Published On: Sun, Sep 22nd, 2019

Climate change: nobody moves

Effect sea level rise - 201807615 HH

By Hilbert Haar

Australia: 400,000.Berlin: 100,000. London: 100,000. Hamburg: 50,000. All of Germany: 1.4 million. St.Maarten: zero. These are just a few numbers highlighting the millions of people across the world who took to the streets in more than 150 countries on Friday to express their concerns about climate change.

In St. Maarten, the Tourist Bureau is looking for web developers and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association is grumbling about the management of the port – predicting a drop in cruise arrivals of 25 to 30 percent in the process – because of reports that the Cupecoy shadow government intends to sell out the port to Global Ports Holding. Politicians are bitching about funding for the reconstruction of the airport.

Discussions focus on numbers: how to get more airplanes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport and how to get more cruise ships in port.

Nobody has ever spent a second debating that report the Nature Foundation published in 2013 about the effects climate change will have on the Friendly Island. The only exception is the Governor’s Symposium in 2018 that was dedicated to climate change and where a brief reference to this report was made.

The Nature Foundation report warns that between twenty and fifty years all 37 beaches will be inundated – in other words: they will have disappeared completely under water – and the airport, the harbor and all low-lying parts of the island, including Simpson Bay, will become a huge natural swimming pool. The Lowlands will become a separate island.

The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg – the architect of the global climate change strike – has a point when she says that politicians are doing nothing to neutralize the effects of climate change. By the time the you-know-what hits the proverbial fan, today’s decision makers won’t be around anymore while Thunberg and her contemporaries will be facing the consequences.

The same is true for St. Maarten. The politicians who could take decisions now – or at least start a debate about what is coming – will all be dead as a doornail by 2050. And their failure to respond to the Nature Foundation report makes one thing clear: they don’t give a damn.

It is not going to happen in their lifetime, so it is not their problem.

But then I wonder: what is the point of sinking half a billion into fixing the damages caused by Hurricane Irma? Only this weekend citizens were – understandably – shaking in their shoes due to reports about the approaching Hurricane Jerry.

While the government urges people to be prepared, that same government does not do anything to prepare for a worst case scenario – one that will destroy St. Maarten’s most valuable assets and annihilate its tourism industry.

So one may well ask: where is the vision? What are the long-term prospects of our island? And what – if anything – can be done to protect what we have now?

It is easy to say that St. Maarten is a pin prick on the world map and that measures taken in Philipsburg won’t turn the climate tide. Fine – great attitude. The picture that emerges is my mind is this one: St. Maarten is standing on a railroad track and it knows that a huge freight train is coming. But nobody moves.


Related articles:
Climate change threatens St. Maarten’s existence
Read our news report on the Governor’s Annual Symposium 2018 here>>>
Read the complete opening speech by The Governor of Sint Maarten, His Excellency drs. Eugene B. Holiday here>>>
Opinion piece by Hilbert Haar: “A Delta Plan for St. Maarten