If you wanted torrential rain, some high winds, and lots of flood damage, yesterday had it. We’d been warned midweek:
A Cold Front in the western Caribbean, is behind a pre-Frontal Trough. The Front and Eta interact tomorrow. By Wednesday/Thursday, a Low develops on the axis of the weakened Front. This Low then moves eastward, toward the Jamaica area on the weekend. pic.twitter.com/yKXZHFwBwF
As expected, Jamaica is caught under the outer band of heavy rainfall associated with tropical cyclone Eta, moving towards Cuba. The Flash Flood Warning remains in effect for northwestern and southern parishes of the country. pic.twitter.com/LD1Z0jEH2U
BLOCKED: Ally Bridge, Clarendon; Bog Walk Gorge and Rio Magno to Springfield rd, St. Catherine; Maroon Town to Springvale rd, Trelawny; Unity to Toms River rd and Gordon Town Rd, St. Andrew. Goshen, St. Elizabeth – no small vehicles. Rd leading to Hodges @ High Sch.
The damage repair bill will be huge, adding to the already estimated $2 billion.
We also had a minor earthquake during the afternoon. Very 2020 😳😩🙏🏾
The Earthquake Unit has confirmed a magnitude 3.4 earthquake was felt in sections of the island at approximately 2:59pm on Sunday November 8, 2020. The earthquake’s epicenter was 7km northwest of Trinity Ville, St. Thomas, with a focal depth of 6.9km. pic.twitter.com/Z0SonOqDwZ
Things growing in my garden include some blue tomatoes (though some are putting on a super show of redness), plus pigeon peas (called ‘gungo (or Congo) peas’ in Jamaica), which also show the power of a single seed, as the crop from one bush gave about 800 grams/1.75 pounds of green peas that have served one nice meal of rice and peas (the bowl of green peas below shows a few dried brown peas, which could offer more for later planting).
The blossoms on the Otaheite (rose) apple tree are now forming into fruit, which have the firmness of pears in temperate zones, and are so far a sweet-tasting crop that has graced my breakfast plate and been offered to a few friends. You can see the large crop that is growing and the inside of one of the first apples I ate this week, its white interior making a sharp contrast to its red skin.
Orchids placed on isolated spots are also thriving and showing off some splendid blooms.
Some orchids are trying to re-establish themselves and showing sign of new life.
Nature is more than things that grow and seeing the passage of time in the movement of the sun is one of the constant pleasures of tropical life, where our winter months have shorter days but the sun still rises relatively early. The coming of dawn as natural and artificial lights challenge each other is always interesting.
I find much pleasure in enjoying natural things and being outdoors. Many know that they can often find me on a golf course for that reason, rather than actually playing golf. It’s why I enjoy gardening: my father said “Always stay close to the land”. Many of my pictures are of flowers, plants, landscapes, animals or other things I encounter by chance when out and about. Someone suggested on Twitter that when we encounter nice natural things it’d be good to share them. What a great idea. So, for this first week of a new year, I’m going to try to do that and continue on a weekly basis. It fits with an idea I had last year to move more towards visual storytelling rather than literal storytelling.
The selection below spans the two weeks I have spent during the Christmas season, which ends tomorrow, January 5. What I notice from these is how nature has been touched by humans; I’ll even say enhanced, not least in making the sights accessible. You’ll see, too, that some of the natural shots have no human interference (eg sunrises, or wind effects), and some show nature largely left to itself (banana ground). The golf course video is intriguing because of how nature has adapted to man’s influence, with the sea birds taking advantage of new shelter and feeding opportunities. That’s a nice spread of what is often on display to all of us. I’m not sure, at this early stage, if I will start to shape my observations to focus on certain elements, but let’s see. Enjoy!
Today is International Coastal Cleanup Day. Along with hundreds of people in Kingston, my family and I headed to Rocky Fort Beach to join the organized efforts of the Jamaican Environment Trust to try to remove garbage.
