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Caribbean updates: Mass coral bleaching in Caribbean (August 16, 2023)

Just Caribbean Updates: Mass coral bleaching in Caribbean
Just Caribbean Updates

Corals across several countries in the Caribbean, North America and Central America are bleaching and dying en masse from unprecedented levels of heat stress. Experts fear it could become a global event, reports the Guardian.

US government scientists have confirmed reefs in Panama, Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico and six countries in the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Cuba, are suffering significant bleaching, alongside corals in Florida that began turning white almost a month ago.

The latest Caribbean Coral Reef Watch bulletin indicates significant warming throughout the region with El Niño present and expected to strengthen between July and October 2023.

“Scientists are deploying experimental technology to help corals survive, restoring habitat by hand and tinkering with coral DNA. But it’s unclear whether it will be enough to help some of the world’s most vibrant coral survive,” reports National Geographic.

“But restoring reefs alone won’t be enough. Drastic cuts to climate-warming emissions are needed. Not only does the buildup of carbon dioxide warm the atmosphere, but it also makes oceans more acidic and less hospitable for many marine animals,” reports the Washington Post.

Amazon leaders call for int’l financing

Amazon country leaders called on richer nations to support efforts to protect the rainforest, saying resources from the world’s biggest rainforest are consumed globally. Eight countries — Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela — subscribed to an agreement last week for combatting forest destruction. (Reuters)

The Belém declaration calls for debt relief in exchange for climate action, commits to strengthen regional law enforcement cooperation to crack down on human rights violations, illegal mining and pollution, and urges industrialized countries to comply with obligations to provide financial support to developing countries. It also creates an Amazon-specific climate-focused scientific panel. (Guardian, New York Times)

The final text was weaker than hoped for, and countries failed to agree on a shared commitment to end deforestation by 2030. The failure of the eight Amazon countries to agree on a pact to protect their own forests points to the larger, global difficulties at forging an agreement to combat climate change, reports Reuters.

The declaration particularly failed to condemn oil extraction — and does not “acknowledge how conflicting forces in the region continue to put oil and gas projects and devastating extractive and infrastructure plans forward despite pushback from communities and Indigenous leaders advocating to protect the ecosystems on which they rely”, argues Carla García Zendejas, Director of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) People, Land, & Resources Program.


  • A growing group of Caribbean leaders hope to a revival of Petrocaribe, a generous energy accord with the region carried out by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez government. Their interest is spurred by “the Caribbean’s flawed, oil-dependent energy sector, serious obstacles that have prevented its transition to alternative, cleaner sources of power—and a lack of meaningful assistance from the U.S. that could have geopolitical repercussions in years to come,” reports Americas Quarterly.

  • Guyana faces the challenge of managing its economy as it transitions from the hydrocarbon era, fueled by petroleum resources, to a more sustainable and innovative economic model, argues Mary King in the Trinidad Daily Express.

Climate and Environmental Justice 

  • Belize’s Garifuna people predominantly reside in coastal communities that are severely affected by erosion caused by rising sea levels. Beachfront loss is occurring at an alarming rate. (Climate Tracker)

  • Meet two Jamaican disability advocates who want vulnerable communities to become climate resilient —News 5 with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship. (Via Global Voices)

  • “All climate action is not climate justice. It is very possible for us to take climate action that makes a more unequal world”, stated Mikaela Loach, a Jamaican climate justice activist on Twitter

  • Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable countries globally due to their small size, remoteness, exposure to natural disasters, and reliance on distant markets and resources. An upcoming UN confernce on small island developing states in Antigua and Barbuda will address climate change, sea-level rise, biodiversity loss, global debt crisis, and rising inequality. (CNC3)

  • New climate change jingle by Sotera!

