This is a speech from PeaceBoat’s Youth Ocean and Climate Ambassador Programme. I was in Morroco at the time speaking at an event hosted on the ship. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my newsletter!
I talk a bit about the psychological effects of climate change, and how it’s affecting our small islands in the Caribbean. I hope you enjoy!
I am Ashneil Jeffers from Montserrat, in the Caribbean, we’re a small island just south of Antigua. For future reference, people from Montserrat are called Montserratians.
With climate change being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the new trending topic for the coming decades, I am appreciative of your organization for taking the time out to listen to the stories of those who will be affected first…us, the small island states.
The damage is already starting to show, Fishes are getting smaller and more difficult to catch, diseases are inching forward in being more effective killers, our tides are rising, and hurricanes are becoming ever more intense.
The change is slow, but ever so slightly noticeable; and once we’ve reached the tipping point, there’s no turning back for us.
Montserratians are used to forced migration, and I can tell you, it’s a trauma that you can’t imagine, but I’ll have you try.
Can you relax and think for a little?
Think of your home, however big or small it may be. It’s raining outside, heavily. It’s a remarkable, destructive storm, all shops and businesses are closed because of it. Now go into your living room or bedroom and look up at the roof.
Imagine that roof being torn off, not by a monster…. but by the sheer force of the wind.
You’re now escaping your house; you’re already soaked within seconds of your roof being torn off and you must run for 3 minutes before you can get to your friend’s house.
This will be the most intense 3 minutes of your life.
Paint a beautiful picture of you being hit by the fastest car in the world going at full speed. That’s the same picture you’d see of your body if you get hit by a door of a destroyed house flying in the wind.
Now paint a picture of your leg being sliced clean off by the finest katana…that’s the picture of my friend in Dominica of 2017 who had their leg forcefully amputated by the galvanize (the metal roof) of a house during hurricane Maria.
If you’ve survived, well, good for you. You only have a few more hours of trauma to go.
The house is full, and you’ve had to leave your cousin …. who you weren’t all that close to outside.
There’s no more space, and it’s too dangerous to open the door. You hear her screams begging you to open, but if you do, things will end up being worse.
Someone had to make that choice.
This picture that you’ve just painted, it’s only a portion of the trauma those who are forced to the front lines of climate change will have to face.
It’s one thing when your home is destroyed when you’ve lost loved ones to something out of your control, something that’s bigger than yourself. When one of your few comforts is that you can rebuild, that people will be coming from all over the world just to help you and your people….You can start anew.
But what happens when everything is taken from you?
There’s no picture you can paint that will even begin the level of hopelessness that develops after you’ve done all you can….but nevertheless, your home, your life, has been taken from you without any say.
We in Montserrat experienced that in 1995. Our volcano erupted in July of that year, destroying our capital, and 2/3rds of our island. Things have never been the same.
Thousands forced to start a new with NOTHING in a cold, foreign country in an entirely different hemisphere. Over half of our country gone in an instant and there’s no going back for many, many generations.
But we survived, and I feel that we survived not just for surviving sake …. not just because we’re resilient people but to serve as one of the most experienced advocates who has a story so traumatic that we want no one else to experience it.
Just like in every world crisis movie, when the world has an enemy bigger than itself, it unites. But, as with every action movie, the hardest enemy is when the protagonist must face themselves. Unfortunately, we haven’t even truly realized that we are our own worst enemy.
We can only push something so far until it breaks, and the same goes for our earth. It’s an organism just like us, a habitat, just like a forest, and those things have been destroyed, restored, and gone extinct. We have pushed our earth too far, and we, the small islands, are the first casualties of this war.
We must unite against our psychological norms, and not just think in the interest of being cheaper, faster, more efficient. Let’s shift our perspectives; we can understand that there’s more to life than what we see in front of our eyes.
We can change, not just for our little islands, but for something that we cannot see, our future children, the lives of those who are trying just as hard to survive with the conditions they were given. We all have a right to a chance at life. Please, help us continue to have that right.