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The fight against Climate change includes us too

The fight against Climate change includes us too

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Carlos James, our Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Sustainable Development and Culture in his address to COP26 earlier this week made the important point that the fight to avert the climate crisis requires the meaningful participation of everyone.

This point, though trite, is of absolute importance even for residents of small island states like St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) who contribute very little to the greenhouse gas emissions that are hurtling us perilously close to the point where many parts of our planet could become uninhabitable.  

Although when Minister James made the point about the need for everyone to be included he seems to have been alluding to the exclusion of Taiwan from yet another forum of the United Nations, the admonition is also important for us here in SVG.

The Minister rightly condemned the main polluters of the world for recklessly endangering the existence of the 72 million people living in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and said to compromise on the required targets and measures is a death sentence for our people.

Lest we think what we do in SVG makes no difference to this existential crisis, we need to think again. Although climate change may be an abstract concept to some Vincentians, we are all very familiar with its effects, maybe without realizing it; and we, by our actions can help to mitigate its effects.

We have had, in the last two decades, experienced several extreme weather events which have had disastrous economic and social consequences for our country. These events, which resulted in floods, landslides, loss of property and lives, have been attributed to climate change and also to deforestation, which in itself is one of the major contributors to climate change around the world.

Our trees, besides providing us with food and shelter, and being home to millions of species, protect the soil from erosion, produce oxygen, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help to control atmospheric temperature.

For years, we have been hearing that acres of land in our hills are being cleared to facilitate both legal and illegal farming. In addition to that, farmlands are being converted at fairly high rates into residential developments to allow for the building of homes for our people.

We cannot stop development, nor do we want to, but if we do not pay more attention to how we use our land, our development efforts would always be compromised, as we have witnessed in recent years. Flooding has repeatedly washed away crops, livestock and vehicles and damaged or destroyed roads, bridges, business places and homes.

It is the responsibility of the government to set and enforce policies to protect our forests and in relation to the way our land should be used, but as citizens of this country, we also have a responsibility to ensure that our practices do not make us even more vulnerable and reverse or retard whatever progress we have been making.

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