Areas of Interest
There are many challenges for sustainability for the Caribbean Region including Energy, Water, Food, Transportation and Building Construction.
Energy costs in the Caribbean Region are the highest in the Wester Hemisphere. Apart from Tinidad and Tobago, all of the Caribbean Nations are net importers of fossil fuels and at the mercy of global oil prices.
Fossil fuel prices also contribute to higher food prices, create higher operating costs for tourist resorts, and make the Caribbean less competitive in more difficult economic times.
Water resource management is also a major challenge for the Caribbean region with the advent of Climate Change. The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados describes the challenge this way:
“The Caribbean faces inexorable climate change during the 21st century. This phenomenon will have a profound effect on the long-term sustainable socioeconomic development of the islands and is likely to jeopardize achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. All economic and social sectors will be adversely affected. The water resources sector on most islands is one that will be strongly impacted by climate change. Against a background of increasing demand for potable water, sea-level rise may lead to flooding of lowlands and seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers, while variability in climate may see more intense rainstorms resulting both in increased run-off leading to increased flooding and reduced recharge leading to aquifer depletion. Such impacts will have a negative ripple effect on other vital aspects of regional economies such as the tourism, recreational, agricultural and industrial sectors. Unfortunately, adequate management of water resources on many Caribbean islands is sorely lacking.”
Food imports in the Caribbean region almost double that of exports. Furthermore new WTO rules have significantly decreased the profitability of the primary plantation exports of bananas, sugar cane, rice, and coconut. This in turn has created more employment problems with the lower prices offered for the exports.
The opportunity is available to diversify Caribbean agriculture and enhance more of the Caribbean food supply through selling to increasing tourist markets and growing metropolitan areas. This in turn could increase profits, lower the imbalance of trade, and improve employment for the agricultural industry.
While Caribbean agriculture has declined the marine fishing resources have been largely undeveloped. Sound sustainable management of Caribbean fishing resources could greatly improve both the food supply and economy of the region.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, only a handful of countries have managed to reduce traffic death rates in the past decade, while North America has seen a steady decline in traffic deaths over the past 30 years, says a new report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The contrast is due to factors ranging from the use of seatbelts, helmets and child safety seats to differences in legislation, law enforcement, and transportation and traffic planning.
Improved public transportation systems that put more emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle use, along with safe mass transit systems can both be more economical and enhance the tourist experience. Walt Disney’s Magical Express program for example has been successful in reducing cars at their resorts while enhancing the tourist experience. It is a model that is worth exploring for Caribbean Resorts.
Choice of building construction can reduce energy costs, reduce disasters, and lower maintenance and insurance costs. For example the Monolithic Dome Construction uses only 25% the energy of conventional construction, is tornado, fire, and insect proof, and can mitigate hurricanes up to 300 MPH. In addition these buildings last longer are cheaper to maintain, and less to insure. The savings from utility costs alone cold finance a 30 year construction loan of the building. Actual construction costs are comparable for conventional construction for buildings up to 2000 square feet and considerably less for buildings of larger sizes.
Sustainability strategies not only will help mitigate the impacts of climate change, reduce disaster impacts, they will also assist in improving the economy as well.
Economic Development Through Eco-friendly Tourism
Ecotourism, also known as eco-friendly tourism, is a form of tourism that appeals to ecologically and socially conscious individuals. In the past it has been associated with experiences focused on volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet; typically involving travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions.
Some now have broadened their understanding of Ecotourism to include making choices to travel to destinations that promote sustainability and care of the environment.
As social consciousness re: the environment continues to grow, more and more people will make choices to travel to places with best sustainability practices.
There are many strategies available to improve sustainability in a community. The Waves of Change Blue Community program offers several strategies to get started.
A few of these strategies include:
- Improved building codes for energy efficiency and disaster reduction.
- Promoting public transportation and use of bicycles and pedestrian walkways.
- Promoting local organic food and reducing fertilizer pollution
- Water Conservation
- Promotion of Sustainable Seafood
- Using White Roofs for energy efficiency
- Using renewable energy sources
- Waste Management
- Protect Coastal Habitat
- Reducing plastic bags and water bottles
- Developing clean marinas through programs such as the Blue Flag program
- Developing coastal zone planning based on sustainability practices.
Each of these strategies have cost saving components as well as practices to increase the sustainability of a community thus increasing the possibilities of visits from those seeking ecotourism or sustainability preferences.
Together the strategies of sustainability, disaster reduction, and ecotourism will assist the Caribbean Region on a path to a healthier and more prosperous future.
The U.N. International Strategies for Disaster Reduction has described the need for Disaster Reduction in the Caribbean region this way:
“Based on the UN-Habitat Global Urban Indicators, the estimated percentage of urban population for the Caribbean countries for 2030 are the following: Barbados: 53.4%, Belize: 63.7%, Cuba:79.3%, Dominica: 81.3%, Dominican Republic: 80%, Haiti: 68%, Jamaica: 62.8%, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 58.6% In the Caribbean, urban growth is often accompanied by the lack of urban planning; in consequence there is a rapid expansion of informal settlements; inadequate water and waste disposable management, lack of a standards drainage and building construction. Those are among key drivers in the generation of socio-natural risks. In major and secondary cities in the Caribbean a substantial proportion of the urban poor live in those informal, unregulated settlements with high population densities, inadequate housing, and a lack of basic services; all characteristics that accentuate vulnerability.
The Global Assessment Report 2009 emphasizes “Extensive flood risk is closely linked to the increased run-off caused by new urban development, a chronic underinvestment in city-wide pluvial drainage, the location of informal settlements and social housing projects in low-lying flood prone areas and inadequate water management in the surrounding watersheds. In other words, the urbanization process not only leads to increasing exposure of vulnerable people and assets in hazard prone areas but is also responsible for magnifying the hazards themselves, particularly floods.”
The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti is also a reminder that many Caribbean cities are very exposed and vulnerable to geologic events as well. Another unsafe characteristic of the Caribbean major and secondary cities that is related to its colonial past and the commercial exchange and the current increase in tourism, is that most of the major and secondary cities are located along coastal areas at sea level. These urban areas generate a substantial proportion of national income, yet are highly exposed to hydro-meteorological hazards and climate change. Municipal/City governments have key roles to play in integrating DRR in urban development policies, urban planning, housing, social and emergency services and resources management. However key areas like disaster preparedness planning are still very weak, notably in overcrowded unplanned settlements where authorities often face difficulties to work. This problem is particularly relevant in secondary urban centers, where population growth has greatly exceeded the capacity of local institutions to implement infrastructural and organizational improvements.”
This Conference will focus on sustainability strategies that both reduce disasters and also improve the economy.