By Avellon Williams
To borrow a line from local Calypsonian; Timothy Watkins Jr. aka the Baron, “Mother earth is crying, Mother earth is dying. In case we don’t know, the planet is dying slowly.” This song, penned in 1994 seems prophetic, especially when one considers events that have happened over the last year.
The 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, which began in June 2019 and lasted until May 2020 was unprecedented in many ways. It burned more than 46 million acres, roughly the same area as the entire country of Syria. Several wildlife animals were roasted alive as fires engulfed their natural habitat. Several endangered species are also facing extinction because of the raging bushfires.
At least 80% of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area in New South Wales and 53% of Gondwana World Heritage rainforests in Queensland were burned. The estimated cost of the fire is 103 billion Australian dollars, with 479 fatalities; 34 of those being directly burned and 445 through smoke inhalation. As bushfires go in Australia, this could be described as ‘The Mother of all bushfires.’
Not to be outdone, the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon in Brazil lost 5.4 million acres to raging bushfires, from May 2020 to November 2020. It is estimated that these fires destroyed an estimated $957 billion US worth of exquisite flora and fauna in the Amazon.
The major contributors to these fires are: the effects of climate change and global warming and the slash and burn method of deforestation to clear lands for agricultural purposes. The effects of these bushfires will be felt for many more years in the future.
Sandwiched between these two major catastrophic fires is perhaps the most devastating event to have befallen mankind since the end of the Second World War in 1945. COVID-19, which began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 spread so rapidly, that by March of 2020, it was declared a global pandemic.
Additionally, by April 2020, the entire world came to a virtual standstill. Large Metropolitan cities became ghost towns in the blink of an eye. Both air and sea transport ground to a halt and countries shut their borders, even from their citizens, who were outside at the time.
The havoc wreaked by COVID -19 cannot be quantified in terms of dollars and cents. Millions of people became jobless, some eventually losing their homes.
Thousands of children were unable to access schooling, which was now done virtually since they had neither electronic devices nor internet connection to access the virtual classroom. To date, 219 million persons worldwide have been infected with this virus, which has resulted in 4.55 million deaths.
According to the data obtained from John Hopkins University, COVID-19 is present in 223 countries/ territories of the world. We have not yet begun to discover the extent of the psychological effects of this virus on individuals all over the world. It will take decades for the world to recover from the debilitating effects of COVID-19.
As if the world did not suffer enough from COVID-19, the months of July and August this year saw some of the worst floods in Europe. European nations such as Germany, which was the worst hit, Belgium and France experienced flooding that was never seen before. At least 230 persons have died, with hundreds still unaccounted for. The estimated cost of damage to the infrastructure of the nations is 10 billion Euros.
Not to be left out the United States experienced the costliest winter on record in 2021. Winter storm Uri swept across the Southern United States, between February 13th and 17th, with Texas being the hardest hit. Over 9 million persons lost electricity, with property damage estimated to be in the vicinity of $195 billion US.
Just last week, hurricane Ida, battered Louisiana and dumped heavy rainfall on New York City and the other Eastern States, resulting in severe flooding, which the experts have said is the worst on record. The death toll to date stands at 43, and property damage is expected to be in the billions.
Trinidad and Tobago have also had its share of natural disasters during this year. Severe rainfall has claimed the life of one individual when his home collapsed on him. Last Thursday night’s heavy storm-force winds uprooted many trees and sent many roofs sailing through the air.
Severe flooding has ruined many crops and has sent the price of fruits and vegetables sky high. Some individuals were just about completing repairs to their homes from the earlier floods when last Thursday’s storm winds stuck.
The cries of citizens the world over is,” what’s next?” The eyes of the world will be focused on Glasgow Scotland from November 1st – 12th for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The hope is that leaders would strategize and develop solutions to tackle the myriads of problems that the people of the world are facing at this time. Mother earth is indeed crying, it is time to listen!