UKOTCF: Cayman and the environment: students’ perspective

Two Cayman Brac students attended the recently held UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum, held during a weeklong period at the Westin Casuarina and covering a broad spectrum of environmental issues facing the UK’s Overseas Territories, as part of their Environmental Science course, and it made a major impression on both. Here are their comments.

For Dustin Bodden, the conference gave him “a unique opportunity to see this world of conservations and environmental protection.”

Dustin was impressed with the “gathering of the brightest minds in the UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and other small island communities,” and while it was only the second time students had attended the conference (held every three years) and while he was a little intimidated at first, he says candidly that he had “never met so many older successful adults willing to listen, teach, and even learn from young people.

He confirms: “In the few days that I spend at the conference I most likely learnt more about the environment and the world in general then most students all over the world learn in their senior years of high school.”

He continues: “For me it was really life changing it made me rethink just about everything we are currently doing on a global scale and in the Cayman Islands.”
The topics which affected him most at the conference were environmental education, climate change, and sustainability. He says that as far as environmental education is concerned, the Cayman Islands “have created an amazing education programme for the primary schools which is a very in genius idea.”
But he believes that the primary schools alone are not enough and that Cayman is missing a major gap in the development in a young adult in the areas of middle school (years 7-9) and high school (years 10-12).

“Not only do the older students set what’s cool to do for the younger primary school students, they are the future,” Dustin continues. “They should be told what will be theirs in 15-20 years, and what should have been theirs but isn’t because we build a parking lot on it for the seventh billion resort that we don’t need.”

Dustin and fellow Brac student, Tashara Lewis, spent much of the conference discussing conference topics with Jersey student, Piers Sangan, who attended the previous conference held in Jersey, and both expect to continue this kind of networking through the conference blog site: http://www.ukgroup.org/forums as well as a Facebook link.

Summing up his feelings of the conference, Dustin says that young people are the future “and some of us need to realise this, and those of us who already do need to act on this. We need to learn, we need to teach, and we need to show the others of our generation that if we continue on the path that we currently are going all the wonderful memories we had while growing up won’t be possible for our children.

“We need to use our voices to make the older generation which is currently making the decision realise that their turn is coming to an end but they can be a major help in our effort by laying the ground work. They can give us a head start in becoming a green generation.”

Tashara Lewis, the second Brac student to attend the conference made comprehensive notes of all the presentations, and found the conference it to be “interesting, eye-opening, and extremely informative. This conference for me has meant a great deal and I have learnt a lot of information I can take back and share with my class and my community.”
While enjoying all the presentations, she was particularly interested in those involving invasive species, “because we have a lot of invasive species in the Cayman Islands. One recent one on the Brac has been the Lion Fish.”

Tashara explains: “In Dr. Matt DaCosta-Cottam’s presentation he said that it is hard to stop/control the invasive species because the community will sometimes go as far as they can to prevent their destruction because they do not know the damage they can and will cause.” They only think that the species are magnificent and beautiful creatures, but they need to become aware of the large amount of damage they cause.”

Having said that, Tashara has been encouraged to help the Brac community become aware of the invasive species and the damage they cause. “Yes the invasive species may be beautiful and mind blowing species, but with their beauty come tremendous problems,” she adds.

Tashara also observed that throughout the conference emphasis was placed on the tremendously important part that parents play in children’s lives. “Parents should be the primary example for assisting in and becoming involved in environmental activities,” she says. “And they encourage children and other people to become part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem.”

With the involvement of parents, Tashara believes, the community achieves much more.

Martin Keeley, UCCI Brac Campus Director, said he was delighted with the role of both Dustin and Tashara at the conference. “I just wish there had been the opportunity for my entire Environmental Science class to attend,” he said. “It is obvious from their keen interest and involvement that both students have been impacted in a major way through exposure to this level of science and the social implications of environmental concerns in the OTCs.”

Keeley, who teaches Environmental Science at the Brac Campus, was also involved in the workshop on environmental education at the conference. “From my perspective, we have come much further that other OTs in our environmental education in Cayman, but we still have a long way to go,” he says.

He reported in his presentation that his 300-page curriculum-linked teachers’ guide, Marvellous Mangroves in the Cayman Islands, has been translated and adapted for use in seven different countries worldwide. “Delegates from several tropical Overseas Territories also expressed an interest in adapting it for use in their countries,” he says.

“I think Dustin sums it up when he says we must get everyone in every age group involved in solving our environmental concerns. There is a much stronger awareness now than there was, say, 10 years ago. But we still have a long way to go if we are going to protect what is left of the finite ecological resources in these islands.”

UCOTCF-Cayman-environment-students

Piers Sangan, Dustin Bodden, Tashara Lewis and Martin Keeley

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