February 8, 2023

Paris our last hope for survival?

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dominica-damageBy Jamilla Sealy From CARIBBEAN360 Friday 18 September

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados,– Traffic was terrible last Friday while the remnants of Tropical Storm Grace were passing through Barbados. As I sat for hours, I had more than enough time to think about how Dominica was decimated by a mere storm and also how the island’s development was set back 20 years, according to their Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt in his address to the nation.

This is, of course, not the first time a storm or an even weaker system has destroyed parts of our islands. Storms and low pressure systems have been thrashing our behinds for a while now. I think back to Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010. It snuck up on Barbados in late October and wreaked some havoc; it felled trees, destroyed houses, caused flooding and made roads impassable.

Furthermore, just three years later, an out-of-season trough affected a now recovering St. Lucia and St. Vincent on Christmas Eve, causing devastating floods. It shows that as soon as you get back on your feet, you can be knocked down again when you least expect it. I had only just left a workshop in St. Lucia a few days before the event. While on a field trip, I spoke to a farmer who said he had just recovered from Tomas and he showed me his bountiful harvest. When I contacted him after the trough, he said his field was once again wiped out and he needed to restart for the second time. This was his livelihood and I doubt it will be the last time disaster strikes.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are indeed most vulnerable to climate change effects. They are susceptible to sea level rise, especially since most of the inhabitants live in low-lying coastal areas. The administrative offices in Barbados are located just a few metres from the sea and our electricity comes mainly from a coastal plant. Let us not forget the droughts that we have had. The insanely unusually hot weeks we have been experiencing affect not only affect the economy but our health and well-being.

I am elated though, about the unity and swift action this region has displayed so far with aid pouring into Dominica daily. Countries are individually raising money, collecting food stuff and sending rescue personnel to help out our neighbour.

As a young climate change advocate, I have to applaud the work of youth organizations such as the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) which helps to raise the youth’s awareness about climate change impacts; as well as the Action/2015 global campaign which aims to mobilize regular citizens worldwide to address climate change, inequalities and poverty.

But commitments from larger and richer G8 countries to reduce their emissions and provide funds for adaptation and mitigation projects are also necessary for our survival. It seems that climate change negotiations so far are going as slowly as that traffic I was sitting in. Will there be an agreement that satisfies the needs of the Caribbean SIDS when more than 190 countries meet in Paris in December for an annual conference to work on a global agreement to fight climate change? We can only hope.

In the meantime, I would suggest that community vulnerability studies be done for each country to map the areas most vulnerable to various disasters. In this way we can be better prepared for disasters like Erika.

IMAGE: dominica damage TROPICAL STORM ERIKA CAUSED DEADLY FLOODS AND LANDSLIDES (PHOTO: JODIE DUBLIN DANGLEBEN)

For more on this story go to: http://www.caribbean360.com/opinion/is-paris-our-last-hope-for-survival-jamilla-sealy#ixzz3m7LjxBvG

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