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Crookedfinger Art: Sustainable Fashion & Art

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Crookedfinger Art is an expression of my person style and creative impulses. – Kim Cadenhead

Meet Kim! 

Kim Cadenhead is the founder of Crookedfinger Art.  Kim has a unique quirk, two crooked pinky fingers, a result of a genetic glitch.  Her little quirk resulted in the inspiration for her company name, it is an ode to her unique characteristic which she embraces and has allowed her to flourish as an artist with her original artistic style.  Kim is passionate about various medias for art projects.  Her portfolio includes: paintings on canvas, mixed media, handcrafted sustainable products and graphic t-shirt designs.  Kim recently took part in an artist workshop in North Carolina.  The workshop gave Kim an opportunity to grow as an artist and finesse her painting skills.  Her experience there lead to her latest creative endeavor a series of floral paintings on both canvas and repurposed wooden trays— both wonderful works of art for home decor.

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Kim is an artist who is inspired by the environment around her and incorporates the very essence of her surroundings into her paintings, handmade items and mixed media projects.  In my humble option, I view Kim’s most recent floral collection as having a touch of influence from impressionist paintings incorporated with her own modern signature style, blending beautifully together.  Her floral paintings from her 2016 collection are my personal favorites.  Kim sells both original canvas artwork and canvas prints.

Sustainable Fashion and Eco Art

Since moving from Toronto, Canada to the Cayman Islands, Kim has visited local thrift shops to gather materials for her latest sustainable art projects.  It is her aspiration to repurpose materials found locally and transform them in sustainable handcrafted products including: beach tote bags, hand tote bags, messenger bags rugs, pot holders, coasters and even mixed media art pieces.

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It is rather astounding when you take a moment to realize the magnitude of materials available that has the potential to be repurposed and used in a sustainable way.  All of her eco-friendly items are handmade.  Kim’s sustainable art pieces have all been made from magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.  Kim is an artist with an eco-conscious mindset.  Her sustainable fashion and home products prove that recycled and repurposed materials can be transformed into chic sustainable products.

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Support Local

Kim’s artwork and eco-friendly products are available for sale at Art Nest Creative Studio, at Pasadora Place.  You can also visit Kim at Camana Bay’s local Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays.

Stay Connected

Follow Kim on Facebook, click here

Follow Kim on Instagram, click here 

Visit her website, click here 

 

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Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

SEA OF HOPE follows iconic ocean explorer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry, author and captain Max Kennedy, and their unlikely crew of teenage aquanauts on a year-long quest to secure their future. Deploying science and photography, they hope to inspire the creation of blue parks across an unseen and imperiled American wilderness.

It was an absolute honor to be published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories.  Please visit their website to read my full article Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet.  Sea of Hope is airing 15th January 2017 on National Geographic.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

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Epiphany: How A Family Of Explorers & Conservationists Overcame Their Fears

 

View Epiphany Movie Trailer

A popular definition of epiphany as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is: “A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.  For me, an epiphany is a sublime moment.  It is an awakening, when your thoughts come into focus and there is a moment of clarity.  The opportunity presents itself as an illuminating thought.  A moment of such great revelation can bring forth incredible things.

I have had the privilege to get to know award-winning filmmaker and wildlife cinematographer Michael Maes and his wife Ellen Cuylaerts, an award-winning wildlife photographer.  They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They are inspiring, compassionate, kind, generous, brave and humble people.  I am grateful to know them.  As a family they live intriguing and extraordinary lives as explorers and conservationists.  They explore the world and use their gifts and talents in film and photography to share their passion for conservation with the world.  An underlying message in their documentary Epiphany is the power of film and photography.  I am a firm believer that art whether it is in the form of film, photography, writing or any other genre has the ability to create change and have a positive impact.  The photographs and film both Michael and Ellen share with the world captures stunning encounters with wildlife, marine life and spectacular scenic views of nature.  It serves to remind us this planet is worth fighting for and protecting.  Art has an incredible ability to connect us all on a universal level.

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For Michael and Ellen, film and photography is a means for them to contribute to nature and conservation— a way of giving back.  They use their films and photography to educate, and create awareness about various environmental issues.  A strong image whether captured in a still photograph or a moving picture can evoke emotion, share a powerful message and allow an opportunity for one to be enlightened and enriched.  In particular, a scene in their documentary Epiphany with Whale Sharks captures a collection of beautiful moments spent in the presence of these majestic creatures.  There is utter tranquility within this scene and the Whale Sharks swim gracefully.  The scene showed the majesty of sharks— they are not to be feared but respected.  Other scenes with Oceanic White Tips present the elegant poises and patterns of these sharks as they glide through the water, depicting them beautifully in their natural habitat.  The sharks and divers were able to inhabit the space harmoniously.  It is important to note, the divers still had to remain very vigilant at all times.  Ellen and Michael take great care in the composition of their photography by ensuring they develop a connection with the wildlife during their encounter and allow that to translate in their photography.  By doing so, it creates a powerful image illustrating that there is a story and meaning behind every photograph.  The heart of their photography and film is to remind us all what a privilege it is to live on this beautiful planet and to not take for granted our natural resources, the environment, the ocean and all animals.  There is a great urgency for a united effort and action to happen globally to increase conservation of the environment and protection of all animals.  As advocates for the ocean they are keen to promote awareness of the urgency to protect sharks.  Ellen and Michael use film and photography to promote conservation and help rehabilitate the image of sharks by showing us that sharks are to be respected not feared.  The real fear is a life without sharks.  The reality is if sharks continue to be slaughtered for their fins and their population continues to rapidly decline they will face extinction.  Sharks have been roaming the ocean immensely longer than humans have inhabited the planet.  It would be a great tragedy for sharks to become extinct.  There is no coming back from extinction.

