This comes in the way of an apology to readers outside of Trinidad and Tobago: I’ve written more in the past week about Trinidad and Tobago than I typically do and the reason behind that is simple: I felt it needed to be written. And in that, there is no real apology.
There are lessons here, though, when we look at the planet not as we see it, but for what it is – a complex network of networks that has existed before mankind and that will continue after mankind.
We live in an odd alien landscape that our senses can barely discern. We have gotten better at it, and through trial and error – arguably disastrous error – we have learned new things. If Clair Cammerson Patterson hadn’t tried to estimate the age of the Earth, he wouldn’t have ended up leading a campaign against lead poisoning, and leaded fuels. So many who don’t know his name have probably had their lives saved. That’s just one example.
There have been people doing similar things around the world, opening up new perspectives on the planet by daring to look, to ask questions rather than accepting… and we take them for granted. Many of us don’t understand what they do, which makes sense, but many of us don’t try to understand.
The planet doesn’t care about our effective collective apathy.
That we are given pause to consider such things is not enough, that we use the pause for introspection is still not enough. The world doesn’t care about our bureaucracies, or democracies, or our economies.
Humanity, to survive, needs to be more agile in it’s adaptation to the world. The increased population certainly doesn’t help; more humans means more agriculture and farming which we clear more natural land for without truly understanding all the implications. It means increased use of all the nasty -icides we use, it means more transportation using things that cough pollutants. Our medical technology assures we live longer, our business technology allows us to profit or lose from it more rapidly, and the person who works in the hope of retiring finds themselves working longer to retire because of socioeconomic circumstance.
The planet’s governments were not designed for this level of change. They don’t scale as fast as we procreate, a problem that China was quick to deal with, making people shudder at the implementation. In this way, perhaps, the Chinese ‘solution’ kept the population growth to a speed where the governance could adapt fast enough.
I don’t know, and really, I don’t think anyone does. There are opinions, I’m sure, but I’m not sure anyone actually knows. It’s apparent that there are at least some Chinese people who are not pleased with the way things are. In time, history books will tell us the ones that survived were right.
What we do know is that we can see events in our spheres faster than we could have 20 years ago, or 40 years ago. The world is awash with would-be citizen journalists documenting themselves and what they see, interpreting their world on the fly without a few moments introspection.
Governments around the world can’t keep pace with all of this. Trinidad and Tobago, since I have been writing about Trinidad and Tobago, is slow to adapt and change. It didn’t diversify it’s economy when it could have while oil revenues were high. It had brain-drain as oligarchal systems kept people from pushing things forward, forcing them to other places to become what they would become. Corruption that paid well came from such things, creating it’s own sub-economy while effectively stalling progress.
In this, there are parallels with other developing nations. There is nothing significantly different in the corruption aspects of developing nations, but where Trinidad and Tobago is different is that it could have been developed much further along with the oil revenues it once had. Instead, politics divided and conquered as politics typically does.
Whenever administrations change, we get reorganization. Reorganization within the same cavern of methodologies doesn’t actually change as much as politicians would have people believe, largely because politicians aren’t systems thinkers outside of politics.
We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.
– Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (1911-1998), in Harper’s Magazine, “Merrill’s Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure” (Jan 1957)
So how do we get real change? It’s simple, really – we stop playing politics. We push on fixing the things we need to – foresight – rather than getting wrapped up in a blame game that politicians play so that they can be elected or re-elected.
And when they fail, we criticize by creating.
Many individuals have thoughts on how to do things. Being an expert on something limits what can be thought of within a narrow field when all too often innovation comes from intersections across fields.
Stop wasting time on politicians. Start using time productively toward solutions. When someone has an idea, challenge it – and if it passes, share it so others can challenge it and better shape a solution.
Or you can go on depending on politics. How’s that working for you?
Clogged waterways are the obvious issue when it comes to the flooding in Trinidad and Tobago – creating a hazard that leads to disaster. That we need to rein in use of plastics is a corollary; and yet even recycling is not good enough.
Trinidad and Tobago has a problem with illegal dumping, something which I have had to deal with personally on my own land in South Oropouche, something I have dealt with, and something that is seemingly low on the priority list of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as they attempt to deal with more violent crimes.
