Could the Caribbean bridge the gap between culture and sustainability?

Feature image via Canva Pro.

By Sean McCoon

This post was first published on the Cari-Bois Environmental News Network as part of an ongoing series that aims to give Caribbean scientists, explorers, environmentalists and nature enthusiasts a platform to share important environmental information in creative ways. An edited version is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

As countries — especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the Caribbean — look towards economic innovation to reduce their dependence on extractive industries, entertainment-based industries like culture and the arts can play a role in these efforts. When assessing the pathway of creative industries to sustainability, it’s important to consider that the orange economy can help break into new markets and get buy-in from large-scale entertainment figures and businesses.

Tobago’s thriving culture, which includes vibrant farming activities and food festivals, is one example of the intersection of creative industries and concepts of sustainability, such as eating local and growing one’s own food.

Examples of this intersection are the popular “harvest festivals,” which are being scaled up to include more culinary offerings and marketed as a tourism product inclusive of entertainment.

Buy-in from both the entertainment industry and the environmental sector to add new elements to these festivals while maintaining longstanding traditions, can open these festivals to new, eco-minded audiences and raise awareness for environmental causes.

Once the demand for local foods at these festivals continues to increase, it also creates opportunities for local farms to boost their production. In this model, entertainers and entertainment companies can now consider investing in sustainable activities like farming and regenerative agriculture, with a view to reaching new audiences in creative ways.

Over the past several years, Tobago has demonstrated that there is a market and consumer base for these events locally; all that is required is further investment. Looking around the world, there are already similar initiatives underway that attract thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of people. They continue to be an example of how these events can be made more circular if there are efforts to reduce the waste that may be generated from them.

The need to reduce our carbon footprint and cut back on energy usage has crept into conversations by a wide cross-section of individuals, from creatives to party promoters.

The idea of cutting costs for economic purposes is also one of the reasons the entertainment industry is now looking at greening efforts.

The Dutch DGTL Festival, for example — a global festival that has stations in Chile, India and Brazil — has set itself the goal of becoming the first circular economy festival in the world. The power it uses for roughly 60,000 festival-goers comes from wind and solar energy. Meat has been replaced by plant-based alternatives, and the water being used in the toilets and showers gets processed and reused. Trash is strictly separated, and a deposit system for beer cups and other beverages avoids further unnecessary waste.

Near Milan, Italy, the Terraforma Festival attracts more than 5,000 visitors a year. In the past, the organisers have built the stages out of wood from trees that were destroyed during a regional storm, a decision that had a knock-on effect of supporting local communities.

In Trinidad and Tobago, many festivals are organised by the private sector, but Tobago also enjoys several state-run and promoted events. Much, therefore, depends on the organisers’ motivation regarding how environmentally friendly they want to be, but this can be increased by the introduction of clear rules and regulations, as well as for policymakers to come up with innovative ways in which to incentivise such ideas.

As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Tobago consists of many rural communities with environmentally sensitive areas. This reality presents an opportunity to lead the way with regard to sustainability. As a culturally expressive region, the Caribbean has an opportunity to lead the way in greening festivals and events. If every regional territory can promote, assist, and provide assistance for promoters wishing to “go green,” the region can become an authority on how the orange economy can play a significant role in sustainability.

In order to make a dent into the Caribbean's ideologies around the concept of sustainability — and the way forward as it relates to “going green” — it makes sense to target the areas that are most cherished, revered, relatable to and invested in by regional societies. The potential is immense for the Caribbean, through its rich and diverse culture, to become a standard bearer in sustainability.

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