The words were ominous: “How will we continue to exist?”
They were spoken by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last week, warning that the beauty and the very existence of The Bahamas is under grave threat from climate change.
The truth is that this is not news. It’s certainly not a new line from representatives of The Bahamas at international events.
In 2009, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told the UN Convention on Climate Change that “Climate change is a serious threat to our economic viability, our social development and our territorial integrity”.
Six years later, the prime minister may have changed, but the message had not. Perry Christie was the PM when he told the UN in Paris that the world’s nations had to “send a clear message that we will fight for countries like The Bahamas to stay on the map into the next century”.
He spoke of climate change as an “existential threat”.
Well, here we are, in 2019, a full decade on from Mr Ingraham’s warning of a threat to our nation – and in the aftermath of a storm that may well have been made more powerful through the effects of climate change.
“It is a threat which we did not cause,” said Dr Minnis when he addressed the UN last week.
That sounds like there’s nothing we can do about climate change – but is that true? Certainly, our contribution to climate change is dwarfed by that of larger nations, but on a basis per head, is that still the case?
What are we actually doing to avoid being a contributor to climate change?
Last week, it was reported that the government would be purchasing a new 30MW for BPL after a summer plagued by power outages. Now that may be good news for ending the cuts that have made life such a misery this summer - but our dependence on fossil fuels, a contributor to climate change emissions, doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.
In fact, in today’s business section, we report that renewable energy providers are frustrated that new guidelines requiring renewable energy projects to sell all their power to BPL then buy it back is likely to shrink such efforts even further.
Here we sit, in a country famed the world over for its sunshine, and seemingly completely unable to capitalise on solar power in a significant manner.
Reconstruction in Abaco and Grand Bahama has already had renewable energy ruled out as a replacement power provision too - while the residents of Ragged Island are still waiting for the promised green revolution of renewable energy for its rebuild after Hurricane Irma in 2017.
There is one promising sign - the move to ban single use plastics from the end of this year, with plastics a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions from its production through its refining and in the way it is handled as waste.
But is that it? In the face of a threat that successive prime ministers - no matter what their political leanings - have described as a danger to our existence, is that all we are doing?
Year after year, we have gone to international meetings calling for others to do what must be done in order to tackle climate change. Is it not our responsibility to take such actions here at home too?
There are things we can do. The plastics ban is a good start - but we seem to have taken a long time to start.
We can look wherever possible to reduce emissions - and encouraging consumers away from gas guzzling vehicles to more efficient vehicles.
We can launch a public information campaign on ways to save energy in the home - turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby and adjusting air conditioning settings. This one saves you money too.
We can look to recycle more - rather than everything going into one waste container - and we can seek to reduce the amount of packaging that is used in businesses.
Reducing meat consumption can help - but so can eating local where possible, to reduce the amount of emissions used to transport food to your plate.
All of these are steps we can take even before looking towards such steps as solar power generation or widespread planting of trees - though why not look at those too?
“How will we continue to exist?” was a question about our future existence as a nation - but let’s ask it of our own future behaviour too. How will we? Will we continue to contribute more than we need to greenhouse gases? Or will we make a change here at home too?