The lessons of Dorian

Dear Editor,

In the wake of that most horrific hurricane which devastated those northern islands of The Bahamas only days ago, every boo and bullah will have something to say… and rightfully so. That storm, like other tragedies, affects us all – directly or indirectly. Obviously, we have to do more than moan and groan, although grieving has its place. Ultimately, we have to pick up the pieces and march on; forward, upward, onward, together.

As not to make a mockery of our pledge, let’s see how best we can pay more than lip service to those inspirational, immortal words. In the spirit of Sankofa, we can look back at the way we have been addressing these seasonal challenges. They will come. Whether they are termed tropical depressions, storms, or hurricanes, with their corresponding numbers, these adverse weather conditions will come. Our experiences now have taught us what damage each classification is capable of, so we should be clear, going forward, about what we need to do to protect ourselves and survive.

The idea was postulated a couple of months ago about having each community/constituency here in The Bahamas having an adequately fortified shelter facility to house residents during violent storms. In that proposal, details were scant because the variations of locales make it unreasonable to submit a one-size-fits-all description for preparedness. Nevertheless, a basic template was projected and amendments to suit the particular characteristics of each community and island would have to be put in place as needed.

The lessons of Dorian should be learnt and serve as invaluable in charting the course forward. Never again should any hurricane, no matter how strong, have such extreme effects upon these islands and its people. Of course, damages are to be expected. These islands and cays, nor any other place on the planet, can be considered a match for the wrath of nature, in its many forms. All the same, a good plan will invariably be much better than no plan, or the same old plan.

I suggest that it will take the minds, hearts and sweat of Bahamians to develop the kind of Bahamas that will face future hurricanes like Dorian and not see the utter devastation we see today. What physical changes do we need to incorporate in our buildings and environments to mitigate against extreme losses in such situations? Architects, engineers, technical experts and social scientists, among others, might consider alternative methods of designing personal and public spaces. What mechanisms do we have to put in place to fund and facilitate those best plans and practices we come up with? We just might have to revisit that dreaded word – taxes. We can only realistically expect to get out of our country what we put into it. Are we all willing to contribute our “fair share” to bring it all to fruition, as soon as humanly possible? The days of perpetual meetings, committees and talk, talk, talk should be over.

I might be trippin’ or something, but I feel certain that we do have the ability to reach that common, loftier goal, of a ‘hurricane resistant’ Bahamas. As a consolation prize, or default position, we can at least establish real, credible shelters for a majority of Bahamians, instead of those makeshift, haphazard school or church facilities. If we don’t use these experiences forced upon us by Dorian, it’s safe to say that we will never learn. As trite as it might sound, working together in love and unity is the only solution to building a better Bahamas. If only for selfish reasons, we should see the need to work together on such a solution. Or, we can continue to, for the silliest of reasons, separate ourselves under one banner or the next, and hope that some of those we refuse to hold hands with now, will come to extend a hand to us when we face hell or high waters… perhaps with the next storm.

The lessons of Dorian are here to be learnt. March on Bahamaland.

– Michael Brooks

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