Archive | June, 2016

Donation to the YMCA Grand Bahama Swim Program

On September 27, 2015, Hurricane Joaquin rose up out of the Atlantic Ocean without warning, decimating the southern and central Bahamas as it rapidly intensified from a strong tropical storm to a powerful Category 4 hurricane in a mere 39 hours. One of the most devastating storms to hit the country in more than two centuries, flooding from storm surge and torrential rainfall left hundreds of Bahamians trapped without shelter, power or food. Swimming to safety was their only option.

From left to right: Waterkeepers Bahamas President and Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville, Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham and Karon Pinder-Johnson, Executive Director of the YMCA Grand Bahama.

From left to right: Waterkeepers Bahamas President and Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville, Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham and Karon Pinder-Johnson, Executive Director of the YMCA Grand Bahama.

Now, just four weeks into the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season and with four named storms already on the books, meteorologists are predicting an even more active storm season

than last year. In fact, this season could be the most active hurricane season since 2012 and with 80 percent of the land mass in The Bahamas at or slightly above sea level, odds are extremely high that more Bahamians will be forced to swim for survival should catastrophe strike. In light of this eventuality, Waterkeepers Bahamas recently made a $1,500 donation to YMCA Grand Bahama for the third year in a row to augment the organisation’s Swim for Ocean Survival (SOS) program. The donation comes on the heels of a renovation of the YMCA in May in which Save The Bays volunteers spent more than 400 hours giving the recreational facility a complete facelift.

Save The Bays (www.savethebays.bs), a Waterkeepers Alliance Bahamas member with more than 20,000 Facebook followers, is a fast-growing non-profit group comprised of Bahamian and international members focused on the protection of the Bahamian environment through proactive policy change, education, legal action and advocacy, making a partnership with Swim for Ocean Survival a natural fit for its mission.

“Waterkeepers Bahamas understands perfectly the absolute necessity that all Bahamian children are afforded the opportunity to learn to swim,” said Waterkeepers Bahamas President and Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville. “This opportunity is even more critical as we prepare our nation for the dramatic impacts on this archipelago from rapid climate change and sea level rise.”

Established in 2008 by former Bahamas Swim Federation instructor and renowned swim coach Ivaniuska Dereke, the SOS program was designed to teach as many children as possible how to swim in the shortest amount of time and at minimal cost. SOS training is broken down into three tiers: how to be comfortable in the water; the basics of swimming and survival if a child falls into a pool; and, lastly, how to return to a safe point in the ocean or pool.

According to Grand Bahama YMCA Executive Director Karon Johnson, more than 13,000 pre-school and primary school students have benefited from the course since its inception nearly eight years ago. This year’s donation from Waterkeepers Bahamas will be used to employ and train an additional swim instructor, allowing the YMCA to offer even more children the opportunity to learn to swim and, ultimately, survive if and when catastrophe strikes.

For long-time environmental activist and educator Darville, however, the benefits of the program are two-fold: safeguarding the country’s youngest citizens against disaster and carving a path toward environmental awareness and stewardship.

“Waterkeepers Bahamas continues to advocate that our present and future generations be assured the gift of being able to dive and swim in our crystal clear waters,” Darville said. “Thus they will be passionate and motivated to preserve and protect our God-given natural resources, and become the leaders for an environmentally sound nation.”

“Each person, whether child or adult, has a connection to the water,” added Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham. “So, if they are able to have more good moments in the water, and not be fearful of it, their appreciation for it will promote their willingness to keep it clean.”

 

Waterkeepers Bahamas works to promote the availability of clean water on three waterbodies in Bimini, Grand Bahama and Clifton & Western Bays on New Providence so that these waterbodies are swimmable, fishable and drinkable for future generations. The organization is a proud member of the Waterkeepers Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement that has united more than 290 Waterkeepers members and affiliates around the world, all working together to focus citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change.  If you are aware of pollution, unregulated development or other illegal activities taking place in the area please contact Rashema Ingraham via phone 242-602-7531 or send an email to waterkeepers.bahamas@gmail.com.

