SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – From 2 to 5 March, a team of scientific researchers, governmental agencies, NGOs and grassroots organisations from the Caribbean and The Netherlands will join forces at the University of St. Martin (USM) to address the catastrophic environmental challenges facing Caribbean islands and their inhabitants.
Led by former USM president Professor Dr. Francio Guadaloupe, now serving at the University of Amsterdam, and Professor Dr. Corinne Hofman of Leiden University, the team is scheduled to arrive to St. Martin on Monday to hold meetings with key sectors of the community. Thereafter, similar workshops and seminars are to be held in the other five islands comprising the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom. From these consultations, a proposal will be developed to compete in the Dutch Research Council (NWO) call for multidisciplinary scientific research in the Dutch Caribbean.
According to Hofman, an archeologist, “the Caribbean islands are at the center of the climate vulnerability debate. Islanders have been confronted with sea level rises, storm events, coastal erosion and degradation, and extreme periods of drought ever since the first occupation of the islands between 7800 and 4000 years ago. These adverse events have significant ecological, socio-economic, and cultural implications, with increasing impacts on living conditions and the preservation of cultural and natural heritage.”
The proposed research programme, entitled Island(-er)s Under Threat, involves the six Dutch Caribbean islands and focusses on human-environment interactions and social adaptation to environmental change from a deep time perspective. It is geared towards the development of sustainable solutions to water management, food security, and shelter. It expects to develop tailored plans for environmental planning, sustainable tourism, and the protection of threatened heritage sites.
“Together, we will work on the production of sustainable solutions to climate change by considering all stakeholders”, said Prof. dr. Guadeloupe. “Our work is geared towards better informed policies and more effective implementation of sustainable practices, with regional and global significance”, he added. As an anthropologist, Guadeloupe is also interested in the use of traditional knowledge, as well as technology and local art and culture, as tools for understanding how islanders relate to climate change.
In written statements to the press, USM President Professor Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez confirmed that researchers will hold a public seminar scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, 4 March. Invited researchers will also tour the entire island of St. Martin and meet with governmental agencies and NGOs such as the Nature Foundation, Eco Sint Maarten Agriculture and Research Centre, SHTA and Sint Maarten Archeological Research Centre (SIMARC). “We are also really excited with the prospects of developing a long-term research and education programme that speaks to the needs and concerns of Caribbean islands and people,” Carmona added.
Together with architectural engineer Dr. Filomeno Marchena of the University of Curaçao, Carmona is set serve as Principal Investigator of one of the subprojects, while Hofman and Guadeloupe will serve as Programme co-Chairs, if the proposal is accepted by NWO in June this year.
Carmona stated that “for now, this seminar is an opportunity to connect our communities with top researchers in the Kingdom and throughout the Caribbean region in a very tangible manner. With the presence of top researchers on the island, and later in St. Eustatius (March 5), Saba (March 6), Bonaire (March 9), Curaçao (March 10) and Aruba (March 12), we will build a network of concerned scholars to tackle the most pressing issue of our era -and that is climate change.”