I’d write an argument saying that littering itself is a violence of sorts, the seeding of waterways as time bombs, but it’s hard to make a relevant case for that when people are getting shot just about every day. The indirect seems far removed until communities get flooded out, and even then, it’s indirect.
The CSV data for rainfall published on Data.tt is easier to work with, though it only goes to 2015. By breaking it into decades, then running an average of precipitation as well as a standard deviation on each decade for precipitation… I came up with very similar results, indicating no real increase in rainfall over decades.
That’s strange. Maybe they have other data that isn’t public, but why that would be so boggles the mind.
In the media, there has been constant mention of ‘increased rainfall’. It seems strange that the one geographic point where they publish data doesn’t seem to have that increase.
Where is the data for other parts of the country that get quoted by government offices?
Dredging of Waterways
It’s generally understood that Regional Corporations are supposed to be dredging waterways within their jurisdiction. It hasn’t been happening as often as it should. That’s something anecdotal that gets mentioned in the local media a lot, but there’s no real data to support it.
It’s difficult to have data for things that aren’t done, much less when they weren’t done. Does anyone keep track of that aside from Regional Corporations?
Unplanned Development: Public Lands
One of the main problems of flooding anywhere in Trinidad and Tobago is the unplanned development – we know it as houses simply appearing on private or public lands.
When it comes to public lands, the government is responsible for dealing with squatting, both residential and agriculture. There’s evidence that this is not being done just about everywhere. Residences appear almost randomly throughout the country, which seems to be the reason why the government of Trinidad and Tobago attempts to build and lease houses… which they, through the Housing and Development Corporation (HDC), have trouble collecting money from.
Squatting takes place all over – sometimes on lands that are safe, sometimes on lands that are not.
Real estate prices make agricultural land unattainable for many who would want to participate in agriculture, I know of many skilled farmers looking for agricultural land – but socioeconomically, and legally, leasing land privately comes with it’s own problems.
This leads to squatting on public land for agriculture – because in Trinidad and Tobago, making something illegal isn’t the same as stopping it. Farming on squatted public land is a political issue when it comes to Agriculture because no one wants to take on poor squatting farmers over this, and so the government regularizes it.
Whether right or wrong in an ethical sense is beyond me. Whether it is right or wrong in a matter of public planning to avoid flooding is an issue for The Ministry of Planning’s Town and Country Division, and it’s uncertain that it is an issue for them as far as their mandate.
There is more to the agricultural aspect – it’s addressed in a later section within this article.
Unplanned Development: Private Lands
Land owners have very few tools to stop people from building on their lands other than very heavy handed approaches, or High Court matters that run into 6 figures as a matter of course. You might think you could simply go to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and report someone building on your land – and you’d be right, but the Police will not be able to do anything other than tell a landowner that it’s a Civil Matter. After all, the Police are not surveyors, etc.
This works out well for lawyers, and it also clogs up the Court with matters while people continue using land in ways that the landowner cannot stop, that the Ministry of Planning’s Town and Country Division does nothing about, and which affects lands in sometimes unpredictable ways. This includes issues related to flooding and landslides.
So unplanned development on private lands through squatting is an issue – but it’s also an issue when private land owners themselves either, (1) do their own unplanned development or, (2) Allegedly bribe officials to get their plans passed regardless of what will happening about the surroundings as well.
Given how slow the wheels of the Ministry of Planning’s Town and Country Division move, it should be no surprise that people try to lubricate it. Certainly, that would have an effect on assuring quality in Town and Country, but… that, too, is anecdotal and is not something people mention in a public forum very often.
After all, they might need something passed in the future.
Planned Development: Private and Public Lands
Having already mentioned the alleged lubrication of the wheels of the Ministry of Planning’s Town and Country Division in the context of private land owners, we are left with the public through the government of Trinidad and Tobago’s many child corporations, a sometimes toxic spill of acronyms on the natural landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking from my own experience with hands in the soil, and with dealing with significantly more experienced farmers than myself, a farmer is supposed to know his or her land, which means knowing how the water runs and planning for dry season (ponds and irrigation) and wet season (drainage and irrigation). Let’s assume that every farmer understands this – that understanding can only be implemented on the land that they are using and how it immediately impacts them.
