PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Who do we think we are, to destroy, neglect, damage and abuse nature and most of all don’t expect nature to hit back? Nothing is more powerful than nature, if you have doubts about that, ask anyone who went through the category 5+ hurricane ‘Irma’. By damaging and destroying nature we destroy ourselves, because we are part of nature, something a lot of people seem to forget..
Before ‘Irma’, the once abundant mangroves around the lagoon were already competed out by buildings and marinas, a magnificent ecosystem which protected the lower areas the most against flooding and storms. Many trees were already chopped down, as also on the next hilltop we needed to build villas. Trees protect us from erosion and mudslides and bring us our required oxygen. Our coral reefs were decreased and overfished, an ecosystem which protects our coastlines against storms, causes clear waters and is a very important food source. And not to be forgotten, our waters were already polluted through sewage and fuel leakage and on top of all a garbage volcano is standing on the foot of the government building. Irma made sure that all of this formerly destructed nature is more smashed now, however St Maarten’s nature should have been our protector against the impact of storms.
Climate change is now..
Greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, are getting trapped in the air and slows down heat that would otherwise escape to space, causing the globe to be warm. Humans are now pumping the greenhouse gasses into the air much faster than nature has ever done, causing the globe to increase in temperature. Temperature rise changes the climate and increases the amounts of extreme weather events. Warm water is the fuel for hurricanes, therefore increased ocean temperatures will cause storms to become more intense, powerful and energetic.
The simple reality is that people are already feeling the effects, whether they know it or not. Researchers are trying to show us for decades; we are experiencing storms with higher wind speeds, and these storms are more destructive and last longer. Hurricanes are strongly associated with sea surface temperatures, the increased storm intensity and climate change are linked. Four major destructive Atlantic hurricanes in 3 weeks are the ultimate example of climate change we experienced ourselves; powerful hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, nature is hitting back.
The love of denial
Of course, as with almost all other social problems, poor people will be hit first and hardest and some of the rich and country leaders are shouting their denial. As a sport supporter climate change skeptics yell their rejection of climate change, not even knowing why they support this denial and in the meantime accept the same science based medicines. Yes, your medicines come from the same science and identical educated researchers as climate change researchers, however certainly researchers are only believed when the research results fits the receiver’s view. The love of denial, humans tend to think if they deny, it is not going to happen. You can either neglect climate change and wait until it is too late, or prepare for the worst and hope for the best, like St Maarten people did when Irma was approaching.
Shift our priorities, nature is the future
If we want us and our children to have a future on St Maarten and not to be ‘climate change refugees’ as my friend and coworker ‘Tadzio Bervoets’ mentioned, we do not need to rebuild but we need to build stronger and incorporate sustainability for the long term. An ecofriendly place where mangroves and trees are abundant, energy is gained through solar power, garbage is recycled, all sewage is treated environmental friendly and beaches are clean and clear. Cars driving on solar energy, ponds and lagoon water healthy full of fish and birds, beautiful reefs to explore with and abundance of fish and strong concrete houses for all including the poor, that will make St Maarten strong. Our beautiful nature, an ecofriendly island and unconditional care for all, will bind tourist to our islands and will be an example for other islands and the world, nature is our future!