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Nature speaks


Nature’s power displayed over the past two weeks should have caused most of us to take stock. I do not believe we have ever before seen anything of this destructive magnitude in such a short period of time. Imagine in a few hours, Hurricane Maria developed from a category two to a category five hurricane, following immediately another category five one. All our pretence of power in the end means little. It really does not take much to show us that power does not reside with us. Nature favours no one. The roof of the residence of PM Skerrit of Dominica went and he had to be rescued. A similar thing happened with the roof of his top legal adviser, Anthony Astafan.  As we prepared our packages to be sent to Tortola, it should have dawned on us that we are one people.  We sing our anthems and proclaim loudly our independence, but what does this really mean? We cannot, however, downplay the inequalities and the divisions that exist. Repairing the roofs of Skerrit and Astafan is no big thing for them, but not so for many others.  This is the reality of the world we inhabit and shape. Some persons might have made contributions because they had relatives in Tortola or other affected countries, but even with this, the issue of being one people would have emerged, another dimension, but even more, of Stalin’s “We came in the same boat”. We might not all have come in the same boat, but we are bonded as a Vincentian and Caribbean community.

Is this pattern of destruction going to be the way of the future? For some time now, the warning has gone out that man is destroying the planet.  This is too simple a way of looking at it, for it is the so-called developed nations who are the greatest polluters that help to create the conditions that lead to such devastation. But not only them. We have little respect for our environment and in so doing, create conditions that facilitate this destruction, as we upset nature’s balance. The Caribbean must be better prepared. I am not sure what has happened with the building code issue. This must be more seriously looked at, since we should be thinking of building structures to withstand category five hurricanes. This is obviously an impossible order for most of us, but our overall planning must take this new reality into consideration. There is a lot more at stake, for within a matter of hours, our economies could be destroyed, leaving us defenceless and at the mercy of others.

In our countries, we have merely been trying to keep afloat, although we try to give a different impression. All our Caribbean countries are in an economic and financial mess and we can do little more than offer each other short-term relief. Let us, in the face of all these odds, accept the fact that we must live and work together or suffer together. Imagine the situation with persons who were relocated to Dominica from Tortola, only to face another hurricane, just as devastating as the one that forced them out. To quote Desiderata, “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” It obviously isn’t as easy as this, because there are serious obstacles and challenges. Furthermore, we must confront the things for which we fight and create enemies, particularly material things, which could be destroyed in hours and the worshipping of those whom we believe have power, but instead are helpless when nature speaks.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.