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Insight: The Fight Against The Climate Crisis Can’T Be Fought By The Government Alone

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. (Photo: Richard Drew/AP)

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. (Photo: Richard Drew/AP)

By Malcolm Strachan

IN the wake of Hurricane Dorian, The Bahamas has become the latest example for climate change activists as they ramp up the fight. Stunned by the realisation of how vulnerable we actually are to the threat of climate change, the government, still dizzied by the severe impact of the storm, is trying to gain its balance.

Prime Minister Minnis’ address at the UN General Assembly last week, however, was an encouraging step by our leadership that they too, recognise the importance of raising awareness. Particularly while we have the attention of many observers spanning the globe, it is important that we not only send the right message with our words, but also with our actions.

And it is in this same vein that we must show we too are ready to join the fight.

During his address, Prime Minister Minnis said: “I add my urgent plea to the cries and voices of many other leaders and citizens of the global commons, urging the nations of the world here assembled to treat the global climate emergency as the greatest challenge facing humanity.

“It is a challenge that, if not treated with the greatest urgency, will continue to ravage small island states, such as The Bahamas, and will also have devastating impact on more developed states.”

But what’s next?

From where the prime minister sits, his address should serve as a springboard to commence a world tour where he meets with other world leaders to discuss the importance of a full-fisted response to climate change. Beginning right here at home, two of our biggest economic partners are the US and China – two of the countries with the most carbon dioxide emissions.

One of the primary discussions the prime minister should be having with Presidents Trump and Xi Jin Ping is on what they’re doing to lower their carbon emissions in their respective countries.

The reality is with the holdings of both Chinese and American companies being based in The Bahamas, there should at the very least be conversations about what needs to be done going forward. Particularly for the US, The Bahamas is usually a pit stop before storms head to Florida or along the coast to unleash more destruction.

That is just one part of it.

Additionally, as economic partners, when foreign investors enter the country to do business, the government must have in tow an environmental policy that creates balance whereby companies investing in the Bahamian economy are doubling down and doing so for the environment as well. For instance, let’s take Carnival Cruises’ illegal dumping of 500,000 gallons of waste water in Bahamian waters. While the government’s goal in closing this deal was to drive the Grand Bahamian economy and show the world we’re open for business, how does this play into the preservation of our environment?

Following the signing of the Carnival cruise port heads of agreement, Environment and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira has tabled the Environmental Planning and Protection bill which “prohibits a person from discharging any hazardous waste into the environment, except with prescribed regulations”. Those in violation of the bill’s tenets may face fines of up to $500,000 and a maximum of five years in prison.

Still, where this places us relative to Carnival’s previous transgressions is unclear. As far as we can see, it seems to be water under the bridge, and until we know what has been tabled in the heads of agreement, it is uncertain if we’ve gotten anything more than apology.

At any rate, beyond Carnival, we still have much bigger fish to fry in terms of how we want to be perceived against the backdrop of the prime minister’s address. Here it is, we have an opportunity to be the poster child for climate change awareness after having suffered such trauma as a result of Hurricane Dorian.

That being said, the tendency to sit back with arms folded waiting on your Member of Parliament or Jesus to fix all of our worries will not move the needle, though. This time will call for action from Bahamian citizens – the kind of action that we have historically been far too relaxed to take. That radical type of action has to become a new normal.

The days of being unaware of the issues that affect you or dismissing them for the sake of supporting your political party need to be eradicated. The citizenry has to become much more informed on these issues, as it is truly a matter of life and death.

While we spew hatred about Haitians and the government wades it way through unchartered waters, the true threat is not sleeping. It is very much awake.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1300 scientists from around the world, predicts that global temperatures will rise 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Based on studies performed by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than average temperatures between 1951-1980. More disconcerting is that the period of 2015-2018 is the hottest on record. And to even further heighten our fears, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on the planet.

