No magic wand to build back bet­ter af­ter COVID-19

Jamaica Gleaner - - EFAERATUHR­TEODAY | | -

THERE IS no magic wand to‘build back bet­ter’af­ter the ex­pe­ri­ence of COVID19; what will help is the pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of food and water se­cu­rity, to­gether with im­proved air qual­ity and at­ten­tion to ed­u­ca­tion and liv­ing con­di­tions for all Ja­maicans.

So says Eleanor Jones, a de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sional who sits at the helm of the con­sul­tancy firm En­vi­ron­men­tal So­lu­tions Lim­ited (ESL).

“Poor liv­ing con­di­tions, in­clud­ing poor hous­ing and in­ad­e­quate san­i­ta­tion, leave you ex­posed to the disease and mor­bid­ity, but also to cli­mate im­pacts,” she told The Gleaner.

“How are you go­ing to do so­cial dis­tanc­ing, for ex­am­ple, if you have many peo­ple liv­ing to­gether (in cramped quar­ters), as we have in many house­holds in Ja­maica?” Jones added.

So­cial dis­tanc­ing of up to six feet is among the pre­scrip­tions to con­tain the spread of COVID-19, an in­fec­tious res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness that has in­fected more than eight mil­lion peo­ple and killed more than 440,000 glob­ally since it emerged last De­cem­ber.

“Food se­cu­rity and water se­cu­rity are key, be­cause we are talk­ing about the sus­tain­able sup­ply of qual­ity food and water, which is fun­da­men­tal be­cause you need water for ev­ery­thing. How are you go­ing to tell peo­ple to wash hands, and so on, if you do not have a sus­tain­able sup­ply of water,” she said.

As for air qual­ity, the ESL boss and mem­ber of the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica said that its im­por­tance goes al­most with­out say­ing, given early re­search show­ing that poor air qual­ity may con­trib­ute to less-than-op­ti­mal health out­comes for per­sons in­fected by COVID-19.

“One of the fac­tors that af­fect air qual­ity is trans­porta­tion. Clean­ing up air emis­sions is one way we can tackle this, and we have been talk­ing about this for a very long time,” she noted.

Tack­ling the air pol­lu­tion caused by the trans­porta­tion sec­tor also holds cli­mate-re­silience ben­e­fits, since car­bon diox­ide emis­sions fuel global warm­ing, with re­sults of not only tem­per­a­ture in­crease, but as­so­ci­ated im­pacts. CLI­MATE IM­PACTS

These im­pacts range from ex­treme weather events, in­clud­ing hur­ri­canes and droughts, to sea level rise and coastal ero­sion that have im­pli­ca­tions for liveli­hood loss in im­por­tant sec­tors, such as tourism and fish­eries.

“Ob­vi­ously, we are not go­ing to wave a magic wand (and solve the prob­lems overnight), but we need to put these things into our vi­sion. We have Vi­sion 2030. Now is the time to pull out the goals and the tar­gets that we have and fol­low that. We are not rein­vent­ing any­thing,” in­sisted Jones.

Among the four goals of that na­tional de­vel­op­ment plan is that ‘Ja­maica has a healthy nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment’. The oth­ers are:

That Ja­maicans are em­pow­ered to achieve their fullest po­ten­tial;

That the Ja­maican so­ci­ety is se­cure, co­he­sive; and

That Ja­maica’s econ­omy is pros­per­ous. Jones has sug­gested that they all de­pend on a well-cared-for nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“We have to fo­cus on how we build re­silience, and build­ing re­silience is not only about look­ing at the money. It can­not be just money at any cost,” she said.

“When we say ‘pro­tect your nat­u­ral as­sets’, we are not say­ing don’t de­velop. But we do need to en­sure that peo­ple are do­ing the right things. We need to pro­tect the land that gives us the food se­cu­rity, the water se­cu­rity, the air qual­ity. That means pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment to pre­vent things (such as) pol­lu­tion and over ex­trac­tion,” she added.

As for ed­u­ca­tion, which is crit­i­cal for any suc­cess­ful at­tempt at sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, she said COVID-19 has ex­posed some im­por­tant vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

“You are miss­ing so much if you do not have an ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion. Yet a large por­tion of our young peo­ple do not have ac­cess to a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. With COVID-19 (and the re­quire­ment for home­school­ing), we see that many do not have the equip­ment and/or the in­fra­struc­ture, such as the In­ter­net (that they need),” Jones said.


The dev­as­ta­tion brought by ex­treme hur­ri­cane events are best avoided by at­ten­tion to cli­mate- re­silience build­ing.


Eleanor Jones (right) is seen here with physi­cist Dr Tan­necia Stephen­son.

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