Blog

Consumerism & Climate Change

Detective agencies held for illegally providing mobile phone CDRsHercule Poirot, private detective and retired Belgian police officer, solves the murder of Ratchett on the Orient Express. Ratchett found dead was either murdered by a stranger who boarded the train and escaped, or could it be that the 12 stab wounds were inflicted by all 12 passengers on the train? Each one equally as guilty, united in murder had committed this crime solved magnificently by the brilliant detective.

I received this book when I was 12 at a prize giving ceremony at secondary school and it became one of my favourites. My mind flashed to this book recently as I started to think about one of the biggest problems facing our world today: Climate Change.

But what does Murder on the Orient Express have to do with the heating of the planet? Give me time and I’ll get there. I am by no means a Scientist, but the research shows us that the reason for the planet getting warmer is the increasing presence of greenhouse gases which trap heat. Greenhouse gases include Carbon Dioxide, Methane Nitrous Oxide and Fluorinated gases, but the greatest culprit is Carbon Dioxide which is released primarily by fossil fuel and industrial processes.

global_emissions_gas_2015
Source: IPCC (2014) based on global emissions from 2010. Details about the sources included in these estimates can be found in the Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Before you stop reading because Science is not your thing, I beg you to stay with me a bit longer. This is important because you and I have all ‘taken a stab.’ We all have played a role in contributing to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We have as a human race become caught up in consumerism: buying more stuff to fill voids internally, moving up the social ladder and simply wanting more. This in turn has resulted in increased production, increased emissions and rising temperatures. Industry (factories) contributes 21% of the greenhouse gas emissions, electricity and heat production, 25% and transportation 14%.

To produce those extra pair of shoes, a factory uses electricity and transportation is then engaged to ensure you get them. I’ll be honest, I love a deal and I like to go shopping, but there comes a point when one must stop and ask the question, do I need this or do I need that? At first it comes down to an economic decision – SAVE the money. However, often, we fail to make the link to climate change. Our increased spending is heating the planet up!

Look at the chart below that shows the global carbon emissions from fossil fuels. If you examine the period 1990-1920, you will notice a very small movement in carbon emissions, and the same thing from 1920-1940. But look at the period 1940-1960 and again 1960-1980 – that increase on the chart is super steep!

fossil_fuels_1
Source: Boden, T.A., Marland, G., and Andres, R.J. (2017). Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2017.

What was happening during this period that causes this sharp increase? Let’s cross over from Science to History and teleport to the Roaring Twenties. This was known as the emergence of American consumerism. Consumerism is the theory that it is economically attractive to encourage the attainment of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.”[1]

The Industrial Revolution which dates back to the 1700’s helped to first drive consumerism in Europe and North America and led to the emergence of different factories and mines. Factories were able to produce a wide variety of products on mass-scale which resulted in an abundance of new, cheap goods which people could afford to buy. Something fundamentally changed in the 1950’s and 60’s (remember our chart on emissions?). This period became known as the ‘golden age of consumerism.’

Marketing and advertising now stepped up a notch. Many campaigns during this period promoted a sense of identity that could be met through purchasing products and people began to equate their social status and success with their ability to purchase and consume. This caused consumerism to explode! So, an increase in spending and the rise in consumerism was happening at the very same time that the carbon emissions were increasing significantly. As if that were not enough, industry decisions took a turn and looked toward cheaper sources of production, that would make products even more cheaper and therefore more appealing to consumers and hence outsourcing to countries such as China and India began. Does it come as any surprise that the biggest emitters are China, the US, the EU and India?

[1] https://www.historycrunch.com/history-of-consumerism.html#/

2014_emissions_0
Source: Boden, T.A., Marland, G., and Andres, R.J. (2017). National CO2 Emissions from Fossil-Fuel Burning, Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring: 1751-2014, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2017

But before we start ‘calling out’ these countries, think long and hard about it. They produce to meet demand- OUR demand. Economics has always been the main motivator for any business decision. Friends, there is a link between your shopping spree and the factory levels of shirts, bags, shoes and such like produced in China and India. There is a link in the electricity costs and fossil fuel consumption to power those shopping malls in the US that we islanders love to go to. We along with the rest of humanity continue to consume in efforts to maintain our lifestyles and then pray each June to November for the hurricanes to by-pass us. Now back to Murder on the Orient Express, could it be that together, by our small actions, we are collectively contributing to the rising global temperature through our insatiable appetites for more?

