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Hurricane Beryl: A reminder of the Caribbean’s perpetual survival mode [Op-Ed]

Maybe Hurricane Beryl has opened an opportunity to reformulate the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) agenda not by supplanting existing areas of concern but by attaching stronger awareness of their survival implications.

Fundraising efforts to assist the victims of Hurricane Beryl get back on their feet have begun. You can help by clicking on this link.

In case we were ever inclined to forget, Hurricane Beryl has announced a record-breaking and dramatic start to the annual scramble for Caribbean survival.

This diminishes (or perhaps reinforces), through immediacy, the broader metaphor of fragile socio-economic persistence because at stake are lives and livelihoods and other assets that assure viability in the face of extreme vulnerability.

Time to painfully recall the admonition of a young Kittitian student in Jamaica angrily moved by my suggestion that there objectively exists no real reason why some countries of our region consider themselves sufficiently impregnable to declare a notion of sovereignty.

Every single year, you see, we are confronted by the threat of devastation and the need to rebuild ahead of another interminable round of potential destruction. In some instances, elsewhere, human conduct in the form of violence and political instability exists as ultimately manageable traits.

We can end wars, intervene in conflicts, stand in solidarity against atrocities and help bring perpetrators to justice, even across borders. We can learn to negotiate and to understand each other better and punish those who thrive on violence and disruption. However hopeless may currently appear the plights of Palestinians, the Sudanese, Rohingya there have been paths traced by Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia which indicated resolutions … of sorts.

There are also episodic naturally occurring events that defy precise prediction, and we know some of them well right here – earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Shortly before midnight Sunday, there was a Magnitude 3.7 earthquake off Trinidad’s northwest tip barely noticed as we scoured online resources for word on Beryl.

In St Vincent, the folks of the village of Fancy who faced volcanic ash in 2021 now feared surging tides as the winds and rain raged.

Yet here we are, as usual, as expected, as officially declared, in “hurricane season.” It flows from our tongues in the midst of cricket commentary, defiant fetes, and political exchanges.

Over the weekend, a long relocated relative quipped about Trinidad and Tobago and hurricanes that “they threaten but always avoid” as if to suggest that avoidance reduces direct and indirect victimisation and involvement. Devastation in Carriacou is our issue in T&T, in the same way a volcanic eruption in St Vincent clearly was, and so will any number of weather events yet unleashed off the west coast of Africa wherever they land in our neighbourhood … or right here.

The statement ought to also invoke an implication of collective responsibility – the stuff of which the regional survival project aka “CARICOM” was meant to address.

What, therefore, is there to suggest the centrality of this question in our formal processes?

Acknowledgement of the growing climate crisis has helped close some ranks.

The fact that while we occupy different vessels we sail on the same ocean or that in many respects we share cabin space on a small brittle vessel negotiating hostile waves. We can orient the narrative in different directions, but it almost always describes susceptibility to extreme outcomes.

How, in the face of this therefore, is a psychology of “invincibility” – as prescribed by my friend and colleague, Tony Fraser, with respect to cricket – a realistic possibility; and not simply self-delusion of the highest order?

This is not to dismiss the prospects for confidence and self-belief – for which we are well known in select areas of public life – but to acknowledge some stark realities including our deficiencies. And here, in my view, is where the skills of adaptation and change and mitigation of risks are left to be developed and honed.

The suggestion that perils “threaten but always avoid” T&T may further weaken the determination we employ to engage our own survival project and the wider regional rescue.

Maybe Beryl has opened an opportunity to reformulate the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) agenda not by supplanting existing areas of concern but by attaching stronger awareness of their survival implications.

We have several months left in this long season, and next year it will return. We cannot, as island and coastal states, relocate. The scientists say, at the current rate, things will worsen.

When the postponed CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, initially due this week in Grenada, eventually convenes it might be useful to ensure this common thread of responsibility to ourselves is inserted.

The agenda needs to reflect such urgency through all issues requiring thought and action, and 12 months a year.

This story was originally published by the T&T Guardian on July 3, 2024 and is re-published, with the permission of the writer.


Picture of Wesley Gibbings

Wesley Gibbings

A Trinidadian journalist/newspaper columnist and media trainer who has been in the business for over 40 years covering assignments all over the Caribbean and in Latin America. Extensive journalistic work on Caribbean public affairs and activism in the area of press freedom. Publications include five collections of poems, numerous seminar papers on Caribbean media and contributions to a number of books. Publishing credentials also include editorial management of several technical books and journals. Received the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Percy Qoboza Foreign Journalists Award in 2017 for work in the promotion of press freedom in the Caribbean. Journalism Excellence Awardee from the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association 2022. Twitter: @wgibbings Instagram: wesleygibbings Purchase 'Passages - a collection of poems by Wesley Gibbings' on

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