 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch their documentary Epiphany a film that is inspiring and moving.  The film left a profound impact on me.  It is a film that I hold dear to my heart, as it was truly special to watch a film friends of mine had made and with such admirable bravery they shared their story with the world.  I implore others to watch their award-winning documentary which is currently available on iTunes.  The documentary touches on a variety of themes: the power of art and film, conservation of sharks, environmentalism, Autism, the unbreakable bond of a family and finding bravery to overcome fear.  Michael and his family are incredibly courageous to share a vulnerable side of their lives and their journey through life with the world.  Primarily, the narrative of the film tells the journey of Ellen and how she finds the bravery to overcome her fear of the ocean.  It is her kids that leads Ellen back to nature.  It is on this journey, Ellen rediscovers her love for photography which allows her to overcome her fear of the water by swimming with sharks and photographing them.  The film also touches on Michael and their kids Margaux and Max leading extraordinary lives with autism.  A takeaway from their documentary is that there is a need in this world to look past each others differences and accept one another as they are.  We are all uniquely different and that is what adds to our individual beauty.  There is a need for society to stop labelling and creating divides due to differences— being different can be a remarkable gift.  A beautiful message within in the film, is the families unbreakable bond.  The diagnosis of Autism running in their family understandably initially created a feeling of isolation, fear and hardship.  However, together as a family they were able to thrive and live out their passions.  All of them having wonderfully marvelous courageous lives.  As a family they inspire us all to live a life of compassion, kindness and bravery.

 

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The power and healing of nature is beautifully interwoven within the story which unfolds throughout the documentary.  Nature serves as a catalyst to connect the family together, strengthen their bond and open doors for amazing opportunities to share their passion for conservation, film, photography and art.  A beautiful synergy is built between the family as they collectively immerse themselves in exploring nature and the depths of the ocean.  A profound message the documentary presents is that Ellen is able to move past her fear of the ocean and develop a trust within nature.  The ocean serves as a bit of a paradox in Ellen’s life, while on one hand it is the foundation of her fear of water, yet on the other, it serves to inspire her to contribute to conservation, follow her passion of photography and connect deeply with her family.  By having nature as an integral component of their lives, the differences within the family does not create walls to divide them, in fact nature bridges the family together and anchors them.  Moreover, through expeditions exploring nature, it brings forth a bravery within each of them to overcome their own personal fears.  Through their conservation efforts and giving back to nature, each of them were able embrace their individualism and remain true to themselves and their passion for the environment, photography, film and art.

Meet Michael Maes

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Michael Maes is a wildlife filmmaker, specialized in big animals and animal behavior. His portfolio (both underwater and topside) covers the polar regions, temperate waters and the tropics. He has a passionate interest for polar bears and Arctic whales.

His work has been broadcast on various national television like Nat Geo Wild, Outside Television, CBC. It also received recognition at a myriad of international film festivals; reflecting the ability to translate the need for wildlife conservation onto the screen.

In 2015 Michael was inducted as cinematographer in the Ocean Artists Society (http://www.oceanartistssociety.org), an organization uniting artists worldwide to raise awareness and protect the marine environment through art. Michael is also a founding Navigator of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (http://www.reefresearch.org), a leading scientific research centre in the Caribbean focusing on coral reef restoration, research on coral resilience, and ocean education.

More About Michael  

Website michaelmaes.com   (Currently Under Construction)

Check out some of his recent Arctic Work:

 

Q & A with Award-winning Filmmaker Michael Maes

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1. What inspired the documentary and for you to tell this story?

Ellen Cuylaerts; my wife; challenged herself to overcome her fear of water and sharks, culminating her personal growth by feeding those feared sharks. That was the story to which many viewers can relate to.

2. What is the heart of the documentary? Or the core message for audiences to take from watching the film?

Basically Epiphany is a story about all of us. Everyone has his or her fears, everyone faces challenges of life, we can all make decisions to alter our paths.

Epiphany shows the viewer setbacks can be turned into strongholds of life itself.

In short, Epiphany is a story of hope.

3. Did you face any challenges while making this documentary?

Apart from logistical nightmares, the complete lack of privacy for our family during the 18 months of filming was very exigent. Although most of the shootings were at dream locations, we constantly had cameras and microphones pointed at or near us. Especially Ellen as I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for most of the underwater filming and all areal cinematography.

Next would be the communication between the producer (me) and the rest of the crew. Having autism makes it very difficult to communicate my thoughts; up to a point where I even think I “say” something but I actually only “think” it. That has lead to many difficult situations, frustrations and even words. But, ultimately and always thanks to Ellen, we regrouped and were able to finish a gem.

4. What was one key lesson you learned from making this film?

Don’t think what you say but say what you think!

5. Is there a particular scene in the documentary that resonates with you or has the most significant meaning to you?

To me the most emotional scene in the documentary is at the end where Ellen stands strong among tens of sharks circling her and I (you can’t see that of course as I am filming it) am lying flat on the sand at her feet; filming Ellen from that extreme low angle; all the way up to the water surface; sharks everywhere.

That scene grabs me the most as it portrays in images the fact that Ellen conquered her fear, surrounded by sharks yet she is the one who is in charge! There she stands, holding food next to her body, telling the sharks with her body-language to not come in for the food… she… her… your wife… the mother of your two children… surrounded by sharks… I cannot express how powerful that scene is for a filmmaker who’s the husband of the talent…

As a cinematographer that scene also grabs me as it is – excuse-moi the bragging – simply a formidable shot completed by the genius score of music written by the Belgian musician Eric Bettens.

6. What was your favorite filming location?

Honestly? None! They all had their particular challenges and filmic rewards. A favorite moment I could tell you: a close to two hour dive with only Ellen and myself at Tiger Beach. We were down there without bait or chum. We just wanted to have our Zen moment; away from the fuzzy madness of the production. Did we get rewarded for being there: we had three 12 feet tiger sharks and a bunch of lemons and reefies. A mind-blowing peaceful moment! This footage did not end up in the documentary as the sequences were too long and beautiful to cut. Now that Epiphany is released I will review those amazing scenes again.

