Type to search

Our Roots Run Deep – Living Green in the Virgin Islands


The current political climate in the United States of America and the rampage of the dreaded Covid 19 Pandemic across the world have pushed the specter of climate change to the back burner. 

The effect of climate change on our environment and the poor health of an individual may not be obvious. While climate change is considered a global environmental issue, the health of an individual is of personal concern. However research has shown that the effects of climate change are having a deleterious effect on human health worldwide.

Living on small islands, we must take action to curb the effects of climate change on our fragile environment and our community. Reducing the carbon footprint on these islands will benefit the environment and the health of each individual.

 For instance, the use of public transport coupled with the reduction of individual transport will reduce carbon emissions around Road Town and its environs. Increasing the use of solar and wind power will reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

As individuals, we can improve our health with regular exercise, reducing the consumption of red meat, and increasing the consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables. These simple changes could lead to maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Dr. Peter Grinspoon from the Harvard Medical School writing in the Harvard Health notes that climate change and human health are two sides of the same coin. He says that it is impossible to separate having a healthy body from having a healthy planet. He concludes that environmental health is human health.

Living in a tropical environment, we have the opportunity to grow food year round.  With a little ingenuity we can turn our local starchy ground provisions into delectable main dishes reducing dependence on rice, pasta, and wheat flour. Ground provisions such as cassava, yam, eddoe, dasheen and tannia are easy growers. Green bananas and plantains also provide fruit within six to eight months of planting the suckers. The breadfruit is another staple which can be roasted, fried or boiled, and is delectable when cooked in coconut milk.

In addition to growing a variety of vegetables, there is one important crop that used to be grown in every backyard in the Caribbean.  Recently while sharing information with hobby gardeners, persons remembered the tedious tasks as children being sent out ‘to pick the peas’

This pea is the pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan, family fabaceae), believed to originate in India. It grows in tropical and subtropical regions, and is used as a food crop. It is a staple in the Caribbean where it is grown commercially and in home gardens. The plant is a perennial shrub that grows from 6 to 12 feet high, may live up to five years, and will flower and fruit within six to eight months of planting.

There are myriad uses for this versatile plant. The pods may be harvested when green and used in local dishes, as in pelau (a rice dish consisting of rice, pigeon pea and chicken or beef); peas and rice; or stews. They may also be left on the tree to dry and be harvested and stored as dried peas for use in cooking or for replanting.

The mature trees can be pruned and the cuttings used as mulch. The roots fix nitrogen in the soil, which is released when the plant is pruned or dies. The pigeon pea tree makes an excellent windbreak when planted close together. The deep tap root can penetrate compacted soil, helping to improve the soil structure.

Living in what people who live in colder climes term a tropical paradise, we must be mindful that our fragile ecosystems are often impacted by hurricanes and heavy rainfall, often coming after prolonged dry seasons.

Hence ecological sustainability is an important factor in our environment, so every effort should be made to ensure that we practice eco-friendly living by reducing our carbon footprint.

We can maintain a stable ecosystem by planting trees and thereby reduce global warming. Scientists tell us that a tree can absorb up to 48lbs of carbon dioxide per year. Setting aside green spaces in urban areas, using eco-friendly building materials, and reducing our dependence on petroleum products can all contribute to more healthy, sustainable living.

“One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken.”
—Leo Tolstoy

This article is based on information collected online and the author’s experience as an environmentalist and an avid gardener.