Columns

After Hurricane Irma, where is the helping hand?

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, September 15, 2017

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LAST weekend the weather took on a bully attitude. Word had been coming in about the path of destruction caused by Hurricane Irma. Through Friday and Saturday Irma battered the Caribbean islands, and by Sunday she was headed to South Florida, and there she went wild.

The meteorological sources gave clear warnings about the precautions to be taken by the Florida citizens. All were warned to seek higher ground. The authorities were absolutely serious about the warning of the challenges that were to come. When the evacuation orders came, very few disobeyed. This was in great contrast to how we here have been known to behave recklessly when a storm heads our way and the authorities recommend seeking shelter. When called to obey, people in the US are not permitted to “stand for foolishness” as we would say.

The order to take storm threats seriously must be respected here, too. Protection of life and property is serious business. It is time we learn. The question still remains: Why do so many of us have so little self-discipline? A hurricane is no joke. We must take heed when the call comes for us to do as directed in taking precautions as directed.

Now that the hurricane has passed Florida, those who sought shelter are returning home to see what they can do for themselves, even if faced with disheartening challenges. The clean-up is no easy matter. We have seen evidence of the strength of the wind which tore down huge trees and buildings, leaving its owners out in the cold. Water and wind together have destroyed everything in a vicious and spiteful way. The flood has not fully subsided in some places, and public utilities will be slow to return. According to the news, many premises are unable to receive the occupants, though they were anxious to return home. The suffering is not over for Florida or the affected islands in the Caribbean. Help is desperately needed. When will we join the effort to contribute to the needy?

For us on The Rock

Have we stopped to think how blessed we are to have avoided Hurricane Irma? How fortunate we are when we compare ourselves to what others elsewhere are going through? Hell and high water, as old folks used to say. Photographs and TV broadcasts show the harsh difficulties which still have to be faced. Can you imagine how it is to be trying to survive when your house is completely smashed to the ground or submerged in water? The absence of electricity is one thing, but the shortage of clean drinking water is the greatest difficulty of all.

Where do we stand for ourselves and others? Do you remember times when we talked of “rainy season”? How many of us remember that? Thankfully it has been years since we have been affected by a major hurricane. Our Met Office would do us all a good favour by organising an open forum for the enlightenment of our people who need to accept the challenges of the times and learn to deal sensibly with them. There could be no danger in leading “we the people” to understand and know what to do when our environment is challenged by nature. These are some of the questions which will need answers.

While we are at this, by the way, have we any interest in the matter of climate change? How many of us, you think, have the faintest interest in how we can learn and do more? How much of an impact has climate change had on our current situation?

Suffering neighbours

The Caribbean is caught in the aftermath of the battering and destruction caused by Irma. The accompanying list tells of those who are facing hardships. They include: Antigua and Barbuda (Barbuda especially), Saint Martin (French territory) and Sint Maarten (Dutch territory), St Barts (Barthelemy), Anguilla, St Kitts and Nevis, British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Turks and Caicos.

Note how many of us have knowledge of these places. These are all neighbours of ours. Reports state 34 people in the Caribbean lost their lives due to Hurricane Irma, including 10 Cubans. As we commiserate with them, our next door neighbours, can we help? What if we were in their place? How long before we reach out a helping hand?

Our (Cockpit) Country

Since we're reasoning about the environment, I'm giving thought to the current concerns about the future of the Cockpit Country — which should be regarded as one of nature's best gifts to our country. When does the future become the present? The question is: What really do we want for this gift?

Much is being said about a place for tourism. I have nothing against tourists. I used to work with and for them one time. However, I wonder what are the considerations being given to what this precious treasure of nature means to us. Are we making plans for its protection? Will we discover ways to keep the trash-throwers away? Will there be appropriate staff on hand to be on guard when the journey starts?

There is a lot of conversation about the Cockpit Country, but there needs much, much less chat; time for action. It is time to put aside sentimentality and go for the hard reality which is round the corner. And, by the way, this issue cannot be a “box-bout” discussion of the most serious environmental challenge of all.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or to gloudonb@yahoo.com.

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