Contextualising that and considering these trends, our weather conditions simultaneously provided the perfect breeding ground for Hurricane Dorian and the most horrific experience for those that experienced its fury firsthand.

Brothers and sisters, we are at a critical juncture as Bahamians. We can choose to say that climate change is a farce. We can choose to believe conspiracy theories about weather manipulation. We can even choose to believe that God wanted to wash away all the Haitian migrants. However, we would be fatally wrong on all fronts.

This phenomenon is real, and we are squarely in its crosshairs.

The question is what are we going to do about it? As eight days in September came and went, the Global Climate Strike took place, as 7.6 million people from around the world participated in the biggest climate protest in history. All while we ranted about Haitians and lambasted each other’s political parties, people were taking action on something that we need to frontline. But what were we occupying our time with?

Surely, if we don’t remove our buried heads from the sand, we will be an endangered species and our beautiful Bahama land may be a relic of the past.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months ago

From where the prime minister sits, his address should serve as a springboard to commence a world tour where he meets with other world leaders to discuss the importance of a full-fisted response to climate change.

Malcolm Strachan clearly has no sense for, or appreciation of, our country's dire financial predicament. Where's the money going to come from to pay for such a world tour by Minnis and his usual very large entourage of muck-a-mucks who all like to travel first class, stay in five star hotels and eat in five star restaurants, all at the expense of Bahamian taxpayers?!

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SP 2 months ago

PM Dr. Minnis is just another useless spook to these people. He is wasting his time for nothing!

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Porcupine 2 months ago

Mr. Strachan,

I usually agree with most every article you write. Yet, this one on climate change falls a bit short. A true education centers around the idea that we are developing our critical thinking skills by being exposed to new, evolving and fact-based information. Education regarding climate change must be part of a curriculum that accepts science, involves a lot of reading, and is ongoing and current. The actions and statements of our Prime Minister, as well as, the vast majority of our leaders and populace suggest no such idea of true education has taken place. It seems we are in last place in seeing the writing on the wall. Some of this information has been around for more than 30 years. What scares me more than climate change is that we are witnessing the collapse of our living world, in our sea and on land. This is not news, except for those who have been totally focused on the hubris of modern humans. Tell me how to motivate a country that has been brainwashed into a Christian belief that God put humans here on earth above all other living creatures, as if we are not part and parcel of all life. And, the idea that when one species disappears God puts another one there for our benefit? What of a people who continue to believe that evolution is wrong and creationism is the truth? What of the idea that when a hurricane is coming they pray that it goes somewhere else, and then believe that God is punishing whoever was harmed for some earthly transgression? We are at best a generation or two, if we had the right teachers, in raising our country to a level which passes for mature and responsible. Our Prime Minister, supposedly educated, seems not to have even a clue as to what is happening to our climate and living world. How could you speak about OBAN, drilling for oil, and allowing our entire nation to be shackled to the burning of fossil fuels to get electricity, and then say to the world, "We need money to help us deal with climate change." You can't say these things to a group of educated people and expect to be taken seriously. The crisis of climate change is real. The Bahamas will be one of the first countries to be decimated due to storms and rising waters and the loss of our marine species. This will likely happen in the prime of my son's life. Therefore, it disturbs me to no end that we selfishly go about our days as if this is all a matter of praying and thanking god for what we have. Without any investment in the knowledge needed to be responsible for our next generation. But, given the number of children in this country that don't even know their father, are being raised by the grandparents, is solid evidence that we are selfishly focused on our immediate gratification. Nothing more. Personally, having studied these issues for many years now, The Bahamas is flucked.

