Caribbean Conservation You Can Dance To

Two workers wearing safty helmets cleaning solar panels on a rooftop

“Music can show a clear picture of why we should keep the environment clean”: Antigua's Hard Knaxs performs at a “This is Who We Are” campaign ceremony. Photo: Sean Southey

Famous artists from five Caribbean countries wrote and released original songs and music videos about protecting the environment. Using the universal language of music, this creative approach to conservation inspires local residents to protect the ocean.

The music video series is part of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) “This is Who We Are” campaign, which uses art and culture to inspire local environmental activism and marine conservation in Eastern Caribbean islands. The songs are played on local radio and TV channels, inspiring awareness and action to music loving residents throughout the region. The lyrics address themes from littering to protecting sea turtles, and the music videos are set to the tropical landscapes of St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

Park Rangers rely on the community to keep coastal areas clean and protected. St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Photo: The Nature Conservancy

“Music can influence people by putting forward good, constructive lyrics. It can show a clear picture of why we should keep the environment clean and how that will affect kids,” says artist Joel ‘Hard Knaxs’ Lewis, who frequently visits schools to perform his song and teach environmental lessons. ‘Hard Knaxs’ contributed the “This is Who We Are” song for his home country Antigua and Barbuda.

The approach is to reach out to the younger generation, which may inherit the burden of the environmental threats facing their islands. The video series advocates that anyone – from small islands to large countries, from mountain tops to sandy beaches – can have a positive impact on the environment.

While using distinct Eastern Caribbean’s music styles, inspired by local genres, the songs are reaching music-listeners who otherwise might not hear or be interested in messages concerning conservation.  For example, the artists from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Keith Currency, Mentaliss and the New Starzz, sing:

    “So take care of the mangroves, take care of the reefs.
    I’m gonna love my country, love my land,
    Love the beaches, love the sand,
    Love the rivers and all the sea.
    Gonna protect it in every way,
    Because this is who we are.”

Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Photo: Marjo Aho.

Small islands, like those in the Eastern Caribbean, face many threats to their marine and coastal resources including sea level rise, overfishing, declining coral reef health, and more. Over 50 per cent of people on these islands live less than a mile from the sea, and the main economic drivers, tourism and fishing, both depend on abundant, healthy marine resources.

Traditional fishing is a way of life and contributes to Caribbean economies. Photo: Tim Calver.

The ‘This is Who We Are’ songs are generating public support for the Climate-Resilient Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN). This initiative is led by The Nature Conservancy with funding from the German Environment Ministry (BMUB) under its International Climate Initiative (IKI).  With the ECMMAN project, TNC aims to establish marine managed areas in the region. The protection of these areas ensures that sensitive marine ecosystems remain intact and are thus better able to withstand the stresses of climate change. Through this approach, the six Eastern Caribbean countries cooperating with the project can sustainably address fishing, tourism and conservation interests.