Diary of a mothering worker
DR GABRIELLE JAMELA HOSEIN
THE IMPACT of devastation in the Bahamas gets more disturbing as the days wear on. I’ve moved from fear for our Caribbean neighbours while watching the storm crawl over the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama to horror and sadness at what’s left of people’s lives.
Hope lies in all the immediate assistance with supplies for survival, but reading back to Dominica, Barbuda and Puerto Rico suggests that recovery will take far longer than our attention may sustain.
This is one of the challenges of disaster recovery, despite road maps for long-term response. All the Caribbean countries decimated by hurricanes in the past three years have families who remain living under tarpaulin, areas with long-term loss of electricity, risks from water contamination, and aid dependence. Grenada recovered from Ivan in 2004, but sits in the Caribbean Sea just as vulnerable as it was then.
Whole economies are reduced to zero GDP virtually overnight. New lives are made on loss more endured than overcome, particularly for those unable to migrate. And, Caribbean nations are falling under unimaginably catastrophic storms one by one.
Even resilience systems may not sufficiently help in the face of unprecedented storm surges that do worse damage than category 5 winds. In some countries, there may be too few safe places for everyone to shelter, and even if more people survive because of better information, structural construction, evacuation and preparedness, where would they go when their homes and communities are destroyed?
At a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees, the viability of the region is questionable. The region will become increasingly unlivable, and more ungovernable as suffering fuels insecurity and crime.
This is partly what happened in Venezuela which experienced huge declines in rainfall which starved hydroelectric power generators, partly leading to industry and agriculture collapse, blackouts, malnutrition, insecurity and exodus by millions.
On the other hand, in our lifetimes we can expect heavy rainfall in Trinidad to flood everything between the Northern and Central Ranges.
In the Caribbean, there are already increases in air and water temperatures, daily intensity of rainfall, droughts, hurricanes and rising sea levels. All are expected to become more severe with hurricane wind speeds alone projected to increase by two-11 per cent and mean sea level rise projected to be up by 1.4 metres (Taylor and Clarke et al 2018).
We will pass an increase of 1.5 degrees given that no world patterns of consuming fossil fuels and producing carbon dioxide have changed. TT, Guyana and Suriname’s dependence on oil and gas contributes to such projected demise.
After these hurricanes, we’ve scrambled to share immediate relief. Longer term, activists have been pushing for a better response to climate change’s distinct harms to women and children, the disabled and elderly, but there will be a time when some of our region’s islands will simply produce refugees. What is our plan for this reality?
It’s more than investing in micro-electric grids, home-based water filtration systems and resilient homes. There isn’t a single serious plan across the anglophone region for the kind of projected conditions that Bahamian Angelique Nixon, in Guyana’s Stabroek News, rightly calls “apocalypse now”: a terror which we hope will just pass us by at this time every year.
TT’s Vision 2030 reads like a fairytale, almost a pretence that none of this matters for housing settlements, agricultural planning, mangrove protection, carbon neutrality or governance. Looking for a realistic strategy regarding climate change across Caricom is just as worrying as the destruction of Dominica, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, and to a lesser extent Cuba and Jamaica, becomes heart-breaking.
Nonetheless, for immediate assistance, Angelique Nixon is co-ordinating “a Relief Drive for The Bahamas supporting three women-led grassroots organisations on the ground – Lend A Hand Bahamas (https://www.lendahandbahamas.org/ & Facebook #lendahand242), Equality Bahamas (Facebook @equality242), and Human Rights Bahamas (Facebook @gbhra242).
“The core organisers here in Trinidad are UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Network of NGOs of TT for the Advancement of Women, and the Emancipation Support Committee TT.
“Please donate relief items, such as adult and baby hygiene products, including soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, female sanitary items, adult and baby diapers, women’s underwear, baby formula and food, cleansing wipes, and non-perishable foods, which can be dropped off at any of those organisations’ headquarters.” Contact her via Whatsapp at 868-732-3543.
Long-term, however, think of supporting a school with books in a year when recovery is less on media’s radar, and by strengthening Caribbean outrage and action against this predicted future.