7. What do you hope this documentary will accomplish? Or what is your goal or hope for this film?

Of course we want to spread awareness on the sad condition sharks are facing globally. But we also want people to think about their own life and take action if they want to. We want Epiphany to bring hope to those whom are trapped in a fixed pattern, caught in a seemingly hopeless situation.

8. What does the film mean to you and your family?

30 months of blood, sweat and tears.

9. Do you believe film and art has the power to help bring positive changes to the environment?

Many of the world’s environmental issues are far out of reach of most people. Pictures and film bring those issues closer to many, though often in the hard “documenting” way – which is good of course.

Bringing the animals and their world to the beholder in all beauty – nature as it is – makes people see the beauty of those animals. This could lessen the fear of the unknown and invoke interest in the animal or its habitat. Every time I get a message from someone I don’t know telling me some work of mine made him or her get interested in that animal or its environment, is a bigger reward to me than a paycheck.

10. Do you find using art and film as a medium allows you to see the impact and changes in the environment differently, than as opposed to just reading about the issues our environment faces?

As I am a person whom thinks in images, I would believe so. However I feel this question should better be answered by an avid and passionate reader.

More Info about Epiphany 

Website            : www.epiphany.movie

Epiphany on iTunes : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/epiphany/id1169290433

Trailer Epiphany                     : https://vimeo.com/156486645

Special Thanks

Special thanks: Photos and video courtesy of Michael Maes and Ellen Cuylaerts

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For The Love Of Animals: Ian Somerhalder Foundation Medical Emergency Grants

 

Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A truly heartwarming initiative was started by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that have heartbreaking stories of being abused, neglected or suffered a traumatic injury.  These animals are deserving and in need of a second chance.  ISF created their Medical Emergency Program to extend compassion to these animals and assist in aiding to their recovery and wellbeing.  ISF launched their Medical Emergency Grant Program on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  A day symbolizing a commitment of love and compassion towards animals— inspiring others to do the same.  Since the inception of this program, they have helped over 1,000 animals including: cats, dogs, turtles, birds, bats, horses, sheep, cows, sea lions, goats, rabbits, and more.  All have benefited from an ISF Medical Emergency Grant— giving them an improved quality of life, resulting in a touching success stories.  These animal rescues are now living happier lives with their new families in their forever homes. The testimony of these animals show, that animals have an incredible resilience no matter how difficult the hardship they faced.  They also remind of us of the incredible bond animals establish with humans, despite the suffering they endured, once they found a new and loving family in a safe environment they continue to express love unconditionally.

Animals have an exquisitely poignant way of teaching us, through demonstration, how to love and be loved. We learn compassion, as well as expand our perception of the infinite connection to the environment around us, from our creature friends–whether they are furry and lick us, or slither and swim. We owe it to these creatures to provide protection, healing and love. That is exactly why I am so proud that the IS Foundation has launched our first grant program — the Emergency Medical Grant for Animals – Ian Somerhalder

ISF provides grants to both the US and Canada and works closely with dedicated teams of amazing rescuers in various parts of the US and Canada who are on the front line every day finding animals in need of a better life and urgent care.  These admirable individuals advocate on the behalf of these animals.  Animals that receive an Emergency Medical Grant have been found either, abused, neglected or have suffered a traumatic injury.  ISF reviews applications and typically makes a decision within a week.  They then have the money sent out the following week to the treating veterinarians and rescuers.  The ISF Medical Emergency Grant criteria and eligibility can be found on the ISF website, Grant Information Page.  “The purpose of this grant is to provide animal victims a second chance by alleviating their rescuers of the financial stress of treatment so they can focus on facilitating the animal’s adoption into a permanent, loving home” ISF works with individuals, animal rescuers, veterinarians and non-profit organizations seeking to rescue and rehabilitate animal victims.  (ISF)

The ISF Medical Emergency Grants Program has done an incredible job of bettering the lives of so many animals.  Animals that have had the opportunity to recover and rehabilitate now have wonderful success stories inspiring us all to help protect and care for animals in need.  ISF has established a network of dedicated animal rescuers (grantees) and built amazing relationships with them over the past 2 years.  Their collaboration and teamwork has created a positive impact.  An added bonus, the ISF have met so many loving animals that have greatly benefited from their program.  In instances when the animal in need and the rescuer are near by, the ISF take the opportunity to meet with the animal and rescuer(s).  The ISF have shared a plethora of wonderful heartwarming success stories of the animals they have help give a second chance to. To read their success stories visit their grant success page.  Their dedication to provide resources to assist in bringing a life changing positive impact on the lives of animals that have deeply suffered, inspires us all to work together to be a voice for animal victims that have endured a painful hardship.

Must Love Animals

Below are a few success stories of the ISF Medical Emergency Grant

Meet Elsa

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Ozzy

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Twinkle Toes

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

To support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and stay up-to-date with their projects follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website 

The Cayman Islands: A Haven for Sharks & Rays

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

The Cayman Islands has built its name and reputation primarily on being a renowned diving destination.  Pioneers in our local diving community over the last few decades contributed to building our diving industry into the premier operation that it is today.  They recognized the exquisite beauty our underwater landscape had to offer and have since then made it accessible for locals and tourists to recreationally experience and explore the beauty that lies below the surface for themselves.  With a desire to showcase our natural resources comes with a commitment to preserve them.  Our duty towards conservation for both land and the ocean is beneficial not just from an environmental perspective but also an economic one.  Our tourism industry is strongly tied to our island’s natural resources.  Ergo, an obvious reason to ensure that our natural resources are protected.  Last year on Earth Day (2015), the Cayman Islands officially became a Sharks and Rays Sanctuary.  The sanctuary expands across all three islands.  This is a positive step towards ecotourism as many tourists are keen to visit places that are committed to conservation.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

