In St Martin the French half of the island struggled greatly in recent years as its currency, the Euro, surged against the US dollar, widely used on the Dutch half. Now both sides are devastated.
It’s one thing for the fraction of people with enough resources to escape to another location, but for the majority of inhabitants there are few options here. The question that no one wants to face in all of this is how countries can afford to keep rebuilding communities in the many coastal and flood prone areas now in line to suffer repeated climate calamity. As private insurers rightly reject the underwriting of untenable risks, the financial burden shifting on to government programs is unsustainable. No one wants to face this math, and yet it is there none the less.
As centuries of refugees in crisis have shown us, when civilization can no longer stay in one place it migrates to others. Coastal populations are moving towards higher ground and inland, and we would be wise to admit these facts and focus our finite energy and resources on all the mitigation and accommodations needed for this transition. For the wealthy who wish to keep building in high risk areas, it must be at their own financial risk and privately funded insurance, not on government-backed underwriting. There’s just not enough taxpayer funds to go around.
Best intentions and willful blindness notwithstanding, it’s only when individuals bear the financial responsibility for our choices that pragmatic plans and solutions can evolve. Climate adversity will continue to dictate our choices, whether we are ready or not.
Two residents from St. Martin island’s two nations, the French St. Martin and the Dutch St. Maarten, describe Hurricane Irma’s destruction. Here is a direct video link.