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Young environmentalist puts Bermuda on the map around the world

Royal Gazette
Oct 9, 2010

By Scott Neil

 
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Jahmali Bridgewater grew up in a home without a TV and spent a great deal of his time outdoors, exploring the wonders of nature.

It led him becoming a remarkable young advocate for the environment.

This month the 13-year-old will represent the Island at a United Nations-organised environmental conference in Japan.



Photos



  • Jahmali Bridegwater, 13, is a student at Dellwood. He is also a young environmentalist who has been attending UN conferences for the past two years, has recorded an environmentally-inspired song. He is the new youth leader for the Bermuda Environmental Alliance and is heading for Japan this month to attend his third United Nations' Tunza children's conference on the environment.



  • Inventive: Jahmali Bridgewater, at the UN's Tunza environmental conference for children in Norway, carries his self-made solar panel water heater created using cardboard and tinfoil.

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    A greener world: Bermuda's Jahmali Bridgewater plants a tree in Norway during the 2008 UN Tunza children's conference on the environment.

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Jahmali Bridgewater grew up in a home without a TV and spent a great deal of his time outdoors, exploring the wonders of nature.

It led him becoming a remarkable young advocate for the environment.

This month the 13-year-old will represent the Island at a United Nations-organised environmental conference in Japan.

It will be the third time in as many years he has attended one of the UN-backed children's international environmental conferences held in various locations around the world.
 

Jahmali has also written a book, 'Growing Green: My Environmental Journey', which may be introduced in the Island's schools as a learning tool.

He first took an interest in the environment at age four. By the time he was eight he was increasingly clued up on environmental causes.

"We did not have a TV, so we went outside exploring," he said. His mother Latoya helped him to discover more about the fauna and flora of Bermuda with books. Among his other guides as a youngster were his extended family uncles former environmental science teacher David Chapman and Senator Marc Bean.

He started the Greenkids Environmental Club for like-minded students at Gilbert Institute. The club proved popular and it conducted a survey to investigate how green the school was and organised a field trip to the Tynes Bay Waste Recycling Facility.

His efforts were noticed by his teachers and led to him attending the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo's 'Power of One' environmental conference in 2008.

At the end of the event there was an essay contest. Jahmali was one of two winners selected as a delegate at the United Nations' Tunza environmental conference for children in Norway.

"Norway was an awesome experience. It was a real eye-opener. I saw there were other kids who were into the environment too. I went there to show that Bermuda was doing something," said Jahmali, now a student at Dellwood. At the conference he took part in workshops and showed inventiveness by constructing a solar panel water heater using a cardboard box and tinfoil.

On his return from Norway, he was surprised there was no requirement to do any follow-up work. Nevertheless, he wanted to provide feedback for Bermuda and wrote a report for BAMZ and the Ministry of the Environment. Soon afterwards Jahmali was invited to meet the then-Environment Minister El James, who was interested to hear his thoughts and ideas. The positive impression he left led to the Ministry assisting him in attending the 2009 Tunza children's environmental conference, this time in South Korea.

During the past two years Jahmali wrote his book 'Growing Green' and presented it to the Ministry of the Environment and Mr. James. It is presently being considered as a potential school book for the Island.

"The book was to show what I did in Norway and South Korea, to let other children know what I had learnt," he said.

When asked what environmental issues he would like addressed in Bermuda, he said: "There are certain things I'd like to see, such as recycling bins next to trash bins. I might have an empty bottle in town but there are only trash cans around me, so I'd have to take it home if I want to recycle it."

Together with a greater emphasis on recycling, Jahmali is in favour of US-style 'no littering' signs on the streets warning of fines for throwing trash on the ground. And he'd like to see a big reduction in the amount of paper and plastic used on the Island, and more people switching to energy efficient LED lighting.

But what about the youth of today? While his experiences in Norway and South Korea have shown Jahmali there are young people around the world with an equal passion and concern for the environment, what about here in Bermuda?

"I'm really hopeful. The green club I set up, when I left I thought they would say, 'Oh well, there's no one to explain what is going on'. But there are eight kids who have kept the club going," he explained.

His family and friends have been very supportive of his environmental interests.

Mrs. Bridgewater said: "Everyone has something in them, a gift to give to the world. David Chapman used to come and take Jahmali to see places and learn about Bermuda's environment. Jahmali has found something that he is passionate about and the people around him are supportive of that."

One of the things Jahmali wanted to do was attend the next UN Tunza youth conference, which this year is in Japan. But with a likely cost of many thousands of dollars it appeared out of reach, despite efforts by his family and himself to raise funds. Then something unexpected happened.

Jahmali came to the attention of the Bermuda Environmental Alliance's CEO Sangita Iyer and is now the youth leader for the BEA.

On hearing of Jahmali's hopes of going to Japan, the organisation approached David Lang of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation to see if that organisation could collaborate to help him go to the conference.

The answer was yes.

Jahmali will fly to Japan later this month for the youth conference. His mother said they were both grateful to the efforts of the Ms Iyer and the BEA, and Mr. Lang and the Foundation.

@$:Ms Iyer said: "Jahmali is an articulate and brilliant young man, championing the cause of our planet Earth. He is a shining example for Bermuda's youth, who has managed to take his environmental passion to the next level."

David Lang, of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, said: "He is leading the Bermuda Environmental Alliance's youth section. The Foundation is very happy to support this young leader, who is a positive role model to other young people."

Jahmali has recently recorded a reggae tune called 'Green Revolution', which started out as a poem with an environmental message. He hopes to soon make the song available on the internet through iTunes.

And looking to the future, he said: "I'd like to become an environmental lawyer like [American attorney] Van Jones."

Jahmali will be attending the UNEP Tunza children's conference on the environment in Japan from October 20 to 26.

He has written a blog for the Bermuda Environmental Alliance, which can be read at this address:http://www.bermuda-bea.org/bea-blog/111-our-planet-whats-next.html
 

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