Last week I participated in a panel discussion which was part of a premiere launch of the movie ‘The Burning Agenda’. This is a film, produced by Dr Owen Day from the Buccoo Reef Trust and supported by the UK government as part of their Equity campaign, to strengthen the voice of vulnerable countries like the Caribbean on the impacts of climate change they face. The film was also launched in Trinidad and Guyana last week and I am told it is now being picked up by the regional television networks, which is great. It makes an important contribution to raising public awareness here about the issue but will also do this internationally when it is shown at the upcoming Commonwealth heads meeting in Trinidad and at the Copenhagen side event that the Caribbean will host next month.
It was a great turnout and the auditorium was full. Having been part of the initial planning discussions it was a thrill now to see the final product. I sat next to Owen who was a little anxious as you can expect - hoping it was well received and that all the technical systems would run smoothly. He need not have worried. It had us all captivated from the beginning and represented the region’s perspective very well - from all levels - with views from President Jagdeo and Prime Minster Manning to those of a nutmeg farmer in Grenada and rice farmer in Guyana who have suffered tremendous losses due to recent disasters but could also share what current climate change issues they face. Comments from BP's executive director, on the role of the private sector, was also encouraging.
Two featured speakers in the movie were on the panel - Dr Ulric Trotz, who is the Scientific adviser for Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and Dr Leonard Nurse, local noble prize laureate and member of the scientific team of the IPCC. I felt very humbled to be in their company. They make such a valuable contribution and speak very well. Time for discussion was not long enough to deal with a complex subject like this - but a good range of questions were shared nevertheless.
One person told me that the most interesting quote for the evening for them was the comparison of the carbon footprint of a vegetarian in a small car to a meat eater walking to work. This was given by the member of the audience after reading the BBC interview with Lord Stern on the high methane contribution of cattle to greenhouse gas emissions.
Questions also covered the region’s hopes for Copenhagen and how critical the US was to a meaningful agreement - to the inspiring voice of a young 11 year old boy asking us what he can do to help - to changes that can be made at the policy level to encourage those who are keen to do their part like install energy efficient devices in a home but are finding it expensive to do so. This obviously only scratched the surface of the debate but I really hope it continues whenever it can and everywhere. I must congratulate the British High Commission staff in Bridgetown for an excellent event.
In grabbing a much needed juice afterwards, I was chatting to the general manager of the National Conservation Commission, Keith Neblett who told me about the solar panel that had just been installed at Rockley beach on the lifeguard hut to run their PA system which proved to be an easy but very practical solution to power issues they have at the beach. I thought I must check it out and have inserted a picture for you here as there cannot be too many of them around the world. I am really enjoying finding out more about the adaptation challenges but also the opportunities a climate smart and low carbon and energy efficient development pathway provides. As I investigate these oppportunities further it is like an invisible gate has opened and I am discovering things in the most unusual ways…but more about that next time.