September of 2017 will go down in history as a horrific month of natural catastrophes.
Severe rains and a small cyclone in Zimbabwe killed 117 people, China was hit by severe flooding that killed at least 144, followed by more flooding in Peru, avalanches in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and earthquakes in Mexico. These were followed by a devastating succession of three massive hurricanes: Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States in 12 years. Rain systems meandered over Eastern Texas, and dumped over 4 inches of rain in 40 hours, after receiving tropical storm status on August 17, 2017. Winds left areas in Barbados without power, while in Texas an estimated 30,000 people were displaced.
Harvey was followed in quick succession by Hurricane Irma. Irma developed on August 30th, near the Cape Verde Islands and was ruled a category 5 hurricane by September 4th. The storm caused irreversible damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands, leading to displaced persons from each island (the total numbering over 24,000).
As if two back-to-back storms weren’t enough for the global community, a third, Hurricane Maria, left Puerto Rico in a state of humanitarian crisis not two weeks after Irma struck. Maria became a tropical storm on September 16th, and devastated Puerto Rico and Florida on 26th before turning off the coast.
Louisa Carlson, a woman in her 80s who lives in Palm Coast Florida, witnessed the devastation in Irma and counted herself lucky to even be alive.
“All the houses on the Inter coastal were flooded and all the stuff had to come out. I never saw such devastation….so sad! Put a totally different perspective on what I had to deal with….nothing compared to that . . . looking out the front and seeing everyone’s pile of debris tells the real story.”
Once again, after Irma, another hurricane immediately began to form. Hurricane Nate made landfall on the US Gulf Coast and caused massive damage in the Caribbean.
“It was really scary not knowing what was going on and not being able to help,” said Brooke Weston, whose family owns a small island off of Navarre Beach. “The road to our island is still underwater and still inaccessible, luckily all the houses on our island are on stilts so only the first
floors are flooded.”
Global aid was immediately provided to the affected areas, but this succession left scientists researching the causal effects of climate change on this sudden surge in natural disasters.
Starting in 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by natural disasters. Esteemed scientists agree that climate change is the root cause of these storms becoming steadily more dramatic, and disproportionate effects have been placed on poor island nations.
According to Open Global Rights, families displaced by natural disasters like these hurricanes and other events like floods or droughts often find themselves in displacement camps which can create long lasting damage to children.
“Children, particularly displaced and migrant children, are among those most at risk to the adverse impacts of climate change.”
“[This leads] to irreversible damage to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being including stunting, impaired or delayed cognitive ability, and severe emotional distress.”
These stresses often follow these children into adulthood. Stripped from their homes at a young age can unintentionally leave them with a sense of unresolved grief and a lack of a sense of home.
It is unfortunate that the effects of climate change are only expected to get worse, indicating a global diaspora that will displace millions of poor, island dwellers. It will be difficult in the future for these people to return to their native homes and retain their sense of cultural identity that is so tied to their place of origin.