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Goat Islands

Photo: Jeremy Francis

A tragedy is unfolding in Jamaica.

The Goat Islands and two fish sanctuaries in the Portland Bight Protected Area may be destroyed to make way for a mega trans-shipment port, proposed by the international contractor China Harbour Engineering Company.

“There has been no official announcement of the plan, still no details, no consultation with anyone, not even with the NGO currently managing the protected area,” says ELAW partner Diana McCaulay at the Jamaica Environment Trust.

ELAW is working with Diana to get the word out before it’s too late, and sharing the expertise of grassroots leaders from around the world who are working to save protected areas from development schemes.  Learn more about what’s unfolding in Jamaica in an interview with Diana on All Angles, Television Jamaica.

Thank you for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

In November 2010, a young family – husband, wife, son – showed up at the front door of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).  They lived at 10 Mile in Bull Bay in St Andrew, and were concerned that their community was at risk from the nearby mining operation of Caribbean Cement/Jamaica Gypsum and Quarries.  They told us of a significant flooding event in 2002, when many homes in their community were badly damaged.  The residents of 10 Mile were still seeing build up of the mining waste and feared the same thing would happen again.  We went with them that same day and saw what appeared to us to be a very worrying pile of tailings that had been dumped in a river course.

JET contacted the Company and the regulators, obtained the various licenses and rehabilitation plans, and in May 2011, were taken on a tour of the mining operations by Caribbean Cement’s Acting Quarries Manager.
On this visit, we observed that there was some effort underway to remove the tailings, but the situation still appeared unsatisfactory.  We did not think we had the required technical expertise to assess the risks to the community and to the environment or to make suitable recommendations, however, so we called on ELAW for help.  And help ELAW did.

ELAW Director Glenn Miller (second from right) and JET Staff

Professor Glenn Miller, a Board member of ELAW who is also a mining industry expert and a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Nevada, agreed to visit the quarries in July 2011.  Glenn flew to Jamaica during an unusually rainy week, and on July 13, 2011, Glenn, Danielle, and I toured the mining area, escorted by representatives from the Company.

Because it was raining, Glenn was able to see where the river flowed, where it was blocked, and also the amount of silt in the water – the mine is very near to the coast.  We climbed on top of the huge pile of tailings, criss crossed with large fissures.  There was one moment when I looked at Glenn and Danielle standing on this obviously unstable material at the edge of a cliff and thought: But we are risking our lives! This thing could collapse at any minute! And we could see the houses of the community far below in the valley.

Glenn was able to confirm our impression of the mine – this was a highly unsatisfactory and dangerous situation.  After the site visit, we met both with senior executives of the Company and convened a large meeting of the regulatory bodies and showed them the photographs we had taken. Glenn then drafted a report containing a series of recommendations to improve the operation of the mine and begin rehabilitation, and this has been sent to the Company and the regulatory agencies.  JET will continue to monitor the operation and hope for some early improvements.

By coincidence, while Glenn was in Jamaica, there was a cyanide spill at an abandoned gold mine and he was able to give technical advice to the regulators and consultants involved in cleaning it up.

JET is very grateful to ELAW and to Glenn for helping us with this – and we hope our intervention will avoid a catastrophic slope failure in 10 Mile, Bull Bay, with serious consequences for those who live there.  We also hope for improvements in the regulatory environment for mining generally – as this particular mine really highlighted those weaknesses as well.

Diana McCaulay
Chief Executive Officer
Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)

Our friends at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) are celebrating 20 years of protecting the environment in Jamaica!  ELAW is privileged to work closely with JET and I am constantly amazed at what a small group of people is able to accomplish.  I encourage everyone to watch From Small Beginnings, a beautiful video that tells JET’s story and celebrates its accomplishments.


Congratulations, JET!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

We are wrapping up the look back at our favorite ELAW moments from 2010, with entries from ELAW’s Executive Director, Bern Johnson, and Associate Director, Lori Maddox. Bern and Lori have been with ELAW from the beginning. They have been a part of many landmark victories and memorable moments. Like so many members of the ELAW network, they have also become fast friends with partners around the world, working together for years and sharing more than legal resources.

Thanks for reading in 2010. We hope you will feel inspired to share these stories with others and continue following ELAW in 2011.

Lauren, ELAW Office Manager


Bern Johnson, ELAW Executive Director
Saving Pellew Island

Saving Pellew Island is a favorite victory.  Pellew Island is a tiny little dot of 1.5 acres off Eastern Jamaica’s Portland Parish.  I’ve never seen it.  I’ve never even been to Jamaica!

Yet, I smile when I think about Pellew Island.  I know that people in Jamaica have been enjoying Pellew Island for generations.  I know it is home to native trees, a pristine beach, healthy seagrass beds, and coral reefs.  I know that one of our partners in Jamaica—Diana McCaulay—spent many happy hours on Pellew Island as a child.

I also know that the owners of Pellew Island proposed to build four villas on the island—they were advertised for sale on for $2.5 million apiece.  Building these villas would have destroyed living things on Pellew Island and forever changed it—it would have ceased being a natural place that Jamaicans could enjoy.  And, I know that in Jamaica it is hard to win lasting victories for the environment, especially when someone stands to make big money by destroying natural treasures.

So, I am thrilled that Jamaica’s government rejected plans to build these villas on Pellew Island.  When I think of this tiny island, I am reminded:  Greed does not have to win–people can decide that some places are too unique and too special to be sacrificed for profit. Profits come and go, but I hope Pellew Island stays pristine forever.

