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Are we listening, heeding, preparing?

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The 2017 hurricane season is now officially with us, having been ushered in, as we do annually, on June 1. For the next five months at least, all citizens in the Caribbean region have an obligation to be on the alert for the possibility of dangerous storms. While officially the season is supposed to conclude on November 30, recent experience has taught us the hard way that we are not even safe in December. That was the lesson from our out-of-season Christmas storm of 2013.

The December storm served as a reminder, a most painful one at that, that the talk about climate change is no mere talk; it is reality. It is a reality which 195 nations, of all political persuasions and economic systems, could not ignore two years ago, when they signed the Paris Accord, committing them all to action programmes to mitigate and combat this phenomenon.

Of course, there have always been some who, primarily prompted by greed and personal enrichment, have never accepted what is no longer a theory, but a fact of everyday life. Those persons have found a champion in US President Donald Trump, who, much to the consternation of many of his citizens, has opted out of the Paris Accord. While, given the importance of the USA, its withdrawal is a setback to the global process, the rest of the world is determined to continue on the path agreed. There is simply no other choice.

Climate change is mainly caused by human activity which pays scant regard to the environment. It is a development of frightening proportions for small island-nations like ours – poor, underdeveloped and very vulnerable. It can have profound impact on the intensity of storms and can affect weather patterns with potentially destructive effect. Our country, considered to be among the most disaster-prone in the world, cannot afford to ignore the danger or to remain idle in the face of it.

It is true that we have made strides in disaster preparedness in recent years, but we have a very long way to go before we can even begin to be satisfied. Our meagre resources mean that we are, to a large extent, still reliant on external sources for assistance in the face of natural disasters. There is much that we can do ourselves to help to mitigate the danger and it is in that direction that we must head.

First and foremost is the continuing need for public education and awareness, on issues such as natural disasters, climate change, the environment and our responsibility. As a people we seem to still not be listening enough, still not to be heeding the warnings and, as a consequence, still not preparing ourselves adequately. There is still that approach that everyone else but ourselves has responsibility to bail us out of our predicament.

We cannot relent in this uphill struggle, to insist that each and every citizen becomes more aware not only of the potential dangers facing us, but also that the primary responsibility lies with us as individuals, families, communities and nation to prepare adequately.

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