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Porcupine 2 months ago

If we truly committed ourselves to being part of the solution, we would do the following: We would announce a state of emergency for the nation. We would focus immediately on educating our youth on the scientific realities of climate change. This would involve bringing in teachers who actually get it, and haven't been dumbed down by our horrible education system. Do we need any more proof of our educational failures? We don't need more "teachers" who are indoctrinated in "education" we need thinkers. Mr. Stachan, you are right that the fight against the effects of climate change need to go beyond our "leaders" and into our homes, schools and workplaces. However, we must be honest and realize that we are still governed by a group of adults that simply don't "get it", don't have the capacity to "get it", and are too corrupted to "get it" if it was handed to them on a silver platter. We are not mature enough, morally, educationally or socially to take the information and use it in a useful manner beneficial to all our citizens. If you read the daily papers in this country, even poorly, it is more than apparent that the best advice we can give to our children is to look elsewhere for a viable future. That is a somber statement. Yet, it is the price our children will have to pay for our selfish, childish, and immoral superstitious tendencies which have got us to this point in time. I am not saying give up. I am saying we have to be realistic and recognize that we have failed on a level that praying and thanking god for life will not save our children. For once, yes for once, we must get real.

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Porcupine 2 months ago

Suggestions for signaling to the world that The Bahamas is serious about doing our part regarding climate change.

Abandon the current electrical generation in this country by fossil fuels and announce an embrace of renewable energy. Work to get a workable mass transportation system and get cars off the road. Recognize and repeat that fossil fuel needs to stay in the ground. Accept the idea that we need to consume less and that buying doesn't mean more happiness. Eliminate the throwaway mentality we have developed. Even beyond plastics. Critically reassess our interpretation of the bible, to allow it to align more closely to the truth and to our responsibilities. How can so many diverse religions ALL claim to have it right?
Commit ourselves to true education on this matter and create an entirely new curriculum, along with more highly trained "teachers" to impress upon our youth the crisis as it is unfolding, based on science.

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joeblow 2 months ago

People are conflating climate change (which is a natural phenomenon based on Milankovitch's theory, with which I agree) with damage that occurs to the environment from deforestation, solid waste (plastics etc) and chemical waste. In reality, no matter what we do (and we should try to protect and preserve our environment and its ecosystems) if countries like China do not do what they should, our efforts will be the equivalent of pissing on an exploded oil rig to put the fire out!

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banker 2 months ago

You are confused Milankovitch's Theory. He theorizes about climate cycles, however the time scale on his predictions is measured in kiloyears or thousands of years. The driver's of climate change in Milankovitch's Theory are the tilt of earth's axis (the earth doesn't spin or rotate exactly -- the earth is known to switch north magnetic pole to south magnetic pole over thousands of years) and the eccentricity of the orbital shape. The changes wrought in the past 100 years have an acceleration on seen in catastrophic events (comet hitting earth, huge volcanic activity etc). If you do graph extrapolation of a Milankovitch graph using any one of his parameters, the earth should be getting cooler and not warmer.

In this case, as you point out, human activity is the cause of the current climate change, and unfortunately, it is not a parameter in Milankovitch's Theory.

We are on totally new ground and won't know what's going to happen. By 2050, over 80% of The Bahamas is expected to be under water.

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Porcupine 2 months ago

banker, your last statement alone "By 2050, over 80% of The Bahamas is expected to be underwater." should, should be enough to wake everybody up.

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joeblow 2 months ago

@Banker, that is exactly the point. The theory explains why the earth has had periods of cooling and warming up over many thousands of years. Issues with the earths core (which has nothing to do with mans interference) may explain variations. It should be obvious that major ice ages had to melt BECAUSE of cycles of atmospheric warming. We cannot look at 100 years of human history and make inferences about the future while ignoring thousands of years of history of climate changes. It is the equivalent of looking at the last 2 months of a business's balance sheets and making assumptions about its future, while ignoring the 100 years it has been in business. Always doubt "scientific consensus" when big money bankrolls research and stands to profit from industries that will be created in the aftermath!.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months ago

Long before natural and pollution caused climate changes destroy our small nation, The Bahamas and the Bahamian people will be annihilated by the ongoing Haitian invasion.

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