Despite the mixed feelings following the most recent string of disasters that have impacted St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it can be agreed by all that there were lessons to be learned throughout. A few weeks ago, during a public awareness broadcast on the needs of the people following the 9th April 2021 explosive eruption of La Soufriere, a young gentleman quite accurately reminded that panel that in addition to 1979 being the year of the last explosive eruptions in St. Vincent, 1979 was also a year of rebirth for our nation. Notably in 1979 we saw our multi-island nation gaining independence from Britain and we also saw a revolution albeit short-lived, where the people of Union Island sought to remove themselves from under the umbrella of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Both examples, although on the face are juxtaposed against each other, point towards the spirit of our people from Fancy in the north to Union Island in the south.
So, where do we go from here?
We have learned how important communication is in any situation; whether it is in the fight against conspiracy theorists, misinformation, distrust, general information or even for relief or fund-raising efforts. We have also learned that communication is not only oral or written words but can also take the form of images, and that how it is presented is also a key component. What is often missed in communication, is that to gain desired outcomes it must go both ways. Information must not only be provided, but feedback must be taken into consideration and not dismissed as negative criticism. I hope that going forward our agencies place communication in a more important position.
Realising that providing information is not sufficient, but that the information must be provided in a manner that is timely, clear, unambiguous, and unbiased, for the persons who it is intended to reach.
As a small island developing state we, more than many others, are aware of the challenges we have faced and continue to face as a result of our geographical location.
We continue to be victims of extreme weather-drought or rain. The people of the Grenadines have for long battled with drought, and now given climate change, this battle seems to be more frequently affecting mainland St. Vincent. The impact of the ash-fall of La Soufriere eruption on the existing water storage capacity on St. Vincent should lead us to consider promoting household water storage in the forms of tanks, so that whether it is ash or general drought, we will not be as vulnerable in the future. It may also be helpful, once the immediate needs of persons at shelters are reduced, for the water tanks which were donated to aid in water collection, for those tanks to be redistributed to the most water vulnerable persons in the community. This would be an excellent first step in reducing our water vulnerability.
So, where do we go from here? The answer to that question will be determined by the choices every single one of us who identify as Vincentians make going forward. Without a doubt we have faced enormous challenges as a nation over the past forty years and arguably we are not where we should be as a post-independence country. Whether this is true or not is a matter of opinion, but undoubtedly, we as a people have once again been granted a golden opportunity as we were in 1979 where the heart of our country was purged through ash. Mother nature has now given us a chance to rechart or paths, redirect our course and rise up from the ash that covered our blessed land remembering the words of Errol ‘D Man Age’ Rose “we have a country to build.”
Heidi Badenock, Barrister at Law and Solicitor