Cari-Bois Environmental News Network was launched exactly one year ago as an experiment to empower ‘regular’ citizens and small community groups/NGOs to tell their own environmental stories and bring their experiences to the public.
One year on, this small group of citizen journalists has reached close to 90,000 readers with almost 100 articles published – with readers’ location ranging from right here in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, all the way to Asia, Africa and the Pacific. These incredible citizen journalist activists have constantly enriched us with their passion, drive and deep care for the natural ecosystems that make Trinidad and Tobago so special.
As we celebrate World Environment Day 2021 with the theme ‘Reimagine, Recreate, Restore’ we highlight the top 10 most popular stories told by our environmental citizen journalists as they contribute to #GenerationRestoration.
Kelvin Nakhid, a tireless community activist from the Maracas Valley in North Trinidad, has always advocated for a healthy environment as the foundation of a good life. In this article he writes about his community’s decade+ of action against the constant efforts by quarry operators to blast, mine and degrade the Valley’s watersheds.
He outlines the existing problems the communities face as a result of the current quarry which include “the depletion of the Acono River that is currently polluted with Quarry waste; the dilapidated roads that see an average of twelve (12) dump trucks per day; and the proliferation of dust in the community caused by the daily movement of material out of the community.”
The articles also gives a step by step description of the latest efforts to quarry the hillside by the Blue Diamond Quarry Company.
But he is adamant in saying “No new Quarry in the Maracas Valley!” This is the call of my community, Acono Village, which has suffered the consequences of irresponsible quarry practices for over 70 years. “
This article helped trigger a firestorm of interest into the importance of transparency and accountability in the management of Trinidad and Tobago’s Oil and Gas industry, as it helped chronicle the landmark public advocacy undertaken by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea.
As a huge oil tanker containing approximately 1.3 million barrels of crude oil was reported to have taken on water and listing to one side off the coast of Venezuela, just a few miles from Trinidad and Tobago’s coast, authorities grappled with the political questions of how to respond to a crisis beyond the nation’s borders. Questions were raised about the potential environmental impact of an oil spill of this magnitude in the Gulf of Paria and Zico Cozier outlined the threats that faced Trinidad and Tobago through an interview with a leading marine NGO, SpeSeas.
In another timely article, Eron Melville, intrepid citizen journalist from Valencia, North-East Trinidad, wrote about the daily struggles that members of the Valencia community have started to face due to poor planning. The Valencia roundabout, a hub of activity for residents of Valencia, had started to suffer the consequences of a mega-project, the Toco to Valencia highway which the residents believed impacted the flow of floodwaters to the Valencia river.
Eron, with his training as a citizen journalist, was able to tell his community’s stories, along with capturing video of the various flooding events. While these reports caught the eye of authorities in 2020, he has reported that the situation continues into 2021.
A wedge-capped capuchin monkey, showed up at death’s door at the Las Cuevas home of Cari-Bois News citizen journalist, Arlene Williams. This encounter triggered a series of interventions that would eventually lead to a bittersweet conclusion for the injured animal. Recounting her experience, Williams shared this report with Cari-Bois News.
She shared this story to serve as a cautionary tale. As she said, all wildlife is best appreciated in its natural habitat but a small gesture such as getting an exotic pet, could have devastating consequences, throwing off entire ecosystems, if the animal escapes into the wild.
Conservation officers at Forestry Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries were consulted and advised on every step taken as this story developed.
In October 2020, North East Tobago was officially designated as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve, a distinction that places North East Tobago on a list of 714 UNESCO biosphere reserves worldwide that includes famous destinations like Mount Olympus in Greece and Komodo National Park in Indonesia.
In this article, Sean McCoon of Environment Tobago details what this means for North East Tobago and the nation at large by leading the reader through an understanding of what makes a UNESCO biosphere reserve special and why North East Tobago was viewed as an ideal candidate.
This report by Zico Cozier, was another article that helped catalyse actions by the authorities. A group of dairy farmers of Turure Dairy Farming Establishment who rely on a strip of protected forest land to prevent their cows from wandering onto the roadway, reached out to Cari-Bois News and recounted an alleged illegal land selling scheme led squatters.
For its July 31st story, Cari-Bois News reached out to Dominic Hinds, Communications Manager at the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries who assured Cari-Bois News that an investigation would be launched into the matter. Cari-Bois News once again reached out to the Ministry on September 8th and was advised that the investigation was still ongoing.
In this article written just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns in Trinidad and Tobago, Nicole Vallie spoke to several of the citizen journalists around the country to better understand if communities in Trinidad and Tobago were also seeing signs of cleaner and healthier environments.
She spoke to representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in Matura, Valencia and Acono, who all described the nine-week stoppage on industrial activity as a period of peace, unfamiliar silence, clean roads, and clean air.
Like others in communities along the Northern Range, the residents of Matura, Valencia and Acono Village had hoped that the authorities will seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to bring the quarrying industry in line with national standards and global best practice.
In the kick-off of a Cari-Bois Environmental News Network special series of articles for World Wildlife Day 2021, the Cropper Foundation’s Biodiversity Assistant, Nikita Ali, detailed why forests, the focus of the 2021 celebrations, were of such importance to ecosystems and biodiversity.
Nikita noted that “forests are unique and valuable ecosystems. They provide many goods and services and their benefits apply well beyond their borders, as forests play a critical role in sustaining people and the planet. One of the most important aspects of forests is that they are rich sources of biodiversity, meaning that the number and variety of plant, animal and microbial species living there is estimated to be around the highest of all land areas. It is estimated that 80% of terrestrial species reside within ecosystems supported by forests – even though they represent less than one third of global land cover.”
Monkeys return to the Lopinot Valley
In this direct-to-social media report, citizen journalist Donna Mora shared the story that monkeys are being seen more frequently in Lopinot Valley and other parts of the Northern Range since the pandemic started. Some farmers say this has become a nuisance; however, monkeys have historically been present in these areas and may now be making a comeback due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Many in Trinidad and Tobago are already familiar with the leatherback turtle that visits our shores yearly from March to August. What is less familiar to most locals are the four other hard-shelled sea turtle species that can also be found here: Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley.
Dr. Michelle Cazabon-Mannette, director at Speseas and expert on sea turtle biology and conservation in Trinidad and Tobago writes an amazing and detailed article sharing information on these amazing animals with whom we share our seas.
This is even more important now as she says “Sea turtles continue to face numerous pressures including continued harvest, bycatch in fisheries, habitat loss, climate change and plastic pollution. All five sea turtle species found in T&T are considered globally threatened, and have been designated as Environmentally Sensitive Species. The penalty for harming these species is $100,000 and imprisonment for two years.”
Thank you to all our readers and supporters and stay tuned to Cari-Bois Environmental News Network as we take our network Regional in 2021!