WITH the COP27 Climate Change Summit underway in Egypt, Caribbean delegations have yet another perfect example to share about the vulnerability of developing nations and small island states to the perils of 21st Century climate change, while rich nations continue to stall and renege on their 12-year-old pledge to have dedicated a US$100 billion fund by 2020 to help the most vulnerable nations survive and revive from the damages caused by those now wanting to blame COVID-19 and the Ukraine War.
Saint Lucia, Dominica and Martinique last weekend got (yet another) hurting lesson of what climate change feels like in these times, after a few minutes of rain ruined lives and property forever and caused everlasting damage in ways never seen or felt before — and that everyone hopes never to experience again.
But they/we may just be hoping against hope.
Why? Because we take too long to learn, thanks to our dangerously stubborn brand of hardheadedness.
Let me explain
After Saint Lucia’s Government was criticised by working parents for “closing school without enough notice” ahead of an unexpected weather phenomenon, a caller on the popular daily Saint Lucia TV vox pop series, “Street Vibes,” said: “We behave like we have forgotten that we only have two seasons, and not four….”
And he’s right…
Caribbean people know only two types of weather — rain and sun; and two seasons — wet and dry, with the first six months of every year featuring sunny weather and the second bringing more rain, including a hurricane season.
Nothing’s changed – except the climate and the environment…
The effects of Global Warming on the environment have been widely and deeply studied and climate change has become more of an often-repeated trending brand phrase than something Caribbean people need to know affects their lives every minute, every day.
The modified technical and scientific terms used to describe important projects and projections, the language behind definitions and titles often detract, distract and dissuade the ordinary man, woman and child who feel detached from those high-flying issues, while they remain the most-affected victims, especially in small island developing states (SIDS) of the Caribbean and the world.
And while the phrases change and the rich nations causing the changes that most affect SIDS and other developing nations continue to break promises to assist the most-vulnerable and least-able victim nations and people, Caribbean nations and people have had to learn from repeated bitter experiences that only get worse by the year, like what happened Sunday.
But nothing about the changing weather patterns is new, as it’s all happened before in every CARICOM state, one way or another, the region now visited by more Tropical Storms, Hurricanes, Earthquakes and Volcano eruptions per year, alongside more droughts with water scarcity and crop failures, unseasonal heavy rains resulting in floods and landslides with greater ferocity and greater incidents of Sahara dust covering Caribbean landscapes.
Before last weekend’s brief but heavy rains that caused more damage in less time than ever experienced in neighboring Dominica, Martinique and Saint Lucia, the world news was inundated with horrendous images and reports from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America and the Caribbean, showing heatwaves alongside severe rainfall, forest fires alongside floods, rivers running dry and crops dying by drying-out, while mainly elderly people virtually baked and roasted to death.
Unfortunately, in the midst of it all, Caribbean nations and people, in the main, still tend to largely blame the weather for (us) not understanding its message, instead suffering its wrath while engaging in related phraseology, like whether to characterize current events as “climate change” or “climate range” – both of which are true.
Last weekend’s unwelcome Sunday lunchtime weather phenomenon was strange in many respects: it only affected the northern half of the island, with roads in communities below and between hills turned into raving rivers of muddy water that flooded homes and businesses alike, destroying household items in deprived and depressed communities just as it also turned swimming pools muddy and drowned golf courses.
I saw video and photo images of cars floating down what used to be streets, houses more-than-half under water, people desperately trying to save what they could while the rivers of rainwater flowed to and fro, in every direction.
Before the day was over, I’d seen enough to know many, many people and families were dealt hard blows, but I shivered to also conclude that too many Saint Lucians and Caribbean people still haven’t learned the climate change reasons behind what many feel is God’s punishment for our sins.
The comments I heard about what concerned people most also helped further convince me that too many simply refuse to accept that our two seasons have in the past four decades changed for the worse and what we’re seeing happening elsewhere is also happening here — like how the rising tides from melting icebergs and mountain glaciers in the North Pole and Africa are reflected in the ever-rising tides being measured in Caribbean harbours today.
We continue to be satisfied with counting our losses and considering the causes than taking the age-old proverbial precaution that a stitch in time saves nine.
Unfortunately, many still see these as ‘Acts of God’ instead of the result of actions by humankind, from how we dispose of plastics to the way the rich nations build industries that accelerate the climate change disasters [that] UN Secretary General Antonino Guterres has been warning about at COP27 in Sharm El Shaik.
Guterres said, on Monday, incidents like that experienced above last Sunday in one small part of the Caribbean that caused unprecedented havoc in the lives of so many more, was clear indication that “The world is heading for a climate catastrophe, with our feet still on the accelerator.”
But never mind how late, something can always be done about everything – including the guilty rich nations fixing the damage from climate change by simply honoring their promises.