“I’m extremely grateful that the Cayman Islands recognized the need to make the islands a shark and ray sanctuary. Not only will their protected status benefit the health of the reefs but it’s also a strong statement towards the tourism industry which is an important source of revenue. By protecting our natural resources the Cayman Islands puts itself in the the market of the informed and eco friendly tourist making the right choice for the future generations.” -Ellen Cuylaerts

Sharks in the Water

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

By virtue of us standing by and not acting to protect coral reefs and marine life that are under threat there is a very likely possibility that corals reefs will continue to become degraded and even destroyed.  The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.  There is an intricate connection between coral reefs and all marine life.  If keystone species such as sharks continue to decrease in population it will have a tremendous impact on the coral reefs and the marine life that depend on the reefs.  A scary thought that should be racing through everyone’s minds is what if I never see a shark in the water again?  Our fear should be driven by the thought of what will happen to our ocean and the ecosystem if shark populations globally continues to spiral down or worse become extinct.  Sharks are a keystone species and are fundamental to maintaining the health and balance of: coral reefs, marine life and the ocean.  Without their presence there could potentially be a devastating collapse within our fragile ecosystem as their role in keeping our “life support” viable is monumental.  Ultimately, we need a healthy ocean as 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from there.  Healthy shark populations means healthy reefs.  Coral reefs support 1/4 of all marine life.  Healthy reefs means a flourishing population of marine life.  This is beneficial for: our ecosystem, recreational divers, snorkelers and for fisherman.  Balance within our ecosystem is key to benefiting the preservation of the planet, as well as a thriving diving industry, tourism industry and fisherman.

We can’t fail to act to protect our ocean and marine life.  The ocean is often referred to as the heart of the planet.  There seems to be a collective assumption that the ocean is indestructible, that no matter the amount of pollution pumped into the ocean it will always reset itself, that there will always be coral reefs and an abundance of fish, sharks and all marine life.  It is as though we cannot fathom the thought that it could all go away one day.  The reality is the ocean like anything else has its limitations.  We cannot keep testing the ocean’s ability to bounce back.  It is evident that the ocean is under an immense amount stress due to climate change and the rapid decrease in the populations of a multitude of marine species.  For instance, sharks and rays are under threat.  Every year, 70 million sharks are killed for their fins (Fin Free).  In comparison it is reported that targeted Manta Ray populations have declined by an estimated 56% to 88% in recent years (Wild Aid).  With this in mind, there is an urgency for countries around the world to declare their waters as a shark and rays sanctuary.  The more protection coverage of the ocean for sharks and rays will by virtue allow for coral reefs, and fish populations to have time to recover and recuperate.  This is beneficial to everyone.

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Specifically to our waters, current research indicated that we have a lower shark population than expected for a healthy reef ecosystem.  This suggests that our waters need an increase in sharks to ensure our coral reefs can remain healthy.  Shark populations recover over a significant period of time and sanctuaries can provide a safe haven for populations to recuperate.  Presently, there are no comparative ray nor shark surveys specific to our region.  It is difficult to state how our population of sharks and rays compares to other islands in the Caribbean.  However, some research conducted by Marine Conservation International (Research Partners of Department of Environment Cayman Islands) suggests that Cayman’s shark numbers are relatively low in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.  Notably, numbers will vary from species to species.  However, our waters have a fair population of sharks and rays. Both species are being threatened across the Caribbean and around the world.  Protecting sharks and rays regionally will benefit not only our territory but also on a global scale as it encourages other countries to designate their waters as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.  It is evident that the protection of sharks and rays needs to be made as a united effort, and the Cayman Islands is doing their part to help in this initiative.  Now that our waters have been designated as a shark and ray sanctuary there is hope that it  will give our shark population a chance to recover.

A Sanctuary for Sharks, Rays & Coral Reefs

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The sanctuary serves as a haven for our sharks and rays. Our sharks and rays are of great significance to our coral reefs and marine environment both ecologically and economically.  Most importantly their protection is needed to ensure their survival —our ecosystem depends on it.

The sanctuary also serves as a means to benefit our island not only from an ecological standpoint but economically.  The protection of sharks and rays has a direct impact on benefiting our tourism industry.  Sharks are a highlight for divers.  Whereas, rays can be seen in a large school at Stingray City located at the sandbar on the eastern side of Grand Cayman.  Protecting our sharks and rays within our region will not only allow for a positive impact on improving the health of our coral reefs but also it will help to maintain our status as a popular diving destination.  Flourishing reefs serve us ecologically but as an added bonus they are attractive diving spots helping our tourism industry and economy.

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Declaring Cayman waters as a sharks and rays sanctuary is a positive step towards ecotourism and beneficial for our islands.  Countries making a shift towards ecotourism demonstrates that we can find a balance between developing the economy of a country but not at the cost of losing their natural resources.  It is possible to use our natural resources and benefit from them and not destroy them —rather there is an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources as they have intrinsic value.  Specific to Caribbean islands our natural resources are everything to our tourism industry which greatly impacts our economy.  For Cayman, we could look at the ocean as the very soul of our island.  Our culture is bound to the ocean and it is imperative that we continue to move forward in protecting our ocean, coral reefs, marine life and natural environment.  Cayman’s transition into ecotourism has helped to establish the Cayman Islands as setting a positive example for other islands in the Caribbean by way of encouraging other islands to consider becoming a sharks and rays sanctuary to increase the coverage of areas that serve as a haven for them.  While, our waters protect a small percentage of sharks and rays in our region, and is making a positive impact, it would be greatly beneficial if other regional countries made their waters a sanctuary.  Alone, we can make a small difference, but together we can make a much stronger impact.  Protecting the coral reefs, marine life, sharks and rays is a global need.  