Runoff from fertilizers, weedicides, fungicides and insecticides impacts not only the area, but areas further down the waterways – and that, in turn, impacts natural ecosystems that may have actually helped avoid flood conditions in the past.
There’s no real regulation of what fertilizers, weedicides, insecticides and fungicides are used.
A Personal Narrative On Planned Development
I was personally impacted by the Pt. Fortin Highway. The planned road reserve had been through my land for decades, so it was not a surprise when it actually began. The acquisition of my land happened quickly – but payment from NIDCO is still pending after 6 years, where the government has to pay me interest for said lands still. That’s not so much the point here, though.
The project was halted because of allegations of corruption – so it’s hard to say that the incomplete drainage adjacent to the highway on my land and the land of others was going to be addressed or not, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t. In fact, there seemed to be little regard for drainage.
Because of that, when I was recently invited to look over things for the Diego Martin Highway Project that NIDCO has sent out Requests For Proposals (RFPs) on, I took the opportunity to look things over better. I found the document that the Ministry of Works and Transport’s Environmental, Health and Safety Unit prepared and sent to the Environmental Management Authority and was amazed at how horrid a document it seemed to be.
Here’s what I found, and what I said in so many words at a public consultation to assure it went on record. The sections refer to the actual document (and if anyone wants a copy, contact me).
does not have a finalized design or budget, which is of great concern: How can we comment on a design that is incomplete, and how can anyone gauge whether it will have a return on investment for the taxpaying community?
claims that it will improve drainage, which is important in the context of the flooding of October, 2018, and of the previous year post-Brett — but does not demonstrate knowledge of water flow issues from the Diego Martin River and tide information. I’m certain that someone at the Ministry of Works and Transport is trained in Fluid Flow, perhaps they could add to the report?
That cites rainfall in the area for only 3 years (22.214.171.124.1), but cites wind history for over a decade (126.96.36.199.4). Why is that? And given that there is wide international acceptance related to sea levels rising and we have seen anecdotally increased rainfall since 2014, I suspect that the original plans submitted in 2015 have not been updated with the most recent data. I’m sure that the 100,000+ that have been affected by flooding this year alone might have something to say about neglecting the statistics which have so affected their lives.
Mentions that it will not involve new crossings of watercourses (4.5) . It does not mention drainage into existing water courses, which will affect flow rates out to the Gulf of Paria, tide permitting. It later says that the limits of the proposed works are, to the West, just before the Western Main Road Bridge over the Diego Martin River. In the same section (5.1), it goes on to say that the limits are preliminary; I imagine they must be because there is likely to be drainage that affects the Diego Martin River itself directly along that Western boundary. This grey area is of concern given tides, occlusion, flooding elsewhere that must flow outward, and so on.Further, in 188.8.131.52.5, the Diego Martin River is mentioned in the topography and acknowledged as an issue with devastating flooding mentioned in 2008 and 2013.
The population dynamics, Section 5.3, Table 2cites data from 1990 and 2000. My calendar indicates that as of this consultation, these figures are 28 and 38 years out of date respectively. I imagine we might have different numbers now, but lacking scientific data – as this report does – I cannot say. In the report itself, it states that there was a 2.7% decrease in population in the area between 2000 and 2011. Certainly, the area may have matured and stabilized, but there is no real data cited in the report to support the recommendation other than anecdotal evidence which would indicate that there is less need for this project.Cited vehicle registration projections do not seem to scale with local population growth, either, and their inclusion adds confusion instead of clarity within the local area.
184.108.40.206.9, Surface Water Quality, refers to a test that has no date. When was the test done? Is it still relevant? By omission, the answer should be ‘no’.
Noise and air quality studies seem to have neglected the HDC development noted in the map which, were the map updated, would be shown as ‘Victoria Keyes’. Given the nature of Victoria Keyes, a group of 3 towers of 9 story height, it would seem this might be an important site to include in such studies (220.127.116.11.10, 18.104.22.168.11), particularly since mitigation strategies(22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199.7.1, 188.8.131.52.1.1,184.108.40.206.2, etc.) mentioned will have an inconsequential effect on these towers as they are limited to at most 2 stories. Was the HDC notified about this during the consultation in 2015, did they participate? They are presently denying it.