The Inter-American Development Bank and its Corporate Social Responsibility team had us marshaled in New Kingston for a 7am departure. I’d been up hours already, written, practiced some golf, and played with our puppy by 6, when my family came downstairs. By 7, I was nearing my lunchtime. I was saved by a platter of Subway sandwiches, which were laid out on a car bonnet. Cookies I saw, but never sampled. Our team leader told us our assignments and we set off for Palisadoes.
The early morning calm is always a joy in Kingston. We saw lots of joggers, and the regular group of bikers, who head to the airport before dawn and were on their way back into town. A few fishermen were on the shore. But, a convoy of buses and cars was unusually headed towards Port Royal.
The roadside was jammed when we reached our work area. We headed to the sand and waited for our leader to get our bags and tally sheets. She grouped us for a photo. I took some selfies with my daughter.
Our family was split over three different teams, which headed off to find trash. My team of four headed back toward the airport, planning to work back to the assembly area. We walked about a kilometer. Then, we started picking up. Well, one of our team had felt the urge to start earlier and lagged behind us as she filled her bag.
Our team leader was our tally woman. PET bottles went into a clear bag. Other garbage went into black bags. We picked up plastic lids (lots), plastic bottles, plastic scraps, odd shoes, pieces of styrofoam (surprisingly few), pieces of wood.
We left urchin shells, corals, stones, sea fan, and other natural products of the sea.
Walking on the sloping sand was tiring, and as the sun came up fully the heat beat us hard. We met others, smiling with bags filled with PET bottles, carried like hunted game. We met groups, headed in the opposite direction, who begged for some of our PET bottles to add to their measly tally. I wondered if they realized that they would be carrying their loads both ways. The black bags were fuller, and heavier, with their mixed content.
Many groups were there. Schools. NGOs. Corporate teams. Some sang. Some danced. Some seemed like work gangs. Many were not picking up much.
One girl just crushed urchin shells with her feet. A lady found what looked like a young swordfish, which flapped in her hand as she urged her friends to take a picture. “Put it into the water, before it dies!” yelled a young woman. Into the water it was thrown.
I saw several girls digging up a large, black plastic bag. They joked about whether it might have a body inside. Some young men vied to look coolest while collecting.
We were glad to find ourselves back to our start, about 80 minutes after we’d begun. I was drenched as I deposited our bags, and was headed for refreshments. I went to the water truck to wash my hands. A young man was complaining how his chivalry kept him waiting on women passing him. He got his turn. He then let the water fall on his sparkling white sneakers. “You all don’ tek cyare o’ you clothes…” He explained that he only wore dirty old shoes for playing ball or kicking around in the dirt.
I noted a few ‘celebrities’, Diana McCauley being interviewed. Duty Berry, sporting a ‘Jamaica nuh dutty’ tee shirt. I begged him for a selfie.
I headed for my JP bananas and some WATA. I know the value of sponsors.
People lined for fruit, water, and porta potties. Young children snickered because girls used the ‘male’ cabins. Our full group found cover under a tent. Fatigue and sweat were evident, but also smiles.
I saw a drenched face I knew well as my daughter hovered by the jelly coconut truck–her regular Saturday treat.
We all headed out for home. It was just past 10. I was looking forward to a shower and some football. My wife was tempted to buy fish in Rae Town.
It’s our daughter’s birthday on Sunday, and dinner would be stuffed baked snapper.
The value of information is not in what is transmitted, but in what is received. My wife said she sent me an email with a phone number in it. I said I never saw it. Why not give it to me now that you’re standing next to me? I asked. Eureka moment. Transmitted and received well.
I don’t know how I can prove the point I want to make, but let me start the argument. Jamaica may not be very different from many places, but we can’t see enough of all of life’s parts to know how alike we are in some basic ways. I think that Jamaica suffers from an information deficit. We have agencies that send out information, but what we see suggests that, at best this is only partially received.
The country is suffering a drought. How do I know that? I have an idea from the fact that I had not seen rain for weeks, during a time of the year when rainfall is supposed to be more likely. I see the ground around where I live and in areas to which I travel, and it looks dry and hard. Plants look brown, instead of green; many are dying instead of thriving. During afternoons, when the heat rises, the clouds form but no rain comes as one would expect at this time of year. I read press reports and hear news broadcasts, which tell me of the dire national situation of water shortage. I heard that the responsible minister made statements to the nation, telling us that this drought is real. “Fellow Jamaicans, this is a challenge, and it is one that is made worse by higher temperatures and windy conditions, that provide the perfect combination for bush fires, which, given the present water shortage, will be difficult to control and extinguish,” Ministers Pickersgill is reported as saying.
