Island metabolism, trust building, and inspiring people.
In the face of climatic challenges that disrupt social life, Aruba University and The University of Prince Edward Island co-organized the second edition of the conference Turning The Tide: Climate Change, Social Change, and Islandness. We, from Green Phenix, had the opportunity to travel to our neighboring island Aruba to participate in this event that took place from October 23 – 26, 2023 at the atmospheric Aruba University in Oranjestad.
Scientists from a wide array of disciplines from all over the world gathered to shed light on socio-environmental issues and research challenges in island contexts, a direly needed distinction as islands are unique geographical and social phenomena that require a different approach than mainland contexts.
Turning The Tides was kicked-off in the old-chapel at the university, where Stacey McDonald, the first keynote speaker, who works for WWF Dutch Caribbean, shared interesting findings from her research on engagement in nature conservation. Her message was that social norms and a sense of ownership are key indicators for engaging in nature conservation. As ecosystems provide various services to society, there are many stakeholders with different interests that must align for successful conservation. Essential for this alignment is trust building between stakeholders, something that requires openness and interest towards each other, two values that turned out to be illustrative for Turning The Tide.
After a coffee, a sweet and some networking at the green, shady patio, the participants divided themselves over the four rooms where 20-minute presentations were given about cyclones, food security, waste management, biodiversity, fisheries and more, with approaches ranging from the social sciences, sociology, anthropology, and psychology to ecology, art, and governance.
After a long day, The National Archeological Museum opened its doors for a community dinner. Under the enjoyment of live music, we immersed ourselves in Aruba’s archeology, while volunteers of TurtugAruba monitored some 120 Green Turtle hatchlings that were about to leave their nest to embark on a journey in the wild sea, guided by the tide.
On the following day, a group of researchers that is linked with the Metabolism of Islands (MOL) community introduced us to the application of ‘metabolism’ on islands. This perspective entails a focus on the resource flows that enter and leave an island and the stock that is, in the case of solid waste, often accumulating. We found the Island Metabolism concept an interesting way to approach waste management and will follow the development of this academic stream with interest.
Then, it was our turn. We are delighted that our own presentation about the work of Green Phenix to strengthen the circular economy in Curaçao while contributing to inclusivity on the island, was received with great esteem by the audience. The practical experience of Green Phenix was perceived to be a valuable addition to the theoretical perspectives that dominated the conference.
We took many interesting insights back to Curaçao and were able to connect with various inspiring people that we might collaborate with in the near future, whether it’s on marine litter monitoring alignment in the Dutch Caribbean, academic publications on plastic and circularity or the lobbying for EPR regulations in the Caribbean.
Is participation in such a conference something that we would do again? Although we cannot close our eyes to the environmental footprint of travelling to an international conference, we believe its aforementioned benefits weigh out this burden. However, not all presentations at Turn The Tides were clearly relevant to our goal, so we would love to participate in a future conference specifically on solid waste management in island contexts. Or, maybe, we might be organizing one ourselves. For now, we go back to our recycling facility in Willemstad and make sure that Curaçao continues to develop towards a circular society.
Our participation in the Turning the Tides Conference was part of the RESEMBID project ‘To reduce Curaçao’s plastic pollution in the marine environment by promoting innovative and creative recycling, public awareness, and education”. RESEMBID is financed by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France – the development agency of France. The programme supports efforts for sustainable development in 12 Caribbean overseas countries and territories (OCTs).