The HDC development (Now Victoria Keyes) impacts also will include 2 ponds, waste disposal tanks and other things not noted. Again, was the HDC consulted? They would have had to have been, but there seems to be nothing that indicates such in the report.
220.127.116.11.2, Fauna, does not note the orange winged parrots that fly over the highway, among other things, including unverified sightings of piping guan – a critical species – adjacent to Victoria Keys. Orange winged parrots are very hard to miss; they fly over the highway at dusk and at dawn, as do other species. This information, therefore, is in question – after all, it was apparently only done over a period of 1 day in 2015.A day is simply not enough to view local species, much less migratory species which would take at least a year to take into consideration if this were really related to anything about the environment.
Aside from all of this, the loop to be done adjacent to Victoria Keyes – in this outdated document, ‘HDC Development’ – there are roadworks planned within 200 feet of at least one of the towers and infrastructure, which would imply that, assuming proper roads are being done, heavy equipment would be used that close to the towers and infrastructure that could cause damage to the buildings. In 2017, the media published an estimate of $2.5m cost per unit at Victoria Keyes, which means that a tower would cost approximately $200m – that seems like an unlikely thing that the government would want to damage given the need to reimburse.
If this is an example of how a Trinidad and Tobago government project is run, if it continues without addressing these issues, how can we not expect flooding?
In all, there is a lot that everyone can do to help avoid the situation. Becoming more aware, which hopefully this article is a part of, is the first step and is not even original – much of what has been written here has been written elsewhere or said elsewhere.
As far as the government of Trinidad and Tobago – certainly, we can be critical of the response to what is classified as a Natural Hazard (flash flooding) and we have seen more than once as a disaster, but are we ready yet to start discussing the preventative measures that the Government is seemingly failing to do through the shell game of government corporations?
Spread the word. Share this, or talk to people you know about it.
Logistics, in it’s simplest form, is the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. Disaster response tends to be complex because what is happening on the ground is not about what is happening in one place, but in all places related to the situation.
In a disaster that is happening over a period of time, logistics is pretty simple.
During the disaster itself, such as the flooding, rescuers – trained personnel that can save lives – shouldn’t run in like a Hollywood movie or dance in like a Bollywood movie. Fools rush in, typically – if it’s not safe and you lose rescue personnel, the capacity to save more people later on is compromised. Patience is of utmost importance at this time – a downed rescuer becomes a victim.
In extreme cases, rescuers are sent in when there is no other choice – which is the stuff Hollywood is made of.
In being prepared for a disaster – any disaster – you need to have inventory. You need potable water that can be distributed, the capacity to assure food, shelters, medical support (that doesn’t rob other people of emergency personnel), communications to and from a command center, and unfortunately, yes, security forces to protect the supplies.
The command center plans, assesses, and tries to put things as close to the disaster areas as possible to minimize time for distribution. They have to have decent estimates of how many people are affected, what sort of medical issues that they will have to contend with, and what sort of disbursement issues will arise and plan for them.
On one side, you have people who need help – the disaster victims. They don’t really care about logistics because they have a direct need and that direct need is all that they can see – and it’s not just frustrating, it can mean the loss of quality of life and life itself.
On the other side of things, you have the people who want to help – this involves the government and the private entities, from the person with a boat or 4×4 to the non-profits collecting goods to be disbursed. This is where a command center and communications are most important.
Everything should be coordinated by the command center. Does it have to be a government organization? No. Does it mean supplies go to the command center? No, it means that the command center coordinates efforts, gets feedback on the ground, redirects supplies as needed, and assesses needs. And in Trinidad and Tobago, you would think that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) would have done this.
Honestly, if there was a command center during the flood in Trinidad, it wasn’t readily apparent. We had Ministers out and about, one flying around, others wandering around doing their own assessments (when they should be in a command center coordinating such things). What happens if we lose a Minister during or after a disaster?
Sure, people want to see people in authority. But more importantly, people need for their needs to be met.
Priorities: Needs over wants.
While the ODPM defends itself, I can’t help but wonder why they weren’t more visible in coordinating efforts. There should have been a message that went out – “If you have donations, please contact us so we can get your supplies to the right spot”. Maybe I missed it, maybe it wasn’t spread on social media, maybe they did do it – but as someone who was watching, I didn’t see anything from the ODPM on that.
