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CCSJ: ‘The environment is God’s gift to everyone’, Mayor Martinez must abandon Mandela Park plan

The following is a press statement from the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ):

The Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) calls on Port of Spain’s mayor, Joel Martinez, to listen to the cry of the people and the cry of the earth and leave the grass that covers a large part of Nelson Mandela Park in St Clair intact. 

Mayor Martinez states that replacing grass with astroturf will not cost the Port of Spain City Corporation a cent to install. CCSJ urges him to reject this Trojan horse and save our natural space. 

Photo: Mandela Park in St Clair.

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si—On Care For Our Common Home—is a call for conversion of hearts, minds and lifestyles if we are to save our planet. He calls us to promote integral ecology which connects ecological issues and authentic human development. 

He reminded us that: “Man, for all his remarkable gifts […] can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”

“The environmental crisis is a moral challenge for us in T&T also,” said Leela Ramdeen, Chair of CCSJ. “Just look around at the environmental degradation that surrounds us. Mayor Martinez, we are all stewards/trustees of our environment. 

“Let us acknowledge our interconnectedness/interdependence and build right relationships with our environment. Not everything that is free is good for our City/country. 

“The value of green spaces in our City is not to be underestimated. Since T&T is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, CCSJ calls for sustainable, responsible, environmentally responsible revitalisation of our City.”

Photo: Aspiring footballers train at the Mandela Park in St Clair.
(Copyright Paul Decle)

Serious consideration must be given to the concerns raised by activists/ citizens such as Ernest Bertrand, of the environmental and other damage that astroturf can cause—for example to the aquifer system that supplies water to residents of the foothills of the Northern Range. 

He said: “Further loss of green space of the size touted for astroturfing will significantly decrease the quantity of rainwater absorbed despite claims of limited stripping of topsoil for the astroturf.

“[…] Run-off water will increase, and if you think we have problems with flooding now, there will be a manifold increase if and when this astroturf is laid.” 

As Pope St John Paul II said: “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the wellbeing of future generations.” 

CCSJ maintains that astroturf may look good, but plastic is plastic. Astroturf creates pollution as it is not biodegradable, absorbs heat and feels hot in direct sun. The CCSJ also questions how the conversion to a fee-for-use facility, will benefit the many people who currently use the space free of charge. The plan will not be inclusive. 

Photo: Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez.

As Pope Francis reminds us: “The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion.”

CCSJ urges Mayor Martinez to remember the environment is God’s gift to everyone and it needs to be treasured and preserved for current and future generations by turfing out astroturf.

Editor’s Note: The following is a statement today from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley:

‘Replacing the natural environment at Mandela Park with artificial turf is a salesman’s foolish idea that ought not to waste the time or the resources of the Port of Spain Corporation.

‘The government is sure the corporation can put its time and money to much better use and spare us all this unnecessary aggravation.’

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