Angelique V. Nixon— a Bahamas-born, Trinidad-based writer, artist, and scholar-activist (Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago)—explores the environmental conditions as well as the fears and responsibilities facing Caribbean countries in her piece “What does it mean to survive after Dorian? On Caribbean disasters, development and climate crisis.” Read the full article at Stabroek News.
The stories of rescue and relief in The Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian have left me and so many in heartbreak and reflecting on what it means to survive – from the man who rode out the entire storm hunkered in the mangroves of Abaco, to the people who held onto trees during the storm surge, to the sick baby found in The Mudd with a father who didn’t leave for fear of being deported. The injured survivors (Bahamians and Haitians) at the Princess Margaret Hospital in New Providence telling doctors that they don’t want treatment, they don’t want to live, because they have lost everyone – sole survivors of families drowned or swept away in the storm. The Haitian migrants (now twice displaced) calling for the bodies of their loved ones to be found and buried with respect and dignity. Haitian migrants living in fear of deportation and hiding even with the promise of the Bahamian government that deportations are supposedly on pause. Bahamians trying to enter the United States to visit family and get away in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and being denied entry. The explicit xenophobia and framing of our people as ‘very very bad’, ‘drug dealers’ and ‘gang members’. Haitian children being deported by the Bahamian government. These stories are hard to hold or imagine, yet we must.
Entire lives are on hold across The Bahamas – from those evacuated and displaced at shelters across New Providence to those in Grand Bahama cleaning up and clearing out what is left of their homes. Imagine being a poor or working class Bahamian family. Imagine being a family or sole survivor, having lost everything or almost everything, and trying to pick up the pieces. Imagine the grief and suffering, the psychological trauma, of survivors. Imagine being the most scorned in this country, the ones blamed and scapegoated for almost every social problem. Imagine being a Haitian migrant right now living in The Bahamas, or living elsewhere across the region. Some of us don’t have to imagine any of these – either we know people experiencing this or we are experiencing it – the proximity to disasters, the trauma, of being treated as other, less than, not equal to, expendable or deportable.
And so I ask all of us in the Caribbean – where is our collective outrage, our climate action movement, our migrant rights movement, where is our action against unsustainable development and neoliberal agendas, where is our intersectional politics and action?
As the Global Climate Strike erupted around the world on 20th September, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness across our region. To be sure, there were a few important actions, most notably the successful protest against mining in rural Jamaica to save Cockpit Country. In Trinidad, young people planned and led a march with 150 people around the Queen’s Park Savannah. Representing the region at the UN Climate Summit, we had 11 Caribbean youth attending the first ever Youth Climate Summit; and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley demanding climate action and justice for all small island nations, warning that there will be mass migration if the climate crisis continues. Compared to thousands who marched in strike events and actions across the globe, there was mostly silence in our region, especially from leaders. Where was our regional climate action, our regional uprising? [. . .]
After Tropical Storm Karen, which affected us in Trinidad and Tobago just a week ago with mass flooding across both islands, I write this in fear and panic about our future, in deep anxiety about our silence and complacency, in solidarity across our precarious Caribbean region, especially with the most vulnerable of our people. We know we are in crisis. We feel it with each hurricane and rainy season and rising temperatures and seas. We see it as we drive along our coastlines with erosion and destruction of our mangroves; we experience it with dry season and forest fires, with clearcutting for tourism and other development projects. We hear it with each report of coral reefs bleaching, fish disappearing, record-setting heat waves and storms, mass extinctions, and rain forests on fire across the Amazon and Sub-Saharan Africa. We smell it with the pollution and garbage burning in our landfills, across our small islands – where we produce less than we import, where on the smallest islands we import way more than we need for tourists and migrants with status and money, who consume more than we do. We touch it in one way or another through the reliance on migrant labour needed to fuel our externally dependent economies, to do work that nationals don’t want to do, and to rebuild in the aftermath of disasters. We know it when we hear of yet another deal on a development project, a new cruise ship port, a set of condos, a new hotel, or more exploration for oil and gas. We understand it in the aftermath of hurricanes when new development deals are signed before recovery has even started for locals who have lost their homes. This is happening now in Abaco and Grand Bahama just four weeks after Hurricane Dorian. Bodies are still buried under rubble, islands completely devastated and there are already plans to sell land to the highest bidders.
We are complicit when we don’t call out all the ways our small islands are made more vulnerable and marginalized in these unnatural disasters, the ways we are exploited and then exploit others. [. . . ]