Quick Reflections- Seminar Beijing, China (May-July, 2017)

Below is an excerpt of my reflections on a training seminar in Beijing, China.

Represented sector- Land Development; Urban Planning and Research &Development (Informal Settlements and Indigenous knowledge)
QUESTIONS*
1. Overview, general comment and impression of this SEMINAR
The above named seminar was structured to fulfil the main purpose of assisting Jamaica in developing a sector around bamboo. The weekly schedules all consecutively flowed into each building a knowledge base and enhancing the capacity of the country representatives. All culminating into the practical application and demonstration afforded us by the three (3) well thought out weeks in YongAn, Fujian Province.
2. Professional knowledge you have learnt from this SEMINAR, including lectures and field trips. You can talk about this combined with your working experiences.
Having spent almost twenty (20) years in various capacities spanning Central and Local Government as well as in academia, I have learnt that LEARNING DOES NOT STOP. As a professionally trained Urban Development and Environmental Planning practitioner currently involved in projects and programme implementation, I understand the challenges involved in transferring knowledge into tangible actions that directly help the poor and vulnerable in the Jamaican society. Bamboo (and specifically the specie indigenous to Jamaica) can be used as a medium to alleviate some critical issues in Jamaica among which- reducing youth unemployment; providing low cost housing for the 30+% of the population who live in sub-standard housing and fuel the entrepreneurial efforts taking shape in the private domain.
3. What suggestions and comments for this SEMINAR? Are you satisfied with this SEMINAR?
Professionally, I satisfied with the organization of the lectures, cultural experiences and the opportunity to live in Fujian Province- one of the bamboo ‘capitals’ of China. My expectations for a seminar, as named above, were mostly met and many were EXCEEDINGLY met. I would suggest the following:
(a) Condensing of the first four weeks to three and perhaps a lengthening TO four (4) weeks in Fujian and,
(b) Reducing the final two weeks to one- this is all that is needed to wrap up the seminar.
With these two suggestions the duration would be two full months representing one week of savings.
4. Difference and shared things on Forestry and Bamboo in academics and industry. Specific examples are welcomed.
As a graduate of a College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the US, I have always noted the deliberate efforts to have comprehensive Forestry Management Plans (FMPs) in the US and paucity in Jamaica. Observing a similar approach in China especially as it pertains to bamboo plantations has made this deficiency very clear. Further the fact that project driven activities drive afforestation efforts in Jamaica is also a concern. Working on some – namely the CIDA- Ridge to Reef and the USAID- PARC projects highlights the vulnerability and unsustainability of the Jamaican forestry sector. Bamboo itself had been viewed as an invasive species so, much work is needed to remove this stigma and to begin to coalesce all the ground work thus far into a formal, national industry. Much work to be done.
5. Overall impression of Beijing and China
Personally, I know I have not begun to see even the ‘tip of the iceberg’ into the full essence of China-the country. However, what I have been able to see surpassed my dreams and ‘bucket listing’ of this country. Despite some inter-group issues- there was nothing that was allowed to diminish the beauty and appreciation of the experience. Being a city dweller and a professional Urban Planner I recognised the common issues of large urban areas and have even documented some of them. Overall, the best part of this first visit to China was the three weeks spent in YongAn, Fujian Province. The encapsulation of the rural-urban juxtaposition and the precision of the organization of the tours to offer demonstration and application of bamboo uses were absolutely impressive.
6. Possible cooperation idea between China and Jamaica in Forestry and other disciplines.
Many opportunities exist, a multi-sectoral, inter-agency approach is needed (LOCALLY) along with a multi-national partnership(INTERNATIONALLY) at certain stages of concrete milestones along the development cycle. Notwithstanding, Jamaica would need to either produce the resource in large volumes or directly manufacture value-added bamboo products (under viable financial conditions). Jamaica has a high national debt including huge import bills and the latter options would have to be done with several subsidies. Subjected to a tight fiscal space such subsidies may be hard fought. For the opportunities to be realized many activities have to occur concurrently and /or simultaneously. For example, a fast tracking of a policy (Central Government) inclusive of the full range of applicable standards (BSJ’s role).
*Questions provided by Facilitators – July 13, 2017

‘Evolving Intelligence’

I recently, while channel surfing, came across the movie ‘Simone’ starring Al Pacino. What had seemed like a harmless, frivolous quasi- science fiction movie- when I watched it during its first release- had now become an insidiously reflective modern dramatic representation of the reality of artificial intelligence. Further I was led to also reflect on the covert ways in which false narratives have infiltrated our mass media and by extension our minds’ spaces. A pattern is emerging that we need to be aware of in mass media. This pattern can be framed in a question which is- Is it just me or when there are some real serious and earth life threatening events that something- seemingly innocuous- emerges that operates as a side event and/or deliberate distraction. …I am just saying. For example the numerous and questionable killings of black males in the USA vs. Pokemon, Mannequin, etc challenges.

2016 was a watershed year. A lot of societal and value system changing events took place and may have occurred undetected by the masses. It was a pivotal year for Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Just like the discussion around climate change, i.e. is it real or not? There were so many other crises for which real needed attention and resolutions were being derailed by rhetoric. We are in an age of constant ‘clear and present danger,’ environmentally, socially and politically. This requires global consciousness.

The average man cannot afford to be average anymore. We must be (not become) sober. (There is no time for a learning curve). 2017 is the year! This is the year that will set the tone for ….well everything. Our senses, our knowledge, our intelligence should evolve. We should all, as much as possible, dig deeper. Seek clarification. Be more discernible. Determine one’s core belief system. Be resolute. Evolve.

