I never go a day in Jamaica without looking around me with squinted eyes. Why? On the one hand, the land is so unbelievably beautiful. On the other hand, so much of the infrastructure is appalling. Nature has bestowed us with an asset and we have repaid that by constructing a bevy of liabilities. My thoughts over the past few days have revolved around this, thinking about Jamaica as a series of naturally beautiful things and manufactured awfulness. Let me just put down how that surfaces in my mind.
Our rivers, even in the midst of drought, are wonderful, with wide stretches and often sitting in deep gorges.
They meander like enormous snakes, taking what nature has bestowed from above and refreshing plants and people until the sea is reached. Yet, along side them, and often following their lines, we have constructed roads, which like so much of the economy that provides their financing, are pitted with potholes and broken walls. Our eyes get sore trying to see past these misshapen ravines and over broken down walls.
If you travel to the area of Kingston near its harbour, you’ll rarely be anything but stunned at this natural formation and how it graced what eventually because Jamaica’s capital. Yet, the harbour has become for the longest while one of the greatest collection points for garbage and the waste that Jamaicans strew randomly and finds its way to the sea.
Jamaica has some of the world’s best mineral baths. However, in stark contrast to similar baths in other countries, ours are not in settings that please the eye or calm the soul. Look at La Bourboule in the Auvergne, France. It’s a joy to visit and enjoy the spa and the relaxing town. Jamaica has Milk River Baths. While it’s visual appeal is on the quaint, rustic style, getting there is a journey back to the days before the wheel was invented. I remember taking my father there on several occasions, and while he needed the waters to help with his stroke, I needed the waters to help me after the bumpy hour-long ride to reach the baths.
If you look around as you drive on almost any road in Jamaica, you’ll see mature trees and shrubs on roadsides and on hills and mountains that grace the island. Sometimes, trees are mixed with bamboo and banana plants and coconut trees. But, look carefully. Increasingly, you see hillsides scared by what I call ‘white or brown space’, as limestone has been exposed where excavation has occurred either for new housing, new roads, or quarrying. Forest is also going because planting has taken place. I cannot quantify how much of this vegetation has been lost, but less of it is visible each week. On the one hand, we want to see economic progress and want to know that people can farm, but on the other hand, we destroy nature with too much readiness. Little tree planting exercises are good, but nearly not enough.
No big conclusions, just what is there if you keep your eyes open.