Listen to the Voices of our Senior Citizens on Climate Change

A wonderfully clear and simple eye-opener written by fellow blogger and community activist, Emma Lewis.


How are our seniors doing? It’s a question that perhaps we don’t ask ourselves often enough, in the context of climate change. Like other vulnerable populations, our senior citizens are not necessarily outspoken. They don’t come out and shout about how the tides of change are affecting their daily lives. Moreover, the field of climate […]

Cry, don’t laugh at the drought

Margaret Thatcher said famously, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. I read a funny piece in today’s Gleaner about water woes asking what is the Ministry doing, other than beseeching us to conserve water? I’ve asked myself the same question not just on this matter, but on many things overseen by government.

I’ve now been back on the island a week and adjusting to things Jamaican. My wife and daughter have commandeered the master bedroom, blocked off all vents, closed all windows, and cranked up the AC. The room feels like Greenland in December, and I enter wearing a North Face jacket, woolen gloves, heavy socks, and snow shoes, when I go in search of a clean towel. I’m of tougher stuff and bear the heat, slowing down and sweating in my sleep. I wake with no congested head, merely a damp tee shirt.

But, the Eskimos had to take an early flight this morning, and at about 3:30am I heard steps tramping on the landing. I asked my wife if all was good. “If you don’t mind bathing in a bowl, yes,” she replied. I looked at the metal basin by the sink, and remembered that water lock-off applies till about 4. My daughter was trying something different, focusing on wiping only strategic points of her body. They used good amounts of perfume, judging by the trail of fumes I smelled.

Someone joked about saving babies’ tears to bathe with. Last week, I went to the Coconut Board to get my usual three gallons of coconut water. One of the assistants is heavily pregnant. I joked that I was buying the water for my bath. She smiled. I told her not to smirk, because when her baby arrives lock-off could still be operating.

My car was filthy dirty till Friday. I play golf and the course has a spring and pond, which irrigate the course. A man got a bucket of that water and gave my car a bath. I wondered if I could take a few pails of water home. I don’t want a gleaming car: it implies I don’t value water for drinking more than for getting dirt off my car. True, each journey I get nasty dirt on my clothes, and if I want to avoid my wife saying I look like a hobo with dirty clothes, I have to change after I get in and out of my car. But, when I have extra washing, I don’t want the machine running double in a drought. A friend has reconfigured her washing machine so that the waste water goes to her garden. She lives too far away for me to tap onto her waste pipe for my garden. Instead, every little washing in the kitchen gets saved and plants get a little drink several times a day.

I’m taking this drought seriously, so will now keep that waste water in the gallon bottles I have after drinking my coconut water.

If I buy drinking water from Catherine’s Peak, it eases pressure on NWC, at my cost. I see a water bill, for a service that is now far less than it was three months ago. We still pay for services, even if at its minimum. Do I get sent a refund?

I look up at the clouds and again they look dark, as if they will give rain. Hours later, they have gone. The grass stays dry, brittle and brown. I want to cry. I look for a glass to catch my tears. Waste not…20140729-183502-66902166.jpg

Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop. My Jamaica.

Wastage. Leakage. No harvesting. No rain. Desalination. Conservation. No maintenance. No investment. Complacent. Ignoring. Complaining. Hoping. Expecting. Seeding. Rain dancing. Chanting. Politicians prancing. Thirsty. Dusty. Piping rusty. Calcified. Eyes defied. Sense defied. Bush fires. Burning fears. Burning tears. Crops wilting. World not tilting. Mind defying. Babies crying. Patients dying. Forecasting. Foretelling. Armageddon. Desertification. Deserting the nation. Government wanting. Wanting government. Drought. Nothing in the spout. Hear the shout. Shut the mouth. Rain to the north. Rain to the south. Action lacking. Failure backing. Dereliction. It’s not fiction. Fact finding. Water rationing. Rationalising. Sponge dry. Mouth dry. Cross bearing. God fearing. Nature winning. Sun burning. Crops crisping.

No need for a sentence. No sense of repentance. We face condemnation. A nation condemned for decisions not taken by those elected to decide to decide to not do what we vote them to do and rip from us the paradise. Lost.

We find we are lost. Oxymoron? Just a moron? Can we pour on the agony just a little more? How to keep the poor poor. Shut the door. Turn off the light as you leave. Flight of fancy? Fancy flying to a place where the art of the possible meant someone would do something. JLP. PNP. I need to pee but am dry inside. Totally.

Paradise lost. At what cost? So little was needed but we stand defeated by inaction. For years and years and now our fears are realized.

Thirty days we have. A month. In the land of would, and should, we have almost no water.

Minister Pickersgill? Pick a skill? Telling the people what they already know.

Disaster. We are the master of that.

Hose problem is it?

