Poisoning Minds and Sickening Bodies

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 5, 2019

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt was a light drizzle, or so I thought. Two weeks ago I was making my way to City Gate to get a maxi taxi to take me to Tacarigua. The drizzle turned into a downpour and then the deluge started. Like many fellow travelers, I sheltered beneath the canopy of RBT Royal Bank, hoping that the water would drain away quickly.

Minutes turned into an hour as the water poured into Lower Lara Promenade South and the street in front of City Gate turned into a river. After waiting another hour, like other travelers I eased my way southerly towards the western side of City Gate from which I made my way to the Arima maxi stand where I boarded a maxi to Tacarigua.

The process took about two hours but I didn’t complain. That is the lot of “the ordinary worker” once the rains begin to fall in Port of Spain. The tide rises and water inundates that part of the city.

This scene came back to my mind when I read about the perils of the rising oceans in the Boston Globe. The report said that over 110 million people around the globe live below the current high tide level. “Even under a scenario of very modest climate change, the number will rise to 150 million in 2050 and 190 million by 2100” (October 30).

The author predicted a scarier scenario: “If climate change and sea level rise follow a worse path, as many as 340 million people living below the high tide level could be in peril, to say nothing of how many could be affected in floods and extreme events.”

Trinidad and Tobago is not exempt from global warming that is heating up the place. When my niece says, “Uncle Selwyn, it’s really hot these days,” she does not realize how much she is caught up in a planetary phenomenon from which she cannot escape.

Nolana E. Lynch, a Trinidadian who was awarded the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development, writes: “We are the heat, having the second highest per capita greenhouse gas emission in the world; our nation is indeed producing a large amount of carbon, which directly increases temperatures worldwide.…

“Climate change is real, and its effects on tiny islands like Trinidad and Tobago can be phenomenal if we don’t take drastic steps now. Not only will Carnival become extinct, it’s quite possible that we can become extinct also, being completely submerged by the sea, save for the privileged, who can pack up and migrate to larger continents and greener pastures” (Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, 2019).

In 2015, the T&T Government, the City of Port of Spain and the Inter-American Development Bank released a study, “Sustainable Port of Spain.” It argued that a sustainable Port of Spain “is one that offers a good quality of life for its inhabitants, minimizes its adverse impact on the natural environment and has a local, fiscal and administrative government capacity to maintain economic growth and perform its duties with urban citizen participation.”

It warned: “For East Port of Spain this area is drained through the Beethan Estates. To appease the flooding in this area, it is critical to dewater the Beetham. The water in and around the Beetham Estates is often stagnant, not allowing sufficient flow through to the wetlands and eventually to the sea. This would alleviate the flooding and provide improvement in the quality of life for residents through the removal of a swamp and improvement in traffic flow.”

In 2017 the Ministry of Health alerted citizens about the dangers of flood-related diseases (such as typhoid fever, cholera, leptospirosis and hepatitis A). I am not sure it told them about the impact this stagnant water and environmental pollution have on the lives of those (mostly black people) who live in those areas.

The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns: “Because climate change increases the severity and frequency of some precipitation events, communities—especially in the developing world—could be faced with elevated disease burden from waterborne diseases….Climate change is likely to increase diarrheal disease incidence worldwide, and extreme weather conditions may also complicate already—inadequate prevention efforts.”

There is another danger to which Beetham Estates and Sea Lots residents are subjected: the impact of the daily burning of refuse and industrial waste that creates poisonous nightly fogs in these areas. This daily onslaught of industrial pollutants has devastating impacts on their health and learning capacity.

Harriet A. Wilson, a former research fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School, informed us of devastating injuries environmental poison inflicts on communities of color in the US and warns: “Intelligence is a product of environment and experience that is forged nor inherited; it is malleable, not fixed.”

She adds: “By eliminating lead, mercury, hydrocarbons, industrial chemicals, prenatal exposures to alcohols, and even exotic pathogens like ‘red tide’ algae poisonings, worm infections, and trichinosis, we can save the assailed brains of untold people of color” (A Terrible Thing to Waste.)

Last Thursday Patricia Espinosa, the head of the UN Climate Agency, said climate change is “the biggest challenge facing this and future generations” (NYT, October 31). On the same day Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley delivered a lecture at the Hyatt Regional Hotel to raise “awareness about climate change and the issues facing the Caribbean Sea” (Express, October 31).

We must take these warnings seriously if we hope to save this and future generations from the catastrophe that awaits them. Shouldn’t this be one of the topics that we discuss in the forthcoming local election?

