IT is 4,581 miles from Lynden Pindling International Airport to Glasgow International Airport in Scotland, a country known for its castles, golf, bagpipes and its own mischievous Chickcharney, the Loch Ness Monster. But when leaders from countries around the world, including Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, gather there starting two days from now, none of those traditional Scottish rites and rituals will be on their mind. They’ve got a different kind of right on the agenda, righting the wrongs of the industrialized countries who abused the planet and tried to fool Mother Nature for hundreds of years and are now facing their Waterloo – climate change.
For nearly two weeks from October 31 to November 12, at the climate change conference called COP26, country heads will consider, negotiate, plead for help and eventually settle on some compromise that will involve dilution of fossil fuels as a driver of any economy and increase benefits encouraging renewables.
On the table for the first time with a serious scientific presentation will be the concept of carbon credits, in simplest terms, a means of tracking, accounting for and exchanging good air for bad. When it comes to blue carbon and creating carbon credits, The Bahamas has the potential to lead the world. There is, perhaps, nothing we have ever achieved before that has such wide potential to benefit the Bahamian people while improving the planet. Unlike other less prideful epochs in Bahamian history –- piracy, smuggling, rum-running and drug-running – that led to wild temporary wealth, the harvesting of carbon for the sake of quality of life makes the biogeography of The Bahamas a star on the stage of the world’s most significant challenge.
You cannot turn back the clock on climate change.
Storms are getting more intense. Words like never before heard bomb cyclone are becoming part of our weekly lingo. The Weather Channel, a gamble when it started, is one of the most watched channels on TV, and few of us plan anything without checking at least one site for the day’s or the weekend’s weather. It is little wonder that so many eyes are on Scotland and so much rests on COP26 in Glasgow as the UK hosts what may be the most life-fixing conference in this century to date.
Much of what comes out of COP26 will depend on the give and take of the US and China. No one is fool enough to think it will be easy but there have been several indications recently that China is bending, likely a result of the degradation of their own making, dense region populations suffering from unhealthy levels of air and water pollution following decades of rapid intensification of manufacturing without concern for environmental impact.
COP26 President Alok Sharma has said one of his goals for the meeting is to “consign coal to history,” though remember that not long ago then President Donald Trump wanted to reinvigorate an industry that caused death and disease among coal workers. As leader of the world, put up a wall that he never had to pay for. Everyone else did – a wall against progress on climate change. He refused to acknowledge the critical Paris Agreement that, among other edicts, concluded the planet had to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius just to stave off the most dreadful impacts of a changing climate.
Our future rests in part on decisions and commitments made in Glasgow. We cannot overstate the importance of the event and can only wish our own prime minister and the president of COP26 every success. May Sharma’s wish to consign coal to history go the way of the former president who wanted to bring it back.
Remembering Mario, now 8 children without a mother or father
Every major street corner in Nassau has one – a vendor selling a story with an outstretched hand. On Shirley Street at Village Road, there are two on opposite sides of the road and a third around the corner. On Mackey at Shirley Street, it’s the rail thin woman holding a sign. On Mackey Street, it’s the man who exposed himself at the Shirley Street post office and has been in and out of facilities so many times he lost his prime real estate and had to move farther afield.
Most of the characters who claim corners for their ‘livelihood’ are men and women who have fallen through the cracks or become victim to their own habits.
But there was one who was very different. For years, before COVID-19 forced him off the street, Mario was the smiling face at the light at Montagu. He held a tin resembling a church painted with the words Ambassador Chorale. Mario was not a panhandler, the coins he raised day after day, week after week and year after year went to feed others.
Ambassador Chorale has had its fans and its critics, but there is no doubt that the organization kept many from starvation long before the Bahamas Feeding Network came along and eased the burden for thousands. There is no doubt that Ambassador Chorale came to the rescue of some who did not even have the energy to stand on a street corner. And a chorale they were. The voices of the leaders, directors and those who were rescued and became directors created a choir that performed at weddings and events.
Mario’s voice was the lead in Ambassador Chorale. To hear him sing and see him raise his eyes to the sky gave you goosebumps. Maybe he wasn’t pitch perfect, but he had a way of compelling you to be grateful for everything you had.
Mario was the unofficial goodwill ambassador for Ambassador Chorale. His full name was Mario McPhee. By day, he worked construction or painted houses. By mid- to late afternoon, he would be at Montagu with a smile and a wave for passerby. It sounds crazy but you could almost feel his spirit from your car. Everyone knew Mario. If you saw him in a store or in another public place, he would be surrounded by people asking about his wife and children.
In August, Mario’s wife passed away. He was devastated, a heartbroken man with eight children to raise on his own.
In late September, less than two months after he lost his wife, Mario suffered a massive heart attack and died. Now there are eight children without a mother or father and the corner at Montagu will always be without the gentle warmth and the kind smile of Mario.