NASSAU, Bahamas -- Nine months after Save The Bays returned from the climate change conference in Paris that for a moment caught the world’s attention, the environmental advocacy group’s chairman is still seeking answers to critical questions about how The Bahamas is planning to meet a future of rising sea levels that that could literally wipe out entire islands and populations.
Pace of climate change quickens -- Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville stands on the south shore of Grand Bahama where rising sea levels have already led to major erosion. Darville, who completed the Climate Change Reality training with former US Vice President Al Gore, attended the Climate Change Summit COP 21 in Paris. Now he asks where are the plans for abatement, noting that a legendary Grand Bahama conch stand has had to move three times in five years as its owner watched 30 feet of his beachfront land recede and vanish. (Photo by Rashema Ingraham, Waterkeepers Bahamas)
“As an archipelagic nation basically at sea level, we stand to be included among the millions that Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, speaks of when he says, ‘Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate’.
“The eyes of the world were on the conference in which The Bahamas participated and the prime minister has said on more than one occasion he knows the very real and present dangers that lie ahead for a country that is among those at greatest risk,” said Save The Bays chairman Joseph Darville. “Recognizing the risk of potential devastation is the first step, but what are we doing to prepare? Why are we waiting when the clock is ticking and the time is drawing nearer to evacuation and we still have no plan?”
Darville points to other low-lying locales already facing reality and finding funding. Miami Beach, he notes, is spending up to $300 million on sea level rise abatement, and even that may not save a coastal city that, much like most of The Bahamas, sits like a whisper above the water.
“For too long and even unto this moment we are not responding intelligently, sensibly or creatively to the inevitable, dramatic impact of rapidly increasing global warming and sea level rise,” Darville said.
In the past, good fortune has enabled Bahamians to wrest and wrangle a living from the sea, the very body of water that could threaten survival of future generations.
“For decades, we have been satisfied with what we have been able to reap from basically parasitic economies: gun running, shipwrecking, rum running, drug running and even recently people running. We rely upon the good fortune or ill fortune of others for survival,” he said.
Now, contends Darville, who heads an organization with hundreds of members and a Facebook page of more than 20,000 Likes, the time has come to move further inland and increasingly look to the land for survival.
“For a very long time I have been advocating the return to the soil particularly for the benefit of our young citizens,” said Darville, a former educator who still heads summer eco-camps and year-round environmental sessions.
“We have neglected to eke out a sustainable and resourceful future for them; thus we are condemning them to a nation devoid of self-creative endeavors. When these islands begin to gradually and some very rapidly sink into the ocean due to sea level rise, our beloved present and future children will plunge into the ocean of emptiness. Unlike Shaunae’s dive for the gold, they will either surface empty-handed or not survive at all.
“How are our youth being trained for green and sustainable jobs? When, and not if, the ocean covers all our pristine beaches, when there will be no seafront or beach front hotels, and all the tourists are no more, how will this nation’s people survive?”
Although climate change was not one of the six tenets on which Save The Bays was founded or its online petition at www.savethebays.bs
founded, it would be covered under a comprehensive environmental protection act, and that, said Darville, is fundamental to the future of a country dependent far more on its resources and the beauty of its environment than it is on industry, manufacturing or technology.
“There was a time when melting ice caps and impact of climate change seemed like a distant worry. But change is occurring at a far greater pace with far dire results projected than even the best scientists predicted and we cannot afford to wait,” Darville said. “We are here to assist but we must have a plan for our islands.”