Thu | Dec 1, 2022

Letter of the Day | Vandalising environment speeding climate change

Published:Tuesday | October 4, 2022 | 12:05 AM


I am writing with reference to the article by Patricia Green, ‘Stop blaming climate change for flooding’, in The Sunday Gleaner’s In Focus. So far, this year has recorded some of the highest temperatures in many places, including Florida, I believe. My folks here tell me that it was hotter than usual. Well, it certainly was in Spain and the UK, where I spent several months between May and September, where I and others baked in the extreme heat. For instance, in Madrid, on some days, it was 44 degrees Celsius.

But to the point: meteorologists disclosed that the Gulf of Mexico was three degrees warmer than it has ever been, which, they said, added extra fuel to Hurricane Ian. Ian wiped out several communities along the southwest coast of Florida, which borders the Gulf of Mexico.

Human activities – deforestation, burning more fossil fuels, etc – have exacerbated climate change over the last few years. In Florida, there has been rapid urbanisation: huge trees which soak up excess rainwater, and that aerate the atmosphere, have been axed down to make way for malls, apartments blocks, and single-family homes (these houses have sprung up like mushrooms overnight); these activities, and other speculative building projects, have negatively impacted the environment and the climate.

Now, dig a few feet down in the ground here in Florida, and you strike water. I know this from installing my well for pumping water.

So as these new housing developments, without carrying out due diligence, take place and new roads are cut, retention ponds are created; and these ponds soon become lakes. But when there is moderate to heavy rainfalls, they overflow. With nowhere to run, water floods streets, people’s yards and homes. In Orlando, this is what happened after Hurricane Ian dumped an unprecedented amount of rain in parts of that city.

So climate change must be factored into the intensity of Hurricane Ian, and hurricanes of recent years, for the records show that Ian is the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida, and the wider US. Dr Green is correct that unsuitable building practices have added to the incredible woes caused by Hurricane Ian in those areas that it has battered. So those types of developments, for example, predatory developments on those barriers islands, are pure hubris.

I see people building houses on sandy beaches along the Floridian coast. This type of unthinking practice flies in the face of nature, which is telling us that we need to stop vandalising our environment; and that if we don’t stop, worse is yet to come.