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

This article was also published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories please click here 

Consumed: Cayman Spirits

Waste pollution is an increasing environmental issue. One look at “Mount Trashmore” and it is clearly evident that waste management and recycling needs to be a top priority. We cannot afford to allow massive amounts of trash to continue piling up in a landfill or constantly find litter along our beaches, in our oceans impacting both local wildlife and our environment.

There are local companies which are stepping up to help create a greener future for the Cayman Islands. Specifically, these companies are incorporating ways to help promote sustainability and recycling to help reduce their use of plastic and overall waste. It is encouraging to know that local companies are working together with our community to help bring attention to this important issue and come together to help create positive solutions to reducing the use of plastic and waste.

Q&A with Cayman Spirits

Does your company have an existing recycling program? If so what products and materials are recycled?

Since our inception we have always had a recycling program allowing customers that buy rum to be able to bring back the empty bottles back to us which we keep and then are able to recycle. In addition, some bars that have the space and interest in doing so are able to save the bottles then we can collect them from them on the next order. In addition, we have also just launched the eco six pack ring holder for all of our Rum and Cola, our Vodka Seltzers which are completely biodegradable and do not end up in the landfill. If they do they biodegrade in a matter of weeks. They are actually made from spent brewery waste.

How would you describe the impact of waste/pollution in the Cayman Islands?

So, I think whether you are in the tourism industry, whether you’re in the financial services or even just anyone living here and just enjoying the island. I think the biggest asset that we all have is the natural beauty of the island. You can see the impact of pollution and waste constantly. Whether its litter, whether its trash on the beaches, whether its the growing garbage dump. You can see that natural asset being eroded and we all have to be cautious to take care of that and protect that asset because that’s what gives us the ability not just to enjoy the island but also its an economic asset for all of us as well as be able to exist here.

What suggestion do you have to help fight the waste problem here in Cayman?

In Cayman, I think obviously there is a responsibility on everyone to be conscious of what you’re purchasing. To look at the packaging on everything you use. To make conscious decisions in terms of what you’re buying and what decisions you’re making. We all have the ability to impact change. But that change has to come from not just individuals but also from businesses and also from the government looking at the policies that are made and how we can impact just a reduction in the amount of waste that is generated.

How is your company making changes to becoming more sustainable? What are your Goals?

So, no matter what we are doing whether it is an event or a mobile bar. Whether its the purchasing of the items we bring in, or whether its how we deal with our customers that has to be part of our everyday decision. For us that meant a lot of things. We’ve introduced a program at our GT Outpost that I think is the first zero waste rum purchasing option that Cayman has had. You can literally bring back a bottle, we have a wall of barrels that you can fill directly from the bottle. So you are creating zero additional waste by reusing the same bottle over and over. We have also launched a six pack ring holder that is completely biodegradable. And we have always given our customers the ability to return their bottles to be recycled as well. So, there is a wide variety of things we’re trying to do. It can’t be one thing that you do, it has to be part of every decision.

What message does your company have to the Cayman public regarding waste management?
Obviously, there is a big responsibility you can see a growing movement of a lot of people really starting to make changes in their individual life. I think the biggest thing that we need to do as a country is look at the economy of how waste is created, how it impacts the businesses and government. It may be a controversial suggestion but I think personally that waste collection for example, is too cheap. We need to be impacted by that as businesses in order to make change and there can be government policies that in many countries the amount of waste you generate is taxed and if we have that kind of solution to adjust the problem I think you will start to see a lot of changes a lot quicker.

Consumed: Caybrew

Waste pollution is an increasing environmental issue. One look at “Mount Trashmore” and it is clearly evident that waste management and recycling needs to be a top priority. We cannot afford to allow massive amounts of trash to continue piling up in a landfill or constantly find litter along our beaches, in our oceans impacting both local wildlife and our environment.

There are local companies which are stepping up to help create a greener future for the Cayman Islands. Specifically, these companies are incorporating ways to help promote sustainability and recycling to help reduce their use of plastic and overall waste. It is encouraging to know that local companies are working together with our community to help bring attention to this important issue and come together to help create positive solutions to reducing the use of plastic and waste.

Q&A with Caybrew

Does your company have an existing recycling program? If so what products and materials are recycled?

Yes, we do. We recycle 40% of our bottles so far we are also recycling our cans as well as our boxes.

How would you describe the impact of waste/pollution in the Cayman Islands?

The impact of waste pollution in the Cayman Islands is pretty dominate where you can see it in day to day lives. We at Cayman’s Brewery believe that recycling can happen through more awareness through the public companies and local businesses.

What suggestion do you have to help fight the waste problem here in Cayman?

My suggestions that we have at the Cayman Islands Brewery to fight waste management is to have more accountability from all the public community and government working together for a better future for Cayman.

How is your company making changes to becoming more sustainable? What are your Goals?

The Cayman Islands Brewery has become more sustainable in the essence of we’ve started our nitrogen plant to reduce the Co2 we bring onto the island. We produce water by having our own plant here as well by 30%. We are also reducing our current footprint by introducing solar. So, Cayman Island’s Brewery is officially going to be fully solar operated soon.

What message does your company have to the Cayman public regarding waste management?

Cayman Islands Brewery would like to appeal to the public to hop on board with us and make as much effort in their daily recycling as we are in our day to day recycling. And we have one simple saying for all that, “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle”

Consumed: Coca Cola

Waste pollution is an increasing environmental issue. One look at “Mount Trashmore” and it is clearly evident that waste management and recycling needs to be a top priority. We cannot afford to allow massive amounts of trash to continue piling up in a landfill or constantly find litter along our beaches, in our oceans impacting both local wildlife and our environment.

There are local companies which are stepping up to help create a greener future for the Cayman Islands. Specifically, these companies are incorporating ways to help promote sustainability and recycling to help reduce their use of plastic and overall waste. It is encouraging to know that local companies are working together with our community to help bring attention to this important issue and come together to help create positive solutions to reducing the use of plastic and waste.

Q&A with Coca Cola

Does your company have an existing recycling program? If so what products and materials are recycled?