During the whole incident, it was unclear who was in charge of what – something that should never be a question when it could have been planned for. This wasn’t the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. It was a flood. There was time.
So, Trinidad and Tobago’s government failed – but too, so does CARICOM in the larger scope of things – and even the people who helped significantly did not use logistics as well as they could.
That support was given is great, and everyone should be proud of their efforts – but everyone should also be considering how they could be doing it better for the next time.
In Part I related to the 2018 flooding in Trinidad and Tobago, I was very upbeat about how the community was handling things, and here, now, I will be less upbeat – but not as a matter of politics. The government response is a symptom of a lack of preparedness for a disaster at this scale.
When I write of ‘this scale’, too, this is not as large a disaster as we have seen in the past internationally with earthquakes or hurricanes or tsunamis or typhoons or… and yet, the reality is that for anyone affected or responding to any disaster, it’s huge. It’s emotional, it’s frustrating, and well intentioned people want to do more and expect governments to do more.
In essence, a flood of aid might be wasted, and the sane thing to do is to hold off on asking for assistance until what is needed is actually identified. This is common sense, but it’s common sense that leaves people when they are flooded with imagery of homes underwater, of people who have lost all but the love of their brothers and sisters.
In the end, while unpopular, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago was honest about the capacity of government to handle the situation – something which has been neglected for decades. People have been uttering, “God is a Trini” for as long as I can remember, a testament to faith that Trinidad and Tobago alone had some form of relationship with a superior being. God simply doesn’t handle logistics when the… water… hits the fan.
It’s getting worse – scientists agree on climate change though politicians do not; the complexity of climate change is lost on many. Sea levels are rising. We’ve been seeing increased rainfall in parts of the world, droughts in others.
Systems do not change quickly. When I wrote about Brett last year in Trinidad and Tobago, I didn’t expect an immediate change – but I did expect at least a few things to change. The ODPM still has a useless app, it’s still ponderously slow to respond for such a small organization in a small country… it’s a bit like a mouse that lacks agility, slamming into walls with the precision of a meteorite. And it’s a symptom of larger issues that plague Trinidad and Tobago.
So no, the government of Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t get a free pass, but the present government needs to turn decades of lack of exercise of this arm of government to deal with things – as well as other things, which I’ll get to in a later post.
The global economy isn’t waiting for Trinidad and Tobago.
The Trinidad and Tobago community rose to the challenge even while government seemed as overwhelmed as the flooding victims. Emotional postings on social media are ubiquitous – the best of humanity shown by everyone from the individual to the non-profits that were quick to respond, and as the scale of it became more understood, the corporations lent a hand.
It’s all commendable. I just want to quietly point out that the person who rips his own slice of bread to share gives more than than the person who owns the bakery and gives loaves – yet, that half a slice that comes at a higher cost to an individual is not enough on this scale. Everything, regardless of motivation, is useful and it doesn’t matter how much one gives.
I did my part as I could. There was a time not long ago that I would have been out there with a raised 4×4 myself, but I don’t have that anymore and, truth be told, I have regretted that but have found solace in not having to deal with all the little things that come with that. It’s tiring, frustrating and at times heartbreaking work to go out there and see the devastation and the human price to be paid. And, if I’m honest with myself, I loved that sort of thing even with the price it comes with – including the frustration of disaster experience that is not respected. The frustration has waned with age.
Yet I can witness. I can pay attention and try to make sense from nonsense, without the need for deadlines for tomorrow’s newspaper or video stream or the hope that my blog post will be first and therefore most popular with a clickbait headline.
That being said, I’ve been paying attention with a critical eye. I’ve felt like throwing the government under the bus more than once, and with emotional social media posts and heart-tugging headlines it’s very hard to remain objective.
A few have even taken stabs at politics during this time, perhaps because that’s the default setting of some – but the flooding wasn’t politically motivated, and politics isn’t going to solve the real issues for people on the ground. Frankly, if you have time for politics during this time, you’re value to people is dubious.