When Love becomes war…

Towards the end of the 2016 period  there was a lot of persons who seemed extra anxious to just be done with it… in some instances one cannot blame them. There seemed to have been so much that happened in the past several months, especially here on the island, which have given us quite a few scary pauses. One of the most troubling was an inexplicable spate of murders committed against women by their domestic partners. At the close of the 2016 the total stood at 24. As a woman this is twenty-four too many. As a social scientist I know that the reasons will be many and deep rooted. A writer in one of the main newspapers here offered up some suggestions as to why a man would kill a woman with whom he would have had a love relationship, at some point. Some of those suggestions were:

  • hurt pride,
  • sense of being betrayed,
  • the ‘no-other’concept -that the woman was made for ‘him’  and ‘no other’ male should get her,
  • the ‘my investment’ concept- that he has invested in her and no other male should reap the dividends,
  • the “my flagship” concept. This is where the woman through her attributes, whether by way of her education, colour, money, or beauty, makes the man look good. These things he does not possess, but because of his association with her, he looks good…and yet another reason, more often alluded to by many as the underlying cause for most domestic violence against women,
  • he deems her as his’“property”. He claims her as his own physically and emotionally. He feels that he can do with her as he wishes, even to the point of killing her.

These are very thought provoking and also insightful. I would like to add to the discussion that most human beings today operate in a state devoid of the core emotions. I engage with persons each day who are experiencing and have experienced abuse and I have surmised that too often we are so overwhelmed by life that we block out those intrinsic elements of our beings such as – empathy and love.  This suppression happens internally BOTH to the victims and the abusers. For example sometimes the victim stifles self preservation for the economic stability afforded her by being in the abusive relationship. At least on the surface of it that is how it would be perceived. Another example may be that she has low self esteem that the abuse sometimes becomes a sick, warped view of being love until it is too late. To the abuser who would have loved the woman, at some point or even during and throughout the abuse feels he loves her, he I posit, does not understand that love- in its most organic state- is not controlling nor hurtful. Love, in fact, is such that it is able to transcend human nature to dominate and to hold captive, thus enabling the ‘loved one’ to be free instead of bring any harm. Free to leave. Free to live.

Similarly,  suppression of basic human emotions happens, externally, to the ‘others’ who are around. We are able to quite easily videotape human tragedy before offering first aid. We are able to easily stay on our side of the wall or fence and listen to couples squabble and not get involve. Us, the others are able to excuse ourselves with, its their problem, I have got my own- which is so much more consuming. We have primarily become less of our brothers keeper. We have become allies in the love war.

 

Olympics lessons…on winning and losing

The summer 2016 Rio Olympics is almost at a close and in addition to reflecting on this very exciting event, I simultaneously commemorate today which is World Humanitarian Day. From the triumphs of many of the athletes to the gracious ways in which many accepted defeat the Olympics was a true testament to human character. However there were moments where others have tainted the competition and illustrated that competitiveness if not healthily nurtured can create true monsters – some of the ever present viral commentators via the numerous  social media included. From comments on Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, etc body shaming and reckless  inhumane utterances unconscionably abound.

Which brings me to ponder on the meaning of what it means to be a humanitarian which states that its to be  ‘involved in or connected with improving peoples lives and reducing suffering,’ (Source:Cambridge dictionary). Scale is relative as this can be on an individual basis as well as on a major level (for example- a community such as current flooding in Louisiana, a  country such as Syria or vulnerable groups such as refugees). On the individual level often we forget that in our daily walk extending kindness, justice and dignity to people we meet is a form of humanitarianism. We may in a moment be saving someone’s life, uplifting his/her spirit and/or encouraging an individual to take another step or go  another mile.

This is due in part to the human quest to not give up or surrender in the face of adversity/es…coincidentally that was a common theme throughout many interviews conducted with athletes. Many repeated and/or shared their stories of having to overcome adversities and adversaries. The story is now known of one of our own Jamaican female athlete who was not deemed ‘good enough’ for a local team but who through encouragement and perseverance pressed on and is now a double Olympic gold medalist. The most important lesson then is to keep jumping those hurdles like an hurdler and pressing through the obstacles and challenges like in a steeplechase event.

You see just like many of these athletes who have endured tremendous personal, physical and mental sacrifices so too must the common man. The lesson for us then is not just for this Olympic moment but instead it is for all through our lives. The euphoria will pass but the lesson must endure and propel us on. Sometimes we may lose, we may fall but we must never give up…our Olympic gold may be just around the proverbial corner. However, we, like the athletes, must keep (preparing) training and keep (working) competing …all in anticipation for our own rewards, successes, awards, breakthroughs, etc.

  • Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years, he could not read until around age 7 years and his teachers said he would not amount to much…
  • Steven Speilberg ‘s poor grades resulted in him being rejected from cinematic arts school three times…
  • J.K. Rowling’s first book was rejected thirty times…
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper having been told that he could not write, had no imagination and no good creative idea…
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her TV  job having being told she was too emotional and not fit for TV…

There is a long list of prolific ‘failures’ who are just simply not failures anymore…

So lets be more inclined to be gentler, kinder, more just and less intent on destroying each other. Do not add to another’s burden but seek to assist where possible. We may be in the presence of greatness…plus it just does not hurt to be nice.

Everyone does not win (and we can substitute excell, triumph,prosper, etc) at the same time but each and every person will and does overcome…if nothing else we have certainly seen numerous examples of those at the 2016 Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

‘In the end only kindness matters’

                                                                           Jewel.