I highlighted the section on fires for a simple reason. I feel that I have been well-informed about this dangerous national situation, and try in my own limited way to heed it. But, for all the efforts to inform, have others absorbed this information, that we think is flying out there freely? My presumption is that most of the country tries to stay well-informed. But, I do not know if this is true.
Many so-called ‘educated’ people are quick to disparage part of society as ‘ignorant’ and ‘ill-informed’. Yet, some of that criticising group is only too glad to say things like “This is why I don’t watch local news.” Now, let me slow down. If the intelligentsia think they can survive in the country by disconnecting from local news reporting, why can we be confident that the ‘ignorant’ will bother? Is it that the ‘ignorant’ cannot think clearly through the weaknesses of local reporting to see the truths that are not reported? Is it that the facts are so obvious that local sources need not be consulted? Simply put, there’s a presumption that local news is not worth wasting time. The intelligentsia, of course, want their heads filled with ‘international’ news–it puts them in a seemingly superior position to be able to pontificate about the perils facing the world in places far and wide, and by groups with names that are tongue-twisting: “Hezbollah…Nagorno-Karabakh…Herzegovina…Boko Haram…Nethanyahu…”.
So, when ministers and the Jamaica Information Service issue statements and bulletins, to whom are they speaking? I assume that the farmers tilling yam hills and tending cows and hoeing weeds from between scallion try to have an ear to what is going on outside their small holdings. But, that’s a view I hold because I want to be informed. I grew up listening to the BBC shipping forecasts, thinking that everyone knew about ‘Dogger…Cromarty…Viking…’, etc. I tend to believe it less when I listen to what goes on as normal business in the agricultural sector. I recall stories earlier this year of peanuts being grown but no one knowing who wanted to buy: supply and demand could not meet. Peanuts rotted. Farmers face destitution. Do we have a peanut marketing board to bring the two sides together? Not exactly, but we have the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, which has a marketing division. Whatever they are supposed to be doing, the peanut farmers are at a loss.
But, if rural people are so ill-informed about their basic bread and butter such as where markets are, why should they know about anything else? Which brings me back to the fires.
Slash and burn has been a part of our rural life for centuries now. It has its rationale, but economic and environmental. It’s not unique to the tropics or to less-developed counties; it’s part of ordinary agriculture. Rural people are accustomed to it, and think they can control it. They don’t necessarily see it as problematic, including during droughts. That alone could explain why, when driving across Jamaica in recent weeks, despite the drought, we’ve seen plumes of smoke, as slash and burn continues. If we want that to change, a JIS infomercial won’t do. It needs a re shaping of economic and social life.
Now, not all bush fires are man-made. We know spontaneous combustion takes place. Maybe, that explains the fires last week in Jacks Hill, which some argue were started as flint ignition. Maybe, that explains some of the burnt banana and bamboo stands seen around southern St. Mary, including the small blaze I saw last night at about 8pm, just after rain had passed the area near the banana chips factory. But, we can’t inform nature.
We’re trying to persuade people to do things or stop doing things, but we’ve no idea how receptive are the ears to the official voices.
That issue goes far beyond our current problem with dry weather and tinderbox bush land.
Those of us who live in the a Internet age may find it hard to fathom that information can still move at snail’s pace. But, let’s not presume or assume too much. It may seem extreme, but I’ve met people who do not know who is Usain Bolt, or that Bob Marley is dead. To borrow from The Harder They Come: “How him cyan dead an’ nuh tell mi?”
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…
The smell of heat, even at dawn.
The intoxicating smell of rotting mangoes.
Damp grass, mixed with dust, smelling like moss.
Sweat dripping from the head to the nose to the neck.
Water spraying for the grounds, whose spring lies ready to be tapped.
Heavy breathing coming from behind, the couple sprint the hill.
