Notes on the Global Condition: Climate Change and Island Sovereignty

Visit the outer Islands of a Caribbean archipelago like the Bahamas less than a 100 miles from the Florida coastline and you gain a sharpened appreciation of what exposure to climate change can mean.

The Caribbean islands are thin strips of coral, rock and sand. As the locals will tell you the Atlantic is fickle. When the wrong weather systems converge thousands of miles out in the ocean, the water is thrown into a rage. Huge waves surge westwards. These inundations are not always accompanied by storms. In a “dry rage” the water is the only thing that travels, building momentum until it surges up onto the Bahamas Banks. Amidst bright sunshine and apparent calm a huge wave comes crashing down, swamping the outer island chains. The last great dry rage to strike the Bahamas on a clear and sunny day came in the early 1990s.

Today the islands face a threat of a new variety: climate change.

Not only is a heating ocean a more dangerous incubator of extreme weather events. The prospect of sea level rise puts their very existence in question. 80 percent of the landmass of the Bahamas lies at 1 meter elevation above sea level or less.

Reading the depressing news from the climate change talks in Katowice whilst gazing out on the aquamarine Sea of Abacao resulted in a short piece for Foreign Policy in which I ask the question:

What happens when the anthropocene puts a time limit on the lifespan of political sovereignty?

related posts