Jamaica has, like much of the rest of the Caribbean, struggled with homelessness, youth unemployment, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. One may question what homelessness and youth unemployment have to do with environmental issues. Consider the experience of a country with approximately 2.7 million persons, where a 15 per cent rise in homelessness was recorded between 2012 and 2015, and 83 per cent of all homeless persons are male. Such males are mostly found in urban centres where they are also exposed to environmental challenges like rising temperatures, storm-force winds, and rain. In addition to other challenges, youth unemployment averaged 30.3 per cent from 2015 to 2018. Young people and their families are often left unable to effectively respond to disasters, on top of the social implications such disasters may trigger in local communities.
In local communities, particularly in those of Seaview Gardens, Cooreville Gardens or Riverton Meadows, one is more likely to see the impact of environmental disasters on the lives of common people. These communities are located within a 2- to 3-mile radius of the Riverton city dump, which has a history of wild fires. The smoke that emanates from the fires has long inundated the communities, in some cases resulting in respiratory illnesses. The worse fire in recent history occurred in March 2015, when smoke engulfed the entire city of Kingston. Community members surrounding the dump were affected for about two weeks and suffered various medical conditions as a result.
Adrian Watson is a trained Geographer and Zoologist with an extensive background in Natural Resources Management. He has over 6 years management experience from working with Non-Governmental Organizations at the local, national, regional and international levels. He is also experienced in leading social and environmental projects impacting the lives of Jamaican and Caribbean people. Watch a video on his work here.