September 10, 2021
Even now, the scars of Hurricane Dorian remain, but the stories of those who survived the monstrous, category 5 storm are giving clues about how to The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) can adapt and address the vulnerabilities to climate change.
“I Survived Dorian” has become more than a bittersweet cry of triumph. It is the title of a research project dedicated to chronicling the voices of those who experienced Dorian and lived to talk about it. The project is a community science research initiative of the Climate Change Adaption and Resilience Research Centre (CCARR) of University of The Bahamas (UB) in conjunction with The Open Society Foundation and The Heritage Partners.
“Hurricane Dorian is an example that shows the broad array of impacts that we can expect from climate change and that these impacts affected people differently,” said UB Senior Fellow and human-environment geographer Dr. Adelle Thomas. “We need to better prepare for the impacts of climate change so that we can reduce our chances of experiencing this level of devastation again.”
In September, the CCARR Centre officially launched the website which features a short documentary on Hurricane Dorian survivors developed in collaboration with the Heritage Partners. It also showcases written and verbal testimonials, the results of a disaster risk management survey and resources to increase education and awareness of climate change. By collecting, assessing, and chronicling the many different experiences associated with Hurricane Dorian, the CCARR Centre’s aim was to highlight the direct and indirect impacts of the storm; how the storm affected people differently; learn people’s views on how disaster management can be improved; and how social inequities that led to different experiences can be addressed.
The ultimate goal, however, is to encourage Bahamians to be active participants in disaster management and climate change adaptation, and to bring greater awareness and understanding of how climate change affects The Bahamas in particular.
“It is critical that we all learn about the climate change risks that are prevalent for SIDS. Island nations such as The Bahamas are among the most at risk to climate change in the world,” said Dr. Thomas. “Hurricane Dorian was an example of the level of risk that we are facing. Hurricanes are projected to become even more intense. Sea levels are projected to rise which will threaten the habitability of our communities even without a storm. These are only two of the many risks that climate change poses for us. Climate change is not a distant threat, it is happening now and will get worse unless we start to adapt and reduce our vulnerabilities.”
Disaster Risk Specialist Ms. Barrise Griffin joined the project team as a Research Associate shortly after the CCARR Centre successfully obtained the grant and played a critical role in collecting the stories of Dorian, developing the survey on disaster risk management and compiling all of the other project components.
For Ms. Griffin, working on the “I Survived Dorian” project was almost as eye-opening as the hurricane itself.
“I always knew that when it came to disaster preparedness in The Bahamas, we knew it was important but still took a very lax approach on both a national level and at the individual household level,” said Ms. Griffin. “But Hurricane Dorian was a hard, necessary, but real wake-up call. Usually when you hear about such devastating tragedies it's always in other countries, but to hear about that level of destruction happening in your own country, to your people, really made me want to focus on what can I do to change how we see climate change and disasters so we don't have to suffer through something like this again. Working on the "I Survived Dorian" project and website, was a great opportunity to collect and share the story of the real experiences of Hurricane Dorian, so people can know that climate change can and will affect everyone.”
The website is more than an opportunity to view survivors’ stories. Visitors can also submit their own Hurricane Dorian story, even if they were not directly affected. Knowledge sharing is integral to formulating sound adaptation strategies. Given the significance and sheer magnitude of Hurricane Dorian, every bit of information helps.
“Disasters affect everyone,” said Ms. Griffin. “I encourage everyone to listen to the stories of those who experienced the impact of Hurricane Dorian directly because this type of event in this country can really happen to anyone.”
The “I Survived Dorian” website is accessible at: https://www.isurviveddorian.org/