Caribbean Living in the Era of Climate Change by Giselle Carr

By Giselle Carr, producer, Future Playground– Island Resiliency

View of Port of Spain, Trinidad from Lady Chancellor Hill

When I wake up in the morning and hear the wild parrots outside my window, I know it is another dawn in the Caribbean that brings its own beauty, its majesty, its abundance of life at every turn. Their cries incessant for at least the first two hours of the day, paired with the familiar chirping of kiskidee birds, the quiet sounds of traffic heading to work and school, are a reminder that nature endures, persists and surpasses its raw power. 

Slowly as the day progresses, I remember… that just next door, St. Vincent experienced a significant volcanic eruption this year. That Barbados experienced a lightning storm that recorded 46,000 lightning strikes in 45 minutes. That Haiti experienced a massive earthquake that killed thousands. And I realise that even though in Trinidad we haven’t experienced a natural disaster such as this – we are all facing the looming giant that is climate change, showing up in myriad forms, as another layer of uncertainty in an uncertain time. 

I wish the answer to climate change was simple. 

I wish that so many of us, in so many parts of the world, didn’t have to feel as if we are on the front line of a war that only some can see, while others can ignore. Optimism can feel distant, and it takes perseverance to continue to reach for it – but reach we must, with love and imagination, hope and power. 

Humanity’s Crucible and Nature’s Restoration

The Caribbean is a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures that have combined over centuries. One of the key character traits that I have become most fond of is our connection to nature – this pristine and clarion messenger that reminds us of our humanity, our beauty, our ability to heal and to repair. It shows up everywhere, in our art, poetry, music, and for me, it shows up in my work. It is love that compels so many of us that work and collaborate to create positive change where we live. 

In the face of climate change, one of the poets that I deeply admire from Trinidad, Shivanee N. Ramlochan, recently wrote “Torn Lace: A Correspondence”, part of a series of writings between her and Andre Bagoo, “which presents poems and letters between Andre and I, on the pain and pressure, the fire and wind involved in living on an earth in climate crisis.” She describes so poignantly what it feels like to live in a place “where the temperature has become your enemy” – if you live in the Caribbean or in the tropics you would know that this year has hit new records with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit consistently beyond normal seasons and temperatures. 

Excerpt from Torn Lace: A Correspondence, by Shivanee N. Ramlochan

It can feel at once immense and visceral, immediate, prickly like the unrelenting heat on the days this past month that were above recorded temperatures. Yet we remember our humanity, our love, and lean into that feeling to tap into imagination and creativity as a force of nature, of restoration. 

What is this relationship with nature? At once it is healing, reflective and a duty. It is the privilege of a lifetime to live in an era when we as human beings can restore our relationship with nature. One artist who captures this nurturing and mirroring is Dominique Hunter in Guyana. 

An Invitation to Re-Imagination

Recently at the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on her perspective. She mentioned some of the less-talked-about effects of climate change in the region, and specifically Barbados, such as extensive drought-like conditions; marine life and coral reefs dying; saltwater intrusion into aquifers and how this impacts their freshwater supply; the invasive sargassum seaweed, as well as flooding and hurricane events – including an electrical storm this year that brought 46,000 lighting strikes in 45 minutes. 

While these numbers are incredibly daunting, and it may at times feel as if the task at hand is massive and unpredictable, it is in effect an invitation to reimagine. The progressive and visionary leader of the government of Barbados has a knack for making something like climate change feel solvable, through simple actions and planning – with realism and optimism hand in hand.

This is a call to arms for those who wield the power of bringing dreams and visions to life – such as artists, designers, visionaries. It couldn’t be a more important time to collaborate with scientists, strategists and conservationists around the world to create the vision and the plan that will get us into a future that we all desire.