Sally’s blues

Hi there guys, introducing the Sally series. A series of stories penned by a local author in collaboration of the environmental department of Antigua and Barbuda, aimed at building awareness of climate change. These will run for the next four weeks on Random_Michelle. Read, laugh, cry, shout, along, and maybe we can discuss.

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You have bills to pay, work to do, your children to see to, and about the politricks running like soap opera on the radio, the less said the better, right? You don’t have time to knock up your head about climate change.

I feel you. That’s how I used to think, until Juan.

At first he seemed like a good thing. It had been such a long, dry season I was having flashbacks to that time in 1984 when I was a girl and the island was so dry the government had to send over to Dominica for water, like the nature island was one ever-flowing standpipe. It was a dread, dread, dread, dread time. I could read the desperation on big people face.

And here we were again, back to holding spots at the standpipe with bucket, back to throwing up water, even those with fancy shower, back to praying every day for rain.

Then there was Juan, the only storm of the hurricane season announced to be heading our way. God know I didn’t have no money to deal with nothing called hurricane just then; is just me one trying to make way  for me and my son, and when the asthma take him or school fee have to be paid or he outgrow another pair of pants, who checking for that?

The tax man looking for his cut. Bank only counting their pile-on of fees and insurance only looking for ways not to pay you; how you to make your home hurricane-ready when you can barely keep up with the mortgage to keep the blasted thing over your head. Like everything natural and unnatural sometimes conspiring to keep people that trying to get up, down.

But, Juan wasn’t supposed to be no wind-heavy hurricane, just rain. So I wasn’t stressed. Rain was good, good and necessary.

But then the rain came. And came. And came.

So much rain, car the size of house wash way, land slip way – nothing, no trees, nothing there to hold it, because you know how we love cut down tree in this country, and the house an’ dem, well, water was almost on top of some people’s roofs. They had to send out boat like Katrina to rescue people. Here, in Antigua! Imagine!

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the aftermath of hurricane Lenny, in Antigua 

And even after the water go down, worries! It was nice to see so much butterfly out and about, haven’t seen so much since I was little, it almost make me smile to see them, but the mosquitos, the flies, and whatever else gave me too much grief.

Look at panic when news start to spread. Chickengunya, zika-mada, however you call it– like they want me bite up my tongue bad as the mosquito biting me up. From too little to too much: excess water, untreated and everywhere, dampness in the air. I wasn’t surprised when my boy asthma pick then to act up. Be careful what you wish for indeed.

The scientist girl, one of the ones doing environmental research, mucking about in the village swamp, explain to me that no house should ever have been built where we lived. “It’s a natural water catchment” she said as if that mean anything to me, ent people have to live somewhere. Too late for that now any way unless they goin’ take up tout monde sam and bagai and move them. She say that not out of the question but meantime we need to make sure we don’t do more of the damage that cause the problem in the first place. I tell her tell the politicians to put in proper drainage and tell smadee to stop clogging up every hole with garbage, but good luck with that.

“It’s up to you,” she said. “You live here. You’re the one in the pool, and you know what happen when pool full up and you can’t swim.”

I laugh my belly full.

“What’s so funny?”

“You mean to say if I had learned to swim I wouldn’t ah had to replace all my provisions in the shop, air out everything in my house that didn’t have to t’row way, and trust a new TV?”

Note: Sally is an Antiguan woman. She’s not real, but she could be. Resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental and her views are her own. The Sally series was written as part of an Environmental consultancy. The writer was given a free hand to creatively explore the issue of climate change from a local perspective. The hope is that Sally gets people talking about a global phenomenon that is hitting very close to home. For more on climate action, visit http://www.cop21paris.org/about/cop21

CLIMATE CHANGE TRIVIA (NOT TRIVIAL): Low lying coastal areas (e.g. Perry Bay, Green Bay, Lower St. John’s, Lower Villa, Lower Fort Road, West Palm Beach, Yorks) have been most vulnerable to storm surge and resulting erosion. The southeast of Antigua between English Harbour and St. James is most vulnerable to drought. (Source: Government of Antigua and Barbuda, 2001c cited in National Vulnerabilty Assessment document)

Where to begin? It’s all true and very close to home. We are throwing up, praying out, littering, and paying for our souls, many of us in the same potion as poor Sally. Too busy struggling to think about proper zoning, and hurricane survival, and all those other things we really ought to think about if we are gonna leave a healthy island for our kids.

What do you think?

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