If we, as individuals, focus our intention and energy toward creating environmental, energy and food security for our communities, those actions will create economic security.
Environmental security is created by the protection of our incredible natural environment through green building / construction practices, environmental conservation and organic farming. Our natural environment is the basis for our main source of economic income. If we focus our attention on keeping the natural environment vibrant and healthy, that will also help to maintain a healthy and vibrant economy.
Energy security is created by the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy. The Virgin Islands’ most abundant, available and never ending (we hope) source of energy is the sun (and wind). It makes the most sense to generate energy where it is used, not in some distant single source power plant. Distributed, grid interactive solar (PV) generation systems with storage have no moving parts, make no noise, require almost no maintenance and just sit there and produce power for years! (PV modules have a 25-year warranty to back them up!)
As a community, we need to begin to think and act “outside of the box.” We need a forward-thinking, distributed, interactive, renewable energy-based grid with storage and digital grid-management software. Once a renewable energy grid is established, there is no fu el cost, and LEAC goes way down! We need to ask the question: Is a $300 to $400 million dollar undersea cable to Puerto Rico, after which we will still have to buy power from Puerto Rico, thus keeping LEAC high, the highest and best use of our scarce economic resources? For the same expenditure, the territory could install a “state-of-the-art, micro-grid solar internet” system on every business and home with energy storage, all digitally interconnect to form a giant virtual solar power plant to provide power on demand to the grid.
To use a telephone analogy, we need “IPhone” thinking, not old Vitelco land-line thinking regarding the development of our energy security. Our scarce economic resources should be used for a forward-thinking, interactive, distributed renewable energy grid with zero fuel cost which provides real energy (grid) security and job growth in the Virgin Islands for the future.
Food security, a topic that is rarely on the table for discussion, is really the most important of the three S’s. What good does environmental and energy security do if we cannot feed ourselves? Food security is created by utilizing our local resources to the fullest extent, which includes supporting and expanding our local organic farmer networks with community supported agriculture and developing community vegetable gardens throughout the territory.
The Virgin Islands has a 365-day, year-round growing season! This is unheard of in most places with short growing seasons and cold weather requiring expensive heated greenhouses in the winter!
For years, we have been “brain washed” into thinking that we cannot grow food in the Virgin Islands because we have no soil or water! That is not true! Sixty percent of our waste is compostable. If we establish municipal- and home-composting systems, we can produce huge quantities of rich compost to enhance our soil for growing food.
The Virgin Islands is currently dumping (throwing away) 4.5 million gallons of fresh water a day into the ocean. Those millions of gallons of purified water can, and should be, used (reprogrammed) for agriculture or other useful purposes. Water is life, and we must use our resources wisely!
We need a coordinated grassroots plan to create a local sustainable organic food production and distribution system for the Virgin Islands and Eastern Caribbean region. We need to know where our food comes from and how it is grown!
The University of the Virgin Islands’ and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School’s aquaponics systems, if implemented throughout the community, can help provide food security for the territory. We can grow both fish and vegetables in a closed-loop system powered by renewable energy. The waste water from the fish provides the nutrients which are used to grow vegetables. This process purifies the water for return to the fish tanks. These systems are organic and modular. They can be scaled for both home and commercial use. They use no toxic chemicals to grow food.
On an individual level, home organic container gardening with a simple drip irrigation system is another option (earth boxes are an example). Home container gardens, have a water reservoir below the soil, so the soil stays moist. Container gardening helps manage soil-based pests and conserves water. Organic gardening does not use toxic petroleum-based chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, which is healthier for us and the environment.
Remember the “old days” when our parents and grandparents had their home gardens? We can all grow a portion of our own food. If we grow excess, we can have community-based “farmers markets” where residents can come together weekly to share (sell or barter) their excess organic vegetables and fish.
Environmental, energy, food and economic security for the Virgin Islands is within our reach! We just need the “will” and the leadership to get there. Where there is a will, there is a way! OCCUPY YOURSELF! Change starts with us!