Goodbye, Bahamas:  requiem for a small, low-lying island nation

Dear Editor,

In less time than has passed since The Bahamas has gained its independence, we are facing the elimination of this country — its people, its places.

This is a strong statement. Yet, with each passing day it seems, more and more revelations occur to suggest this is highly likely to occur.

The facts stare at us without emotion. The headlines scream at us daily. The earth is warming, the ice is melting, the waters are rising faster, the earth’s life-sustaining habits are being broken, the earth’s abundance and diversity of lifeforms, including our own, at immediate risk.

On the human side of the equation, we have effectively failed at promoting reality, the true purpose of education.

We have not been able to govern, to organize, to unite as one people. We have failed to educate ourselves as to the realities needed to forge ahead in these interesting times.

We ignore the many warning signs at our peril. While our media is starting to catch on, there is little to suggest that our “leaders” and our Bahamian people understand, or are serious, in dealing with the realities that we, and our children, will soon have to contend with.

In less than 30 years from now, much of The Bahamas will be underwater.

The only thing that has changed recently are the scientific observations that it is happening even faster than we believed only a short few years ago.

Thirty years is nothing. It doesn’t take a genius to consider the wide ramifications of sea level rise alone on Bahamian life.

We don’t need another Dorian or its equivalent. The daily increase in the tides is all we need, it seems, to fulfill the frog in the slowly heating pot of water analogy, and remain in denial.

I believe The Bahamas will fracture as a country, unable to govern and care for its people.

The government will go broke and collapse, due mainly to their myopic monetary vision and the historical weight of endemic corruption.

We have seen this in Greece, and elsewhere in recent history.

When this occurs, the government of The Bahamas will be taken over by “others” — others who have a financial stake in the revenue flows that will still exist right up until the end.

In the same way that the true monied interests control this country already, it will only get worse.

Remember now, the very rich love catastrophes whereby they can come in and buy assets for pennies on the dollar. They are poised already, to take advantage of each calamity and collapse.

There will also be an exit from the country of our most productive citizens as social conditions here deteriorate. There will be a cascading brain drain which will be felt in many ways. Firstly, in the coming years, those who will leave The Bahamas will be those with the money to do so.

Most well-to-do Bahamians already have homes abroad. The foreigners will tire of the backwards way of doing business here and the huge costs associated with these glaring inefficiencies and endemic corruption.

Deteriorating social conditions will surely contribute to the exodus. The rich already have an exit plan. Some will have their private aircraft and yachts waiting to take them to safety in the face of the next storm, never stepping foot in a public airport or marina, never coming in contact with “average” people.

These folks will not be called climate refugees. They just move around from luxury place to luxury place. And, when things really get bad in one place, they simply don’t return.

The vast majority of Bahamian people will have no such choices available to us.

What has become apparent to many who spend time on this “climate” topic, is that the changes predicted by science only 10 years ago have now, in reality, outpaced those predictions by factors of two, 10, 50, even 70 times faster than previously estimated.

That, to me, is the crux of the matter. The speed at which these changes are occurring. Five years ago, there was still debate on whether climate change, global warming, was real or fake news.

We no longer have these conversations anymore, for good reason. Global warming is now a fact, in even the most conservative and neoliberal addled minds. And, this is not the new normal.

This is the beginning of the great acceleration.

Things are going to get worse, the deadly pace quickening as the seemingly short years speed by. Just as the last 30 years have sped by.

So, what does this mean for The Bahamas?

Firstly, there is the saying that “you don’t chase bad money with good”.

If we know that hurricanes will become more frequent and more intense with time, does it really make sense, practically and economically, to rebuild in areas likely to be revisited with these devastating storms in a handful of years?

Clearly, emotions aside, the answer is “no”. So, not only is it unwise to rebuild in the lowest lying areas, what of the fact that The Bahamas is one of the lowest lying countries in the world? As things get rolling, beyond the Caribbean, when Florida, and whole nations start seeing the acceleration, as they currently are, will they have the means to assist our country as they are doing now with Dorian?

Will they be able to provide the money and resources to harden our coastlines and protect our real estate? Can they muster their fellow citizens to respond to a foreign crisis while their own crisis at home takes a back seat?

I think we know the answer to those questions.

Also too, it should be remembered that in our sophisticated economic calculus, these inflows of aid, the cost of rebuilding, the emergency medical costs, the costs of restoring some semblance of normalcy to the utter devastation, are all calculated in such a way to enhance our national GDP.

That is how a country’s economic condition is calculated. Archaic? Yes.

And, on top of all this, we have no leadership. Not here, not almost anywhere.

We have few in office who suggest that, at some point soon, insurance companies will either go bankrupt or will pull out of the game altogether because it is too risky in the face of these increasing “natural” disasters.

Insurance will not be there, except for the very rich in the Caribbean. Those who can afford huge insurance premiums, the actuaries will easily show that insurance is a losing game in these riskiest of locales, especially post-Dorian.

Humanitarian organizations, pressed to help humans survive storms, war, drought, or violence, will be forced to allocate their scarce resources to save immediate lives, but certainly not to rebuild in flood-prone areas, and not in hurricane alley.

The Bahamas is ill-prepared to do this ourselves. Had it not been for the U.S., and other countries, and aid organizations, this country would be more than hard-pressed to accomplish any of these humanitarian efforts ourselves, for our own people.

We all know this here in The Bahamas.

We are cutting back on all socially-oriented programs, under the banner of reducing the debt. Sound familiar?

If we listen closely, we can hear the cries of the poor and working people here; a majority of the people. But, little to no objections from those who are easily able to pay their bills each month; be they the politicians, the management class, the professional class, or the religious clergy, for that matter.

Bahamian suffering is real. It was real before Dorian. It is real now.

There is little to suggest that any of the suffering of the majority of Bahamians will be lessened by anything anyone does from this point forward.

Those who have the power, the money and the media simply gloss over the widespread suffering of the majority of Bahamians. But, this suffering is real.

My claim is that our existential threat, the most clear and present danger to The Bahamas, is the very real risk that we are finished as a country due to the near term effects of climate change.

This is not just a doom and gloom, defeatist perspective, insensitive commentary too close in the wake of Dorian.

This is based on the reality that the great acceleration of climate change catastrophes has begun, in earnest.

Norman Trabulsy Jr.

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