My misanthropic heart can’t help but be lifted by people doing what they do during and after any disaster, and from this new and strong bonds will be formed that will transcend much that may have helped cause this in the first place – which will be fodder for my next post(s).
I took some time off – got out of the new home, got away from the old problems and the old thoughts. There were times that I took some time for myself, and those who know me well will say that it’s actually rare for me to not be alone somewhere, but it’s not quite the same.
There’s a need to be elsewhere, physically, in a completely different environment. Over the decades, I count two vacations where I was able to do that, and this was the second one.
That should strike people as peculiar – I mean, software engineers used to make decent money, a few still do, but over the years it hasn’t always been a matter of having the money as much as the time. It’s also a matter in the United States that has people writing articles, such as , “Why America has Become The No Vacation Nation“.
There have been life changes for me recently with work and living that have allowed me some time to reflect on ways forward – something I worked hard and long for. I did, disappearing and unplugging for the most part away from almost everyone. For 10 days was ‘offline’. This gave me time to think about things, something that I’ll write more about on RealityFragments.com.
The point here is that I had no idea how necessary it was until I was away and elsewhere, apart more than usual, and able to process a lot of things that I had not been able to before.
Over the course of our lives, and the smaller subset of our lives that we call careers, we start on many different paths and sometimes stay on them even when they are no longer necessary. We might do things in certain ways because of old plans, or old circumstances – abandoned, or gone. And while we are doing those things, we completely miss the things that might be hitting us over the heads in our desperate clawing toward a future that a younger version of ourselves once wanted, once needed…
The pressures of life, through our circumstance or even those we create for ourselves, have the capacity to overwhelm us and work against us.
A few days won’t do. Long weekends are meaningless. Over-scheduled insanity is just work in a different guise, that’s not a vacation.
We all need time and space for a real reflection, and if someone asked me what I regret in my life, it would be that I have been poor about giving myself that time.
Time where I could take my time and plan the picture above. Time to tie a string to a waterproof camera and just throw it in the ocean off a dock for an entire morning. Time to walk around and be surprised by what drops in your lap.
Lately I’ve been driving between San Fernando and Port of Spain, a 52.3 km haul by Google Maps. Going North, I avoid the traffic, and going South, I typically do.
Yesterday, I didn’t.
We all know that traffic sucks. We all know we waste fuel in it. And sometimes there are legitimate reasons for it – but yesterday evening there was no reason. People were simply driving slow for no apparent reason.
I’d just fueled my new vehicle before I headed down South. It keeps an average of litres per 100 km, a somewhat wonky measurement, but it’s interesting to watch with my driving habits. Having now filled up 3 times, and having reset the trip meter a few times, I know that the vehicle starts off at an optimistic 15+ litres per 100 km. After the last 2 tanks, I know that with my driving habits, I typically see at the end of the tank about 10.4-11 litres per 100 km – not bad, really.
Yesterday evening, in traffic, I watched that gauge dive to 12.7 litres per 100 km.
People were driving slow in the overtaking lanes. The speed limit is 100 km/hr, they were doing as fast as 80 km/hr – for no apparent reason – and then the frequent stops.
“…The scientists, whose research appears in a special edition of the scientific journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, found that timid drivers had the biggest impact because they “shied away” when the car in front started slowing down, and deliberately started driving even more slowly to increase the gap between them.
This then led to cars further behind going more slowly.
Aggressive drivers also caused speed to drop because they braked hard at the last moment to avoid driving into the car in front. They then had to drive more slowly to open up a space again…”
So, all people have to do is keep moving at the same pace. All people have to do is get out of the overtaking lane when not overtaking, and if in that lane not drive 20 km/hr below the speed limit.
Higher fuel prices affect everyone. Traffic affects everyone. Until we all have electric cars, this all directly pollutes (yes, electric indirectly pollutes).
Traffic doesn’t have to form for no reason. And if you think you’re not part of the problem, that doesn’t mean you aren’t. Too much space of too little space between vehicles is exactly why these traffic jams start.
We all know that cars pollute, even if we don’t like to think about it when we hit that accelerator.
We also know that new cars generally pollute less – sometimes, even down to zero emissions.
