As I sit down to write, Dorian is a post-tropical cyclone over the east gulf of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. It seems like forever ago it was swirling across the Atlantic toward the Turks and Caicos.
And it was “forever ago,” in terms of U.S. weather interests. When my sister called recently to ask if I was worried about our place on North, I had to laugh and tell her that the hurricane passed us a week ago. As I’ve noted before, there is a lag between when hurricanes threaten the Caribbean and when most Americans even notice them. It isn’t until you are a resident or frequent visitor and are monitoring storms through the season that you realize the lag exists.
It’s a little weird. Dorian was still bearing down on the U.S. coast, and I was trying to find out about damage to the Bahamas. People around me were concerned about Florida and the Outer Banks, but as far as I was concerned, it was over. The U.S., I reasoned, with that large inland mass, could handle it, but low-lying islands, already devastated, needed the attention more. Was I a bad person, I wondered, because my reaction to the states of emergency being declared in advance was, “Yeah, yeah, deal with it”?
It’s natural to worry about geologic and weather events more when they are close to you, but we need to recognize that these are global events, not limited to the maps of what we see as “home.” It is only when we expand our views on “home” that we can see and understand that natural disasters affect us all, even if we are miles away from the fire, tsunami or volcanic eruption. Leaders and nationalist thinkers do us a disservice when they make us believe that we can be isolated from the rest of the world.
Dorian did damage in a number of places. If we look only at our own places, we come away either crying or relieved that we “dodged a bullet.” But when we look at a bigger picture, “we” all lost, if not in losing loved ones or property, then in the stability of the planet we all call home.
The Dorian threat was long ago over for those of us in the Turks and Caicos. But look what happened in The Bahamas. That is where there is the most human need. Not property need, human need. We need to step up for our neighbors, because it could have been us, and we all need more than a few paper towels to save our world.