I am certainly not saying never to go shopping again. But what I am saying is to become more conscious of the drive to consume and to practice contentment. Assess the root of your next purchase; are you a victim of the marketing and advertising campaigns? Your value or worth does not come from your next purchase. As humanity continues to experience rising temperature levels, increased droughts and stronger hurricanes and typhoons, apart from climate strikes to draw attention, perhaps we should do some soul searching and strike against consumerism.

Granny – the woman who fostered 20+ children

granny

With selfless love, Hazel King has dedicated her life to fostering over twenty children as a single mother. With two of her own, Hazel has shaped the lives of many, though she never intended to become a foster mother in her younger years.

Hazel is no stranger to hard work. She raised her two children, born a year apart as a single mum working a day job while baking or doing cake deliveries at night. While her son was 3 months old, her mother suffered from a stroke and Hazel also took her in to take care of her. She juggled all of her responsibilities with grace. ‘I didn’t study anything, I just did what I had to do,’ says Hazel who also in later years opened her own art and craft school.

A devout Christian, Hazel’s petite stature and gentle spirit hides a fierce strength that empowers her to help others in need and to serve the children she mothered. In speaking to Hazel, one can not help but sense a deep faith that takes bold action when needed. This faith led her to intervene many years ago when a helpless father knocked on her door for assistance.

Hazel recalled that in her neighbourhood there was a woman who had eight young children who one day left them and never returned. The children ended up roaming the streets at night and neighbours called the Child Care Board (CCB) to intervene. One morning as Hazel was at home she heard a knocking at her door and when she opened it, she saw the children’s father asking her to come. The CCB was removing the girls from the house to place them in a children’s home.

That incident would become the defining moment when Hazel would begin the lifelong journey of taking care of children who were not her own. She immediately asked if she could care for one of the girls; just a few weeks prior to, the mother of the children had asked Hazel to be godmother for one of her daughters. Despite her interest, she was informed that there was a process to follow and she would need to be vetted before that could happen.

Eventually, following the CCB’s process, Hazel received her goddaughter and thus the journey of fostering began. However, shortly thereafter, Hazel received the grim news that she had cancer and was given six months to live. Concerns of whether she would be able to continue fostering came to her mind. While sick in bed, she recalled telling God that she would always do what he wanted her to do with the best of her ability if he gave her a second chance at life. Opting for surgery, she made a quick recovery that shocked the doctor defying his prognosis of death. “I never let it be a challenge for me I challenged that, ” she chuckles some twenty-three years later.

With that behind her, Hazel opened her door to another child; her god daughter’s brother whom she also raised as her own. After observing her loving home environment, the CCB kept asking Hazel to foster more children and thus the journey continued. She always made room in her home and her heart for one more.

One day Hazel overheard two children fretting outside; a sister was trying to get her brother who was lying on the ground to go to school but he refused. Even though she didn’t know the children, she intervened, got a twig and gave him ‘3 good ones’ before sending him to school.

Shortly after this incident, Hazel was helping at church when she overheard a little girl say, “Mummy that is the lady who beat my brother.” Hazel froze uncertain as to what would happen next. The woman came over and asked, “Is it you that beat my child?” Hazel confirmed that it was indeed the case and to her surprise the woman told her that if she ever saw her son misbehaving and refusing to go to school, to do it again.

Hazel became very involved in this family’s life and in fact ended up raising all 3 of the woman’s children and the boy who refused to go to school, is now a grown man who credits Hazel with ensuring that he got an education and ‘making him a man.’

Hazel believes that such discipline is necessary and once done in love brings no harm to the children. “In fact, they appreciate you for it,” says Hazel. The children who come to her home from the community or from the nearby primary school on evenings call her ‘granny’ and just enjoy being around her.

This Octogenarian credits her deep faith in God for allowing her to foster children with the same love she gave to her own. But, Hazel explains she didn’t do it alone. In her words, she simply allowed God’s love to be poured out to the children.

She is proud of all the children she helped to raise, noting that some have gone on to be in the medical or legal fields, others have gone abroad, some have built their own homes, and acquired some measure of wealth and for her that is the greatest satisfaction – that these children were given the care needed to make a life for themselves.

