Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Of Jep Nests and Marabuntas

by Julian Kenny

Trinidad Express

January 9, 2006

Neither Mr Overbey nor Mr Hughes, the point men for Alcoa, can say that they were not warned. And I imagine that after the "aluminium symposium" last month, it must have come very much of a surprise to hear of the withdrawal of the proposal for an industrial estate at Cap- de-Ville/Chatham. And on Christmas Eve, at a time when many expected a pastoral message restating the values that Christ brought to humanity, the message had absolutely nothing to do with Christ.

They must have been as startled, as most, that the Government had decided, despite the "assurances" of the "aluminium symposium" that it had withdrawn (I did not hear the word abandoned) the proposal to establish an industrial estate at Cap- de-Ville/Chatham. Neither can say that they were not warned, and I am sure that they will now have to do some explaining to their CEO and shareholders for the millions spent on PR, geophysical surveys and the EIA study that must be well along the way. I did in fact warn them about a year and a half ago - "the jep nest that you have stirred up may in fact turn out to be an angry marabunta swarm".

Our wasps come in various forms and go by different vernacular names. Some of the highly social wasps go by the names of maribones, jeps, Jack Spaniards and marabuntas. Of these the maribones have least painful stings. The marabuntas are so bad that at one time a vicious gang of thugs terrorised the rural area of Plum Mitan and Biche at the edge of the Nariva Swamp and adopted the name. Howler monkeys, however, know how to avoid them. I have been stung many times by maribones, jeps and Jack Spaniards, but all on account of my carelessness, in not keeping my eyes open, not reading the warnings of nature, and bumping into the territories in which they make their homes, although not actually into their nests.

Having seen many, I have not felt the fury of a single marabunta, being very early warned what to look for by - you guessed it - from people who use the forests, country folk who can read nature. Marabuntas make large heart-shaped and ribbed nests on tree trunks and on the undersides of large horizontal branches. Maribones make much smaller papery nests of a stalk and a cluster of papery brood cells, just about everywhere, even in homes and one even commenced nesting on the ledge above my computer. And I can assure readers that even though maribone stings are even less painful than a tac-tac ant, a sting near one's eyes can close that eye temporarily to reality.

But by and large our wasps are not vicious and aggressive creatures. They are beautiful, peaceful creatures, only reacting to threats to their nest and territory, their brood being raised in the papery cells that comprise the nest. I have encountered many a wasp of one kind or another, usually at a flower that I happened to be photographing. They have all ignored me and my macro-lens, which may have been less than five centimetres away from their nectar feeding activities. But the remarkable thing about many of our social wasps is that one can approach their nests without risk, provided that you move slowly, and understand that they are doing what comes naturally - protecting their next generation, the existence of their species.

Which brings me back to Chatham, and I expect that all loyal Chathamites, as well as citizens of the country, will not mind me singling out three articulate citizens from three generations simply defending their space and territory, in the interest not of themselves, but of future generations.

Yvonne Ashby, a retired district nurse, is a person of my generation. She was the individual around whom Chathamites rallied when they saw the threat in the Union Village disaster. She and the Chatham Environmental Protection Group led and sustained protests over two years and were able to enlist the support of a wide segment of the national community.

And Muriel Amoroso of a younger generation - did you hear her message? This is not the Government land, nor PNM land, nor Manning's land to do what they want with it. This was land given to people by God. Again people and land. And the third generation - young Tazia Abdul, a mere schoolgirl, more articulate than some parliamentarians four times her age - again, the land of her grandparents and the future of her generation.

Three women of three generations, all but with a single view, the future of the land and community, a timeless vision of humanity in harmony with itself defending an environment that sustains life, a fulfillment of the first line of the foreword of the National Environmental Policy - "a country in which all persons treasure the environment ", beautiful peaceful marabuntas protecting their brood. Don't mess with them!


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