What no one talks about is how many older cars are out there that will continue polluting, largely because of socio-economics. I’m pretty sure given the opportunity, everyone would buy a Tesla at this point, but could they afford it? In making the Tesla brand necessarily exclusive to gain traction, it also put it out of reach of the people who own possibly the worst polluting cars on the planet. They’re working on that, I’m sure.
And I always have loved getting more and more out of any machine. Even when I worked at Honeywell, I’d play with the gum machine and get almost double out of it for my 25 cents. Why? Because it was a challenge, and because it was a machine.
And then there’s the Teslonda – a 1981 Honda Accord retrofitted with a Tesla motor, with a Raspberry Pi in the mix whose acceleration gives supercars pause.
It’s clear we have the technology to deal with the socioeconomic gap.
My Old Plan
I had a plan at one point. The family business was rewinding electrical motors, established in 1936 by my paternal grandfather in Trinidad and Tobago. I’d even reached out to Tesla when they were first starting to see about becoming a distributor and/or repair center for the Caribbean and Latin America. They weren’t interested in the market at the time, and I was considering a project to get something off the ground. After all, local taxi drivers might prefer charging their battery to go 300 miles on a small island to make their runs back and forth.
In Trinidad and Tobago, that’s roughly 18 runs back and forth between San Fernando and Port of Spain. On one charge.
Instead, they use diesel for a variety of reasons – and should you be behind one, you’ll see them coughing black, some more than others.
Sadly, because of what I could only classify as myopia of those who had control of the family business. They closed it down after a 73 year run, bankrupting it and selling off things.
There were other challenges, of course – such as how to license the vehicles, creating a standard charging interface, and getting a hold of good battery tech that is light and efficient but can generate sufficient power.
It just didn’t happen. I’m just not in a position to do it myself, anymore. Yet it’s not a bad idea at all for someone else to explore, a reason why I’m publishing this now.
We Have The Technology.
Around the world, we could implement this sort of thing instead of waiting for billionaires to do it for us. It’s not as hard as it used to be thanks to advances in technology, and there’s no shortage of cars to work on – the lighter, the better.
So, why isn’t it being done? I know I’m not the only one with such ideas – in fact, that’s how I know now that this crazy idea I had decades ago is a good idea now, because others have been doing it.
It’s time to start retrofitting some cars with electric motors – and then let everything else get sorted out.
It can be done.
People are already doing it.
And if you’re curious about resources, I can – with enough interest – follow up on this with more articles from my research over the years.
I was connecting with someone who ran into me while I was having some naan and other things in Maraval, Trinidad, after the fact – through Facebook messenger.
And emojis came up. I use them quite a bit in quick communications, and it’s because people who don’t know me can’t always judge my mood by what I write. The same holds true for anyone, really. They serve an important use.
It’s because body language, in person, is such an important part of communication. In general, I prefer communicating with people in person because of this. Things are more clear. Personable.
But I have spent half of my life without an Internet. There’s generations that have been born since. Emojis are their a big part of their ‘body language’ now, in this new sort of intimacy – a digital intimacy.
Not too long ago, I watched a mother and daughter sitting at a coffee shop in a mall. I took a picture of them.
That’s how they looked the entire time. I find myself doing this at times with people close to me as well – that mutual searching for something somewhere else.
They’re probably using emojis.
The world has changed. There are some who say for the better, some say for the worse. It doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it has changed and that I have witnessed it. That I am witnessing it.
I’m not talking about the early adopters. I’m talking about how mothers and daughters used to talk to each other and make eye contact instead of sipping coffee at a coffee shop and staring at their phones. I don’t know the quality of their relationships. I can’t judge.
But this all has created voids of understanding. Yesterday, a young man I know asked on Facebook about why people would tell him that if he had an anime profile picture his opinion didn’t matter. I explained to him that people saw an anime picture and saw someone who preferred to be identified as something that they aren’t as opposed to someone they are.
I don’t care too much about anime pictures. I take issues with people on social networks that don’t have pictures of themselves. That’s really the whole point, particularly with people like myself who are great with faces and bad with names. If I could draw beyond stick figures, I could probably use facial recognition to find that person I was thinking of.
…Yet, for all the convenience that the shorthand of emoticons provide, they can also land users in hot water. After all, the meaning that one person associates with an emoticon can be lost on – even completely different to – the reader’s understanding of it. The ambiguity of emoticons can lead to undesirable misunderstandings, particularly when two parties are not familiar with one another – for example, when cross-cultural work emails are interpreted differently.
