“Then God said: I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” – Genesis 1:29.

There are so many issues of concern in our daily lives, so many decisions to be made but I postulate that there is none more important than “what do we have to do today to preserve the future for our children and grandchildren”. That is the message we attempt to convey at Counterpart Caribbean @ the Future Centre at Edgehill, St. Thomas in Barbados, an organisation which promotes environmental awareness and sustainable living. We get some support to spread the message, for which we are very appreciative, but alas not enough.

The genesis from which The Future Centre evolved is the UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States held in Barbados in 1994. We have been reminded recently of the importance of these issues by the joint award of the 2007 Nobel Peace prize to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change. If we do nothing now, the future of posterity is at risk.

The film “An Inconvenient Truth” focuses on Al Gore and his travels in support of his efforts to educate the public about the severity of the climate crisis. Al Gore in the opening monologue states “You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful. And all of a sudden, it’s a gear shift inside you. And it’s like taking a deep breath and going – Oh yeah, I forgot about this”. Back to the garden.

As a small developing country, we can play our role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the cause of climate change by participating in the carbon credit economy – more anon. Climate change is but one of the sustainable development issues. Another is food security and this one is important here and now, let alone the protection of future generations. How is it that we readily insure against perils to protect our real property, motor vehicles and health and we do not insure to protect the longevity of the human race? Homo sapiens need exercise, peace of mind and balanced nutrition to be sustainable. Our balanced food supply is at risk and this will be first felt by those with lesser resources than others.

Leslie Proverbs is the most recent observer to bring this to my attention by remembering the remarkable food-producing garden exhibit at the SIDS conference: “I wonder if Barbadians might now be more interested in some of the simple, sustainable methods portrayed then of growing more of what they eat – right in their own backyards! From simple tyre gardens to more extensive plots, I think people need to see “how” it can be done and what they can do themselves to reduce their weekly supermarket bill (not to mention the national outflow of foreign exchange). Quite simply put, perhaps current economic reality might be a sufficient catalyst to start the movement”.

“Of course, the trait (necessity, really) of previous generations growing their own food has now been largely forgotten. I would guess that most Barbadians downward of 50 do not actually have a good idea of how to grow food. Almost certainly they don’t currently do so. That’s one problem. Another is the change in food preferences”.

“The first issue could, perhaps, be addressed by the mounting of a permanent exhibit garden where Bajans could see what they themselves could do, as well as perhaps having the benefit of simple ‘how-to’ instructions/guidelines via a ‘hand-out’ sheet. Perhaps there could be a knowledgeable person at the site to offer guidance, not only for start-ups but also advice on how to keep it going. I, for example, might be willing to pay someone to get me ‘set-up’ with a garden that my family could then sustain”.

Leslie concluded: “The second ‘problem’ (food preference) is more difficult to solve. But be assured, if we don’t soon resume eating the type of produce which grows in Barbados – or, say, in neighbouring St Vincent – we will be forever consigned to buying the imported food products to which we are becoming ever more accustomed and ‘addicted'”.

We have been given every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it and these will be ours for food. Unfortunately, some people behave as if: (1) food is grown in the supermarket; (2) you plant a seed and then harvest; (3) you can plant and harvest all year round, seasons mean nothing; (4) plant yield is independent of micro climate; (5) there is no transportation cost to imported food; and (6) imported food is as nutritious as local food.

In order to protect the longevity of the human race, given our overall limited resources, we shall have to go back to the garden.