Trinidad and Tobago

Written by Claudia Caponi on . Posted in General Information, Publications, Trinidad and Tobago

Following an introduction to Trinidad and Tobago, its history, present and close  future.

These twin islands, Trinidad and Tobago, are located off the northern edge of South America, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles.

Due to its strategic and privileged position in the middle of the Caribbean, it has always been the port of entry to Latin America, either from the point of arrival of the conquerors or the commercial standpoint.

Trinidad’s name refers to the Holy Trinity, the name given to the island by Christopher Columbus when he discovered it on his third voyage of exploration to the “Indies”.

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It is said that when the Spaniards saw the small neighbouring island of Trinidad, which had an elongated shape, reminded them to the shape of a cigar (Tobaco), and hence comes the name of Tobago. It can also come from the fact that the island’s Dutch and Courlanders planted not only cotton but also tobacco.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Trinidad in 1498 and from that moment the island becomes a Spanish colony until the British invasion of 18 warships happened in 1797, forcing the Spanish governor to capitulate in favor of the English.

During this period, the neighbor Tobago changed hands in several occasions: Spain, England, France, Holland and the Courlander colonizers, whose colonization of the Americas was held by the Duke of Courland, it was the second smallest nation (today Latvia) to colonize the Americas, after the Knights of Malta. Their colony on the island of Tobago extends from 1654-1659, and intermittently from 1660-1689.

Trinidad and Tobago finally unite as one country in 1889, being a British colony from 1802 to 1962 and gaining independence in 1976 becoming a Republic.

During the French Revolution the French landowners and their slaves and free colored people of the neighboring islands migrated to Trinidad where they established an economy based on agriculture, mainly sugar and cocoa, and tobacco at some points.

The population of Trinidad suffered at this time a very rapid growth: from 1,400 people in 1777 to 15,000 in 1789.  By 1797 the population of Port of Spain had increased from less than 3000 to 10422 people in just five years, and it was made up people of different races: Spaniards, Africans, French republican soldiers, retired pirates and French nobility.

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Petroleum was discovered on the island in 1857, this fact together with the decline of cocoa in the market because of the Great Depression, converted oil and its derivatives in the main base for the country’s economy as well as to make it one of the richest countries in the Caribbean.

The largest cities and most densely populated are in Trinidad, Tobago still remains an island apart whose economy is mainly based on tourism.  Its tropical climate, fertile soil and rich vegetation make it an island of very pleasant weather. Unlike other Caribbean islands,

Trinidad and Tobago have managed to escape the hurricanes that have hit the area, this is because they are located in a geographical point that escapes for a few miles the routes that usually follow hurricanes and storms. But vulnerability is palpable when we consider the consequences that triggers climate change: tropical storms, earthquakes, floods, droughts and rising sea levels could cause very serious problems in the islands.

Because of this vulnerability, known by the government, the country strives to increasingly apply measures to help ensure their survival in a possible radical climate change, one of the key bodies governing this development is controlled by SIDS (Small Island Developing State), which Trinidad and Tobago belong.

In the latest report from the government to the SIDS Conference 2014, participants expressed concern about the lack of awareness that young people had about climate change and its consequences; also emphasized the need to develop synergies for good waste management, which the country has not yet implemented.

One factor of concern to the government and the economy driving change is the fact that in August 2007 was predicted that oil reserves would last only until 2018.

Although presented as a disadvantage in the short term for the national economy, it must be looked on the positive side as it will be the catalyst for not only create awareness among the population and businesses, but also a boost to move the economy to more sustainable and renewable basis.

Among the major environmental problems still present in Trinidad and Tobago are: the improper disposal of waste, deforestation, overfishing, marine pollution and its great gas emissions per person: although the country accounts for less than 1% of absolute Global Greenhouse Emissions gas, it is the second largest producer of carbon dioxide  emission on a per capita basis in the world.

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One of the commitments that the government currently has with the various international treaties, is to implement the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by developing the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative fuel.

There is also a green fund that provides financial support to groups and organizations that carry out activities related to reforestation, environmental education and public awareness of the problems of environment and conservation.

The current president, Anthony Carmona is searching the best tools in place to develop the country towards sustainability, the National Climate Change Policy is an example of a recent policy that speaks to climate change adaptation as an issue of environmental sustainability.

One of their top priorities is to resolve the fact that hunger, malnutrition and lack of food security works against sustainable development, this is one of the reasons why the nutrition for children in public schools is guaranteed by the government.

Regarding their educational system, in Trinidad and Tobago children start mandatory school at age 5, primary school comprises seven years and secondary five years, education is free for all; as well as tertiary education which is financed via GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses).  Even some master programs and scholarships are subsidized and are given to gifted or needy students. In the country, 89% of all Pupils complete primary school.

The country has placed a priority on education with support measures including free transportation, book grants and free meals through a School Nutrition Program.

One of the major challenges that the country is faced with changing economic base is not having skilled labour for a new economy, which could result in lower production levels.  It is therefore necessary to obtain a greater percentage of students continuing with their professional studies, this could be possible sowing the necessary awareness among the population and favouring the possibility of studying for the general population.  Also creating awareness about the new needs of the country, the new ways to develop towards sustainability in order to create a new labour capable of working in more sustainable ways.

We can conclude this article by saying that in Trinidad and Tobago the government is well aware of the environmental situation and it shows by its international interventions that they are doing their part to remedy the damage already done and promote sustainable development in the country.  It is a high priority also to create awareness among the population, especially the younger ones, so that everyone can participate not only on the change of economy, but to bring the country to a self-sustaining, respectful towards nature terrain. It is critical that the first learning of this occur in schools, this would create an excellent basis for educating future citizens.

  BIBLIOGRAPHY: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinidad_and_Tobago
  • Trinidad & Tobago: National Report for the 2014 SIDS Conference. Available from:
http://www.sids2014.org/index.php?page=view&type=6&nr=251&menu=1501 PHOTOGRAPHS: http://mujereshermosasdelmundoentero.blogspot.com.es/2011/03/trinidad-y-tobago.html http://fianceebodas.com/2013/07/trinidad-y-tobago/ http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotos-g147387-Trinidad_and_Tobago.html

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