alignment with a new lifestyle and commitment,” Ingraham said.

In order to be pinned as a graduate, students must do much more than simply show up two Saturdays a month during the series. They have to demonstrate a clear understanding of topics they studied and observed and how they can be applied in real life. 

“The Bahamas has the most to lose when it comes to climate change,” said Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville, Save The Bays chairman and founder of the YEA program. “We must educate future generations so they are prepared and provide them the necessary tools for shaping the future of the earth’s health. It’s their lives which are at stake—most of us will be long gone by then.”

Ingraham added that this year’s students exhibited such promise that she can easily see a junior membership program for Save the Bays coming to fruition.

“These students were really an inspiration,” she said. “We see their potential and there are a few of them who, if given proper training and exposure to the proper lectures, can blossom into real environmentalists who may speak on an international stage one day.”

Young Benefactors Donate Allowance to Save the Bay

Two Year 6 Students from St. Andrew’s School in Nassau Pool Chore Money for Good of Environment

 Romi DonationIt took about three weeks and committing to extra chores, but two Grade 6 students from St. Andrew’s School in Nassau pooled their resources to donate $100 to Save the Bays on Earth Day.

“They walked in and said ‘Do you remember us?’ “ said Romauld Ferreira, Director of Save the Bays.

Samuel Chan and Kyle Todd met Ferreira when he visited St. Andrew’s in early April for a presentation on the Planning & Subdivision Act 2015. The talk, tailored for their particular age group, addressed the need for legislative framework surrounding sustainable development in The Bahamas, noting that adults are borrowing resources from future generations.

“It was a lively discussion,” said Ferreira. “A number of them [students] told me they wanted to raise money to help Save the Bays, and the next thing I know I got a call and they turned up with a check for $100. They seemed proud to be a part of the movement.”

In addition to visiting schools around Nassau, Ferreira, an environmental consultant and attorney with Ferreira & Company, hosts an annual Earth Day Science Competition, working with students on topics ranging from waste management solutions to renewable energy and deforestation with the ultimate goal of encouraging students to take the lead on environmental issues for the sake of their own future.

“You may not see any reaction [initially], but they’re taking it in,” Ferreira said. “They are the leaders in the environment that are going to solve some of these problems we have.”

Save The Bays Chairman: Lessons from Paris, NY and Training under Al Gore, Policy, aggressive action will minimize Bahamas’ danger from climate change

Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville

 

Joe Darville Says Environmental Protection Act Imperative to The Bahamas’ Survival

 

In 2015, Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville joined 400,000 people on the streets of New York City as part of the People’s Climate March. During the procession, he spotted an enormous Google globe rolling ahead of him. As the globe rotated, Darville caught sight of The Bahamas. Wasting no time, Darville made his way through the crowd working his way closer to the globe, wading through hundreds of demonstrators before finally catching up with the person operating it.

“Can you stop, just for a second?” Darville asked the young man.

“For what?” the man replied.

“I just want to show you something,” Darville said. “When you start it again, point to the most beautiful spot on that globe.”

The globe was so large that it took about 35 seconds to make a full revolution, but when the man stopped it, he pointed straight to The Bahamas. This came as no surprise to Darville, who refers to his country as “the gem of Mother Earth.”

“That is why I am so passionate about what I do,” Darville told host Diane Phillips April 28 during the hour-long radio show ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ on Love 97 FM.

Darville opened the weekly show by playing ‘Dear Future Generations: Sorry,’ a spoken word piece by American rapper and YouTuber Prince Ea. As he introduced the poem, Darville beseeched radio listeners to “Listen with your heart and your mind.”

The lyric, an open letter of apology to future generations, expresses regret for the fact that trees no longer exist on the planet because ‘We live in a world where destroying trees makes you money.’ This line was particularly poignant this past week as citizens from around the world planted trees as part of Earth Week.

For his part, Darville, a retired educator and founder of the Save the Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA) Training Program, presented a Lignum Vitae tree to Bishop Michael Eldon School (BMES) in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Darville said. “The hall was completely filled with all of the primary and high school students. To stand on the stage and to look in the faces of young people…. It made me want to almost cry passionately.”

Darville added that the tree-planting ceremony and presentation was in recognition of The Canopy Project, an initiative launched by the Earth Day Network in 2011 which works with local communities to conserve, repair, and restore tree cover. To date, the project has been responsible for planting 3.2 million trees worldwide.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 51.5 percent of The Bahamas is forested. Because roots of trees help prevent soil erosion, deforestation is making the country increasingly vulnerable to flooding and the rising sea levels that are a result of global warming.

“We have to be proactive. Climate change is already effecting us,” Darville said. “We have 6,200 square miles of land at the present time, and we’re losing some of that already. The sea is advancing and we’re losing the coastal area.”

Darville, who is also President of Waterkeeper Bahamas in partnership with global environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance, was in Paris for the International Conference on Climate Change and Global Warming recently. During one of the lectures, Google presenters zoomed in on Grand Bahama and Bimini. As the area came into focus, Darville noticed a red line slicing through Bimini and asked what the line indicated. The answer was devastating.

“He said, ‘That’s the destruction of the mangrove forest,’ ” Darville recalled. “Then he looked up all of the information right away online, and said 20 percent of your tree cover on Bimini has been destroyed in the past 10 years.”

Darville went on to say that the only true way to put a stop to this exponentially-increasing rate of environmental destruction is through legislation in the form of an Environmental Protection Act.

“We need that act with strong regulations to go along with it,” Darville said. “We don’t have severe penalties for destruction of the environment so people can do whatever they want with almost no penalty.”

When determining which countries will fare best in the face of the global warming crisis, it’s not a country’s geographical location that ultimately determines how vulnerable it will be—or even how much of its population lives in coastal regions—but how prepared the country is for catastrophic events. The countries currently predicted to be least susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels are Ireland, Norway and Iceland, despite their significant coastlines.

“They are at the least risk, not because of natural conditions, but because of their environmental policies,” Darville said. “Their ministers had ambitions and they’ve adopted aggressive and ambitious environmental and energy policies and practices. We can switch this around. There’s an error, but we can correct that error.”

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