Take a walk in the wild

On June 5, everyone on the planet – each of the seven billion of us – is invited to remember our place in nature. Human beings are not apart from nature, we are a part of nature. The theme for World Environment Day 2017 is “connecting people to nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator.” Here in Tobago, we are fortunate to be able to renew this connection in direct ways. No one has to go far to be in nature. Schools and families are encouraged to select an activity that awakens these connections. This feature was first published in the Tobago Newsday on June1, 2017

In Tobago, we are the best hosts. We can recommend all the places that delight visitors: the beaches, the waterfalls, the forest walks. How many of these places do we – apart from those who work as guides or tour operators – actually know intimately? This World Environment Day, we suggest that you renew your acquaintance with what brings visitors here. Sometimes we need to see our surroundings through strangers’ eyes. Connect today, and say “I’m with nature!”

Walk on a beach. None of us lives far from a beach. A few of us are fortunate to have the beach on our doorstep; a stone’s throw from our classroom. Look around and note the distinctive aspects of your beach. Does it face north or east, or west or south? Is it rocky or sandy in the sea? Can you tell if the tide is rising or falling? At night, look for nesting turtles. Notice the differences between the Atlantic (eastern coast) and Caribbean (western) beaches.

Take a boat, visit a reef, walk the rainforest or a river. However you connect with nature on World Environment Day, commit to doing it more often in the rest of the year. Photo courtesy Pat Ganase
Visit the reef. The more accessible reefs are on the Caribbean coast.  Buccoo is Tobago’s famous marine park on the southwest tip. But there are reefs all around Tobago: at Mt Irvine; at Castara; at Culloden; Charlotteville and Speyside in the north. Some reefs are easy enough to swim out to, with mask and snorkel. If you are a beginning marine explorer, find a coach. Curiosity can lead to snorkeling. Snorkelling will lead to diving. As master diver Alvin Dougie Douglas advocates, “we should all spend some time underwater, for our own sanity, and to protect what we love.” See link here: 

Visit the lagoon at No Man’s Land. Go on a night near the time of the new moon to see the bioluminescence. This weekend before World Environment Day might be good; or the Eid weekend (June 26). According to marine scientist Jahson Alemu, “bioluminescence allows organisms to glow in the dark, and the darker it is, the more intense the glow. …The Bon Accord Lagoon is a protected inlet that holds millions of marine bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton. … Because the biobays require such exact conditions in order to form, there are very few in the world, and conservationists work tirelessly to preserve these unique phenomena. …. The single most harmful species to these dinoflagellates are humans.” See link here:

Walk in the rainforest. The Main Ridge Forest Reserve is the oldest protected forest in the western hemisphere, conserved for water security. Botanist Aidan Farrell wrote, “…the reserve includes three distinct habitat types: lowland rainforest, lower montane rainforest, and xerophytic rainforest. … in fact, rain was the motivation behind the preservation of the forest in 1776: for the purpose of attracting frequent showers of rain upon which the fertility of lands in these climates doth entirely depend." Walk in any part of the rainforest and you’ll learn that forests are more than trees; they are complete ecosystems with animals, insects, mushrooms, frogs and much more. The Main Ridge Reserve covers most of the north of Tobago: choose a waterfall walk at Argyle, or follow the river from Castara or Parlatuvier. See link here:

Stroll in the Botanical Gardens outside Scarborough, among some of the oldest trees outside the Main Ridge. Alternatively, walk in Fort King George overlooking Scarborough Harbour; imagine the battles between the French and Dutch navies; or the defence of the island by the British. The Tobago museum at Fort King George houses a fine display of artifacts from the original people as well as those who colonised the island. It is important for us to know that this island has always attracted people. This Museum – the life work of Eddie Hernandez - should make us think about Tobago’s place in the world.

Even if we don’t get out in nature on World Environment Day, there are other activities that should engage our thoughts. Plant a tree… or three. In our islands, Corpus Christi (June 15 this year) might be the traditional planting day but we can start planting from WED.  

Most importantly, spare some thoughts about the end products of human lives on small islands: garbage. Do you know where your waste goes? Some of it remains on-shore in landfills; but also in river mouths, mangroves and on the beaches; a lot more washes out to sea fooling fish and turtles into thinking of food; once at sea, garbage travels on the currents to the North Atlantic garbage patch.  

Tobago is small, but big enough to support a system to efficiently separate trash and recycle glass, plastic, aluminium cans and paper. Some enterprising private sector organization might look into recycling as a business. Until a system is in place, we can still make sure that trash is minimal, properly sorted and ready for recycling. 

World Environment Day 2017 offers the opportunity to appreciate nature, of which we are a part. The good fortune of living in Tobago carries the responsibility to care for the island and its coastal waters. Let’s use this day to re-connect with our deepest nature, and to undertake those actions that will build our relationship with our land and marine environment.

·      If the human population of our planet continues to grow and consume as we do now, we would need three Earths by 2050.
·      We cut down 27,000 trees every day just for toilet paper.
·      Over 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped in the ocean every year.
·      Some 50 million acres of rainforest are lost every year; we have already removed 80% of the world’s forests.
·      Plastic trash kills more than 100,000 marine turtles every year.
·      We have polluted our water sources: so much so that 15,000 persons die from drinking polluted water every day.
·      Almost everything we use in our homes could be reused or recycled: 84% of household waste can be recycled. Each person produces about four pounds of garbage per day.
·      In the last fifty years (since the late sixties) more resources have been consumed than in all previous human history.

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY is observed on June 5 every year since 1974. It was designated by the UN General Assembly in 1972, following discussions about the impacts of human interactions with the natural environment. Since then, WED is the United Nation's principal vehicle for worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the natural environment. The first WED in 1974 had the theme “Only One Earth.” Every year, a different theme is chosen for raising awareness on issues from marine pollution and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. WED is a global platform for public outreach, information and action, with participation from over 143 countries. Individuals, groups or corporate citizens are invited to register and document your WED activities here: http://worldenvironmentday.global/


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