In 2019 Tortuga took over the Coca Cola brand. Ever since then we have been steadfast on all the initiatives within the company. One of them being a 2019 recycling committee. We went out supporting the community. Just last week with World Day we went around offering products and resources to all the members in the community. Offering clean products to drink. Under the sun its super hot. So, just finding a way to help them out that way and just push forward and reinforce the idea this is something we should focus on. Especially, now more than ever.


How would you describe the impact of waste/pollution in the Cayman Islands?

Waste pollution in the Cayman Islands is a major concern. Just driving past the dump on your way to work in the morning. First thing you see is “Mount Trashmore”. It’s not a fun look for anyone. There’s a lot of ways we can push that and help make that better. By just taking the necessary steps to recycle more, reduce, reuse. You know the old cliche. Find ways to offer some your products that are wasteful, offer them to people in need that could use them for better things.

What suggestion do you have to help fight the waste problem here in Cayman?

As I mentioned before waste is a major, major issue in Cayman. Individually we can do many basic things. Reduce and recycling. Limiting our purchasing of plastic, things like that. But as a community we can come together and really put together initiatives, even come up with facilities where we can have these things funneled into certain areas that we can manage them better give them to the right people. Like I mentioned before. We’re stronger together and that’s the best way we can go about it.

How is your company making changes to becoming more sustainable? What are your Goals?

Like I mentioned before Tortuga is steadfast on making a positive impact in the Cayman community. In regards to recycling specifically the Coca Cola brand is pushing out branded recycling bins. That’s something we’re really working hard on doing. Just reinforcing to the community to be more cognizant of these things. Pushing recycling more and more. Helping out the communities like I mentioned before on the island World Day just happened recently we want to make sure we’re continuously pushing these people forward in the community to help out and reduce, reuse and recycle.

What message does your company have to the Cayman public regarding waste management?

You know on top of everything we have already mentioned in terms of helping out other communities, pushing forward you know we realize together we can do this the right way. As a company you know we realize that as well. You know we are stronger together as mentioned before. You know we are asking you for your support, anything that you can offer you know Tortuga is listening. We’re here for you. We’re here for the Cayman Islands.

Consumed: Tortuga

Waste pollution is an increasing environmental issue. One look at “Mount Trashmore” and it is clearly evident that waste management and recycling needs to be a top priority. We cannot afford to allow massive amounts of trash to continue piling up in a landfill or constantly find litter along our beaches, in our oceans impacting both local wildlife and our environment.

There are local companies which are stepping up to help create a greener future for the Cayman Islands. Specifically, these companies are incorporating ways to help promote sustainability and recycling to help reduce their use of plastic and overall waste. It is encouraging to know that local companies are working together with our community to help bring attention to this important issue and come together to help create positive solutions to reducing the use of plastic and waste.

Q&A with Tortuga

Does your company have an existing recycling program? If so what products and materials are recycled?
In 2019, Tortugua implemented it’s first ever recycling initiative, We came together as a board and said, “What can we do to make Tortugua more carbon neutral and increase our recycling?” So for the first time ever we started recycling our local rum bottles. So ever rum bottle that goes out to bars, restaurants, hotels we bring right back, we refill them and we keep recycling them.

So in 2019 Tortuga started its first ever recycling committee. We felt it was important that we started seeing how we could be more carbon neutral, recycle more and have less impact on the Cayman Islands environment. So, the first thing we did was assess our bottles. What we do now, is we have a program where we pick up and return all of our bottles from our local rum distillery back there, refill, and reuse them.

How would you describe the impact of waste/pollution in the Cayman Islands?

The impact of waste pollution in the Cayman Islands can be pretty obvious whether you’re walking down certain beaches. Whether you’re walking down certain areas or driving down busy roads you can see waste pollution everywhere. And what’s hurt us the most as a company is when we see Tortuga products or Tortuga waste on the side of the road or anywhere across the Cayman Islands. We want to try and reduce that as much as possible.

How is your company making changes to becoming more sustainable? What are your Goals?

In 2020/2021 a big part of Tortuga’s initiatives is to become more sustainable, more responsible and forward thinking. Our goals are to reduce the amount of plastic we use in every single one of our stores. To reduce the amount of plastic used in every one of our single products and start working on how we can work more with the community to recycle across the Cayman Islands. Everything from bottle bags at our stores to getting rid of the plastic bags that we use in our stores every single day. We just started working on our Tortuga wine bags which are completely reusable. And what we want to see much less plastic coming in and out of our doors and in and out of our country. If we can get there by the end of 2021 we’re gonna be very, very happy.

What message does your company have to the Cayman public regarding waste management?

The message that Tortuga has to the Cayman Islands public regarding waste management is let us know how we can help. We are a company of 140 different people. We have been here for 37 years in the Cayman Islands and it is so important for us to work with the community on these key initiatives. So, we want to say, let us know how we can help. We are open all the time. Come in and see us in any of our stores in our main office on North Sound road and tell us how we can work with you to reduce our waste. Let’s work together as a community. We’re a small community and a proactive community. So, I think if we all work together and if Tortuga can be one of those companies that leads by example we’d be very happy. So, the message is let’s get together. Let’s work together to make Cayman a better place.

Meet Sangeeta Laudus, Island Innovation Ambassador UK and Cayman Islands 

Sangeeta Laudus was the Island Innovation Ambassador for the UK and Cayman Islands at the 2020 Virtual Island Summit.  Sangeeta is driven to promote sustainability and help create a positive impact and spent a short time living in the Cayman Islands, an experience which left a lasting impression and has developed a strong connection to the island.  Sangeeta currently resides in the UK. 

