An Eye Towards Sustainability

The Caribbean Green Technology Center (CGTC) at the St Thomas campus, University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) hosted a workshop on sustainability and sustainable development for school teachers in the Virgin Islands from June 23 to July 2, 2014. The workshop was part of National Science Foundation (NSF) funded grants on Coastal Areas Climate Change Education (CACCE) and Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE), a collaborative effort including the University of South Florida (USF) and the CGTC’s director Dr. Wayne Archibald with Ms. Chinet Bernier, Program Specialist at the CGTC who coordinated the activities. Fenda A. Akiwumi, Associate Professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida and Mel Morris PhD, Educational Programs Administrator, Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York facilitated the workshop which was a combination of lecture, lab work, and field activities. Participants were primarily, Junior High and High School science teachers from both public and private schools.

 The course covered the historical evolution of sustainability and sustainable development ideas and linkages to issues such as phenology, consumerism, environmental degradation, environmental ethics, cultural diversity, political structures, and equity around development. Topics relevant to small island environments such as climate change, biodiversity and island biogeography, water availability, ecotourism, cultural heritage, sustainable agriculture and alternative energy were discussed. A major objective of the workshop was to increase awareness of the importance of education as an empowerment tool for individuals and communities working for a sustainable future.

 A number of guest lecturers participated in the workshop. Senator Myron Jackson gave a presentation on the intricate connections between cultural sustainability, environmental sustainability and economic livelihoods in the Virgin Islands. Renata Platenberg, Assistant Professor in the UVI School of Natural Resources talked about the challenges of biodiversity conservation in the Virgin Islands with emphasis on her research on the endemic tree boa snake. Ms Courtney Mayes, UVI Energy Manager gave an overview of green initiatives on the UVI campuses including water conservation and alternative energy sources. Michelle Gordon, undergraduate research assistant in the CGTC did a combined lecture and laboratory exercise on research she is undertaking at UVI converting waste vegetable oil to biofuel. Participants went on a number of field trips. On a visit to the sustainable agricultural community in the hills of Bordeaux, Benita Martin a member of We Grow Food Inc. took workshop participants on a tour of her Greenridge - Guavaberry farm. Local environmentalist and retired teacher, Anna Wallace- Francis invited participants to her Environmental Rangers Umoja Eco-camp site. Other fieldtrips were taken to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) landfill at Bovoni where Mr Cordell Jacobs HHW Landfill Manager and his team gave a guided tour of the facility. At the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) in St Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, Greg Rhyner, along with John Woodson, Elvin Callwood, Orlando Remsk, and Randolph Harley gave an informative guided tour of the reverse osmosis desalination plant and power plant.