Leading Authorities on FOIA Speak Out on ‘Voice of the Bays’

Local Law Professor: ‘You Can’t Call Yourself a Democracy If You Don’t Provide Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to Your Citizens’

Clockwise from left: Leading authorities on the Freedom of Information Act Lemarque Campbell (Citizens for a Better Bahamas), Lisa Benjamin (Associate Law Professor at College of The Bahamas), Joseph Darville (Save the Bays Chairman) and Matt Albury (Executive Director for the Organization for Responsible Government),

Clockwise from left: Leading authorities on the Freedom of Information Act Lemarque Campbell (Citizens for a Better Bahamas), Lisa Benjamin (Associate Law Professor at College of The Bahamas), Joseph Darville (Save the Bays Chairman) and Matt Albury (Executive Director for the Organization for Responsible Government),

Leading Authorities on FOIA Speak Out on ‘Voice of the Bays’ to Emphasize Critical Role Bill Plays in Democratic Process as Clock Counts Down to deadline for Public Consultation July 15

As one of the main tenets in its platform, Save the Bays has pushed for Freedom of Information legislation since its inception, organizing the very first FOIA rally in Rawson Square in downtown Nassau in June 2014. Since then, the environmental advocacy group has worked tirelessly to make sure the issue remains on the public’s radar, most notably gathering more than 7,000 signatures on a petition calling for the government to pass an FOI bill.

“The people must have a voice to speak, they must have an avenue through which to be heard and they must be honored with respect to their opinion,” said Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville on Thursday as he opened ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks,’ a weekly radio show that airs in both Freeport and Nassau on Love 97.5 FM.

Talk show guest Lisa Benjamin, an associate law professor at College of the Bahamas, augmented Darville’s statement by adding that any society that does not offer its citizens a Freedom of Information Act is not a true democracy.

“The FOI Act is really the hallmark of any democracy,” Benjamin said. “Freedom of Information is part of Freedom of Speech. The right to access information is an extension of Freedom of Speech.”

Benjamin has spent the past year and a half studying legislation around the world, with particular emphasis on Commonwealth countries such as England, Jamaica, Trinidad, New Zealand and Canada, as part of a Freedom of Information consultation committee formed to solicit public consultation regarding appropriately revising inconsistent and nebulous language that ultimately prevented the 2012 FOIA from being enacted.

The professor joined Darville on Thursday along with fellow FOIA experts Lemarque Campbell, a representative of Citizens for a Better Bahamas (CBB) and Matt Aubry, Executive Director for the Organization for Responsible Government (ORG), to urge the Bahamian public to offer input on the Freedom of Information Act before the public consultation deadline expires on July 15.

“We need to boil it down and convert people to get on board with this act. We need to make them realize they need this act, that they will be using this act going forward,” Aubry said. “Right now the process is being driven by folks who already understand the value of the Freedom of Information Act—activists, lawyers and the media. We have to get people to understand how critical this is to day-to-day life. People’s concerns about the safety in their neighborhood, the health issues in their community, how monies are being spent…this [FOIA] is our pathway, this is our door in. This starts participatory democracy.”

After all, Campbell added, at the end of the day, it’s the people’s money that’s being spent, so the public should have the right to know how fiscal decisions are being made and why. To address the issues of transparency and accountability, the CBB formed a committee last August to make its own recommendations for changes. After reviewing the most recent FOIA draft released in May 2015, CBB members were particularly concerned over the definition of public authority (ie: how public authority is defined when it comes to who is required to release information to the public). Currently the bill defines public authority strictly as government ministry and statutory bodies.

Additionally, Campbell and members of the CBB stress that the person overseeing implementation of the FOIA and responsible for upholding its tenants—the Information Commissioner—needs to be completely independent of political affiliation. Current language mandates this individual be a political appointee, but the CBB recommends this position be appointed by an independent body that includes members of the government as well as opposition members.

Funding for the bill is another major concern that should be formally outlined, according to Campbell.

“This is a very important piece of legislation that will help our democracy and it needs to be funded properly,” he said. “This bill will encourage citizen participation, giving them the tools to request and demand accountability.”

‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks,’ is a weekly radio show that airs every Thursday on Love 97FM from 5 to 6pm.

For more information on the Freedom of Information Act, please visit www.savethebays.bs, www.orgbahamas.com or www.citizensforabetterbahamas.org Written recommendations should be emailed to foibahamas@gmail.com

Darville at the 2016 Annual Waterkeeper Alliance Conference in North Carloina

According to the U.S. National Weather Service, if you live anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean, this isn’t the best year to let your guard down while you soak up the sun.

With a record three named storms already on the books since the start of hurricane season on June 1, the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is projected to be among the most active ever with as many as 14 named storms and six hurricanes before the season ends November 30. Moreover, experts predict at least two of those hurricanes could be major, reaching Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, suggesting “devastating damage” could occur.

With 80 percent of the land mass in The Bahamas essentially at or slightly above sea level, the country is even more vulnerable to devastation than most when catastrophic storm systems rise up out of the Atlantic.

“Massive flooding from rising sea levels poses a very real threat to one of the most, if not the most beautiful, spots on this planet,” said Save the Bays Chairman and Bahamas Waterkeeper President Joseph Darville during a recent presentation at the 2016 Annual Waterkeeper Alliance Conference in Wilmington, N.C.

Headed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who was reelected for another two terms as president at this year’s conference, Waterkeeper Alliance is recognized as “the voice of the world’s waters.” With volunteers of licensed Waterkeeper affiliates monitoring rivers, lakes, oceans, ponds and wetlands in dozens of countries, Waterkeeper Alliance is among the largest and fastest growing non-profit organizations, its sole   focus on clean water. The four-day conference in North Carolina brought together 295 waterbody stewards from every corner of the world to discuss the effects of the global warming crisis on their communities.

Save the Bays Chairman and Waterkeeper Bahamas President Joseph Darville (left) and Waterkeeper Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham (centre) with Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Save the Bays Chairman and Waterkeeper Bahamas President Joseph Darville (left) and Waterkeeper Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham (centre) with Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

“Probably the most frightening of our concerns over climate change is the increase of tropical storms, which are now spawning right in our waters,” Darville said, citing the destruction wrought in the southern Bahamas last October by Hurricane Joaquin. “They no longer have to originate off the west coast of Africa.”

According to Darville, unregulated development is one of the largest contributing factors to the accelerated rate at which the shores of The Bahamas is eroding, further escalating the chance of cataclysmic flooding when powerful storms strike.

“This erosion results not only from the sea level rise, heavier storms and storm surge, but is dramatically associated with unregulated and basically unsound major developments,” Darville said. “Whether it’s the absence of qualified marine engineers, or simply an ignorance of the nature of our coastal geography, structures and walls are built without the slightest knowledge of how winds and tides naturally flow.”

Additionally, Darville points to developers’ insatiable desire for oceanfront golf courses as further compounding environmental hazards created by rampant and unrestricted development.

“They are usually plunked right along the sea front, resulting in the run off of all the chemicals which just glory in the destruction and death of our coral reefs,” Darville said. “We have lost hundreds and hundreds of acres of what used to be a scene of magnificent beauty. They also once served as significant barriers for storms and storm surges.”

Darville’s greatest long-term concern – an issue that could affect the ability to inhabit The Bahamas — is the looming loss of the country’s drinkable water. Because the fresh water lens in The Bahamas is only around three to four feet from the land surface, any erosion of land increases salt water intrusion into the water tables.

“Already after major hurricanes, we have had to wait months before the water was potable due to the infusion of salt water,” Darville said. “As the sea level continues to rise, and are exacerbated by major storms, we face real danger of a nation being in a constant state of thirst.”