The Virtual Island Summit 2020was an online event designed to enable islands globally to connect and share ideas through a digital platform held 7-13 September 2020, and which attracted 10,000 registrants. It was a pleasure to interview Sangeeta Laudus – Island Innovation Ambassador for the UK and Cayman Islands and learn how she became involved with the summit and her own passion and interests in supporting island states in developing climate initiatives

 

Q&A with Sangeeta Laudus, Island Ambassador UK and Cayman Islands

ECC : How did you get involved with Island Innovation Virtual Island Summit?

SL : I met James Ellsmoor the founder of Island Innovation last year on LinkedIn, around the time I was preparing to relocate for work to the Cayman Islands.  I was keen to learn as much as I could about my new island home and indeed how climate change was affecting island states and looking at ways in which I could support the changes needed to tackle the challenges.

I was really impressed at how James was organising the first ever virtual conference for islands states, and leveraging off my background as a former finance lawyer, offered to help provide advice around the growing importance of sustainable financing and impact investing and curated a session for him entitled ‘Financing a Blue-Green Economy for Islands’. 

ECC : What did your role as an ambassador entail?

SL : I believe the role of the ambassadors was two-fold : 1) to promote the Virtual Island Summit on the island(s) each of us was aligned to and 2) to feed back the latest news and innovations on their island(s) to the wider group and act as a bridge to facilitate involvement at the summit.

MEET OUR AMBASSADORS

ECC : What have you loved most about being an ambassador?

There are around 200 ambassadors across the globe representing the Virtual Summit and it’s been a really nice community to be a part of – from sharing news and ideas on our WhatsApp and other group channels, to developing new friendships and contacts. What I also love is the diversity – from students to retirees, and people from a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds, but all united by a common purpose. 

ECC : Which guest speakers and topics have you enjoyed the most?

SL : I was definitely looking forward to the Opening Sessions on 8 September (both for the eastern and western hemispheres) and enjoyed hearing the keynote addresses from island leaders on how island communities are responding to a wide range of challenges. Last year there was a keynote from the former prime minister of Aruba Mike Eman, and it was really inspiring to hear how his island had implemented initiatives like electric trams powered by batteries augmented by hydrogen fuel cells which are in turn powers by the islands trade winds! I think one of the most important outcomes from this summit is to be able to share innovative solutions and good practices.

And of course, I very much enjoyed the “Brexit and Beyond” session on 12 September which focused on how Brexit will impact Britain’s Overseas Territories and how the UKOTs will need to recalibrate their relations not only with the EU, but with the wider world and Britain itself. Indeed, I was delighted that André Ebanks (Representative of the Cayman Islands Government Office for the UK & Europe) accepted my invitation to be a panellist on this session. He did an excellent job discussing the role Cayman can play within the Global Britain family and the areas for possible collaboration.

ECC : What is your background in environmentalism?

SL : I have always had a deep appreciation for nature, and a sense of our being connected to something bigger than ourselves. As I was growing up we would hear about global warming caused by greenhouse gases and the increasingly dire impact this would have on the environment, and you would do what you could (recycle, switch off lights etc) but I don’t think the message of just how serious a crisis this was had really resonated until the last few years. Although the challenge is acute, you really get a sense that this has become a global priority and that is empowering. I work for the City of London Corporation and a lot of our work is trying to support the mobilisation of capital in the directions it is needed to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable economy. 

ECC : What advice would you give for individuals trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle? 

I think my best piece of advice would be to just start being mindful of how you are living your life and start to make changes where you can. One of my good friends Cathy is a sustainability guru and has an excellent blog which I find to be a great source of information. We can’t be expected to know all the recycling symbols or best practices, these things take time to learn and so I would recommend you find support or sources of information like her blog, which helps to navigate the sustainability maze. My hope is that as technology and government policies start to develop in this space, we as consumers will be able to do our bit more easily but for now, don’t get overwhelmed and don’t suffer from “green guilt.

ECC : And finally can you tell us about your love for the islands and your connection to Cayman.

SL : I have always had a real attraction (and connection) to the Caribbean, the warmth and friendliness of the people, the beauty of the islands and the richness of the ecology and cultures, not to mention the laid-back lifestyle and indeed I even got married in Jamaica. Of course, the personal challenge has been to find a way to enjoy island life whilst pursuing a career, which is why the Cayman Islands was always on my wish list as it seemed to offer both. 

I was thrilled to get a job on island last year, and indeed came across for a short while and fell in love with the island and the warm spirit of “Caymankind”.  And although for a number of reasons, I was only on the island for a short amount of time, I made so many friends from my time there and have created a fabulous network since, all of whom I am still in touch with regularly, I am very much committed to supporting and promoting the island as much as I can from afar. 

I truly believe Cayman has a real opportunity to become a leader amongst island states in creating a sustainable future and dealing with the challenges of climate change, and I look forward to being part of that journey with a number of initiatives which I hope to be able to share more widely soon! 

The Virtual Island Summit

The Virtual Island Summit was founded by James Ellsmoor.  It is truly a unique event.  The ethos of the Virtual Island Summit is connecting leaders from around the world to drive sustainability and prosperity for island communities.  A variety of topics including environmental, sustainability and economic recovery are discussed with a focus on islands.  Now, more than ever these important conversations are needed to help facilitate positive change and more towards a more sustainable future for the betterment of the environment.  

There will be over 30 interactive panels, roundtables and keynote sessions all packed with networking opportunities and the chance for you to ask questions, have your say and get involved in the discussions with world-class experts from across the globe. 

Sessions cover a variety of important topics for islands around economic recovery, sustainability and good governance, including:

  • Towards Sustainable Island Futures: Comparing Small Island States and Subnational Island Jurisdictions
  • Clean Energy Development and Integrated Resource Planning (IRP)  
  • Democracy In The Islands: Political, Issue & Public Affairs Campaigns
  • Technology and Innovation Policy for Island Sustainability
  • Political Roundtable Of Island Political Leaders On Responses To COVID-19
  • Meet Ellen, the Future of Clean Maritime Transport
  • and more!

