Storm-Ravaged Island Serves as Platform for Knowledge Sharing on Resilience
6th March 2020
Nassau, THE BAHAMAS – New learning and knowledge sharing about bridging vulnerabilities, strengthening systems and mitigating risks in coordinated climate action is happening where Hurricane Dorian’s monstrous fury was unleashed last September.
Grand Bahama is where scores of scholars, researchers and policy makers have gathered to reflect on the impact of the deadly hurricane and others like it, reimagining small island sustainability and collectively proposing adaptive systems and action. Much of the island, and also Abaco, suffered the brunt of the deadly storm which pummeled The Bahamas last year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest was clear.
“Our approach to “disaster relief” must be comprehensive: not only addressing the immediate needs for support, but also the mechanisms that will lead to sustainable livelihoods after the fact,” he said in his keynote address at the Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference’s opening ceremony on Thursday, 5th March.
In its second year, the conference is being hosted by University of The Bahamas-North with a special focus on what can be learned from Hurricane Dorian. The UB campus in Grand Bahama remains a shell of its former self after the storm’s devastation.
Minister Turnquest, also the MP for East Grand Bahama where the campus is located, said in the aftermath of a major hurricane, the damage and loss to the private sector is significantly larger than the damage and loss incurred by the government. Hurricane Dorian caused $2.5 billion in estimated damages, of which 91 percent was private. Losses were estimated at $717.3 million and were also sustained primarily in the private sector, which accounted for 84 percent of the total.
“There is no doubt, the resilience of our communities is being tested in ways we have never seen before. There is no doubt, the mass urbanization and industrialization of our societies presents new challenges to questions of sustainability. There is no doubt, the collective human family is testing the nerves of Mother Nature, and not without consequence,” said Minister Turnquest.
“Because of these things, we must open our eyes to new realities and remain oriented towards learning and knowledge sharing. At the same time, we should have faith, confidence and strength in our ability and a capacity as a people to survive and thrive even in this new era of uncertainty.”
The three-day conference, held at the Pelican Bay Resort, attracted champions for small island sustainability from all walks of life. Aliv, which has played a pivotal role in telecommunications restoration, is the lead sponsor. Conference participants are examining themes that are timely in relation to disaster risk, mitigation, and adaptation, as well as resilience.
Vice President of UB-North Dr. Ian G. Strachan asserted that as time goes on, The Bahamas – and Grand Bahama in particular – will face more life-threatening super storms in the mold of Hurricane Dorian or even stronger. Thus, he said, the university has a vested interest in fulfilling its mission of supporting national development by hosting the conference.
“Dorian was the worst disaster in almost 100 years in our country,” Dr. Strachan said. “But good can come out of horrible tragedy. The good will come if we learn and change, if we raise our voices against climate injustice, if we practice what we preach in terms of conservation and clean energy use, if we build more intelligently, if we equip those who must stand in harm’s way with the tools they need, if we give each citizen the knowledge and skills necessary to increase their chances of survival, and if we prepare,” he said.
“I believe the recommendations that will emerge from these sessions will help The Bahamas be more resilient and be more proactive in the future. Adaptation is the key to our survival.”
In addressing conference participants, UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith commended organizers for the diversity and breadth of topics for deliberation, including the results of a 2017 survey on the perception Bahamian residents have on climate change and the findings of climate change researchers who predict that future storms will be even stronger than Hurricane Dorian and consequently more destructive.
Conference presenters are from The Bahamas, North America and Europe. Other members of the corporate community in Grand Bahama are also lending their support including: Grand Bahama Power, Grand Bahama Port Authority, Equinor, Maecal Electronics, Pelican Bay, the Ministry of Grand Bahama, and Generali Worldwide.
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University of The Bahamas
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