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Friday 7th December 2018

By Joanne C. Hillhouse.

This is a reminder to plant a tree…or buy a tree…or at least not to cut down a tree for no good reason. Go green!

The Botanical Gardens many years ago

This reminder comes courtesy of the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Environment’s Arbor Day Plant Fair and Climate Fest, which was held at the Department’s headquarters at the Botanical Gardens near the end of November 2018. I dipped in for a little bit – as I hadn’t been to one in a while. True confession: I didn’t know it was happening (head in sand syndrome) but as I passed by, there was music, and dancing, and eats and fun, everything you want in a nature fair; even, oh yeah, plants, lots of plants.

I especially want to mention the Redonda Restoration Programme. You may have heard about this programme. It’ all about the fairytale return to life of Antigua and Barbuda’s third sister, if fairytales involved proactive environmental warriors instead of princes reviving sleeping beauties with a kiss…instead of, you know, smelling salts. Programme reps – particularly Environmental Awareness Group executive director Arica Hill – was at the Fair promoting its photographic exhibition.

The image that caught my eye was the Redonda Ground Dragon. At 2 x 3 feet (the size of the photo print), it was an impressive site, among the more familiar nature images. While I’m sure size wise, it’s no more startling than your average ground lizard, its deep black shade, only a sliver of green on the underbelly, the folds of its leathery textured skin, Godzilla like profile – and sheer size in the blow-up – were eye-catching. The accompanying text knows it too, describing it as a non-fire breathing dragon. I see you, text writer; I see you, too, photographer Jeremy Holden. Images like this are a reminder of the life that now flourishes on the otherwise uninhabited island, many very rare or special given how long we’ve had a woefully denuded Redonda way way at the back of our collective minds. But Redonda’s having a moment, isn’t she? Within 12 months, per the programme brochure, of removing the goats and rats from the island, the land started to breathe again and the animal and birdlife bounced back hard. I’ve been wanting to visit Redonda for a while – think the name-checked environmental warriors will take me on one of their missions? Now, like anyone else who has seen these images, I’m even more motivated. Sidebar: I have to admit I heard the warriors reporting on a trip to the island many months ago on the radio and the way they described how the lizards, because they had no fear of humans, were a fearsome sight – my word, they actually sounded excited by the onslaught (again, my word) – as they rushed you in their numbers, which gave me less eager puppy and more horror movie vibes. What does it say about me and my affection for horror that even as I recoiled from the image, I was intrigued and titillated? I’ll let you know the outcome if they ever invite me on a Redonda ride-a-long. Meanwhile, you can own an image from the island and its wildlife – back to the purpose for the Environmental Awareness Group/Redonda Restoration Programme being at the Fair – either a canvas (at $360) or a photo print ($260) by calling 462-6236. Sorry, I don’t have a link where you can order your prints online but you’re also welcome to look up the Redonda Restoration Programme.

Among the Fair’s more popular tents, food tents aside, are (always) the ones with the plants, it is Arbor Day related after all, and people want to bag purchases for their own backyard gardens. But also of interest, the Ministry of Health and Environment’s display on banned plastics and Styrofoam – I’ve seen international news headlines praising bigger Caribbean countries for taking steps in this direction but really Antigua and Barbuda has been a leader in this area, just ask the many shoppers who griped about the transition from plastics to you-better-remember-to-bring-your-bag  and the fast food clientele still getting used to eco-friendly Styrofoam alternatives like the one that uses a blend of silver grass and sustainable forestry initiative certified wood fibre. We’re adapting and it’s a good thing even if there are inconveniences (better make room on your shopping list for garbage bags, no more repurposing of shopping bags), something I mentioned to the very patient lady who conducted my exit survey.

Yes, there was a survey to see how much attendees knew about environmental matters, and more importantly, what we were doing, in our homes, work places, and communities, to be environmental warriors ourselves.

The need to preserve the environment has become increasingly urgent and we have to continue to work to create a culture where the instinct to do so is second nature. Initiatives like the Arbor Day Fair are a fun reminder of that.

This Arbor Day Fair coverage originally ran on Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Jhohadli blog as part of her CREATIVE SPACE series. If you wish to see this CREATIVE SPACE series continue, sponsor a future post. To find out how, contact jhohadli@gmail.com  All Rights Reserved.


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