The sea isn’t giving up much these days. The mangrove across from my shop used to be more. But most of it and the pond where the birds used to gather and baby fish used to spawn was destroyed to build the hotel where most of the youngsters from the village work – so there’s that, I suppose, work. Don’t get me wrong, all work is good work but sometimes I feel like we missing the bigger picture. Anyway, fisheries took a hit. Some of the more adventurous, more entrepreneurial ones dived into adventure tourism – sport fishing, eco tours. But some of them, some of them that don’t know nothing but fish, they flounder, no other way to put it, liming their days away while their fish pots and nets stay empty.
There’s a tree in the yard by my shop where they does be banging dominoes all day, with vengeance. Lots of ole talk to go with it, ‘bout politicians and their shenanigans, village mêlée, and the university students across the street wading through the mangroves in rubber boots. They used to harass the girls, every time they come hopping over the rain-widened, and widening, gap at the entrance to the shop. I had to tell them to stop ‘lest they run off my paying customers.
Apart from that I never used to pay the environment girls, as I think of them, much mind. But Juan get me worrying, and is so I start asking questions.
“So what you all doing over there?”
I remember the girl pause in reaching for a drink from the cooler that first time, surprised. I shrugged. Juan did it. And she recover fast fast and ever since been talking my head off.
I come to realize the reason birds don’t nest no more, fish don’t grow, and water have nowhere to go have a lot to do with what they doing over there in the half dead mangrove littered with old appliances.
“The climate is changing but we’re still here”. She sounded so earnest I wanted to hug the poor thing. Imagine, she’s the one with her degrees and thing, and I’m pitying her.
She tell me, weird as it sound, all them bad hurricane is sign that the world heating up. Climate Change she call it. But is not long time climate changing? Is not ever since they have bad hurricane? Look at them two that knock down every wattle and daub in Antigua back in the ‘50s, look at how David flatten Dominica in ’79, look at wha-wha-Wild Gilbert in Jamaica, remember him? All of them was bad and nobody was even talking ‘bout the earth heating up all then. And she tell me, yes, but they wasn’t happening so fast, and she making sense ‘cause these years, the Caribbean come like a super high way for hurricane. “September all over” my big toe!
She give me something to think ‘bout.
And when she tell me how the rise in temperature going be especially trying on people who already have heart or breathing issues, I think ‘bout my boy and wasn’t much hesitation after that.
Right then and there, I decide to do better. I can’t do big things like buy one of them expensive electric car she driving which she say save her hundreds every month and save the environment even more. But I could, for one thing, add my voice to the conversation. She pull out her phone and pull up a petition she want me to read and sign. A simple thing really. The thing say the world heating up and the sea goin’ rise three to six feet – three to six feet! When I’m only 5’10. So is self-interest that make me sign it, really. I might not know a Farenheit from a Celsius but I know what get too hot burn, and we right in the kitchen.
I feel good to have my say but that song they had on the petition page, 1.5 to stay alive, like it stick in my head all now and don’t wan’ come out.
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 TRIVIA (NOT TRIVIAL): The main impacts of climate change on the coastal zone include increased erosion; increased submergence and siltation of sea grass beds; coral reef degradation mainly as a result of bleaching; salt water getting into the ground water; adverse impacts to human settlements and infrastructure due to increase storm activity; destruction and loss mangroves and adverse impact on fisheries. (Source: Government of Antigua and Barbuda, 2001 c cited in National Vulnerability Assessment document)
It’s great to live in paradise really. We aren’t too far from the beach, though many of us hardly get to go there, the smell of the sea generally finds us where we are. We love to share it, with whomever comes calling, but in the name of progress, tourism and economy many times the very paradise we love, is destroyed. Bringing more than just nostalgia but disaster.
Being poor people, for the most part, and having to concentrate on surviving, very often we can’t be bothered with issues of climate change. Equipment and life style changes we can’t afford. Except now, it’s biting us in the pocket, in the recreation and on the dinner table,in our livelihoods. Guess even in paradise we can’t keep our heads down forever, huh?