5 Responses to “Poisoning Minds and Sickening Bodies”


  • All small island countries in the world produce less than 1 per cent to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.Most of these countries are among the first to experience the worst and most devastating impacts of climate change with greater risks to economies, livelihoods, and food security as evidenced in T&T.
    T&T as a tiny member has to carefully balance climate change measures with its fragile economy based primarily on fossil fuels.
    The USA has pulled out of the Paris accord and larger nations like China and India are failing to meet emission standards set out by the Paris accord.
    Climate change is one of the topics that should be discussed but one must be cognisant of the fact the the larger nations of the world are not doing their fair share, and that T&T is an almost invisible dot on the world’s map.

  • The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns: “Because climate change increases the severity and frequency of some precipitation events, communities—especially in the developing world—could be faced with elevated disease burden from waterborne diseases….Climate change is likely to increase diarrheal disease incidence worldwide, and extreme weather conditions may also complicate already—inadequate prevention efforts.”

    Climate changes is an oxymoron, the climate is always changing. Some years hot, some years colder than usual. If the artic freezes over it is not reported because there is lots of money to be made from this “boogie monster”.

    First it was global warming, then a few very cold winter saw it change to global cooling and now to be safe climate change.

    What the world is suffering from is massive pollution. Too many plastics making its way into the food chain. Too many chemicals being released into the ocean. Right now there is a massive melt down in Fukishima that is set to release “Currently, more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water is held in almost 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi site, but the utility has warned that it will run out of tank space by the summer of 2022.
    “The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Yoshiaki Harada told a news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”

    Folks it is pollution that is most bothersome to the soul of humanity. Environmental disasters are riding up the pathway leading to sick people and toxic oceans. Radiation just does not disappear. In fact the rate of cancer is poised to increase considerably, unless humanity address it’s excessive use of deadly chemicals.

    It is said the CIA introduced the global warming theory to shift focus from nuclear disaster. Unfortunately it worked well. In the mean time plant a few trees and same the planet.

  • “Independent assessments show that India’s commitments are keeping with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Analysis like the one by Australia-based think tank Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) show that India is likely to meet its goals, particularly on increasing non-fossil generation capacity and reducing emissions intensity, ahead of the deadline set by India in its Paris climate pledges” Times of India.
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-india-plants-220-million-trees-in-a-single-day-to-save-the-planet/

    In the quarter ending September 2019, India’s total renewable energy capacity (including large hydro) stood at 130.68 GW.

    This translates into approximately 35.7% of the total installed power capacity in the country, which is around 366 GW. The share of solar in the total power capacity mix grew from 8.73% at the end of June 2019 to 9.2% at the end of September 2019

    India is on the right trajectory to achieve targets. However due to a very high population air quality is easily affected.
    Nevertheless they are doing more than most nations in reducing green house gases.

  • India has made tremendous strides in tapping into renewable energy. Whilst nuclear power is an easy choice, the dangers are now obvious as in Japan where the nuclear meltdown is still very much alive.

    India has achieve the record for the largest solar power plant and each state has its own program. https://financialtribune.com/articles/energy/55173/world-s-largest-solar-power-plant-launched-in-south-india
    One indian has planted a forest bigger than Central Park. https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/short-film-showcase/00000148-fb1f-d457-a968-ff9f76280000

    TnT can learn from India and work to plant the right kind of trees. With coastline erosion a greater effort must be made to increase mangrove coverage across TnT.

  • There has been an accelerated move away from fossil fuel, as innovation in car development continues. Israel is one of the world leaders in this movement. Cars are battery operated and there are stations where if energy is getting low the car can pull up at these stations and replace the battery. All this takes less than 5 minutes. But there latest development of nitrogen cell using water is the wave of the future. https://www.timesofisrael.com/australian-israeli-startup-creates-water-based-fuel-for-electric-vehicles/

    What Trinidad needs to be doing is planting more trees, especially where the mountain ranges are.. Coastal areas should be a beehive of activity as is evidence with higher tides as the earth’s rotation slows. Nothing remains the same but we are living in an era of change. This was evident in 2017 when the highest level of flooding occurred in the history of TnT. Rivers remain filled with silt, water courses are blocked with garbage, no new pumps are being added to move the water faster. As Stewart Young said people should not build in lowlying areas, supporting the government position as related to the aforementioned. They are happy with status quo instead of using innovation as the Israelis are doing to improve their livelihood.

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