Hurricanes have a habit of blowing away division ‒ for a minute
Having been blamed for five deaths across the Caribbean, Hurricane Fiona brushed by Bermuda at 5am last Friday as a Category 3 storm, leaving some damage. Aware of our island’s blessing, all residents released a collective sigh of relief. We knew we had been only a whisker away from being another example of the devastation being wrought by climate catastrophe across the globe.
Fiona left us and landed predawn on Saturday on Canada’s Atlantic Coast as a post-tropical cyclone. She caused damage in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Quebec and Prince Edward Island in what that Government described as an “historic climate phenomenon”.
Once the sense was that the coast was clear on Friday in Bermuda, neighbours gathered in various locations with a sense of community solidarity, which is more easily engendered at times of societal crisis. Folks shared what they had heard through the grapevine on what had happened across the island.
This past week was the opening of the 2022 session of the United Nations General Assembly. The secretary-general, António Guterres, welcomed world leaders with a stark warning, noting that the meeting “is at a time of great peril”. He went on to say that “the solidarity envisioned by the United Nations Charter is being devoured by the acid of nationalism and self-interest”.
The UN leader explained that healthy social cohesion was being undermined across the globe by various factors, including:
• “Those politicians who play to people’s worse instincts for partisan gain”
• “A global financial system that penalises those with the least”
• “Fossil fuel corporations killing the planet to rake in the most”
The secretary-general urged delegates to “overcome division” in addressing these circumstances, threatening all of humanity. Mr Guterres’s call for urgent action was supported by a joint message from 280 non-governmental organisations across the globe to all of the UN delegations. These groups who work with the planet’s most vulnerable cited the triple threat of Covid, conflict and climate catastrophe.
The president of Oxfam-America, Abby Maxman, points to the numbers that expose this dire but solvable reality. For instance, extreme drought in areas such as East Africa and parts of Asia has been made worse by the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s impact on grain supplies. Overall outcomes include:
• 345 million people suffering extreme hunger — double the 2019 figures
• Every four seconds, someone is dying from these combined impacts
• The fossil fuel Industry boast profits of $2.8 billion per day while worsening the climate crisis. Maxman points out that just 18 days of that profit could totally resolve the present hunger crisis
It is obvious that fostering the solidarity referred to by the UN secretary-general would promote a cultural ethos that would create — or recreate — the global community that could address these challenges. Some of us locally would have experienced glimpses of that spirit after the visit of Fiona.
In my diverse neighbourhood, solidarity was manifested in a number of ways, including:
• Members of four families worked together to clear foliage from the estate road
• Five families shared the electricity supplied by two generators
• One neighbour distributed avocados throughout the area
• My immediate neighbour helped me with the tricky operation of retrieving my tank top, which had fallen into the tank
I’m sure there were numerous examples of solidarity being manifested — from Fort St Catherine to Dockyard.
We have had a glimpse of how we could be collectively. With that spirit of solidarity, working together locally and globally, humanity would be able to navigate these most challenging times. While it will not be easy to sustain that spirit, it is a debt we owe to future generations.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda