by Sabina Jafri ‘20
Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and Tropical Depression Imelda in Texas last month both caused devastation and death where they landed. They’re sending a clear message that some governments across the world are failing to recognize: climate change is unchecked and intensifying, and for our homes’ sake, we need to do something about it.
According to the latest numbers, the death toll from Hurricane Dorian now stands at 56 people, with over a thousand still missing. Making landfall Sunday, September 1 at Elbow Cay on the Abaco Islands, the storm and resulting flooding damaged 90% of all homes and infrastructure on the island. That, and widespread power outages, closed all retail businesses on the island.
The unlivable conditions pushed most every resident to try to flee the island; hundreds crowd airport terminals and landing zones, praying to secure a seat on a private flight. The general sentiment is that homes have schools, supermarkets, banks, and running water. The island cannot be a home anymore.
Then, two years after Hurricane Harvey and a mere sixteen days after Hurricane Dorian, rains from Tropical Depression Imelda formed in eastern Texas, which was immediately declared to be in a state of emergency. Dissipating four days later, on September 21, the storm left floodwaters as deep as five feet in some coastal towns, as reported by residents. Highways were shut down, and in the hard-hit Orange County, the following week was wrought with more than 400 high-water rescues. May of the residents here, too, could not access their homes.
Imelda coincided with a global climate strike that took place from September 20-27. Encompassing over 6,100 events held in 185 countries, the strike attacked 7.6 million people carrying signs, waving banners, giving speeches, and chanting to achieve a single goal: to phase-out fossil fuels and deforestation in favor of renewable energy. These protestors say that they are proving that a large enough human force exists to make this change. But does it?
In a world of 7.7 billion people, the 7.6 million demonstrators make up approximately 0.09% of the global population. Between 2007-2009, the global usage of coal, crude oil, and natural gas all decreased, but they’ve been rising ever since.
Such an abysmal level of support for the reduction of fossil fuels and conservation of energy moves society in a dangerous direction. According to world-renowned sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.” In her address at the 2019 UN climate action summit in New York, she chastises world leaders for their lack of action, accusing them of coming “to young people for hope.”
Although change should be more effectively promoted by politicians, Thunberg’s statement stands true: in these protests, and in aiding hurricane and fund relief through donated supplies, schools and students are frontrunners. It truly has become our duty to promote a healthier earth. Using the lessons learned in Texas and on the Abaco Islands, we must instill in our peers the urgency under which we must consider climate change and how we decay our planet.
It is up to us to have these discussions. Post about conservation and aid. Talk about it. Write about it. Although peoples’ houses were irreversibly destroyed in disasters, spreading awareness might just bring the 7.6 million up large enough to save our home.