Hazel’s word of advice to all who would take it, “if you are considering what to do with your life, don’t look at what people are doing and try to copy them; whatever you do, do it with love and do it because it’s the will of God for you.”

 

granny 2
Hazel surrounded by loved ones at her 80th birthday celebrations.

For more information on fostering a child, contact, the Child Care Board at 535-2800.

 

How one special school started growing their own food – the story of the 1st Victory Garden!

Victory Gardens Logo_original

A few months ago my husband started sharing this idea about starting Victory Gardens in Barbados to move our country away from being consumers to producers. In times past our foreparents grew what they ate but slowly as a small nation, we have become importers with a hefty food import bill. Many countries during the world wars grew Victory Gardens when times got tight and Barbados in a sense is fighting its own economic war.

One lady who caught the vision early was Lee Carter, a teacher at Erdiston Special School. She rallied other teachers and got the first Victory Garden started. Today I am pleased to share this interview with Lee.

VG sign

Can you describe the school for those who are not familiar with your work?

The Erdiston Special School caters to the special educational needs of a range of exceptional students who have been diagnosed with Autism, ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Noonan Syndrome, Speech and Communication Disorders, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Global Developmental Delays, Hydrocephalus, Dysmorphia, Microcephaly and Specific Learning Disabilities. Within this environment, we seek to develop their cognitive, social and emotional development and psychomotor skills. We also aim to foster a passion for learning through practical and engaging methods such as the school’s Victory Garden.

What prompted you to start a Victory Garden; what were you hoping it would achieve?

Victory Gardens 3

At the beginning of the school’s year within our meetings, we decided that the topic “I Can Change the World with my Hands” would be the basis of our thematic unit for instruction. Around that time my husband had started the ‘In Light of Jesus Christ’ sessions which were being facilitated by Adrian Reid. I found that when he shared, particularly about how it was necessary to transition from being a consumer to a producer, it really resonated with me and made me think about how I can use this information to not only empower myself but my students.

As a teacher in the area of Special Needs, I believe that one of my primary responsibilities is to equip my students with skills for survival. These do not only relate to academics. In our society, it is particularly challenging for persons with Special Needs to find meaningful options for employment. This affects their independence and livelihood. With choices such as those presented through learning about and growing crops they can not only help themselves but their families and perhaps others in their communities. It is for this reason that I believe the name the Erdiston Special School’s Victory Garden is quite fitting.

What work did it take to get started and what support did you receive?

Initially, I began the project with my class, Reception B, who interestingly enough are some of the younger students in the school at ages 5-8 years. My husband helped me one weekend to set up the half cans, acquire the soil and the seedlings and we were off. From the start, the students were excited about the entire process of planting and caring for our garden. The teachers’ aide, our parent volunteer, principal, senior teacher and other teachers were extremely helpful as they offered advice and contributed seedlings.

During the Christmas holiday, however, we had some challenges with monkeys in the area and so again my husband helped me to transfer the cans and crops to a greenhouse at the school. The greenhouse had been constructed for some while but was not being utilized. From that point, I believe it became more of a school project, particularly after Mr. James Paul from the Barbados Agricultural Society visited our garden and encouraged us to enter the Schools’ Garden Competition for Agro Fest 2019.

Everyone at the school- the students, principal, senior teacher, teachers, ancillary staff, parents and even persons who were working around the compound began to assist with the development of our garden. This really helped our students to have a more authentic experience of how food gets from the garden to our plates.

What did you plant in your Victory Garden? 

  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Shadow beni
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Passion fruit
  • Pawpaw

 

What challenges have you encountered since starting the garden and how have you overcome them?

When I think about it, the areas which may have been considered challenges were really opportunities for learning. We had to figure out how to deal with pests and how to ensure that we were providing the best environment for growth. We also had to figure out what methods worked best with our crops. In this regard, we had lots of help from Mr. Jason Craig from Massy Ltd. regarding sourcing organic options, where we should plant different plants and what materials could be used to extend our greenhouse and garden.

What has been the greatest benefit you have experienced as a result of starting the garden? 

