August 24, 2007

Natural disasters- A collective responsibility


The many thanks and praises that we utter here in SVG for once again being spared the wrath of a rampaging hurricane must be tempered by our sympathies for the plight of our neighbours in St. Lucia and Dominica as well as our brothers and sisters in the northern Caribbean (Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic) and Central America (Belize and Mexico).{{more}} For the umpteenth time Vincentians have escaped the worst leading us once more to delude ourselves that somehow this land of ours is more “blessed” than the rest of the region. Geography and fate have so far been kind to us but the sooner we rid ourselves of the illusion that we will always be safe (relatively), the better it will be for us all.

If for no other reason, it will bring home to us the reality that we must take disaster preparedness and risk management as seriously as they ought to be treated. Self-delusion brings about irresponsibility, carelessness and neglect. The more we believe that it won’t be us, the greater the risks to which we are exposed and the harder recovery and rehabilitation becomes.

Then again it is important that we understand that it is not just foreign donors and our governments who have the responsibility for rebuilding, but us all. In the first place we owe it to ourselves, our offspring and to our country to take the necessary preventative mitigating measures. We cannot ignore safety procedures, rules and environmental considerations and then expect everyone else to help us in time of danger. We cannot refuse to move from high-risk areas and then expect people to risk their lives when ours are threatened, avoidably. It is not just “Government” which has a responsibility for safe shelter; we too must do what we can.

Hurricane Dean has given us yet another reminder of our vulnerability. With each such incident we need to lift our levels of collective responsibility and solidarity with our neighbours. We must use every such opportunity to heighten our environmental and social awareness and to seek to play our part in minimizing damage, helping in recovery and planning for the future.