Huffing, puffing, weighty arms holding a bag full of mangoes.
1, 2, 3, 4,…14, 15. Switch hands.
Labrador barking at the stranger he sees every morning.
Alsatian sneaking into my kitchen, just to say hello?
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.
Yesterday and today are rest days before the last two matches in the World Cup. The final will be at football’s Mecca, Maracana Stadium. Many fans made their trek to the venues for those matches, and Rio was awash with Argentina fans, who seemed more numerous than Germany fans. No surprise, given relative distances. I presume Brasilia saw an influx of Dutch fans; Brazilians can leave travelling it till later. Those fans I saw were in good mood, mostly decked in shirts other than team colours. They were helping the economy a little more by shopping and taking taxis. The rains did not let up, and drenched Rio all day and throughout the night.
We took it lazily and found our way to a fabulous restaurant, named Aprazível, in the Santa Teresa area of Rio, up a step hill near to Corcovado.
The area has lots of older buildings, and the hills make the area seem more like a European town. It’s become a place for arty types, and has a bohemian feel, with narrow, cobbled stone streets. We just enjoyed some nice Brazilian fare
as my wife and her friend and daughter celebrated The Bahamas 41st anniversary of Independence. We then went to help the economy, too, to dodge the rain and be somewhere less gloomy and cold–a mall in upscale Leblon.
It made for a long day, and we did not get home till well past 9.30pm. My little daughter got to stay up really late, playing cards with one of her sisters.
Rio has been blessed with a lot of technological investment from its hosting of mega events, and free wifi internet access is widespread. So, when we have downtime, it’s easier to do some surfing rather than leaving it all till day’s end. (We are not alone, and the mall was awash with people sitting in groups doing the same. International roaming charges are no joke.) I took the opportunity while my ladies shopped to read up on Rio and some elementary Portuguese. As I caught up with the day, I read, as usual, news from Jamaica. It makes for interesting contrasts to the heavily football-centric focus now in Brazil.
Here, even the not sports news is related to football. The budding ticket scandal, where a FIFA-affiliated hospitality company official, Briton Ray Whelan, has been arrested for selling complimentary tickets and match credentials. Latest news was he’d ‘escaped’ and was on the run. My older daughter wondered if he’d headed to The Amazon rainforest.
A blooming ‘would have, could have’ story is coming from the British press, asking if the first penalty kick by Holland, which was initially saved by the Argentina keeper, actually crossed the line. Read and watch a replay. This could just brew into a little more embarrassment, who seem like fly paper in that regard. With much-touted goal line technology, it seems that match officials are still in the trigger whistle mode and not accustomed to waiting and getting a conformation of near incidents. The fans and IT mavens will have a little field day.
In Jamaica, the news has been much about the parched conditions are the drought now biting. For over half a century, that little island has shown how the curse if riches works. Resource rich, but application poor. We have water coming at us from all possible angles, but cannot get it to where people are. Or, we squander nature’s abundance like children and splash and dash away valuable rain water. “No problem, man!” You better sing another song, if the Weather Service predictions of little rain throughout the coming months are correct. What Rio has had for the past 48 hours would do us a treat. I bet people are begging for a tropical storm to come lash the island. I read a few days ago about fields catching fire in St. Elizabeth, the island’s bread basket, then saw a report yesterday about the government ‘implementing’ a J$30 million drought mitigation project (or maybe just recycled news) island wide . Hi, Lily, hi low. Oh, the plight of the beggar! What’s that passage about reaping the fruits of our labour? We work at not working, so our basket must stay empty.
The stories swirl about the Commissioner of Police’s sudden resignation and retirement. Just in his 50s, and giving every sign of being ready to sail on into the sunset of 10 more years. Then, brap. Just so,he says “Nah! I want to go fishing.” Was he jump or was he pushed. He doesn’t seem the jumpy type. Let’s leave it there. But, read Mark Wignall’s column from last week, which puts the skeptical case well.
