Women dressed in white adorned with angel wings lie on the tracks of a railway while a stone’s throw away men and women stand in white suits with a red “X” superimposed on their backs. This group of individuals, effectively shut down operations at a portion of the Newcastle Harbor, Australia, which is considered one of Australia’s largest coal export port.
What appears to be scenes from a movie, is actually a real life scenario unfolding on May 8th 2016 in Australia. With the removal of the women dressed in angel wings, part of a group known as Climate Guardians, the successful shut down have ceased but the red and burning desire of these demonstrators haven’t.
This shutdown forms just one part of a network of civil demonstrations occurring globally between the 4th and 15th of May, demanding governments to break free from excessive fossil fuel usage.
Imagine for a second, that there are demonstrations all over the Caribbean as the region joins the global break free actions. Unfortunately, we have to imagine these demonstrations as there are none planned despite estimations that 90% of the region still depends on fossil fuels. Even if there were demonstrations, what evidence is going to be presented by these demonstrators to show the region’s governments that it is both practical and possible for the region to transition away from fossil fuels? For starters, it can be shown that the region’s environmental landscape is as diverse as its melting pot of cultures, which will play a key role in its energy transition. Potential alternative energy can be derived from biofuels, geothermal energy from the region’s active volcanism, and solar energy.
It’s a regular day in Montserrat and lava escapes from a vent near the active Soufriere Hills Volcano, one of the most active in the region. This scene not only depicts the island’s rich volcanism but it also provides a snapshot of the volcanism experienced in the Caribbean. Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, Montserrat and St. Lucia are just a few territories in the region, that can harness its high level of geothermal activity to produce a significant amount of its energy. These islands can take inspiration from Iceland which produces 25% of its total electricity from geothermal energy according to Orkustofnun, Iceland’s National Energy Authority.
The Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies located in St. Augustine, Trinidad, estimates the geothermal power potential of some Caribbean islands in Megawatts (MW). Dominica (1,390 MW), The Netherlands Antilles (3,000 MW) and St. Lucia (680 MW), all hold significant potential. With such immense geothermal power potential, these Caribbean countries can not only follow in the footsteps of Iceland by producing 25% of their energy but they can even produce upwards of this figure.
Receiving on average 12 hours of sunlight daily for most of the year, Caribbean nations can also invest in solar power as another alternative energy source in their transition from fossil fuels. On a personal level, the utilization of solar power, for as many activities as possible, can contribute to a reduction in a country’s total dependency on fossil fuel generated electricity. Solar energy is also a more practical alternative for countries such as Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago that may not have geothermal activity as previously discussed.
Barbados, is one island being a pioneer in the field of solar energy, as it seeks to transition from excessive fossil dependency. Barbados, has introduced a project known as the renewable energy rider. Through this project, persons are encouraged to install solar photovoltaics and sell their power back to a national grid at 1.6 times the usual charge. Thus far, over 300 house-top solar panels and counting are in existence, as a result of this project. As the project continues to expand, it aids in Barbados’ aim to produce 29% of its energy from renewable sources by 2029.
Fuels produced directly or indirectly from organic material such as plant materials and animal waste are known as biofuels. The potential that biofuels play in the transition from fossil dependency is significant. Guyana, estimated to have 420,000 acres of arable land by the World Bank in 2011, is known for having a booming sugarcane industry that if harnessed properly can be used to unlock its potential to create biofuels. The fermentation of sugarcane juice and molasses can produce sugarcane ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel.
Not convinced that this alternative is practical? UN-Energy ranks Brazil as the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel and the world’s largest exporter. In 2009, Brazil produced 24.9 billion liters of ethanol fuel representing 38% of the world’s production. Sugarcane ethanol has given Brazil the capacity to replace almost 42% of its gasoline needs with ethanol fuel. Guyana, as well as, other Caribbean nations with arable land capacity should therefore explore the potential of biofuels as it seeks to transition from fossil fuel usage.
Now, imagine for a second there were demonstrations all over the Caribbean as the region joined the global break free actions. The evidence presented by these demonstrators showed the region’s governments that it was both practical and possible for the region to transition away from fossil fuels. In turn, the governments made sustainable investments into the diverse environmental landscapes.
These investments saw the use of biofuels, geothermal energy from the region’s active volcanism, and solar energy. Following in the footsteps of Iceland and Brazil, the region significantly reduced its dependency on fossil fuels. As wild as our imaginations may appear, other global models have shown transition from fossil fuel dependency, is both possible and practical.
Let us rally around the West Indies and burn red with a passion and intensity for change as we recognize the region’s potential to move away from fossil fuels. Join the movement and keep up-to-date with the civil demonstrations occurring globally against fossil fuels by searching “Climate Tracker” on Facebook or visit https://breakfree2016.org/
Tyrell Gitten is a member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), Caribbean Climate Tracker.
Credit: Dominica News Online