Jamila Gilliam, Exploring St Thomas, USVI in summer 2015

In May of 2015 Jamila graduated with an MBA from UMass Boston College of Management. She decided to vacation for one-month in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. While on vacation she also visited the University of Virgin Island’s Caribbean Green Technology Center, and appreciated a formal tour of the beautiful campus.

While very much enjoying the breathtaking views overlooking Meagan’s Bay, Sapphire Beach, swimming at Brewer’s Bay and feeding the distinctly colorful fish while snorkeling at Coki Point, Jamila could not ignore the apparent environmental issues negatively impacting St Thomas. For example, within 30 minutes of arriving at Sapphire Village (Jamila’s temporary place of residence on the island) there was a power outage, and another power outage at the local department store when she was shopping that same day. She soon discovered that this was not an abnormal occurrence, as the islands power grid is not interconnected. This seemed to be a minor issue as the outages were brief. However, she decided to revisit the problem later for research purposes.

Jamila found that not only is power coverage throughout the island a real issue but there is also an extensive list of current and foreseen climate change problems due to global warming. The government is working to increase energy efficiency and to develop innovative water desalinization systems. However, droughts, rising tides, Sargassum seaweed- invading beaches and negatively impacting Caribbean ecosystems are amongst the list of equally important problems St. Thomas, St John and St Croix are facing.

In mid-July Jamila was excited to have arranged a meeting with Dr. Wayne Archibald, Director of the St Thomas University of Virgin Islands Caribbean Green Technology Center (CGTC). With the topic of environmental issues due to climate change at the center of discussion, Jamila was also excited to learn more about the mission of the CGTC. As US Virgin Islands works to become more dependent on renewable energy (i.e., solar, wind, hydro-electric, ocean energy, biofuels etc.) the government also has defined strategies for energy cost reduction and the increasing of energy efficiency. Jamila found that, aligned with the goals and efforts of the government CGTC, as mentioned in its mission statement, is focused on developing the renewable energy workforce in the Virgin Islands and informing the Virgin Islands energy community through outreach and education. In addition, Caribbean Green Technology Center is engaged in a number of basic and applied renewable energy research projects. The University currently has a goal to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by 60% through its New Generation Solar Power System (UVI Solar Project).

After an adventurous vacation on St Thomas and an exciting, welcoming visit at the University of Virgin Islands, Jamila was left with several questions and ideas pertaining to global warming and climate change. She is now interested in exploring global warming mitigation solutions for St Thomas as well as addressing climate change issues impacting other coastal communities.

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