Leading Authorities on Freedom of Information to guest on Voice of the Bays

Bahamian organization appointed to international anti-corruption body

Leading Authorities on Freedom of Information to guest on Voice of the Bays

Matt Aubry, executive director Organization for Responsible Government (ORG)

Matt Aubry, executive director
Organization for Responsible Government (ORG)

Lemarque Campbell, Attorney and Bahamas representative of Transparency International through Citizens for a Better Bahamas

Lemarque Campbell, Attorney and Bahamas representative of Transparency International through Citizens for a Better Bahamas

With the deadline for public consultation on the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) fast approaching, two leading authorities will appear on a popular local radio show Thursday, June 23.

Attorney Lemarque Campbell and Matt Aubry, representatives of Citizens for a Better Bahamas (CBB) representatives will appear on the popular Save the Bays radio show, ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ from 5-6pm this Thursday on Love 97.5 which will air live in Nassau and Grand Bahama.

Joseph Darville, radio show host and Chairman of Save the Bays, congratulated the organization after it was named the official national contact for Transparency International, a global entity with a mandate to identify areas of corruption among government, businesses and individuals while ensuring ongoing transparency and accountability through implementation of worldwide conventions.

“On behalf of Save the Bays, we are very pleased that through Citizens for a Better Bahamas, Transparency International will have a presence in The Bahamas,” said Darville. “FOIA is a crucial pillar of Save the Bays and we look forward to supporting, assisting and wherever possible aligning resources with Citizens for a Better Bahamas to make those who represent us accountable and ensure transparency among those acting on behalf of the people of this nation.”

              Both Aubry and Campbell will discuss the organization’s role and share findings which came out of multiple town hall meetings during the public consultation for FOIA held around the country and discussions with public and private shareholders, including representatives from the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employees Confederation on the consultation process. 

Save The Bays Chairman Applauds Environment Minister for Youth Green Jobs Training Program

Joe Darville Save the Bays Chairman in bed of greens

Joe Darville Save the Bays Chairman in bed of greens

Thumbs up for government’s green job training announcement – With youth unemployment at record levels and untold numbers of environmentally-related jobs to be filled, Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville today applauded Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett’s news of the creation of Youth Environmental Corps, a 5-year program that will train up to 1,200 people between 17-40 to fill blue and green jobs. Save The Bays also offered the partnership of its popular Youth Environmental Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama that has certified and graduated more than 100 participants. 

Save The Bays Chairman Applauds Environment Minister for Youth Green Jobs Training Program

              Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville today praised Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett following the announcement that he would launch a Youth Environmental Corps training up to 1,200 young people for jobs in the blue and green economies.

“The Youth Environmental Corps is one of the most exciting, practical, important and useful programs I have ever heard of any government proposing and I applaud the Environment Minister Ken Dorsett for planning and proposing it,” said Darville.

A retired educator who spent nearly half a century in various posts from counselor to headmaster and organized Youth Environmental Ambassadors following his retirement, Darville said the proposed program “is a perfect marriage between the demands for skilled environmental management with the need for job training. Save The Bays, along with other advocacy groups including Waterkeeper Alliance, have long called for an understanding that it is not the economy OR the environment but the economy AND the environment that will lead to sustainable development and quality of life for all of us. The Youth Environmental Corps is a program that fully recognises the economy and the environment go hand-in-hand.”

Dorsett announced the Corps through a press statement spelling out details of the 5-year plan aimed at tackling unemployment among those between the ages of 17 and 40 while providing jobs leading to a better environment. The Youth Environment Corps will work in conjunction with the Bahamas National Trust, the Bahamas Public Parks and Beaches Authority and the Forestry Unit in the Ministry of the Environment.

Darville invited the government to extend its partnerships to include Save The Bays whose popular Youth Environmental Ambassadors program in Grand Bahama has already certified and graduated more than 100 participants.

“We would be delighted to work with government and with the Environment Minister’s program in both establishing the needs and managing the day-to-day requirements of creating and maintaining a beautiful environment whether it is on land, in the wetlands or at sea,” said Darville. 

Among the key projects mentioned by Dorsett is the proposed new Lake Killarney National Park and the National Hero’s Garden. If the Lake Killarney park is approved, it will include nearly 20 acres of walking trails and boardwalks. In the past, the ‘big lake’ in the centre of the island most visible from the air for many who have never seen it up close has been maintained by avid seasonal hunters who manage and respect the mangroves and strive to keep the lake in its most natural state. If the park is approved, the lake will be available for kayaking, swimming and snorkeling.

