Essential real-life experiences
The students in the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute’s Youth Climate Summit programme continue to engage with business and organisations committed to addressing the impact of climate change in Bermuda.
YCS participants experienced the smooth acceleration of the new Xiamen electric bus, as it took them from BUEI through the streets of Hamilton on April 12. All agreed it was much quieter and would significantly reduce noise pollution and fumes produced by the existing fleet of diesel-engine buses on Bermuda’s roads.
Many countries wishing to develop a sustainable public transport system to curb climate change have learnt that acting upon that desire is not straightforward. Bermuda was no exception. Participants were given a detailed account of the complex political, social and economical considerations that were undertaken to replace a large section of the bus fleet. While initial options required considerable customisation for Bermuda’s narrow roads, thanks to the work of the Department of Energy and the Department of Public Transportation, a comparably cost-effective solution was identified that resulted in the purchase of six electric buses.
The students were impressed that this project was managed during a global pandemic and could have been easily derailed. They asked many questions and were satisfied that emissions-efficient strategies are being put in place, including plans to recycle used batteries. It is easy to be critical of this decision, as electricity production is fossil-based, but this is set to change as renewable energy becomes a bigger component of Bermuda’s energy sector.
The introduction of these buses has already set in motion several changes in the transport system — for example, training for drivers and mechanics — similar to other countries. Participants recognised through this fact-finding discussion that sustainable development may not be perfect but at least it moves in the right direction.
Another more recent and hands-on excursion was a trip to Trunk Island and the Bermuda Zoological Society Living Classroom on April 30, thanks to the support of our YCS partner, RenaissanceRe. During this trip, participants were introduced to the Trunk Island Restoration Programme managed by experts at the BZS, and sponsored by their network of generous donors.
Under the guidance of BZS staff, they were able to plant 29 native trees: green buttonwood, Bermuda cedar and Jamaican dogwood. This was a great source of satisfaction for the group, as these trees will eventually act as the secondary line of defence to storm surges, which is an increasing climate threat in Bermuda. More formidably, these trees will be a future windbreaker for a new mangrove site on Trunk Island. As the students discovered, native trees are perfectly adapted to the salty and blustery terrain of Bermuda, and respond more favourably to hurricanes compared to introduced, non-native species.
There are, however, multiple dependencies that need to be factored into large-scale restoration projects and the timing of such efforts is a painstaking process but highly rewarding. The students appreciated the efforts under way at Trunk Island to restore habitat for many endemic species, such as the Bermuda land snail. They welcomed the sight of many birds and were impressed with the longtail-igloo establishments set up around the island.
Biodiversity is an essential antidote to increasing human and climate stressors, and educating our youth on how to safeguard our environment is a central role of BZS and the Trunk Island project. During this visit, the YCS group crossed paths with an even younger generation of students participating in the BZS Science Club and had the chance to discuss their climate-action projects. While the results of conservation are never immediate, the real-life experiences of environmental protection are and remain imprinted on the generations of youth that pass through the BZS Living Classroom at Trunk Island.
We would like to thank everyone who generously imparted their knowledge in support of the Youth Climate Summit and for inspiring our youth as they advance their understanding of conservation, sustainability and climate-justice initiatives taking place in Bermuda. These and future excursions will allow participants in this yearlong programme to broaden their knowledge and better understand their role in tackling critical environmental issues in the real world.
• Rosemarie McMahon, PhD is the consulting director to the Youth Climate Programme, a Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute initiative. Established by a Private Act of the Bermuda Parliament in 1992 and officially opened in July 1997, BUEI is a registered non-profit and does not receive any government funding. The organisation relies on the continued financial support of the community to deliver impactful, high-quality educational programmes and initiatives including the Eco-Schools Bermuda programme and the Youth Climate Summit. For more information on the Youth Climate Summit, visit www.YCSBda.com