No sooner than the record-breaking hurricane Irma wrought havoc across the Caribbean as the most powerful and persistent Atlantic storm ever, the region braces for yet another monster category 5 hurricane with Maria. Maria, the first major hurricane to make direct landfall on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in more than 85 years, has devastated the island. Islands are particularly vulnerable to climate risks and are fast becoming ground zero in our rapidly changing world, reminding us that in the face of unprecedented challenges, we can no longer be islands unto ourselves.
An emblem of this devastation is the fact that the inhabitants of the once idyllic island of Barbuda, along with other islands in the region, are now veritable climate change refugees. For the first time in more than 300 years, Barbuda is totally uninhabited by people. These same displaced people, along with residents of other Caribbean islands, are finding little solace as one of their places of refuge in Puerto Rico, which was spared the worst of hurricane Irma, is now ground zero for hurricane Maria. Amid the regional ruin, rich and poor alike were not spared the devastation, proving that nature’s arsenal is just as indiscriminate as ours.
Indeed, Sir Richard Branson, who weathered hurricane Irma in his wine cellar on Necker Island, has marshalled his considerable brand presence to raise awareness, resources and global support for a region he calls home. Even with formidable voices like Branson’s sounding the alarm, the world’s media cycle and disaster response resources are barely keeping pace with hurricane Harvey and its nuclear rain bomb, which devastated Houston, Irma’s aftermath in the Caribbean and across the entire Florida peninsula, and most recently, a horrific earthquake in Mexico, which has claimed more than 200 lives. All the while, the drum beat of war grows ever louder with President Trump’s ominous speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he offered to wipe North Korea off the map. Perhaps in a time of great national peril and global need, the U.S. should be less concerned with destroying nations and more concerned with shoring them up.