Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cleaning up the Beach along the Old Airport Road, Montego Bay

   I was wondering where to start on my account of our beach clean-up on the old airport road, when I read Judith’s poem, “Garbage Runs”, written for International Beach Clean-up Day. It says it all!
Bags of garbage collected at Old Airport Beach
Why spoil the view ?

     Many years ago, I used to take students on field trips to the old airport beach, where, at low tide we could use sampling methods, such as line transects, belt transects and quadrats to estimate numbers and distribution of species of nerite and sea urchin. Not much has changed. It is still a popular spot for people to sit and eat from Styrofoam boxes, and drink from plastic bottles or cans, use condoms, and then toss their garbage into the ‘bush’. My questions to these people are, “Do you like to come to the beach and find garbage? Is that why you leave your garbage here?” Perhaps fewer people visit here because of the mess left by others. Will they return now we’ve cleaned it up? If they do will they take their garbage home with them and dispose of it appropriately, including the recycling of plastic bottles? It would be interesting to return in a few weeks and see.
    I was curious about how quite a few pieces of clothing – blouses, shirts, a skirt, a belt – came to be where they were, tangled up with rocks and driftwood, in the sea beside the road. I suspect they were carried there by the storm surge after Hurricane Sandy.
What's tangled up in the driftwood?
Oh! It's a blouse.

A storm surge would also account for the amount of ‘old garbage’ half-buried by sand and fallen leaves. The main change I noticed since I was last there, (about fifteen years ago), was that the vegetation between the road and the beach had grown taller and denser, I suspect hiding more garbage we couldn’t reach. It also provides a refuge for crabs and mongooses.
This crab could still walk in spite of lost legs.
    The group I was in didn’t go beyond the old airport beach, but other groups went as far as Tropical Beach. The clean-up was scheduled to end at eleven, by which time thunder had begun to roll and rain to sprinkle, but not before the volunteers, most of whom are employed at the airport, had assembled for a group photo. The coordinator was Mr. Orville Grey.
   At the same time, other beaches from Freeport to Dump-up were being cleaned by a total of 800 volunteers from  Service Clubs, NGO's and corporate Jamaica.Over 4000 lb of garbage was picked up  The whole Montego Bay Beach Clean-up was organized by Montego Bay Marine Park Trust. Congratulations on a job well done!
Volunteers pose for the camera.

The Beach Clean-up brings into focus the larger question of attitudes to garbage in general. Careless disposal of garbage is not confined to Jamaica (100 countries had Beach Clean-ups on Saturday, September 21), nor is it confined to any social class, political affiliation or religious persuasion. I knew of people in England who encouraged their children to drop garbage in the street because – “People are paid to sweep the streets.”  When I had my school, some parents objected to my asking children to take their turn in picking up litter from the yard - litter the children had dropped.  The residents of some countries are more particular. When I was with a group of students on a visit to Mexico, in 1972, a girl who dropped a sweetie wrapper was told, “We don’t do that here.”

        Efforts to improve attitudes in Jamaica, including “Best Kept Community” competitions, advertising campaigns, “Anti-litter Laws” (hard to enforce), seminars, workshops, and exhortations by environmentalists to “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, don’t seem to have made much of a difference. Attitudes are hard to change, but there are some incentives which could be put in place. All PET plastics can be recycled. If a refundable deposit was charged on these bottles, fewer of them would end up in the garbage. Styrofoam is highly toxic and carcinogenic, especially when it dissolves in fatty foods, or is heated in a microwave, or worse still, thrown on a fire. My recommendation is a total ban on Styrofoam containers. We lived without them before and could do so again. 
        There’s slogan on the side of some garbage trucks: “Jamaica’s beauty is our duty”.  All of us living in Jamaica, disposing of our garbage responsibly, can help to keep her what she is, one of the most beautiful places on earth. 

Yes, I was there.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Going Solar in Jamaica

"Silicon cells, from which solar panels are constructed, manufactured from 1 ton of silica sand can produce as much electricity as 500,000 tons of coal."

Solar panels  (Solar Direk photo.)

