Connection between cultural maintenance and conservation

Continuing his series on the idea of cultural maintenance, JERVON SANDS writes about how it affects our everyday lives.

We last left off discussing the proper upkeep of our national identity and the tools needed to achieve that goal. Strengthening the relationship between Bahamian youth and our cultural heritage has been identified as a crucial component. However, questions arise concerning how that cultural heritage manifests in our everyday lives and what are its tangible markers? Perspectives shared by young conservation scientist, Taylor Cargill, offers answers to these questions.

Cargill counts the opportunity she now has to appreciate and explore our natural environment and waters, in ways that not every Bahamian typically can, as what makes her work special. Like many Bahamians she grew up with a love for the beach and while she always appreciated the beauty of our Bahamaland she previously did so from a distance. Cargill claims she once possessed a distinctive fear of “what’s out there”.

Many Bahamians can relate to that innate sense of fear that cautioned us in our youth not to swim too far from shore or go too far into the bush. However, there were times when culture intervened and converted that fear to joy thereby inspiring unforgettable stories of experiencing the richness of our cultural heritage through our connection to the land and the sea. Cargill found herself having these transformative experiences since starting on her current career path. So far, she has “learned to snorkel, SCUBA dive, become comfortable swimming in deeper ocean waters, identify birds and plants in coppice ecosystems, and begin understanding at a deep level why our Bahamian ecosystems are so important and how best to protect them”.

The unfortunate reality for Bahamian youth today is that there are limited opportunities to engage with the tangible aspects of our culture on a level that affords them a deeper appreciation for what our natural world has to offer. Cargill believes that Bahamian youth at large should be exposed to the experiences that her career choice has afforded her because “we all have a shared responsibility in stewarding our environment”. If we fail to pass on the knowledge of and love for the tangible aspects of Bahamian culture to the younger generation, they will be unable or uninspired to protect our land, our oceans, and the ecosystems dependent on them.

Cargill’s work makes her painfully aware that the Bahamas and our ecosystems are currently under high climate stress from a variety of factors like intensifying storms, shifting weather patterns, sea level rise and increasing ocean temperatures. Currently, the coral reefs are experiencing severe impacts including “recent mass coral bleaching, ongoing coral disease outbreaks like Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), and overgrowth of algae on the reefs due to die-off of important ecosystem grazers”.

Through her current role with the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Cargill supports coral restoration research on the Bahamas Coral Innovation Hub team led by Natalia Hurtado and Silia Woodside in partnership with the Perry Institute for Marine Science. This positions her among many actors doing work to implement conservation and restoration strategies that counteract these active threats and protect our ecosystems. Nevertheless, she recognises that this work can benefit from increased youth involvement and young Bahamians can benefit from improved access to these opportunities. She suggests greater outreach via schools, community engagement and a collective effort to disrupt traditional pipelines that draw Bahamian youth away from career paths which directly involve the natural environment.

Climate change poses significant threat to the physical manifestations of Bahamian culture. It is an obstacle to cultural maintenance because if not properly addressed it will sever our connection to the natural world. It starts by amplifying preexisting fears of “what’s out there” with the prevalence of devastating storms and the repercussions of a global pandemic. It forces us to ostracise ourselves from the natural world and each other. Young people are most at risk of losing their connection to our tangible culture because so much is now vying for their attention. We must not allow external influences and shocks to succeed in deterring Bahamian youth from developing their sense of national identity and engaging with the ecosystems that support that identity. Otherwise, we will lose many of our cultural practices that are tied to those ecosystems. Instead, we must nurture a closeness to our natural environment along with an understanding of the threats it faces which will help us to resist climate impacts and other external threats.

Please connect with these young Bahamian professionals via Linkedin if you have an interest in their work or would like to provide opportunities for them to continue strengthening The Bahamas within their respective fields.

 • Jervon Sands is a Bahamian youth climate ambassador. Conserving our culture: The connection between cultural maintenance and conservation.


birdiestrachan 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Interesting. But how can you get young people to come on board with what you are doing how many have read what you have written it is a task but keep up the good works and one day we will all reap the rewards

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