Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds has pleaded with international media to help Barbados and other Caribbean states spread the message of the threat these climate change frontline nations face.
Symmonds was speaking as British, Canadian, American journalists joined their Barbadian colleagues to be presented awards for feature writing on the destination at the Barbados Tourism Media Awards on Wednesday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
He told the gathering while the Caribbean was the home to substantial investment, tremendous amount of commercial activity, heritage and culture, it was also home for the West Indian civilization, which he said was under threat due to the effects of climate change.
“We are a civilization that is facing tremendous peril and existential threat. It is an existential threat [of] which we are, quite frankly, almost powerless to confront. It is in this regard that I enlist tonight, your support,” he told the award-winning journalists.
Symmonds noted research that cited China, the US and the European Union as the top three producers of dangerous greenhouse gases.
Stating that the Caribbean’s collective 500,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas production per year paled in comparison to the billions of metric tonnes produced by the industrialized countries, Symmonds said it was clear the Caribbean was not a polluter but there was a “disproportionate consequential effect on us because of the pollution that leads to global warming”.
The tourism minister argued that a climatic event such as a powerful hurricane may only cause “dislocation” or “some degree of inconvenience” in parts of a state in the US, but the same disaster impacting a Caribbean island “can decimate the civilization on that island”.
“What I say to you is not just said glibly . . . recent history has thought us this,” he said, as he recalled the devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma in several islands last year and the destruction of Grenada by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
“So what I am speaking to you about is an existential threat, it is a threat to the very survival of all that we are celebrating tonight because without these islands being able to do that which we do – our investment, our culture, our heritage, all that you have written about, all that you have helped the world to understand about us – will come to nothing because it can all be destroyed within the space of a 24-hour,” explained Symmonds.
“My entreaty to you therefore as members of the press and people who I see as developmental partners, is that you join us in the way in which you have joined with us to help put us in the forefront of people’s understanding and appetite for pleasure and the experiential side of the tourism industry, and that you now go on the journey with us to awaken the capitals of the world to the threat that exist to the survival of these tiny islands in the Caribbean,” he said.
“I am asking you to raise your voices as voices for change. The pen as I said is mightier than the sword. I am asking you to use the pen and the lens of the camera to help tell the story in the corridors of power, from Washington to London and beyond, so that people will come to understand that serious and concrete policy discussion must take place if we are not to imperil the survival prospects of these islands and all of us who live on them.”
At the end of last month, just hours after Tropical Storm Kirk dumped over nine inches of rain on Barbados, causing severe flooding in some areas, Prime Minister Mia Mottley made an impassioned plea at the United Nations for more assistance to be given to small island developing states to help them better prepare for natural disasters, many of which are likely prompted by climate change.