It’s becoming increasingly clear that if our planet isn’t healthy then our people aren’t healthy. Our economy isn’t healthy.
I was in Grenada in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan devastated the country. 90% of the homes on the island were damaged. 34 people were killed. The financial cost of all the damages was estimated at $900 US million, more than twice the country’s GDP.
I had been working at the veterinary school on the island at the time, and I was lucky enough to have one of about ten landlines that worked on the entire island after the storm hit. Because of that and because of my position at the school, I was privy to many of the logistical nightmares that arise when a category 5 hurricane hits a tiny island. Fallen trees and wreckage had to be cleared. Students (and all of their pets) had to be sent home. Homes and campus buildings had to be fixed and rebuilt. People had to be fed. Money had to be raised to pay for it all.
I was fortunate enough to be working with some amazing people throughout the process and we managed to create some really great programs. To help feed people, we flew in food and supplies and eventually started a dairy goat farm and a kick-starter farm to table school project. To organize relief and funding, we started a non-profit called GR3 (Grenada Relief, Recovery & Reconstruction) and provided initial and ongoing support for Habitat for Humanity.
We managed to do some great things, but, much like the continued threat of flooding here in Iowa, the threat of another hurricane still lingers. I like to call Iowa our ‘not-so-landlocked’ state because, while we technically don’t have any coastline, we’re bordered on two sides by flood-prone rivers with many more crisscrossing our state.
Iowa’s flooding may be more localized than the country-wide devastation I saw in Grenada, but it’s just as serious of a problem. During the floods that hit Iowa last spring, there were an estimated $1.6 billion in damages. Over a million acres of farmland were lost in the states affected. Entire towns were destroyed. Even now, over a year later,100,000 acres of farmland in Southwest Iowa are still unrecovered.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that if our planet isn’t healthy then our people aren’t healthy. Our economy isn’t healthy. Our future - and that of every other living thing - is tied to our planet, and if we don’t take good care of it, then we’re going to see more extreme climate shifts, hurricanes; we’re going to see more flooding, and it’s going to become increasingly expensive to recover if we don’t take action now.
This action can take many forms. We can build awareness around this issue. We can advocate for our chosen solution for reducing carbon in our atmosphere, but the most important thing we can do is vote. According to the Environmental Voter Project, there are 15 million people who do all the right environmental things (drive the right cars, volunteer, recycle, etc.), but who don’t vote. If we can get them to vote, we’ll have a lot more power, and we’ll have the representation we need to make real change.