By anguillian October 16, 2017 11:12

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For many, following the passage of Hurricane Irma on 6th September 2017, our lives will be defined by two distinct periods: before Irma and after Irma. There is no doubt that as a people we have had an unforgettable, life-changing experience – and as a country we are at a cross-road. As we begin the process of restoration, it is evident that by and large the spirit of unity, strength and endurance, that has distinguished the people of Anguilla throughout our history, has resurfaced. It is also evident that, as a country, we are committed to rebuilding. We have seen the demolition of several public buildings, including schools and the Blowing Point Ferry terminal, which suggests a recognition that they have outlived their time. The question is where do we go from here? How do we rebuild? Will we simply replace what was there before, or will we be more strategic and forward thinking in what we do?

In last week’s editorial, I pointed out that Hurricane Irma presents opportunities to rebuild stronger. I would go a step further and say our lives and our livelihoods depend on it. If we believe the scientists, and we have no reason not to, climate change will result in more storms of this magnitude impacting our region. This means that unless we wish to put our lives at risk, or be in a constant state of repair and reconstruction, we have to do things differently.

Firstly, we have to go back to what our forefathers taught us after Hurricane Donna in 1960: build concrete roofs. They may not be the most attractive, and they may not be the best option for earthquakes, but they are not going to blow off – and we are more at risk of hurricanes than earthquakes so we have to pick our battles.

Secondly, we have to rethink our types, sizes and styles of windows, doors and shutters. North American standards are not suited for our region. We have to identify what works for us, and stick to that, rather than what we see elsewhere.

Thirdly, we have to seriously invest in alternative sources of energy to power our homes, schools, hospitals, ports, banks and other key infrastructure. Reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable and contributes further to climate change. Given the disproportionate impact on countries such as ours, we ought to adopt a different energy model and demonstrate to the rest of the Caribbean, and the world, that it can be done.
Fourthly, we have to ensure that all our public buildings are of the highest standard. It is almost embarrassing that hardly any Government building withstood the wrath of Irma. For weeks some Government offices were unable to function. We therefore have to ensure that public buildings (including schools, ports and hospitals) are constructed to withstand hurricanes of Irma’s strength and more – that they have independent sources of power from alternative energy sources, and that they are technologically equipped to continue operations even if the rest of the country is in shambles.

Lastly, we have to truly grapple with the issue of economic diversification. Our overwhelming reliance on the tourism industry means that devastating hurricanes have the capacity to shut the country and the economy down – in just a few hours – leaving hundreds of persons out of work. This is the time for out-of-the-box thinking in relation to what other disaster-resilient sectors can be developed to drive the economy. I would suggest that we explore technology based or green industries which could support and expand the creative potential of our young digital citizens. While doing so, we also have to be mindful that our social services must be able to provide some financial support for persons who find themselves unemployed as a result of natural disasters. To do otherwise, would be to bury our heads in the sand while a social disaster unfolds.

These are just a few of the things I thought of. I am sure there are many more our people can bring to the table. However, given that God has provided us an opportunity, in this our golden jubilee year, to turn over a new leaf, I ask: why not just rewrite the whole book? This can be the turning point we have been longing for. It is up to us to write the story of our development that future generations will be proud to read. We are strong! Let’s get to work!

By anguillian October 16, 2017 11:12


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