I’ve seen it. I’ve reacted to it. I’ve done it. It’s this fumbling through with fingers that can make any sort of communication awkward.
This must be very confusing for these newer generations. Everything they see is posed online, from duck-lipped selfies and photobombed pictures of great landscapes to streams of video.
It’s all staged.
And that’s all they see.
I imagine a genuine smile might be confusing to someone raised on that.
I’m sure this was all a revolution of sorts. I’m not sold on it being an evolution.
I’ve never written about the oil and gas industry. I’m certainly no expert – there are plenty of people claiming to be with or without credentials, and I don’t wish to intrude upon their space.
Oil and gas, after all, is a messy affair. In Trinidad and Tobago, even more so since it has and continues to depend so much on this sector for income – something that I do write about in the context of diversifying the economy through technology, which in turn could finance further development in those areas. That’s crazy thinking in Trinidad and Tobago for anyone in a position to do anything about it.
So first I’m not going to write about Trinidad and Tobago. I’m going to write about a place few from Trinidad and Tobago have ventured to before I bring it all back to Trinidad and Tobago.
The nearby GM assembly plant was open in 1919, and lasted until 2009 – 90 years. So it was pretty much settled that as children grew up, they’d get a job at GM. In 1970, the peak employment of that plant was 7,000.
When I got to Beloit in 2010 or so, it was a very different Beloit. I didn’t get to see it on the upswing – I am too young for that – and I didn’t see it dwindle. I saw the results – a small economy within Wisconsin that had high unemployment and all the stuff that goes with it.
An interesting and unrelated thing to note is that the city fines people who don’t keep their lawns mowed or their houses painted. This had resulted in even small time criminals maintaining nice lawns, and some pretty annoyingly colored houses as a form of rebellion.
The economy was hyper-dependent on GM. And I expect that even now, the recovery from that weaning was difficult.
Now, Beloit was in a quandary when GM shut down operations in the area. They likely still are.
Yet, they have one of the most highly rated Main Streets, and in 2015 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index ranked the Janesville-Beloit metropolitan area #4 by how well they created and sustained jobs and economic growth.
I don’t know much about what happened when I left – what I do know is that Beloit was in trouble. And I saw opportunity for technology companies there – and some showed up, though I’m not certain how that all worked out.
But I do know one thing. Beloit’s still there.
Back to Trinidad and Tobago and Petrotrin: There are parallels with Beloit, and there are some things that are not. For example, Petrotrin is only a part of the oil and gas sector in Trinidad and Tobago – and also, it’s government owned – though the Wikipedia article presently discusses Petrotrin in a past tense.
Now, some people talk about this as a business – as they should. Still, the government buying the refinery was a risky proposition for the long term. But politics requires jobs – and every political party that has been in power has kept that ball in the air.
That ball in the air is now a can being kicked around on the ground now.
And so, the conversations about privatization I’ve seen have been lacking in understanding that it’s simply a bad business proposition for a private entity to run. The cost of production is, from most reports, too high.
Now, to be fair, I didn’t dig into the financials – I could, but if I dig into the books of any company, I’m only looking at what is reported – and no one has reported anything good.
So the question is whether it’s worth keeping at all. There’s enough inefficiency that it should be a wake up call; to me it seems an indictment of a culture that allowed it to happen – something no one in Trinidad and Tobago wants to hear.
But if they look carefully, they can see it.
I will point out that Beloit, Wisconsin has found ways to recover – and I’m pretty sure there are at least parts of it that are unpopular. Beloit survives. So will Trinidad and Tobago. But there are necessary differences between what they were and what they must become.
The time for thinking about economic diversification is over. With a lowering interest in oil and gas technologies, it’s time for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago – as well as it’s stakeholders, every citizen, to start working on that diversification.
Want things to change? Read more. Think more. Think about repercussions of actions at even the most personal of levels – there is opportunity in even the most dire of circumstances, if only the Government and people would get out of their own way.
Or you could paint your house a bright orange in protest – an appropriate mix of red and yellow political filters – and hope for the best.