We are experiencing what has been termed by climatologists, geologists, and other scientists, as a higher rapid-than-expected pace of climate change. The effects are felt not only in the Caribbean, but also in places like Bangladesh and Nepal, where floods are currently wreaking havoc, and in the USA in Oregon and California where wildfires are burning out of control. Texas is still far from beginning to recover from Hurricane Harvey.
We have no one to thank but the Almighty Father for sparing Dominica from the wrath and intensity of Hurricane Irma. When we think back about the short history of Irma, the pace at which she gathered wind speed/intensity is mind-blowing. She went to being a Category 3 storm just days after Hurricane Harvey affected Texas. The fact that Hurricane Harvey was still active and the amount of energy required to sustain Irma at a Category 3 baffled many meteorologists and climatologists. When Hurricane Irma was churning her way across the Atlantic towards land, tropical disturbances and depressions were forming in the Atlantic.
We are now familiar with the 27 deaths attributed to the impact of the hurricane in Barbuda, St. Martin, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Irma slammed the northern Caribbean islands as a category 5 hurricane. We grieve with our Caribbean brothers and sisters. We bear witness to the devastating, savage side of Mother Nature as she unleashes wretched torrents of rain and wind upon helpless populations, especially now in Florida. We see firsthand through social media and television, that other parts of the world are just as vulnerable as we are in the Caribbean to the unmitigated consequences of climate change.
As of this writing, climatology experts are wondering if the Saffir-Simpson scale should not be extended to include a sixth category. They are well aware of exponential changes in Earth’s climatological and geological systems. In spite of mounting evidence, a large swathe of climate change deniers stand firm against the insurmountable proof. Deniers are mostly divided into two camps – Those against global warming, but believe that what is happening is a natural process; and those against global cooling, but believe that what is happening is a natural process. Clarity should be brought in at this point, to state that it is neither entirely global warming, nor entirely global cooling. A lot of man’s actions – the disregard for environmental concerns through dumping; large-scale fossil fuel extraction; and attempts at and manipulation of Earth’s atmosphere, largely contributes to the factors responsible for climate change.
Thus, what measures can we in Dominica take to mitigate the like impact of a disaster caused by Hurricane Irma? First of all, the Office of Disaster Management and the National Emergency Planning Organization (NEPO) need to formulate and implement ongoing strategies which simulate real disasters – earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc, in order to prepare Dominican citizens for a real strike. Mock drills should be held with public participation at intervals throughout the year so that a certain level of preparedness becomes embedded within the population. That being said, a larger portion of the budget should be allocated to disaster preparedness organizations – groups like the Boy Scouts and cadet corps should be thoroughly trained in emergency rescue procedures, and the construction of makeshift centers.
Secondly, we as Dominicans need to be aware of our environment interaction habits. No longer can we resort to burning all rubbish and refuse in hopes that the disposable cycle end there. We have to distinguish between the types of garbage that need to be disposed of, and institute proper procedures to ensure final disposal. We also have to be aware of our spending habits – fuel expenditures, automobile purchases, etc and cut down on some of the non-biodegradable items that we purchase.
Last but not least, in times like these, we need to put aside all petty political differences and realize that the rebuilding of our nation is priority number one. For in times like these when nature tests our very existence, we as an intelligent but humane and compassionate species should rise above ingrained selfishness and extend a helping hand to our fellow brothers and sisters.