The summit makes these important conversations accessible to all with a platform to share knowledge and drive change.

Last year, The Virtual Island Summit had over 4,000 people join from 250 island communities around the world. 

Join The Virtual Island Summit and connect with sustainability leaders from Prime Ministers and Presidents to the local islanders doing their part to make the world a better place. 

Click here to register for free.

Q&A with James Ellsmoor, Founder of The Virtual Island Summit

What inspired you to create Island Innovation and the Virtual Island Summit?

In recent years the effects of environmental degradation and climate change have become more serious, there has been a corresponding shift in society, with people and governments wanting to transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle that is more environmentally-conscious. However, there have been communities that have been dealing with these issues for decades that have not really been part of these new conversations. Island nations around the world are disproportionately affected by climate change, and have had to adapt and innovate in order to survive – yet their voices and knowledge are not always being acknowledged on the global stage.

The Virtual Island Summit aims to be more inclusive in its approach. We have an opportunity to create “digital bridges” that will bring the voices of these communities to the forefront and work together towards solutions that lean on the expertise of every global community, no matter how isolated they may be. The input of these communities is invaluable in building a sustainable future, and the event brings together experts from islands around the world to discuss key issues facing the planet and how we can resolve them together.

Can you share with us more about the aim and purpose of the Virtual Island Summit?

The Virtual Island Summit’s main aim is to create digital bridges between hundreds of policymakers, entrepreneurs, academics, and NGO leaders from islands across the globe in order to discuss the major issues that are facing society. It is meant to bind together the global community, and promote the transition towards a sustainable world through constructive dialogue while highlighting the important work being done by island communities. 

We want to create opportunities for more experts from these communities to partake in high-level discussions on global issues and be a part of finding workable solutions. There are often certain barriers to entry, such as the location of international summits and the associated travel costs. A virtual event ensures that the playing field is level and that the only tools needed are a computer and an internet connection – we are committed to keeping the summit completely free! This makes for a more diverse array of speakers and attendees and lifts the curtain on what are usually restricted events.

What is the theme for this year?

Sustainability in action. There will be several panels and lectures outlining current developments in technology, renewable energy and governance – and how they can help with a transition towards greater sustainability. Each session will bring together leaders from different sectors to create a comprehensive discussion that really encapsulates the topic at-hand from several points of view. As the VIS Agenda highlights, every aspect of global sustainability will be under the microscope, with topics as diverse as the speakers themselves.

Who are some of your keynote speakers and topics of interest?

This year the Summit will boast participants who are leaders in their respective fields, such as the CEO of Leclanché, Anil Srivastava, who will be speaking during the Western Hemisphere Grand Opening, or Dr Laurie Brinklow from Prince Edward Island’s Institute of Island Studies’ who will be moderating a session entitled: “Towards Sustainable Island Futures: Comparing Small Island States and Subnational Island Jurisdictions” which will gather academics from around the world. There will be themed sessions with topics including but not limited to governance, renewable energy, and ocean conservation, as well as keynote addresses from several political leaders such as His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the recently elected President of Guyana, and The Honourable Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji.

How can individuals take part?

Registration to the Virtual Island Summit is completely free, with viewers able to follow interactive sessions live or through a replay link at a later date. There are over 30 different sessions available with no cap on how many you can join. Attendees will be able to interact and engage with each other during these events, and will have additional opportunities to interact with the Summit’s speakers and sponsors!

What can attendees expect when watching The Virtual Island Summit?

The Virtual Island Summit is held through a series of dynamic public panels, webinars, and lectures that unites some of the world’s sharpest minds and decision-makers in one place, providing a knowledge-sharing experience like no other. There is a large range of topics that are sure to grab attendees’ attention with sessions held in Spanish, French and English discussing important regional issues and how they can affect the world at large. It will give attendees a chance to listen to experts from around the world discuss case studies, the latest breakthroughs in their field, and outline a blueprint for a cleaner, more sustainable world – there is nothing else like it in the world right now!

What is your overall goal this year for the Island Innovation Virtual Island Summit?

The capacity to inspire, educate, and innovate through the contribution of island communities is a core goal of the Summit. Beyond that, the discussions had during the Summit can lead to real global change, with the leaders who speak and the attendees that partake leaving the VIS armed with knowledge, new connections, and a desire to enact change. I hope the digital bridges created by the Summit are the first of many and will help find a range of workable solutions for the planet that will safeguard it for future generations.

What advice would you give for individuals and/or companies trying to be more sustainable?

The hardest part of any transition is the beginning. There are so many different ways for individuals and companies to become more sustainable as well as an ever-growing support network that can help you reach your goals. Sustainability is good for the planet but also for businesses and individuals, and the opportunities that become available once that transition begins might surprise you! Sustainability within an individual or company system can be hard to implement in one go, but making small increments towards a greater goal will ensure that you are more likely to reach them! To slightly alter Anne-Marie Bonneau’s words, we don’t need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable, we need several million doing it as best they can. 

What advances have you seen in sustainability that gives you hope for a more sustainable future? 

Both the tourism and transport industries could benefit from more sustainable options. Agrotourism is a concept that has taken off in recent years – it capitalizes on the natural environment without damaging it and serves as a great learning experience for tourists. When you take into account the vast amount of nations that rely on tourism who have a wealth of natural beauty, and combine that with the growing interest in sustainable tourism there is a pathway there for making the industry more sustainable. On top of this, developments in low-carbon vehicles – namely electric vehicles and airplanes are always very exciting and have the opportunity to have a major impact on the world. Now those are just two developments in two separate industries, but they have the potential to really change how those sectors operate. 

James Ellsmoor is the Director of Island Innovation and Founder of the Virtual Island Summit. The network connects 20,000 islanders from around the world using “digital bridges” to share knowledge and encourage collaboration between islands and build a more sustainable future.

Relevant photos for this article including a headshot can be found here.

Contact: james@islandinnovation.co