Post 201.

Not long ago, Santa Cruz had many more bees and butterflies. Not long ago, garbage wasn’t filling our emptiest of North Coast beaches. Raising Ziya as much as possible between these two places, I often wonder how long it will take for us to feel what we still ignore, and I hope then it won’t be too late.

Bee and butterfly decimation has been directly connected to fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides, which cause rapid colony collapse and severely damage bees’ capacity to gather food, and therefore pollinate. Pesticides not only remain in soil, they also contaminate fields that haven’t been sprayed, pollen in other plants, and beehives themselves. Once bee and butterfly populations experience decimation, science suggests so will we, for we rely on insects like these to help produce our food.

The Wall Street Journal reported this year that, “more than 40% of U.S. honeybee colonies died in a 12-month period ending in April”. Norway has established a “bee highway”, offering food sources and resting spots as these insects move through Oslo. The US government has also planned a “1,500-mile corridor of vegetation between Mexico and Minnesota” to help protect Monarch butterflies.

All over Trinidad and Tobago, people are setting up apiaries to provide bees with a home, and to produce local honey. Those efforts are not enough however without a major shift away from pesticides in agriculture, and without greater national government protection against habitat loss. We can make that change right now if the consequences for our children click in our fast food brains. Pesticides are poison, and their effects inevitably move up our food system.

In my almost-weekly pilgrimage to the North coast’s rivers and beaches, I’ve noticed the vast increase in garbage over just this decade. Some comes from the sea, which absorbs millions of tons of waste each year. As I walked up Yara River three weeks ago, far into the green mountain, it took about an hour before we stopped seeing discarded biscuit wrappers, corn curls’ bags, shoes and, unbelievably, somebody’s red hairweave.

I wondered how long until my own days of walking heart-deep in these pristine currents are over, just as I wondered how long until the garbage truly makes it impossible to rest where the river meets the sea, and imagine it is still clean. A recent study of wild zooplankton, microscopic organisms that are eaten by small predators like shrimp and small fish, confirmed that they are ingesting plastic, something already known to be the case for turtles and birds feeding from oceans. Aside from the effects on marine life reproductive and digestive systems, again, think your way up the food chain and locate your children.

While the election campaign rolls on, no door-to-door national recycling programme was ever rolled out. We are decades behind our responsibility to future generations, without good reason. While the election battle is fought, where is the national programme fighting a crisis for global ecosystems and agriculture caused by mass killing of the very insects we need to help keep us alive? Remember, both PNM and UNC have been willing, when in power, to pursue their idea of ‘development’ without environmental, health or social impact assessments.

The PNM thought it was enough that the Water Pollution (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations (2006) allowed any polluter to pay a fixed annual permit fee of $10,000 regardless of the size of the industry, the amount of water pollutant to be released or the extent of environmental costs. On May 28, 2015, the PP Cabinet agreed to make available 240 acres of land in the Melajo Forest Reserve for mining, without tender, having chosen what they could do, rather than what they ought. A certificate of environmental clearance, water abstraction permits, and Town and Country approval are needed before licenses are distributed. When the money is privately gained, what will be the losses to affected watersheds? What decisions will be made without such accurate assessment?

Bee and butterfly loss is a massive cost our children will pay. A credible platform promise has targets, deadlines, measurables, and penalties for leaders and officials. Back in Santa Cruz, surrounded by quarries, I want us to ask politicians what promises they will make.

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