  • Joshua Prentice is an ecologist from Trinidad and Tobago who focuses on the intersection of public policy, climate change, and environmental protection. He holds a deep interest in using geospatial technology to address climate change challenges and limit the impact of industrial activities on the environment. Interview with GEF

  • The United Nations High-level Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Caribbean Region was held in St. Vincent and The Grenadines earlier this month. Climate Analytics Caribbean Director, Rueanna Haynes, presented at the first session: Strategic Responses to External Shocks Impacting the Caribbean. View here

  • Despite being surrounded by water, many in the Caribbean region, including Trinidad and Tobago, face water shortages and challenges due to factors like climate change, inadequate infrastructure, and contamination of water sources, reports Climate Spotlight

  • There is an urgent need for Trinidad and Tobago to take strategic action to improve climate resiliency due to the country’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change, which include sea-level rise, changing weather patterns, coastal erosion, and biodiversity loss. (Climate Tracker)

  • A group of six young women in Jamaica has been selected for the next phase of Envisioning Resilience, a groundbreaking initiative that provides women with a training opportunity to use visual storytelling to inform National Adaptation Plan decision-makers. (NAP Global Network)

The Caribbean and The World 

  • Despite their small country size, CARICOM member states are focused on amplifying the voices of its member states and advancing concerted attention and action on their interests in international affairs, particularly in terms of coordinated foreign and economic policies, reports Geopolitical Monitor.

  • Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, Former Chief of Defence Staff,  has expressed concern about the circumstances under which Jamaica has decided to deploy troops in Haiti, asserting that the conditions in the French-speaking country are chaotic, reports The Gleaner. (See last week’s Just Caribbean Updates on human rights concerns about a Kenyan led security mission to Haiti.)

Public Security

  • Trinidad and Tobago is plagued by high levels of violent crime. The country’s murder rate has been consistently high, with over 600 murders reported in a year, and it’s on track to potentially exceed that number this year. Crime has visible consequences on daily life, with businesses closing early, and travel advisories warning about high levels of violent crime in the region. (Foreign Policy)


  • The new book Urban Panamanian English by Catherine Laliberté was published this August by Benjamins Publishing Company. It presents the first detailed account of the English used by the descendants of the Afro-Caribbean builders of the Panama Canal.

  • A new article in Habitat International examines the role of colonial institutions and legacies in shaping modern-day adaptive capacity in a postcolonial urban center in the Caribbean. Focusing on the Dutch and British colonial periods of governance, it shows the ways in which these colonial periods have shaped the physical and social structures of Georgetown in Guyana.


  • Black Tucupi, a traditional and umami-rich sauce made from bitter manioc (cassava), has been used by indigenous communities in the Amazon for thousands of years. Today, it’s gaining attention beyond indigenous communities and making its way onto the menus of South America’s best
    restaurants. (Travel)

  • Repeating Islands highlights five Caribbean-centric books.

Human Rights

  • Haiti’s “prison system is a black box, routinely holding suspects in pretrial detention for prolonged periods — often for longer than their potential maximum sentences — without charging or trying them,” reports the Washington Post.

  • Many spaces and buildings in Caribbean cities are in need of revitalization due to economic downturns, criminality, and natural disasters. Some of these spaces create discomfort and insecurity among citizens, particularly women and girls. Better urban planning that considers their needs, the experiences in public spaces can improve the situation, argue the Tonni Ann Brodber and Elkin Velásquez of the UN in Loop News.

  • The elderly in Vincentian society are being affected by various forms of abuse and mistreatment. These can take different forms: from physical and emotional to economic and psychological actions that influence or harm another person. (ANN)

  • Jamaica’s national women’s soccer team achieved an unexpected advancement by securing a 0-0 draw against powerhouse Brazil in a World Cup match. This draw marked a historic moment for Jamaica, as it was the first time a Caribbean country had progressed beyond the group stage in the 32-year history of the World Cup. (Friends of Jamaica)

  • On July 31st a second statement, titled ‘Touch One, Touch All,’ was issued by women’s organizations and individual women from the Caribbean and its diaspora in response to death threats and efforts to silence activists in Guyana, particularly the women’s development organization Red Thread, reports Stabroek News

  • Equality Bahamas, a feminist organization, has been stating that the issue of gender-based violence needs to be addressed urgently and effectively. For that, the organization asserts that the new “Protection Against Violence” bill offers insufficient protection and that its title undermines the necessary transformation of society to prevent and intervene in gender-based violence. (The Tribune)


  • Apply to UWI-ICAMP program for CARIFORUM nationals. For more information on the requirements and further details click here

  • UNTFSSE launches an open online course to raise awareness of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) and its central role in advancing inclusive and sustainable development. To access the course click here

  • The Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF)  has launched its Caribbean Regional Architecture for Biodiversity (CRAB) Project internship program aimed at master´s students in which two internships will be awarded for the 2023-2034 period. The application deadline closes the 25th of August 2023 at 11:59 PM US EST. For further information click here


Just Caribbean Updates

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