The word is out on climate change and its many harmful effects, current and prospective, and Jamaican entertainers are beginning to hear it.

A group of artistes, among them 2008’s Digicel Rising Stars competition winner Cameal Davis, were in late January educated about the phenomena, which threatens not only Caribbean people’s livelihoods, but also their lives and property. Some other artistes in attendance were Lloyd Lovindeer, Grub Cooper, One third, Khalil and K’alee.

The workshop, staged at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston under the theme ‘Tek it to dem’, exposed participants to a number of critical climate change threats, including:

  • increased global temperatures and the associated increase in diseases such as dengue fever;
  • rising sea levels and the related sinking of coastal homes and businesses;
  • increased sea-surface temperatures and the associated coral bleaching phenomena, as was evidenced Caribbean-wide in 2005; and
  • more frequent and fiercer hurricanes, such as has been experienced in the region over the last four years.

The threats were reinforced through a dramatic/musical presentation from the Ashe Caribbean Performing Arts Foundation as they performed songs entitled, Reduce, replenish and Kingston Harbour. Ashe is an internationally acclaimed performing arts company that specialises in entertainment; educating while entertaining; and youth empowerment and development.

At the same time, the five-hour long workshop, hosted by Panos Caribbean and Jamaica’s National Environmental Education Committee, challenged those in attendance to realise the seriousness of climate change and the need to act immediately to stave off the harm it threatens.

That point was reinforced by the island’s two senior climate negotiators, Clifford Mahlung and Jeffrey Spooner, who urged the group of about 15 entertainers to realise their power to influence people’s behaviour and effect positive change.

“I am happy for the turn-out of all the musicians today. It sends a clear signal that they are aware of the impacts of climate change. They are one of the important vehicles with which to get this climate change message out,” Spooner, who heads the Climate Branch at the Meteorological Service, said.

He added that he was optimistic that the workshop would bear tangible fruits.

“I am very optimistic that something positive will come out of the workshop, particularly as it concerns some of the more seasoned musicians who were there. The questions that were asked and especially their attentiveness was instructive,” Spooner said. “Really, I am looking forward to something meaningful coming out of this workshop, and I think something will.”

Indi McLymont-Lafayette, regional director of media and environment at Panos Caribbean, as well as one of the facilitators of the day’s workshop, echoed his sentiments.

“I am excited about how the workshop went and I think it is a great start, not only in terms of what it means for Jamaica but for the Caribbean ,” she said.

McLymont-Lafayette added that the success of Wednesday’s workshop would prove a good leverage for raising funds for the larger project of which the workshop — the first in a series of three to be held — forms a part.

“We are working at getting funding to ensure that communicating climate change is addressed at the regional level. We will use the lessons learned and the material developed for Jamaica as the starting point for the Caribbean ,” she said. “We already have links in Barbados , Trinidad , St Lucia and St Kitts, so it is a matter of getting the funding to get things off the group.”

The larger project, dubbed ‘A National Communication and Education Strategy: Voices for Climate Change’, is to run over a period of 18 months. The first six months will see the rolling out of the public education and media outreach. The remaining months will facilitate work with vulnerable groups and policy makers.

Anna Scarlet, Panos writer

Categories: Environment

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