At the invitation of the Puerto Rico Centre for Investigative Journalists, Beacon Editor Freeman Rogers travelled to Puerto Rico last week to take part in a panel discussion on climate change during a conference the centre organised for the anniversary of Hurricane Maria. In a session last Thursday, which was attended by journalism students and others, he discussed his work on the collaborative series “Islands Adrift,” which chronicled some of the devastating effects of climate change in this territory, in the United States Virgin Islands, in Puerto Rico and in several other countries around the region. He was glad to be invited to the event, and glad that the threat of climate change is being taken seriously by some. However, he also hopes that governments in the region will come on board with substantive action. Here, for all of VI leaders’ rhetoric about preparing for global warming, the territory missed the great majority of deadlines laid out in the 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Policy. To date, most of these laudable goals have not been publicly revisited. In vulnerable archipelagoes like this one, properly preparing for climate change will take more than a lot of hot air. Hurricane Irma showed that much.
A Beaconite has an air-conditioning unit that leaks water out onto his deck, which is on the second floor of a multi-storey unit. The Beaconite places a bucket under the leak and occasionally dumps the water over the balcony and onto the grass below. Mind you, he checks to make sure no person or thing of value is under him before he dumps the water, so as not to be impolite. It came as a surprise to him then, when, after dumping water on an empty patch of grass on Tuesday, his downstairs neighbour came around the property, knocked on his door and threatened to murder him if he did it again. A humourous overreaction, one might say. This neighbour was not hit by the water. Just angry that it was thrown. His words represented the latest in a series of death threats — real or not — the Beaconite has received in the 13 months since Irma. Earlier this year, several Beaconites went to investigate an allegation about fighting-dog breeders near H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. As they were taking pictures of the rows of dogs — there was no evidence of dogfighting, though the dogs looked emaciated — two men drove up. One was exceedingly angry, made a gun shape with his hand, and said, “I’m going to put a hit on you.” And in Road Town in the immediate days after the hurricane, after the Beaconite apparently took ten seconds too long to have a conversation with someone driving by — someone he was happy to see alive — a guy waiting for that car to move threatened the Beaconite with violence and said, “Get out of my country.” Other people the Beaconite knows have had similar experiences simply for driving at a speed that was apparently regarded as too slow or honking their horn at a time seemingly regarded as disrespectful. Given the number of shootings in past two years, the Beaconite is concerned that some residents seem way too quick to threaten violence. He doesn’t know the solution.
“So how’s the Bahamas? That’s where you live, right?” asked a relative.
“No, the British Virgin Islands,” a Beaconite replied.
“Do they speak English there?”
“Well, it’s British, so yes.”
“So does everyone have a British accent then?”
Yes, it was time once again this past weekend for a Beaconite to pay a visit to her home country, the United States, where she was reminded once again that the majority of her relatives and friends, as well as most of the rest of the country, know virtually nothing about the Virgin Islands, or even that the VI is a thing. Sadly, the headlines made by last year’s hurricanes do not seem to have illuminated things for most Americans but actually made them murkier, as the VI blends together with all the other tiny, hurricane-ravaged rocks. Although she realises her efforts are mostly futile, she does enjoy the chance to educate folks about the place she currently calls home, as well as provide them with regular exhortations to come visit her, and she is pleased to report that after a year of this, she may have finally succeeded. She not only does this for her own benefit, but also to support the tourism industry and perform her duty as a responsible ambassador for the territory by informing people that not only is the VI is open for business, but that it also exists.