Thursday, January 18, 2018

Climate challenges await in 2018


CLIMATICALLY speaking, the year 2017 closed out in the same fashion as the New Year 2018 ushered itself in.

Residents in various parts of the country were facing the New Year with reminders of some of the worst weather patterns we experienced during the latter half of 2017.

A man drowned in a pool at the back of his home in a village in the district of Penal. Residents of Woodland were battling floodwaters in their surroundings on New Year's Day, just as they did only months ago. Indeed, in a number of cases, families hard hit by the floods during the last punishing rainy season cannot be said to have recovered sufficiently. And they must brace for more of this natural terror.

Relief agencies are at the ready to provide that much-needed assistance to residents wherever they are, as weather patterns continue to provide every indication of the dramatically changed nature of the systems bearing down on people in many parts of the world.

The Meteorological Office put out bulletins towards the end of last week, advising holiday-making citizens to be cautious in using roads along the country's north coast. Those roads were declared open only to residents of those communities yesterday. And the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government was captured touring some of the areas, assessing damage caused by landslips because of the heavy rainfall over the previous days.

Recapping the devastation wrought among some of the countries in the Caribbean by super storms Irma and Maria last year, a headline in yesterday's Express summed up the situation by noting the region being “in the eye of the storm”.

The current chairman of Caricom, Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, is quoted in this assessment as saying the following: “There can be no question that for us in the Caribbean, climate change is an existential threat.”

Here at home, the situation was such that there was massive fall-out between the Government and the leading figures in the country's premier disaster management organisation, that the man at the top quit his post, under a publicly-levelled tongue-lashing from the Prime Minister.

In one of the photographs telling part of the story of the punishing weather systems yesterday, a sample of mounds of debris, including plastic bottles and other disposables, was highlighted causing a blockage under a portion of the Caroni River bridge, in the vicinity of St Helena Village, Piarco.

This led to an overflow of water along some parts of the roadway in that vicinity.

It ought to be a wake-up call, as never before, for ordinary citizens to come to grips with the reality of changed weather patterns globally, and how we are being made increasingly vulnerable to their effects.

From the standpoint of being our own best advocates for safer living, less vulnerable to the effects of nature's actions, we must commit anew to doing those things which render us less vulnerable, less dependent on relief and mitigation efforts after the fact.