GUYANA: Changes from COVID – By: Dave Martins + Shell Beach video

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It is undoubtedly true that one of the early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the rather sudden realisation of aspects of daily life which had become part of the fabric, so that we had unconsciously come to see them as a given and were therefore jolted by not being able to simply go where the crowds are as in, for me, dinners at Grand Coastal and the very attentive hamburger service at the Pegasus Poolside or the latest film at the cinema. Taking in a film had no special connotation whatsoever; one was interested in a currently popular film, so we got in the car and went to it as an everyday part of our life to enjoy; no other considerations in play.     

I have been playing music in the Caribbean and North America, going back to the 1950s, never seeing the large assembly of mankind involved there as anything unusual until COVID made me instantly aware of it, as the occasions of live music, with its attendant large gatherings, have substantially declined, and even in some cases, ceased altogether.

The changes land not just on musicians, but on us all. Even going into the mall, we are now required to stop for the gentleman with the hand-held device taking our temperature as we enter the premises.  We are gradually but clearly recognising the change in our circumstances, particularly when we venture forth into areas where people congregate, and it comes also in tangents we never gave particular thought to previously, so that from my wife, Annette, now working from home and seemingly on endless calls, even whilst in the hammock or on zoom meetings whilst at her desk, I have become more aware of her national and international networks. Nationally, whether on of what seems to be several Private Sector Commission Sub Committee meetings per day, she is in discussions on agriculture or the environment with her private sector buddies.

These exchanges show her focus on agriculture and its pivotal role as one of Guyana’s sustainable sectors which will outlive oil, as much as she cares for the environment, which can be negatively impacted by oil if not developed in an environmentally responsible manner. In preparation for the latter she is clearly building out her international networks and developing access to expertise far and wide ranging from oil reservoir engineers in Africa, oil spill response experts in the region and on ocean governance in Canada. Those links provide her with independent perspectives to what is being presented nationally and what needs double checking. Most fascinating of all is her access to the US-based SkyTruth platform which uses the view from space to identify and monitor threats to the planet’s natural resources, including offshore drilling and oil spills.

Prior to her access to SkyTruth she was most troubled at Guyana not having the capacity to monitor developments offshore, including flaring, and its harmful effects on the environment, potential oil spills which if unmitigated would impact her beloved Shell Beach, Guyana’s only coastal protected area and the livelihoods of the fishermen especially, and this partnership has allayed some of those fears.

These seemingly minor matters, all involving things we did almost by rote, as a natural part of the fabric of our lives, have now become major issues, certainly not as pivotal as the ones Annette and her colleagues are engaged with, but nonetheless truly disruptions to the norm and having us wondering if they will ever return to the state in which we have always known them. Down the road, will I once again see going to a movie as something that requires no deliberation other than the choice of film?

Welcome to Shell Beach GUYANA

Shell Beach is not only one of the most beautiful spots in Guyana, it is also an important nesting beach for sea turtles. The Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) is working with local communities and international partners to ensure the long term survival of those fascinating ocean nomads.

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