Click here to print page

Where has all this rain come from?

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, May 19, 2017

NATURE speaks…but do we listen?

It would be most interesting to find out how many of us take seriously the subject of the environment. More than likely, the response of many of us would be: Wha dat haffi do wid me? If you really picking argument, go ask one a dem big-time scientists up ah university.

It might sound like a joke to some, especially those who like to evade serious matters. They will insist that that kind of question is dedicated to high learning. Let THEM deal with it. It is amazing how long we will settle for what old-timers say: “Tek bad sinting mek laugh.” It might have been funny in another age, but laughing is not so easy now. If you don't believe it, check the collection of media photographs of the latest floods featured in this paper, in particular Wednesday's edition, revealing the challenges we face.

How could we not take seriously the images of bridges washed away, cutting off residents of communities who, for most of their lives, have been living with challenges of how to get from one side of their community to another whenever “ big rain come down”. There have been times when lives have been lost. Flood waters are no respecter of life and property. The fact that we have taken things for granted for so long, no doubt accounts for the run-down state of valuable facilities across our island.

Strangely, in the dreams for development we don't place enough value on sustaining the environment, wherein we will have to provide ourselves with the ingredients to survive. Landslides, the fury of rushing water strong enough to smash concrete buildings and other structures as well as the destruction of farmlands from muddy water which pours into the sea, like super-thick “chawklit” tea is the sea too often in Jamaica. Yes, we talk and talk about it, but no solution. Slowly, some people are coming awake, but much, much more is needed to rescue ourselves and the land.

Is that what is meant by “climate change”? There are endless questions to be answered, such as, Why is the land so fragile in some areas? Why does it fall apart so easily? It never used to be that way. Old-timers talk and talk about “rainy-weddah time”, which used to pay their visits in some months of the year, but not in others. Drought, aka dry weather, used to be a great problem at certain times of the year in some parishes, particularly. Drought is still here, and the question raised: Who must be blamed? Where will the water come from? “Di Govament, of course.” This might sound like the foolishness to those who still do not hear the call of climate change. What does it really mean? How will it affect us?

It is ever so easy to laugh at the naivety of the old-timers who see environmental issues from their eyes only. What of the people of today who have an ear on the possibility of prosperity reaching them from land and sea? Surely they must have heard the words climate change, but the meaning still evades them. Does it mean anything at all? Do we have any responsibility to save the land, not just for profiteering, but because we have awakened to the messages that the land sustains us. We ill-treat it at our own convenience.

The pictures in our news media of recent days reveal the water turning up whenever it seems compelled to do. Very recently, as residents of a hilly area, we gloried in the beauty of the sun-warm days, as well as the cool atmosphere which made us feel highly blessed. As the sun rose over the highest trees in daylight, the joys of nature take on even deeper meaning. However, one morning, without warning, the change began. The sun had to force its way through a slight fog which started drifting in, little by little, from behind the mountain ridges and becoming more persistent as it began to interfere with the sun's presence. Over the next few mornings, the fog gradually thickened. The air began to get cold. And, having moved in almost timidly at first, it picked up speed, meeting the rain which had wandered. The persistence of the fog blanketed the trees and reduced how far we could see.

By Tuesday morning, we couldn't see the tops of the neighbourhood primary school, which for years was always within view, enough to have been seen every day. This time, before we knew it, the fog had extended its range. The question was why the whole area had become so cold? We kept asking. What is going on here? Is this what is called climate change? Or is it something else we know nothing about?

On the roads, potholes emerged and driving got rough. We were lucky this time. It was part of our good luck to have had some good work done when damage to the retaining walls alongside the road was repaired quickly, preventing further breakaway. The river below also spared us its anger and did no damage.

While we are at this, there are people in our midst who have been studying the lesson of climate change. There are still concerns, however. While what needs to be done still remains asleep, we will always live in fear. We still build roads which fall apart, not having been properly done. We continue to brutalise our trees and our forests. We insult the seas with contamination and complain why we cannot get the kinds of fish we like to fry, steam and roast. Who has polluted the sea and murdered the fish? There's a whole heap to learn and put into action.

Respect due to Sandals International for its collaboration with the Marine Department of The University of the West Indies in a project to 'Save the Parrotfish'. Actually, it is more than an effort to sea creatures threatened with extinction. It is an endeavour to save ourselves and the land too.

 

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@yahoo.com.