An interview with Leah Fouchong from Trinidad and Tobago
Fighting climate change and other environmental issues can often be a lonely battle. But the Conference of Youth (COY) gives young activists the opportunity to meet with like-minded youths and organisations. It is also a fantastic opportunity to hear about goings-on in the various countries right now.
On the first day of COY, I met Leah Fouchong from Trinidad and Tobago, who is a Geography teacher and a representative of the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network (CYEN). I spoke to her to understand a little about her organisation and the problems her country is facing.
What is your organisation working on at the moment?
We are currently working on the Caribbean Congress, which is a 5-day workshop on climate change called “Water, Climate Change and You(th)” to discuss the post-2015 agenda. The Congress will be held from 15th to 20th December in Trinidad and Tobago.
How has climate change affected your country?
Weather patterns have changed drastically. We have been experiencing intense periods of rainfall and more frequent coastal surges. We also experience extreme dry seasons, with temperatures rising up to 28 degrees Celsius. Another problem is that our reefs are getting bleached, making them more susceptible to diseases. The reefs are then unable to protect our shorelines like before.
You mentioned that coral reefs are getting bleached. Are there conservation efforts already taking place in your country?
At the moment, some of my colleagues are involved in coral restoration in Belize and Jamaica, but it is not done in Trinidad yet. Coral restoration helps to reproduce healthy reefs and to strengthen their resilience, and I aspire to be like my colleagues who have started the work in the Caribbean.
What are some other changes you hope to see in Trinidad and Tobago?
I am advocating the use of filtered water bottles such as the bobble bottle to replace the use of bottled water. Everybody buys bottled water now, but 10 years ago, my parents and everyone around me never bought bottled water. There is too much plastic! This is something I am very against as they are a major source of pollution.
Below are some photos which Leah have shared with me. They were taken after the northeast coast of Trinidad was badly flooded earlier this month due to the rise in sea levels. Houses and roads were destroyed, and people living in low lying areas had to be evacuated.
Like Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore is also a low-lying small island country. What this means is that we are similarly vulnerable and susceptible to floods. While we are fortunate that we have yet to experience such devastating floods in Singapore, this is an urgent reminder that our climates are changing and that we have to be a generation that is impatient for immediate climate action.
To find out more about the efforts of Leah and her organisation, visit her blog via this link.