Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Environmental TV in Grenada, Anguilla, St. Lucia

During a COSALC (Coast and Beach Stability in the Caribbean Islands) -sponsored workshop in Grenada last year (November 1998), officials of government and non-government agencies met with private entrepreneurs to discuss issues related to beach management. Topics such as sand mining, the destruction of coastal vegetation, reduction of beach access for locals and the loss of small cays were on the agenda, but participants had discussed these very issues at other such meetings. Several expressed frustration as they voiced: ‘We all know what the problems are, and we have identified a variety of solutions. But our governments do not implement these solutions. Why?’

After a period of heated exchange, this question was answered: Our environmental agenda is a long term process, but political agendas are all too often designed for the short term. Elected officials with the power to create public policy respond to pressures wielded by voters. So if we want to influence political action, we must make these environmental issues relevant — and urgent — for the general public, whose voting power can determine politicians’ choices.

As a result of this statement, the 1997 COSALC workshop on beach management turned into a brainstorming session as to how to educate the public; specifically, ‘how to get environmental messages into the living room.’

In Grenada, which has its own broadcast channel, television is clearly the best way to reach people with messages about the importance of local resource conservation and wise development. Peter Thomas, assistant director of the National Science and Technology Council, comments: ‘We’ve tried reaching the general public through radio announcements and the press, but it’s hard to compete with the visual impact of television. With TV, people watch while sitting at home eating their peanuts and popcorn, and the message gets digested along with the snacks!’

Participants considered the idea of creating 30-minute documentaries, but a consensus was soon reached in support of the proposal that: ‘Few people will sit through an entire documentary, and those that do will see it only once. It is far more effective to expose people to a short 1-5 minute clip, because it may be shown over and over again like an ad. And each time it’s viewed, the message is reinforced.’

The next step was to design a training course that would put their vision into action with the support of technical experts as well as representatives of environmental agencies and government information services. Dr. Gillian Cambers of COSALC and Sea Grant presented the group’s ideas in a proposal to UNESCO’s Coast and Small Islands unit in Paris, and the proposal was implemented through the Communications section of UNESCO in Jamaica.

In November of 1998, eleven professionals (nine from Grenada and one each from St. Lucia and Anguilla) participated in a two-week training course in Grenada. The course was facilitated by Christopher Laird, who runs a video production company in Trinidad and Tobago. After identifying the most important environmental problems facing Grenada and the region, participants focused on learning technical skills including video camera work, editing techniques and ways of getting ideas across without a script. As Laird stressed, ‘Don’t depend on words! Visualize how to get the message across in pictures!’

Christopher Laird demonstrating the use of a
video camera to participants at the UNESCO
COSALC subregional workshop in video
production for broadcast and exchange,
Grenada, 16-27th November, 1998.

Participants were then divided into three groups, including representatives of environmental agencies and experts in the fields of video technology and public broadcasting. Each group worked to create a 1-minute video. (UNESCO provided three digital video camera recorders, tripods and microphones to be used on a permanent basis in Grenada, Anguilla and St. Lucia.) During a closing ceremony two weeks later, the video clips on sand mining, beach ecology and coastal construction and vegetation were shown. Explains Dr. Gillian Cambers: ‘We focused on coastal resources, particularly beaches. But the skills learned during this training can be applied to any aspect of the environment, from forestry and fisheries to disaster preparedness.’

Participating countries are now expected to create at least two additional video shorts before April when, during a follow-up course, all such programs will be shown and critiqued. Finally, local surveys will be conducted in order to glean public opinion and the impact of the videos on attitudes and behavior. According to Crafton Isaac, biologist with Grenada’s Fisheries Division: ‘This was money well spent! It was one of the most useful, practical workshops I’ve ever attended. Now we have the tools and skills to do a far better job at public education.’

Dr. Gillian Cambers adds: ‘This training was especially important because it helped to develop links between video production people and environmentalists. As local people collaborate to implement their ideas for environmental education, there’s less dependence upon outsiders.’

Depending upon this project’s success, it may be extended to other islands. UNESCO will be seeking partners in this effort.

Gail Gilchrist of the Grenada National Science
and Technology Council measures the slope
of a southwestern beach, where erosion and
nearby coastal construction have contributed
to the loss of lush vegetation.
 
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