The second project noted, the Hero’s Garden, would be located inside the Botanical Gardens, Chippingham.

“The Youth Environmental Corps will help to reduce the economic gap and enhance our ability to protect and manage these resources,” said Dorsett, referring to the many national parks the Bahamas National Trust manages and the local parks and beaches that are the responsibility of the recently-created Parks and Beaches Authority.

Today’s plaudits for the government and for the Environment Minister, in particular, were not the first for Save The Bays, an outspoken advocacy organization that has repeatedly called for tough Freedom of Information legislation, an end to unregulated development and accountability for oil pollution among other tenets. Save The Bays praised government when it introduced public consultation for proposed Freedom of Information legislation and has continually urged government to retain the right to public consultation by strengthening the Planning and Subdivision Act and passing a comprehensive Environmental Protection Act.   

 

Sustainable Gardening is Rooted in Dollars and Sense in The Bahamas

Farmers Tout Economic Benefits of Living off Your Own Land

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On a recent edition of Save the Bays Saturday radio show “Rise Up, Bahamas” on Nassau’s Love 97.5 FM, Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) facilitators Ruth Cadet (left, wearing yellow), Rashema Ingraham (center wearing gray), Luckner Timothee of Grand Bahama Backyard Farmers (top right) and Javan Hunt (lower right) encouraged listeners to turn to their backyards into farms for the good of their health, and their wallets.

When Luckner Timothee was growing up, gardening was just something his mom did, augmenting family meals with cassavas and pigeon peas she grew in their backyard. It wasn’t trendy and it certainly wasn’t glamorous, but it was a part of daily life. It wasn’t until his mom suffered an aneurysm a few years ago, however, that Timothee decided to put his own hands in the earth.

“Nobody in my age group wanted to get into farming because they think of it as a dirty job, but I wanted to keep it up for her,” said the 31-year-old Grand Bahama farmer during a recent edition of Save the Bays “Rise Up, Bahamas” radio show which is recorded in Freeport and airs in both Freeport and in Nassau on Love 97.5 FM.

A day spent assisting his friend, Javan Hunt, tend to his garden only served to further motivate Timothee, and practically overnight he had his own plot of land cleared out and ready for planting.

“I took gardening to a whole new level,” Timothee said. “I’m growing apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, guava…there really isn’t much you can’t grow in the Caribbean.”

Hunt, a YEA facilitator agrees, only his reasoning for turning to sustainable gardening boiled down to something much more basic: economics. As a vegetarian, Hunt was finding it increasingly difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars a month at grocery stores.

“If you go into the supermarket to buy greens, that will break you,” Hunt said on Saturday’s radio show. “Greens alone was costing me almost $100 a week. If you want to feed yourself, you gotta go out and put your hands in that soil.”

According to the latest numbers from the Department of Statistics, The Bahamas imports $500 million in fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that price tag could be drastically reduced if Bahamian citizens placed more emphasis on cultivating their own backyards. 

“We talk a lot about organic foods, and we don’t want to have to pay $100 to $150 a week for food that isn’t saturated with chemicals and GMOs, but we have this concept that somebody else should always be there to provide these things for us when we should be able to provide for ourselves,” said Rashema Ingraham, a fellow Save the Bays YEA facilitator who also participated in Saturday’s edition of “Rise Up, Bahamas.”

Timothee admits that at first setting up a garden can seem daunting, especially when you consider the initial costs incurred when you first set out to gather supplies, but the key is to focus on the three “R’s”:  reduce, reuse and recycle. For instance, pallets and water jugs can be used as planting containers and typical household refuse such as banana and carrot peels, apple cores and leaves that fall off trees can be used for compost.

“Sustainable gardening becomes second nature once if you shift your mindset from being a taker to being part of something that is bigger,” Timothee said. “It’s not just farming. A plant in your apartment or on your patio…that will change you for the better.”

 

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