Lori Maddox, ELAW Associate Director
ELAW – My Extended Family

Zschiesche family in Eugene

When I reflect on what might be my ELAW “pick” for 2010, what comes to mind FIRST is a steady stream of faces of the people in the ELAW network -who form an integral part of my extended family.  Watching Thuli Makama receive the Goldman Prize in San Francisco, welcoming Thuli and her daughters to the home of an ELAW Director in Berkeley, watching the teenagers compare notes about school in Berkeley and Swaziland.  Welcoming Jean Andre Victor, of Haiti, to my local Eugene international potluck group.  Birdwatching in Costa Rica at 6am with Ritwick (India), Ipat (Philippines) and Ian (Australia) – while swapping organizing strategies and stories of our work.  Welcoming the dawn on Solstice Day from the top of a mountain with my family and the Zschiesche family, in Eugene on a fellowship from ELAW Germany.

Because for me, the greatest thing about ELAW is how our relationships help us get up every day and fight the good fight even better.  Michael Zschiesche visited Eugene in the early 1990s, when we were both a lot younger, and had big ideas, but very small organizations.  Now Michael leads the Independent Institute of Environmental Concerns (UfU) in Berlin, and we both have the good fortune to be part of a much bigger international ELAW family.  When Michael was here the first time, ELAW was comprised of a dozen or so advocates in as many countries.  Now we are 300 strong, in 70 countries.  His visit in 2010 helped me reflect on how far we have come, and what we, together, are accomplishing.  The volume of excellent work that my ELAW heroes churn out is astounding.

Coqui, ACCSD's first staff member

In addition to the wisdom of experience like Michael’s, I cherish the constant inflow of fresh perspective and new ideas.  This year I helped some great folks in Belize launch new organizations that will help advance environmental law.  So another “pick” would have to be celebrating the first staff and the new office of the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) in San Pedro, and (office coming soon) its sister organization in Placencia: the Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

And one final Belize “pick:” the publication of Stand Up, Speak Up, a citizens guide to public participation in Belize by BELPO.  The Guide is already in its second printing, and citizens around the country are using it to challenge a constant stream of short-sighted development schemes that threaten Belize’s unparalleled natural treasures.

Destruction of the Palisadoes Spit, September 2010

“An environmental victory is in some ways an absence – a road not built, a mine averted, a hotel relocated, a golf course avoided. We are used to the presence of a natural resource – while it persists, it’s unremarkable. An environmental victory is always temporary – no matter how solid the case, how overwhelming the public support – at some point in the future, an attempt will be made to reverse it….

“Environmental defeats, though, are glaring – forests razed, rivers “trained,” sand dunes destroyed, beaches scraped clean, wetlands laid waste. And despite the promise of the relatively new science of restoration ecology, such defeats are mostly permanent.

“On the doorstep to the city of Kingston in September 2010, you can see an environmental defeat. The Palisadoes spit, that jointed arm that holds Kingston Harbour in loose embrace, has been bulldozed…  At this point, it appears that the entire spit will be denuded of all vegetation, its beaches compacted, sand dunes destroyed, the few struggling strands of mangroves obliterated in order to construct or expand (it’s not entirely clear which) an utterly unnecessary road.

Diana McCaulay
Founder, Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)
ELAW Partner

Read the full story on Diana’s blog, where she beautifully captures the emotions of a heart-breaking environmental loss.  Jamaica Environment Trust created a YouTube video about this project. Click on this link for the video with further information about Palisadoes and photos of what is taking place.

Dog-HeartThe Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide,  the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, and University of Oregon’s LL.M. Program in Environmental and Natural Resources Law present Jamaican environmental advocate Diana McCaulay as she reads from her new novel DOG-HEART
Thursday, April 15
7:00 p.m.
Lewis Lounge
U of O School of Law – 4th Floor
1515 Agate Street
FREE and open to the public
Read Diana’s blog:

Diana McCaulayELAW Partner Diana McCaulay will show her documentary film Jamaica for Sale and speak about unsustainable tourism in Jamaica on Wednesday, April 14th in Seattle.  The event is co-sponsored by ELAW and the World Affairs Council. Here is more information about the event from the WAC website:

Unsustainable Tourism: Seattle Premier Screening of “Jamaica for Sale” & Conversation with Co-Producer Diana McCaulay April 14, 2010, 6:30 p.m.

Cost: WAC Members $10; Non-members $15; Students $10
Location: University of Washington – William H. Gates Hall Room 138 Seattle, WA 98195

Diana McCaulay, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)

Tourism can be a force for positive change in economically disadvantaged countries, but what are the negative impacts that come from development that caters to foreign tourists while ignoring the environmental, economic, and social needs of the local culture? Using Jamaica as a case study, what can be done to counteract the forces of unsustainable tourism? What are principles of eco-tourism or sustainable tourism that work?

Join the World Affairs Council as we present Diana McCaulay, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), for a discussion of her film “Jamaica for Sale” which shows the destructive side of Jamaica’s tourism industry.

Born in Jamaica, Diana McCaulay holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Studies from University of the West Indies (UWI). In 1998, she left her private sector job to join the Jamaica Environment Trust as full-time Chief Executive Officer. The Jamaica Environment Trust focuses on environmental education and advocacy, and Diana is a leading advocate on a range of environmental issues.

Diana was the recipient of a Hubert Humphrey Fellowship in 2000 and studied a range of environmental subjects at the University of Washington. She went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, with majors in environmental policy and international development. Between 2003 and 2005 and again in 2008, she served as a member of the Board of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, the government regulatory body for environmental issues. She is also a past Chair of the National Environmental Societies Trust, an umbrella organization of environmental groups, and has served as Treasurer and Vice Chair of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, a local funding agency. She was a weekly columnist for The Gleaner for seven years (1994-2002), writing on environmental, gender and social issues. Her first novel “Dog-Heart” will be published in March 2010.

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), a global network of local advocates who use law and science to advance environmental justice.

William H. Gates Public Service Law Program

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