Youth voices by Arabelle James-Anglies


Arabelle James-Anglies
20 May 2020

COVID-19 impact on the environment in Barbados

The novel coronavirus Covid-19 which originated in Wuhan, China in early December of 2019 has changed the world we once knew. In December, according to records, the virus had not yet spread to the western hemisphere but on March 11th 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Since the widespread of the virus, there has been a halt in many countries due to the lockdowns which included the closure of businesses, schools and churches etc. around the world and Barbados was no exception of this.

Barbados confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19 on 17th March 2020. This is when the island of only 166.4 sq. miles and a population of approximately 286,000 people went into panic. After this announcement, the supermarket lines were long and as well as the entrance to gas stations were surrounded with traffic as persons tried to stock up on necessities. The lines were long for days afterwards as there was a restriction on how many persons were allowed into a business establishment at a given time. At that time, Barbadians were not fully aware of the further restrictions that were to be implemented because of the increased Covid-19 cases. On 26th March 2018, the Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Mottley addressed the island to state that our country will be going into Stage 3 of the National Response plan, where the country will be under a curfew from 28th March to April 14th 2020 which will start at 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. due to the 24 confirmed cases. Shortly after on April 2nd Acting Prime Minster Hon. Santia Bradshaw announced that Barbados will be under a 24 hour lock down effectively from 5:00 p.m. on April 3rd to April 14th, 2020 due to the 46 confirmed cases. This lockdown was later extended until the 4th May 2020 at 5:00 a.m.

During the 24-hour lockdown, only essential personnel were to allowed to travel the roads, with the exception of medical emergencies, purchasing of gasoline, grocery shopping or banking which were to be done alphabetically where persons had two 3-hour time slots during the week based on their last name. The beaches, schools, businesses, churches and parks were closed.

The 24-hour lockdown, which occurred for approximately 4 weeks, had an environmental impact on our country. There was a significant decrease in noise pollution due to a reduction in vehicular traffic and because of this, one could hear the birds chirping heartily, particularly in the morning and at night there was hardly a sound except the neighbourhood dogs barking from time to time and an occasional car returning home around midnight, possibly an essential worker. There was improved air quality due to the reduction of the petroleum fumes which resulted in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduced level of dust generation since there was very little roadside movement. However, due to the nature of Covid-19 there was an increased amount of medical and hazardous waste generated, for example, disposable gloves, faces masks and cotton swabs. On May 14th 2020, I visited Shark Hole beach in St. Philip and at the entrance, there were disposable gloves on the ground, as seen in.

As a member of the team that had been assessing the beaches after the 24-hour lockdown, there did not seem to be an increase of littering, and the beaches were generally clean with a few exceptions.

Although Covid-19 has been mostly negative due to the number of persons affected and have died worldwide, with every cloud there is a silver lining and what must be considered is the potential for a sustainable future, as it is an opportunity to accelerate green investments, such as renewable energy, smart housing, water recycling and management, green procurement and public transport. Recently, Prime Minister Mia Mottley indicated that 33 electric buses are schedule to arrive in Barbados by the end of June- early July, this is in connection with Barbados committing itself to becoming fossil fuel free by 2030 which is a step in the right direction.

Another positive effect of Covid-19 lockdown is that many Barbadians had to resort to consuming homemade foods since all restaurants were closed. This resulted in more vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc. being purchased in the markets and supermarkets. During this period local farmers benefitted since they could home deliver their produce to many Barbadians and when contacted, they would be sold out most of the time as supply could not meet demand. Barbadians overall would have been consuming healthier and nutritious foods due to this.

Schools re-opened virtually on the 4th May 2020 and many students across the islands have classes between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday. The Covid-19 lockdown has provided a fantastic opportunity to reshape formal and non-formal education to include scientific literacy and focus on the principles of sustainable production and consumption. Now is the right time for educational policymakers to investigate education across the board to determine how to make it better for Barbadian youth for a brighter tomorrow especially by embracing technology, the way in which students are taught could be changed forever.

Covid-19 has already changed our lives and we have yet to see the true domino effect since it is still early, however, the concerns we should consider are the lack of inclusion and few opportunities for youth to participate in decision making and policy making processes that may shape the future. As well as, the future employment opportunities and the maintenance of the delivery of education standards for all young citizens. If the after affects of Covid-19 are not managed well especially without considering the youth of Barbados and what this means for our future, we could see an alarming increased level of poverty.

As inhabitants of earth, we must always remember that our planet has been here before us and will most likely be here after us, which is to say that we need the earth to survive and not the other way around. Covid-19 has given our planet earth a temporary break but now it is up to us to do better and be better than ever before.

  • Arabelle James-Anglies