What part of ‘saving for a rainy day’ did we misunderstand? Ironically, if it rained a lot, we would not need to save so much…water, that is. Here we are again. In drought. Without water. Hearing lamentations about how reservoir levels are low. WATER CRISIS. I remember visiting Jamaica a few years ago when Kingston was in severe drought. Cars were filthy. No one was using hoses. Water lock off was complete. Now, years later, the same situation looms. We’ve come through the dry season and are waiting for the abundant rains that usually hit us around April. We had a hint last week, and I imagine many were glad for the cooler air and the prospect that reservoirs would start to fill up again. What strikes me is that in the years since that dust bowl experience little has been done to address what is an annual problem. But, what should I really expect? Jamaica is not the land of forward planning and learning from mistakes. Jamaica is the land of making the same mistake repeatedly…the land of the madman. Anthony Winkler’s The Lunatic should be read again.

Munsch's 'The Scream'...because we have no water
Munsch’s ‘The Scream’…because we have no water

I’ve gotten used to the nightly routine of water lock-off in my area. The whole corporate area was put on notice this week that restrictions would be widened. I read a notice from last year from the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPEM), urging the nation to not wait until the drought hits to prepare. We can all make the little efforts. I shower with the dishes at my feet and use the soap running off my body to get my plates clean. I brush my teeth at the same time, just opening my mouth while washing my hair. My family all shower together. I use a bucket that I give to my child to play with instead of a hose and take teaspoonfuls of water from it to give some plants a tipple. Whenever it rains, we put out buckets, mainly to catch rain to water plants. But, I should be doing nothing of the sort. Living in the city it seems that saving water is not what better off people do. If in need of water, just go to buy a few gallon bottles of spring water. I’m sure there are households that have several gallons ready to roll, even to use for showers. Extreme? Maybe. When it rains in Jamaica it usually pours, and runs away. The cascades are really fun to watch. We can get thoroughly drenched in minutes when it rains here. But, we let the water waste. I was shocked to hear one of the National Water Commission officials talk about the low levels of the reservoirs on one hand, and on the other the way that water is ‘let off’ when rain is excessive. Adding that NWC needed to find way to save that excess. Well, blow me down with a feather. I think he’s got it! NWC could be called National Wasters Commission. The land of wood and water is not constantly without piped water. We are constantly under threat that our water wont be there. But, from what I have seen, not a single national action has been put in place to deal with the fact that we have serious dry spells every year. I caught a few minutes of Barbara Gloudon’s call-in program on RJR yesterday and it was so sad to hear two caller beg for “just a trickle” of water. One man had no water for three days; another, none for a day. NWC announced that we have a new water regime from yesterday. In florid prose–‘Continued precipitous declines in inflows from the major rivers’… we were told that we would only have ‘piped water between 4:00 am and 8:00 am each morning and again between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm each evening’ (If I worked in New Kingston, I’d be fine all day because the business district will have water when it’s not available where i live. But, what about the businesses in those mainly residential areas. Cue, the shuffling feet.) We had another advisory from ODPEM yesterday, with the same advice as last year. Luckily, my child had swim practice yesterday, and I had a cake of soap under the bag of bun and cheese, so she took her bath in the pool. Sorry, for not having cleaned off the scum, but we’ll be back there on Saturday, and we will do it again. I will advise the school to make sure its team is aware that it’s bathe there or nowhere. Jamaica does not have to wait for a spaceship with super intelligent aliens to arrive and give us the magic answer about saving water. The world has many examples. Please, please, please, NWC, start getting us to do this. Give people a discount on their bills to defray the cost. Even set it up to make all the money yourselves by installing. I really don’t care. But, stop locking off the water and pointing a finger in the air, or sticking a nose up to sniff if rain is coming. It will come, but it will also go again. Did I just mention a few days ago about how we lack leadership? Well, with all of the splishing and splashing absent in many households, what better time to think and show we can think about water policy? Yesterday, I see, ‘Water Sector Policy consultations’ began (the first, in Wexford, St. James). The MD of the Water Resources Authority, Basil Fernandez told the media that “we do have have water that is not evenly distributed…” “We have adequate water sources. What we don’t have is persons living near the water sources.” He talked about the hilly terrain and the cost of moving water. Get ready for higher bills, friends. Of course, we could all move to the hills and turn Rasta and grow ganja. A ministry spokesperson, Patricia Snow-Young, did a bit of a snow job. She mentioned that rural areas’ access to potable water is about 45 percent, and that the aim is to have as close to 100 percent as possible. For diligent readers that means not much, because 50 percent may be as close as possible. But, let me not unkind to the lady. Let hope spring forth. I really ought to get to some of these meetings and hear what is being said. The Kingston consultation will be on April 30, at the Courtleigh, at 6pm. It’s in the calendar, now. 🙂

Simple water harvesting methods
Simple water harvesting methods
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