If there is one thing that I have observed in this entire process of developing our Victory Garden, it is its potential to actively build community and relationships through persons working together and sharing ideas towards a common goal. This attribute was seen on countless occasions as students, staff, parents, family members, friends and individuals within our immediate surroundings and our community willingly contributed to creating a more meaningful experience for our students. As a result of this school project, we also had at least two parents that started their own gardens at home.

What do you want to say to people who are considering starting a Victory Garden?

This entire experience has made me appreciate the wisdom of God. We are to be producers, actively involved in the process of growing our food and feeding ourselves. In this way, we not only save money, but we have a better idea of what we are putting into our bodies and more opportunities to connect with each other in practical and meaningful ways. I would therefore certainly encourage anyone, any school or institution who is considering starting a Victory Garden to do so because in its simplicity it represents and holds much potential for victory at the personal, community and national level.

Thank you Lee for being an inspiration and pioneer of the first-ever Victory Garden!

Lee
Lee, with her husband Sean

Victory Gardens Logo_original

 

 

 

For more information about Victory Gardens, contact Adrian Reid at 261-8408 or at iljc.caribbean@gmail.com

A Safe Haven for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and rape: Conflict Women Limited

 

Model: Fariel Ali Khan & photographs compliments Melvern Isaac

What gives a man the right to beat or rape a woman or to rob a girl of her innocence?

There really can be no justification for such horrendous acts of violence, which unfortunately happen way too often in the Caribbean. A few years ago, the Life in Leggings movement emerged, encouraging women to share their raw and honest stories of pain and hurt courageously on social media, many for the first time.

As I recently browsed the Life in Leggings Facebook page, I remained appalled at the amount of content uploaded daily from across the Caribbean, including Barbados, documenting abuse upon abuse. It was difficult for me to fathom that the number of reported incidences could be so high.

But then I thought about those I knew personally who had been impacted by domestic violence or sexual abuse and realized I knew of quite a few cases.

One of my earliest childhood memories, for example, was waking to the news that our friend, who lived only a few doors down, had been murdered during the night by her mother’s boyfriend.

There was also a more recent incident when a friend and I tried to convince a teenager to leave an abusive relationship, which had resulted in a miscarriage after she endured a beating. Unfortunately, the teenage girl was convinced that the man who had beaten her really loved her and would not do it again. It didn’t matter what I or anyone else said as she had made up her mind. Was it because she had witnessed her mother being beaten while growing up and had normalized the violence?

Even as recently as this April, I opened the newspaper and read that a girl from the school I went to, just one year younger than I, had also been murdered leaving her two children motherless.

A 2016 UNDP report on violence against women[1] reported that the Caribbean has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. In fact, the report states that one in three women in the Caribbean will experience domestic violence. The situation may in fact be worse given that there are many incidences that go unreported.

One day at work I received a call of hope from a young lady who wanted to discuss her social enterprise, Conflict Women, Ltd. Asiya Mohammed, based between Trinidad & Tobago and Germany had started an amazing social business to help women who had survived domestic or sexual abuse. Asiya had launched Conflict Women Limited because her mom had been impacted by domestic violence and so this cause was near and dear to her heart. Asiya has worked in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America and the Caribbean in human rights, gender and conflict transformation.

I’m a huge fan of social entrepreneurship because it merges development and business, utilizing business to ‘do good.’ Asiya combined her love for jewelry and art and her passion for women’s financial empowerment to give birth to a unique Caribbean business that provides a safe space for survivors to receive free training in jewelry making and business development, which they then sell through Conflict Women.

Each piece that is sold by Conflict Women is accompanied by an anonymous ‘survival story card’ of the designer who made it to increase the conversation on violence against women and to get people to break the silence and talk about violence against women. In 2018, Conflict Women expanded its programmes and now offers micro-finance loans to survivors, complete with executive coaching as they invest and grow their businesses.

Since starting Conflict Women, Asiya acknowledges that she has grown tremendously and appreciates how one person or a group of committed people can make a difference and challenge the status quo. “As a social entrepreneur, I am a part of an amazing network of change makers who dare to dream and to challenge the status quo. Many are survivors and all of them are creators of a world we can believe in.” Asiya recommends that “if you are suffering from violence you should end your silence. Find just one person you can trust and reach out today. There are many willing to help. Trust and have faith.”

