Building Resilience: Confronting The Growing Threat Of Hurricanes – Basil Springer Column (July 7, 2024)

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7

I have experienced firsthand the devastating impact of hurricanes on our beautiful Caribbean islands. These storms, arriving earlier and with greater intensity each year, threaten not only our safety but also the lifeblood of our economies – the tourism industry. The ferocious winds and surging seas remind us of our vulnerability and the urgent need for comprehensive resilience systems.

Resilience begins with robust communication systems. Ensuring that residents and tourists receive timely and accurate information about impending storms saves lives. We must continue investing in well-equipped shelters and safe harbors for boats to protect people and property. Food and water storage must be prioritized to support communities during and after hurricanes. These are not luxuries but necessities in a region where hurricanes can be an annual menace.

The damage left in the wake of a hurricane is often extensive and multifaceted. Flooding devastates homes and businesses, while crops and fisheries – the backbone of local food supplies – are frequently wiped out. Witnessing the impact on the fishing industry and marine sector after Hurricane Beryl’s recent passage was heartbreaking. Roofs are torn off, boats are smashed against themselves and rocky coastlines, and the beaches that attract visitors are often eroded beyond recognition. Our buildings and landscapes bear the scars long after the skies have cleared.

Recovery is a monumental task that, with strategic investment and innovation, can be overcome. Burying power and communication lines underground can prevent the widespread outages that currently follow every major storm. Adopting stricter building standards will help structures withstand hurricane-force winds and surges. Strengthening sea defenses is essential to protect our coastlines from the relentless assault of rising waters.

Funding these initiatives is a significant challenge for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which often lack the financial resources for such extensive projects. Insurance can provide some relief, but the premiums are often prohibitively high. Grants and long-term loans are critical. We must also call upon the “godfathers” of SIDS – the wealthier nations whose carbon emissions contribute significantly to climate change. It is their moral duty to help us build resilience against the very threats and crises they have helped to create.

The future of the Caribbean depends on our collective ability to adapt and prepare. Hurricanes will continue to come, but with proactive measures, we can mitigate their impact and safeguard our homes, livelihoods, and way of life. As we navigate these turbulent times, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to building a more resilient Caribbean for generations to come. Remember, as the resilient people of Carriacou have stated in the midst of their falling pack of cards, if we have life, with God’s help, we can rebuild.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is [email protected]. His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com/basil-springer-column and on www.facebook.com/basilgf).

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