HUMAN beings are amazing creatures of self-preservation. We have the innate ability to stare the truth right in the face and pretend it isn’t true. Or that it doesn’t matter. Or that it won’t happen the way they say it will or if it threatens us, someone will fix it just in time. We are just clever enough to deceive ourselves and believe our deceit.
That is exactly what we are doing with a dual threat, one that is undeniable, climate change, and one that is unthinkable, nuclear war sparked by an attack by North Korea. As abhorrent as the thought is, and as much as we want to deny it, North Korea’s most recent rocket launch scared experts and America’s tone publicly bordered on nonchalant quickly changed.
Our neighbour to the north got scared and reacted. Fighting words were followed by quiet scrambling for military action. But while that is taking place with the country we are so dependent upon for our number one industry and the goods we import, we in The Bahamas, are too scared to face the truth about the most pressing threat to our survival.
No matter how much we turn our back on it, we cannot deny the impending impact of climate change. With dire predictions that up to 80 percent of The Bahamas could be underwater, few nations have more to lose than we do. Yet, we act as if it is business as usual.
It is not as though we were not warned. Former US Vice President Al Gore spelled it out in his award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. Did we listen? Only a handful did at first, then the numbers grew and today it is unfathomable that there are those who still harbour doubt in the face of the growing body of evidence presented and documented by organisations as respected as National Geographic and NASA. Sea level rise along with warming water and air temperatures are combining to cause life-changing differences to come barreling toward us faster than we expected.
Here is what we have to face: climate change is changing our world at a faster rate than even early believers projected. The Arctic Resilience Report found Arctic sea ice declining at a rate of 13.2% percent per decade. That is the area as far north as you can go. In Antarctica, nearly 5.4 million square miles or as large as the continental USA and Mexico combined, at the southern end of the earth, is warming at an alarming rate as its average two-mile deep ice sheets decline and tumble into the surrounding waters. “The warning signals are getting louder,” writes Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the authors of the Resilience Report which concluded that there is “uncontrollable climate change at a global level”.
Therese Turner-Jones, Inter-American Development Bank General Manager Country Department Caribbean, told it straight and within earshot of the Prime Minister at a recent conference in Nassau. The Bahamas, she said, was at serious risk if sea level rises by just one meter (approx. 3.3 feet).
The cost to rebuild, she said, could be between $17 and $19 billion. The scariest part is what we would lose, according to the IDB, 36 percent of our major tourism properties, 38 percent of our airports, 20 percent of our seaports and 14 percent of our road network.
Of course, we could just ignore it and continue to do what we are so good at, denial. Too scared to face the truth, we look the other way and hope someone else will fix it.
Repeating the Call for a
Mayor for Nassau
Speaking of fixing it, The Tribune repeats its call for a mayor or city manager for the city of Nassau. Here, from our editorial that ran shortly after the 2017 election, we repeat an excerpt and accompany it with a plea to provide a serious measure of autonomy for the city of Nassau, including the right to collect business licence fees and real property taxes that now go to the Public Treasury. Or, we can do as we are with climate change and continue to ignore the reality of what is happening. From May 30, 2017:
While a mostly jubilant public is still congratulating itself, gloating over the vote to throw out the reigning PLP like a 78 rpm vinyl record missing its cover, the clock is ticking quietly and dangerously on one of the most critical issues of the day. We are not talking about crime. Or education. Or moving toward a balanced budget, albeit all are critical and must be addressed with urgency.
We are talking about a critical issue that for too long has received too little attention. The heart of the city of Nassau, the heartbeat of the nation.
Once a thriving mini-metropolis with dining and clubs, high-end shops and financial fervor, Nassau today is a sad and dirty shadow of its former self. In a window next to where a $60,000 crystal table once stood, there is now a sign offering three t-shirts for $9.99. Where Mademoiselle’s headquarters buzzed as the house of fashion, a second storey wooden balcony railing is rotting. Just off the main street, derelict buildings stare back with blown-out windows and roofs, glaring eyesores. The magnificent mahogany and olive trees that dotted the street are struggling to survive.
There are remnants of Bay Street’s beauty. The good bones of Nassau’s historic architectural treasures so frequently mentioned by the late Jackson Burnside are still there, but they are shrinking, replaced by large glass panes and concealed behind garish signs. Notable treasures survive. Dignity remains intact at John Bull where soft sounds emanate from the grand piano in the gallery and a sense of style never seems to go out of style. Up the hill at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and on West Hill Street with the Graycliff spin-off crafts and museum, the art of the possible portrays a canvas of hope...