There's so much information available about photovoltaic systems, it's hard for someone considering installing a system to know where to begin. My purpose in writing on this topic is to highlight some of the information which may interest homeowners in Jamaica.
The usual components of a photovoltaic system are the solar panels, charge controller, batteries and inverter.
I’m starting with batteries, because it's not widely known that, if you are still connected to the grid, and have permission from JPS for that connection, you don’t have to have batteries. Those used in most PV systems are lead-acid, deep cycle batteries. The advantage of batteries is that they give you an uninterrupted power supply, which would be important if you have frequent power-cuts.
The disadvantage of batteries are
·          that they are expensive (about Ja$40,000.00 each);
·         energy is lost in charging and discharging them, making the system less efficient;
·         there are more components to install;
·         as they near full charge, hydrogen is produced and vented out of the system. Hydrogen is a highly explosive gas, so they should be in a well-ventilated area, free from naked lights;
·         they require regular maintenance and have to be refilled with ionized water;
·         their life expectancy is shorter than that of the solar panels.
Battery bank (Solar Direk photo)
Charge Controllers
The charge controller controls the current going to the batteries from the panels. It works as a voltage regulator and prevents the batteries from being overcharged or over discharged, which would shorten the life of the batteries.
Grid tie system
You can have a grid tie system with or without battery back-up. Even with battery back-up, there are advantages to this system. It is not necessary to install a PV system to supply the maximum load – the shortfall can be supplied from the grid. For example, you may use your a/c units only in the summer months, at which time the fridges are working harder and fans may also be in use. Thus your maximum load is in the summer. For the rest of the year, the load is less. To supply the maximum load without grid tie would mean more solar panels, and higher cost.
If you plan to install a grid tie system, you should first get permission from JPS. If you have an analogue meter, when you connect your PV system to the grid, during the day when the panels are generating excess current, your meter will spin backwards and in the night it will reverse as it draws current from the grid. If you connect to a digital meter, it will spin forwards all the time, even when you are sending current to the grid, so you would be charged for the electricity you have supplied to JPS! So that isn’t an option. Either way, JPS would prefer that customers apply for Net Billing, before system is installed.
To apply for Net Billing
1.      Complete the application form in duplicate and submit one to JPS and the other to OUR (with non-refundable fee of Ja$2,000.00). Keep a photocopy for yourself.)
2.      Submit the following documents:
a.       Electrical drawings of Renewable Energy System.
b.      A completed System Component Information Form.
c.       Test and compliance certificate for inverters.
(These 3 would have to be prepared by the company installing your system.)
3.      The Government Electrical Inspector (GEI) has to inspect the system and approve the drawings, and his certification should be forwarded to JPS.
4.      Pay at JPS parish office for
a.       Net Billing Meter (about Ja$50,000.00). 
b.      Utility Disconnection Switch (if that isn’t already in your system).
c.       Deposit Upgrade - total of last 3 months light bills.
5.      Submit proof of insurance, ownership of property and system.
Solar panels seen from below

Solar Panels
    A variety of solar panels is available with a range of prices.
Monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline, because they continue to work at lower light intensities.
The wattage of on the panels indicates the maximum which they can supply in ideal conditions, i.e. at solar noon on a clear day at a temperature of 25 degrees C.
One would think that with all the sun we get in Jamaica, our systems would supply more current than those in a temperate climate. However, panels are dark in colour and are directly in the sun, so they get hot. Any increase in their temperature above 25 degrees C reduces their efficiency. Surrounding air above that temperature would not be able to cool them in the way a cooler temperature could.
    Shading of the panels, including partial shading and cloud cover, reduces their performance. For example, in July, an array of 12 monocrystalline 300W panels produced a high of 21.3 KWH on a sunny day, and a low of 4.6 KWH on an overcast day, and an average of 16 KWH per day. As the system had battery back-up, not all of this was available for use.
Solar panels generate and batteries store DC (direct current), but household appliances use AC (alternating current). Inverters convert DC to AC. Today’s inverters are sophisticated, computerized pieces of equipment. There are different kinds for stand-alone systems, for grid tie, for grid tie with battery backup, and some can even incorporate generators.
Which company?
Listed in the Jamaican Yellow Pages are about twenty companies which sell and install PV systems. Your choice of company would be influenced by their experience, expertise, and quality of relationships with customers. Having selected a company, you can partner with them in coming up with a design to suit your requirements. They would make a site visit to see where you propose to locate the panels and inverter, and batteries and charge controller, if you plan to have a battery back-up system; and recommend which brand of components you should buy.
Other considerations
With the cost of electricity as it is in Jamaica, most people have taken steps to conserve, replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent and now LED bulbs, and replacing electric with solar water heaters. The appliances which use the most electricity, and have the highest wattage, are those which heat and cool. If you have an electric stove, and have good reason for not wanting a gas stove, this will present a challenge.
A final word
Find out as much as you can about SV systems before you install, because whatever you buy becomes your responsibility.  
The initial cost of the components is high, and they do require energy for their manufacture. It takes a solar panel about a year to recoup the energy used in its manufacture. All components of solar systems have to be imported into Jamaica, and require foreign exchange. However, in the long run, a large number of PV systems installed would reduce the country’s oil bill.
120,000 customers, each with 10 x 300 watt panels could provide 360 megawatts, the same amount of power as the new power plant to be built.  Initial cost would be about US$ 1800 million, considerably more than the new power plant, and less reliable, but eventually could reduce the oil bill considerably.
    Thanks to Solar Direk (in Montego Bay 979-7994 and Kingston 946-9860) for use of their photographs.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review of Dr. Pearnel Bell's book

