If a visitor to your house confessed to you that he is a pluviophile, what would you do? Lock the kids in their rooms, not let him out of your sight and call the police at the first opportunity?
Sorry, you got that wrong! That’s a paedophile!
Farmers, gardeners and people with green thumbs are all likely to be pluviophiles because that unusual word refers simply to someone who is a lover of rain or someone who is in his element and experiences joy and peace of mind on rainy days.
Still, I am not at all certain that pluviophiles have been in their element over the last three months or so. Yes, we have had rain but in quantities far greater than is likely to bring joy or peace of mind to anyone living in T&T who has a heart. (And we now know, in light of recent events, that there are quite a few living in T&T who need to check themselves in so far as having a heart is concerned.)
Since about the end of June, the Caribbean and states in the south and east of the United States have experienced substantial amounts of rainfall dumped on them during torrential and cataclysmic downpours. A series of hurricanes have devastated the archipelago, causing widespread and catastrophic damage to infrastructure and large loss of human life. Puerto Rico and small island-states like St Maarten, Barbuda, St Croix and Dominica were left reeling and in rubble.
Here in T&T, however, where half a dozen men relieving themselves at the same time in downtown Port-of-Spain might just cause a flash flood, for yet another year, we have been fortunate to escape the Category Four and Category Five hurricanes that wreaked so much havoc to the north of us.
The threat of Bret never really materialised as it turned out to be no more than a storm in a TTeacup; the worst hits we took all season came from the ITCZ and distant outer bands of the destructive monsters, which did trigger some precipitation, causing considerable lunchtime heartache in the nation’s capital.
But October is now here; soon it will be all over, and, in November, we will remember. So it will be interesting to discover whether pluviophiles will have good, bad or indifferent memories of the July/August/September 2017 period.
It’s a fairly safe bet that, in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica and Puerto Rico, attitudes to precipitation have undergone drastic change over the last three months. Generally speaking, farmers welcome it since precipitation, especially rain, has a dramatic and positive effect on agriculture. They know all too well that, it is a vital component of the hydrologic cycle which connects the ocean, the land and the atmosphere.
They know too, from bitter experience, the extent to which the Small Island Developing States [SIDS]—small in size with disproportionately large coastline-to-land-area ratios—are vulnerable to these tropical cyclones and environmental changes. But you don’t have to be a farmer or an environmental science student to know that what makes this situation even more significant is that the climate change threats facing these SIDS are not primarily of their own making.
Their total combined annual carbon dioxide output, although rising, is equal to less than 1% of global emissions. Scientists have stated that, as a result of these emissions, the Earth’s ocean temperatures are getting warmer, which explains why so many of the tropical storms born in the Atlantic in 2017 turned into dangerous Category 3, 4 and 5 storms before they eventually died natural deaths over land.
Anthropogenic and economic impact notwithstanding, we have seen over the years higher and higher average annual temperatures, changing landscapes and wildlife habitat, rising seas and, of course, more and more devastating hurricanes, floods and, in some places, drought; climate change, in short, is rewriting the record books.
Yes, climate change is a very real phenomenon. Can anyone remember a year in his/her lifetime when every storm from H to M—Harvey, Irma, José, Katia, Louis and Maria—born out there in the Atlantic had meteorologists uneasily monitoring its progress?
If Harvey was a hoax and Maria a figment of somebody’s imagination, Donald ‘Grab-’em-by-the-jollies’ Trump is unquestionably a ladies’ gentleman.
Nevertheless, because we have largely been spared the wrath of Mother Nature and have been lucky not to have had to experience the harrowing effects of storms and hurricanes, some of us in Trinidad and Tobago continue to insist that God is ah Trini. That is dotishness. And I shudder to think what would happen if some day we were to get a lashing and bashing like what Maria inflicted on Antigua, Barbuda or Dominica.
I feel very certain that we are not nearly ready for the kind of heavy precipitation and the destruction that comes with it, in the form of flooding and landslides to mention just those two; when it drizzles, confusion reigns.
So I am calling on the government to act now. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) must play a proactive role.
Not only must it insist on tightening up our building codes by implementing strict minimum standards for the construction of buildings and the implementation of strict regulations for the protection of the environment, it must also ensure that, before any certificate of environmental clearance is granted, environmental impact assessments (EIA) are carried out straightforwardly and transparently, particularly where projects are flagged as potentially having significant negative environmental impacts.
Some may find singing in the rain poetic but that is certainly not the case when Irma or Maria has just taken your roof with her. Oxford or Webster may not yet have recorded it but I am sure that is the definition of a pluviofool.