Saint Lucia got (yet another) very telling example of what Climate Change is all about last Sunday, when a few minutes of rain ruined lives and property forever and caused everlasting damage in ways never seen or felt before – and hoped never to be experienced again.
But we may be hoping against hope. Why? Because we take too long to learn, because of our hardheadedness.
Let me explain…
As reminded by a caller on Street Vibes about a month ago when the government was criticized for closing school in the interest of teachers’ and students’ safety, “we seem to have forgotten that we only have two seasons and not four…”
He was vexed by those who seemed to have forgotten or don’t care that we’ve only had two types of weather – Rain and Sun – Six months of sunny weather from January to June and a Rainy Season between June and December, during which we’ve always had to expect and prepare for a Hurricane Season as well.
Nothing’s changed – except the climate.
The effects of Global Warming on the Climate and the Environment have been so widely and deeply studied in the 21st Century that Climate Change has become more of an often-repeated trendy phrase than something people need to know their lives depend on.
The projects and projections, definitions and titles are so technical that the ordinary man, woman and child feels detached from, while they remain the most-affected victims, especially in small islands like Saint Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean.
And while the phrases change and those causing the changes that affect small islands continue to break promises to assist the most vulnerable and least-able victim nations and people, people here and elsewhere have had to learn from our own experiences, like what happened Sunday.
But it’s all happened before — from the Christmas Eve Trough years ago to the fact that we’re now visited by more Tropical Storms, Hurricanes, earthquakes and volcano eruptions per year — and with greater ferocity.
Before the latest heavy rains over short periods that cause more damage in less time, we all saw what’s been happening in Europe and Asia, Africa and Australia, Latin America and the Caribbean, with heatwaves alongside severe rainfall, forest fires alongside floods, rivers running dry and crops drying dead, while mainly elderly people baked and roasted to death.
We blame the weather for us not understanding its message, suffering its wrath while engaging in related phraseology, some (like a good friend of mine told me yesterday) wondering whether to call what happened last Sunday as “Climate Change” or “Climate Range” – both of which are true.
Last Sunday, the message was loud and clear for everyone, everywhere – including Martinique and Dominica that also felt the unwelcome Sunday afternoon feeling.
The unexpected downpour started just after midday, when most were into or preparing for (or wishing and wondering) about lunch.
I was on the way to Cap Estate at the time and between Choc and my destination I saw the drains starting to flood from Rodney Bay to the Pigeon Point entrance and how bad drainage at Cap equalized the suffering with roads below hills turned into raving rivers of muddy water that caused rising pools that flowed into a few swimming pools and drowned golf courses.
Half the people due to attend the function I was at had to turn back because their vehicles couldn’t navigate the waters and I started getting videos of damage done within an hour after arrival, including cars floating away at Corinth and homes flooded halfway-up.
A friend from Bexon was told not to return home because it had been flooded and she’d have nowhere to sleep; and another sent me a photo, taken from her balcony, of her car floating ‘down the road…’
And I saw an ex-minister holding a jack-handle trying to float his car onto the road, near a gas station, after the rain stopped and the mopping-up started.
On the way home between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., excavators were busy un-blocking drains to facilitate two-way traffic and along the way wondered whether it would have been different had the Kuwait-funded Castries-Gros Islet Highway project was in place with its drainage components.
By the time I got back home I’d seen enough to know people were dealt a hard blow, but still haven’t learned the Climate Change reasons behind what they feel is God’s punishment for our sins.
The comments I heard about what concerned people most also helped convince me that too many of us simply refuse to accept that our Two Seasons have come different than before and what we’re seeing happening elsewhere is also happening here, like how the rising tides from the melting icebergs in Iceland and the mountain glaciers in Asia and Africa are reflected in the rising tides seen and measured in the Castries Harbour.
But we’re still more concerned about watching the videos and photos of the damage and saying we “hope” we never see it like this again, rather than really trying to understand why “a little bit of rain” can cause so much damage, like we’ve never seen or felt before.
And 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.
Like UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the 27th COP Summit in Sharm-el-Shaik on Monday, what we experienced Sunday was clear indication that “The world is heading for a climate catastrophe, with our feet still on the accelerator.”
And people everywhere have grown-up taking everything for granted, just hoping for better but expecting things to get worse – and resigned to accepting there’s nothing we can do about it…
But that’s not so, because something can be done about everything – including Climate Change, which is largely caused by what we do — and fail to do.