In an interview with Dr. Pearnel Bell on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which I posted on January 22, 2012, she informed me that she had written a book on the behaviour disorders, which would soon be available in books stores in the USA. A Teacher's Guide to Understanding the Disruptive Behaviour Disorders: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and Conduct Disorder is now available in Jamaica. Copies were on sale at Dr. Bell’s book launch on Friday, August 23. 
    The information in this book made a profound impression on me. Since reading it, certain ideas have played over in my mind. One of my passions is that all children should learn to read. I volunteered at Chetwood Memorial Primary School, one afternoon a week to help Grade 2 children who had not yet learnt to read. Mrs. Amoy Virgo also helped the same children on another afternoon. A student from Montego Bay Community College helped in the 2011-12 school year. He motivated the students, and they liked him. I had hoped to involve more volunteers, especially students at the tertiary level, but this was not to be. Perhaps there was a reason. I had concentrated on the teaching of reading instead of focusing on the children.
    Mrs. Virgo and I were faced with a real problem when it came to discipline. Several of the children couldn’t concentrate for more than about five minutes – they crawled around under the desk to pick up things they’d dropped on the floor, they liked to slide on the ceramic tiles in the library, they were distracted by every little thing and made frequent requests to go to the bathroom. It is possible that they had a disruptive behaviour disorder. The better behaved children in the groups were distracted by them. I tried to use positive reinforcement, but I have to admit that from time to time, I raised my voice and glared at them. One student may have suffered from Oppositional Defiance Disorder, as he point-blank refused to do as he was told.
    Dr. Bell’s book indicates to me that I should have taken an entirely different approach. Ideally, the children would have been referred to a psychologist, who would work with teachers, parents and social workers to modify the children’s behaviour. Given the large numbers of children in relation to the numbers of psychologists and social workers, the second-best is for the teachers (including myself) to have a better understanding of the disorders, and reward desirable behavior instead of punishing undesirable behavior.   
    The book does not prescribe a simple remedy to the problems confronting teachers when they have children with disruptive behaviour disorders in their classes. Rather, it identifies the direction in which teachers should look to find their own solutions to these problems. Dr. Bell begins by defining the disorders and discusses teachers’ knowledge and perceptions of, and experience and attitudes towards them. She recommends that teachers read more about these behaviour disorders and provides and extensive list of references.
Dr. Pearnel Bell
        In her second chapter, she draws on her own research into Jamaican teachers’ knowledge, experience and attitudes. When confronted with a child with a disruptive behaviour disorder, many teachers will reprimand, shout, give the child a cold stare, or even beat the child. When these strategies are ineffective, teachers are overcome with feelings of frustration.  They may send that child to the Guidance Counselor, or Principal, or send the child out of the class. Not only are these strategies ineffective, they have actually been shown to make matters worse. In her third chapter, she discusses in a balanced way the use of medication as a treatment option.
    Chapter 4: “Strategies Teachers Can Use to Deal with ADHD, ODD and CD Students”  is probably the one which many teachers and administrators will find the most helpful. The usefulness of the ecosystem approach, involving psychologists, teachers, social workers and parents is explained. The shortage of trained personnel in Jamaica hinders widespread use of this strategy. However, much can be done by administrators to train teachers and encourage teamwork among teachers and parents. The importance of teachers giving positive reinforcement for good behaviour cannot be overemphasized. “Experts are unanimous in supporting the use of praise and positive reinforcement as a powerful tool for reducing problem behaviour and improving academic performance.”
    The final chapter “Self Care: Stress Management for Life Management” is an often overlooked aspect of training for teachers. Throughout the book, Dr. Bell makes reference to how disruptive students make teachers feel, and therefore react, and the effect of the teachers’ reaction on these students. Chapter 5 includes stress reduction tips and emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and self-monitoring.
     I strongly recommend this book to all teachers and school administrators. A copy should be available in every school and teachers’ training college. Since it is based on workshop content, it could also be the basis for workshops within a school or college. Chapter 4 ends with questions for discussion among workshop participants. I regret that it was not possible for Dr. Bell to include samples of responses to these questions. We look forward to further publications of this nature by Dr. Bell.
    There is evidence that children with untreated disruptive behaviour disorders often find themselves on the wrong side of the law. What if all of these children could be treated, or at least given positive reinforcement for desirable behaviour by their teachers? Perhaps we would see a reduction in the crime rate, hence a reduction in the cost of crime. The money saved could be used to employ more psychiatrists and social workers.