Like Asiya, I urge you to be your sisters’ keepers. Be a helping hand for someone seeking to exit abuse. Speak out against rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. Make ethical purchases; support businesses that create real change for survivors of abuse. When you buy a piece from Conflict Women, a portion of the proceeds is used to provide a monthly income for the women who make the jewelry. For more information, visit their website at www.conflictwomen.com or purchase their jewelry at Hotel Normandie or Stechers Fine Gift Stores in Trinidad & Tobago.

 

[1] Caribbean study visit report by Rashida Manjoo (former) United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, 2016

 

Seeing ‘the invisible’

Good samaritan

It’s begun. Lay-offs, retrenchment- whatever you decide to call it, the reality is that some households have lost their monthly incomes. As a mother with 2 young children, my ability to provide for them is of the utmost importance. Amidst all of the structural adjustments that Barbados is undergoing, the effects on the most vulnerable, including children is what I’ve been thinking about.

So this post is for those of you who are watching the process of workers being made redundant and wondering what, if anything, you can do?

Being a good neighbor is critical during this time. But who is your neighbor? In the bible there is the story of a man who asks Jesus this question, sparking the unfolding of a story that is known throughout the world – that of the Good Samaritan. This story describes how a man was beaten and robbed and left at the side of the road for dead and through the compassion of a complete stranger – a Samaritan, was nursed back to life. We all know how the Priest and the Levite passed him by; two persons who should have helped but were either too busy or couldn’t be bothered to care. Truthfully, we could read this story and resent the ones who could see a bruised, bleeding man and continue on their journey not batting an eyelid. But how often do we act like they do?

We see them – ‘the invisibles’ all around us – persons who lack economic means to help themselves; persons who are unable to access help to change their situations. There is an old man in my community whose house has no electricity and no running water. I know because I can see the pit toilet set up outside in the bushes. This old man in recent times has become ‘visible’ to me and my household and while we don’t have the funds to repair his home, we do have the ability to share our food with him. Invisibles can be immigrants living in our country, widows, the elderly, the disabled or orphans. They exist but how often do they reside in our minds to the extent that they cause us to make an adjustment to our lives?

As this country continues to undergo its adjustments and more families are put on the breadline, you better believe that more needs will appear in our community. DO NOT LET THEM BECOME INVISIBLE!

Barbados has for a long time been a middle income country with a relatively high standard of living. That is changing. I have often heard how the old people back in the day used to look out for their neighbours with a breadfruit or some item to give. I remember as a child the neighbour knocking on the door to drop off something yummy to eat and mummy would return the favour when she cooked. It was just a way of life. We have no choice but to go back to those days, where we become our brother’s keeper.

One thing we have to push against is the preoccupation with our own needs and interests. This is a trap that prevents us from seeing the opportunities to serve those around us. Your income (whatever size) can and should be used to serve others that are in need. In bible times, God gave a law to the people with fields that when they harvested they should not harvest the full land, but rather they should leave some back for the poor to glean. You and I may not have a plot of land under production but our labour and income is our resource and if we were to apply this principle it would mean that we leave some for the benefit of those in need.

Sometimes people in need may need us to give them resources (aka handouts), but what I’d like to encourage and promote is that we give them the dignity of work. When God set the law I just referred to in place, the poor had to go in the field and gather for their needs; in other words they had to work. One way we can help those who have lost their jobs is to offer an opportunity to do some work in exchange for payment. “But I don’t have a business to employ and give them work,” you may say, but you can find opportunities to be creative. For example, when you meet someone who is unemployed, one of the things we can find out is what they are good at and then deliberately see if you or someone you know may need their skills. You may not have had repainting a room in your house as a priority but if you see your brother in need who happens to be a skilled artisan, why not be like the Good Samaritan and offer him this opportunity. Similarly if you know a mother in need who can bake well, why don’t you get some of your friends together and order some sweetbread or cake to put a dollar into her pocket.

During this period, we must look for opportunities to ‘do good’ to our neighbor and watch how God will provide not only for their needs through you but also bless your own household. Do you remember the story of Elijah in the famine and the widow who used her last oil and flour to make him bread? Do you remember how God rewarded her by giving her a never ending supply of oil and flour to take her through hardship because of her service to Elijah who at the time was poorer than she was? I really believe we can experience a supernatural provision when we decide to take the focus off ourselves EVEN though we may also be feeling the pinch, to serve those less fortunate than us.