Eyes have also focused on the latest exchange rate developments. My reading is that the central bank governor did something normal, but some want to see it as extraordinary. He intervened in the market to maintain ‘orderly conditions’. Governor Wynter reportedly said the rapid rate of depreciation within the last few weeks was not justified by any fundamentals in the market. Jamaica just got a kiss and hug for being teacher’s pet from the IMF MD, and successfully launched a US$800 million bond. That would suggest that speculative pressure on the exchange rate should lessen, and it’s rate of depreciation slow. The Gov did something extraordinary by announcing the intervention. That could be a classic ploy of signaling to the market that enough hanky panky has gone on. Forget about the rate having reached a bottom. Jamaica doesn’t have the dosh to slosh into the market and defend a level, and Mme Largarde won’t accept it, either. So, keep on with end Lamasse breathing.
Jamaica is over twice the physical area of Rio, with about half the population. It’s not been blessed to sit within a huge land mass, or to have seen years of intense economic and social change. It’s a place with hopes but woeful vision. Rio and Brazil are almost the opposite of great hopes and too much vision. It wouldn’t take the wit of many people to fix Jamaica’s woes. But wit we use to be twits.
I think of myself as a concerned citizen. People like me get angry about the thing that we see not being done in places and by people who should know better. I do not put much store in a thing called ‘common sense’, but I do put much store in a thing called ‘self interest’. I also know that most people, given the option, do not throw away money, or worse, burn it. Why, then, have Jamaicans not embraced solar energy?
Buying energy from our monopoly provider is very expensive. We have an abundance of sunshine every day. For most people, it must be that the cost of using this alternative energy is prohibitively expensive. I can understand and accept that. Why, then, does the government not see that and help with subsidies or tax breaks? That is a puzzle. The simple answer to the puzzle is that government or certain ministers stand to gain more by not subsidising alternative energy use. How could that be, master? “Well, grasshopper, men make money in many ways.”
My daughter and I were making one of our regular drives over Jacks Hill last night, as the sun was about to set. We could see a heavy haze as we looked west. We agreed that rain was needed to wash the air clean. My eyes then went back to the pot-holed road, and eastward. I could see several new homes under construction, pushing up out of rocks. Hillside living. Yes, sweet Jamaica! “Not one of those new homes, finished or going up, has any solar panels,” I told my daughter. I accepted that the homes still going up could have panels in their plans as part of the ‘finishing’. But, what about the houses that were finished? These are not poor people’s homes. If anyone could afford to invest in alternative energy, it would be the owners of these homes. But, it did not seem to be the thing to do, and buying more cars seemed more popular.
True, Jamaica did not see the blinding light after Barbados, decades ago, set up tax incentives to invest in solar energy. Result? Barbados has every new construction sporting panels to catch the sun. They should change the name of the island to reflect that (an incidental pun). Jamaica, pompasseting, again, as a Bajan might say, just lets the sun come and go and not bother it. Of course, we pay a whopping US$2.5 billion to suck up the black juice that powers around 90 percent of our energy use.
We have money to waste, which is why we are in the hands of the IMF with a financial programme? Oh, no. We don’t have money, to waste or not. We are broke. Because, we spent money we did not have. Save it! Save it! That never seemed to make sense to our governments, and here we are still running the AC with the windows wide open. We hear screams as people open their monthly electricity bills. I just hand it off to my wife, who pays it. I already have no hair, and I hope she can keep hers. I spoke to our housekeeper the other day about the cost of running certain appliances. She said “Oh…” That meant that she had no clue that the money that was being spent warming clothes to dry instead of letting the sun and wind do the drying was so much. I wish I could just say “Oh…” I know that most Jamaicans know how much electricity costs, even those who steal it know the cost.
But, here is a gauge of our interest. Jamaica’s Solar Energy Association, set up in 1999, ‘designed to undertake the primary role of shifting Jamaica’s energy mix in the 21st century by encouraging the increased use of renewable energy, specifically solar’, now has over 50 members (30 companies, plus). A whole 50? “Horace, give me a draw on that chalice.” That will get us there…not. It’s about now that I wonder what the **** is wrong with people in this country. My concerns for saving with the dryer and air conditioner is not reflected in our ‘captains’ of the sinking ship, ‘Industry’. Well, let her sink, then.