My Hope for a Better Tomorrow
2018, High School, Prose
My name is Simon Wilguens, and I have lived in my home country of Haiti for my entire life. In fact, my family has lived on the island in our small village of Lacoma for many generations. My great ancestors were taken from Africa centuries ago to harvest the French sugar crop. Despite the numerous issues such as poverty that strikes our country, we still call Haiti our home. My family and I live a quaint, humble life growing our own food to survive. I remember when I was a young lad, my grampy would tell me of the days when the harvest was bountiful – enough to feed the whole village. Today, that is no longer the case, and we can barely produce enough food for our own survival. The land and sea that once provided for us now seemingly have turned against us at the hand of man and have begun to make us question our survival.
Things have been tough in our small village, and it seems that each year, conditions only worsen. The ocean that borders our village creeps higher and higher, slowly growing closer to our only fresh water source: a small pond on the edge of our village. Roads in this area of the country are non-existent as mudslides and flooding have made them inaccessible. Even if there was a way out, we would have no place to go as all the surrounding villages face the same struggles (Sutter). Every day I watch the suffering of my neighbors to their illnesses, as the healthcare is poor. We have no doctors and little opportunity to go elsewhere should we need professional assistance. I have witnessed many members of my own family die, including my grandfather, father, and perhaps most chillingly, my only son, Daniel.
When I was a young boy, my papa, my grampy, and I would set out in February to prepare the fields for planting season. The soil was always at its riches, and promised a successful harvest. We would anxiously await the first drops of rain; oh, how they were beautiful! We cherished the beautiful, life-giving water that arrived with the coming of April! When the time came, we planted our crops of coffee and rice, and mama would watch from the window as she attended to the house. From there, mama would dream of the day when we could harvest our crop and make our journey to the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to trade our harvest. It was our only source of income, and without it we most certainly would starve (Abraham).
My family and I have spent plenty of years tending to our crops, just as generations before have done, but every year we harvest fewer and fewer crops. The life-giving rain that once brought joy is feared during the wet season; bellowing through our village and felling trees throughout the forest. Giant waves crash upon the shore, blowing the ocean’s salt water into our freshwater pond. But worst of all, it fails our crops. The fallen crops drown in the waterlogged soil, withering away at the mercy of the water that once brought them life. And as time goes on, the great storms only do more and more damage, until one day, we predict, it will wash away the whole island. During the dry season, the contrary is true and my village is plagued with blistering temperatures, infertile soil, and the most feared drought season (Abraham). The success of our crops feels as if it is left to chance, but before long we fear that there will be no good growing season left to produce crops and provide a source of reliable income. This was not always the case, as weather patterns have noticeably changed. There are many people who say that this shift is a result of the people irresponsibly using the land and burning the charcoal, which powers our nation; an ever-dwindling resource. This issue is not only exclusive to us, but also throughout the entire country where deforestation has become an ever-growing issue (Janvier).
From time to time, researchers in white lab coats from faraway places visit to do research in our village. They sample the water from the ocean and from our pond, each time with more and more growing concern. They explain to us how the ocean is rising, both in temperature and water level, and how it can have catastrophic effects on our village (“Climate”). They tell us tales of how other, less fortunate villages have been washed away because of the ocean, and how they fear ours could possibly be next. My family was stricken with fear, but we were stubborn. I refused to abandon the village and the few people that still lived with us here in Lacoma; after all, it is all I had ever known.
The people in my village grew ever-more concerned for their future as it seemed everything that we needed for survival was slowly being overtaken by changes to our land as a result of destructive weather. After our crops had been wiped out from the mighty hurricanes that passed through our village, we became reliant on the water for providing fish that we would eat. Soon enough, however, the fish seemingly disappeared, and the fishermen of the village would return, empty handed, with no catch to eat. We considered venturing out towards more urban areas, but the researchers said that fishing there would bring no more bounty. They spoke of how the populations of fish, especially around cities, were shrinking in size as a result of the factories and boats that populated the few Haitian cities. These machines released dangerous toxins in the water and were described as resulting in a change of the ocean’s acidity. It was noted that if the acidity went low enough, the condition could kill entire species of fish. This horrific cycle of death was said to continue all the way until the issues of acidity slowly meandered its way up to our village on the North coast of the country, where our resources coming from the sea surely would be eradicated (“Ocean”).
The fish that we relied on so much was not the only part of the ocean where my people have noticed a change. The ocean creeps closer and closer to our village, pulling more and more dirt and rocks out to sea. The researchers in our village call this erosion, and they said that it poses an enormous threat should it continue at this same rate for years to come. It would be as if our village would be taken by the sea, leaving us with nowhere left to live. This issue is not uncommon to just our village, however, as the researchers say that erosion has been causing problems all around Haiti and other coastal areas (“Environment”). Being a struggling island nation, Haiti has been left vulnerable to the consequential effects of climate change, and without a supporting government to aid in our ever-declining state, chances of survival can sometimes feel slim (Slagle and Rubenstein).
We learned how the factories caused the weather to change. This bewildered us as it was incomprehensible to see how anyone could change the weather. But, alas, it was possible. The researchers told us how gases such as carbon dioxide, which the factories released in incredibly large amounts, worked to keep heat within the Earth’s sky and oceans. This gas ‘traps’ heat from the sun and ultimately warms whatever medium it is stored in (Janvier). An increased temperature both in our sky and ocean seemingly results in a more intense storm system, each becoming more and more powerful than the last. We also see a larger number of storms approaching our island as the warm water that surrounds us is a harboring place for them. With each passing storm, we lose more and more of both our crops and shoreline until one day we inevitably will have neither. They were right, the people in the lab coats – they warned us that if changes were not made, our final days would be quickly approaching.
In the middle of one stormy night, the researchers awoke the village screaming cries of nervous fear, signaling for the villagers to enter their newly constructed bunker. We watched through the small porthole-esque windows as the wind surged by, leveling the forest around our village, while also rapidly eroding away the little stretch of land that separated our only freshwater source from the undrinkable seawater. The researchers were scurrying about, bouncing between flashing computer screens and telephones, attending to flashing lights of various colors and beeping alarms.
The space we were crammed into was no longer than the rear of a tractor trailer. Once the scientists had stopped buzzing about between their many phones, computers, and other such devices, they began to explain how these and many other previous storms were caused by a global shift in our climate. The researchers have been studying our village for months to measure the impact of the adverse effects of what they called global warming, and what they found was more alarming than what anyone had predicted. All the while, the people of our village, crammed into the terribly small bunker, were all left with the same questions pummeling through our minds: “Why hadn’t we done more?” and “Why isn’t anyone helping us?”
They explained to us how a storm they called Hurricane Matthew had moved through our village, and in its wake, left an unimaginable amount of damage. There were many villages, including my own, that lost entire fields’ worth of crops, which left us with no food. The terrible storm surges that battered the land also left us with no drinkable water. The ferocious winds blew immense volumes of salty seawater over the small dam protecting our water source from the ocean, ultimately contaminating it indefinitely. We were beyond fortunate to have the researchers residing in our village as they were able to provide the essential rations to my people. Matthew pounded through our country leaving more than 200,000 homes destroyed and left the few standing bridges uncrossable (Sutter). This destruction made our country virtually unnavigable as there is, to this day, poor infrastructure, and many of the few roads that exist have been washed away or destroyed by storm surges or extreme instances of flooding (Jones).
The scientists, not only in our village but also around the world, credit Matthew’s intensity to the ever-growing truth of climate change. They warn us how we must limit our consumption of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Unfortunately for my poor home country of Haiti, we rely heavily on coal as it is cheap and plentiful throughout the region. The cities and their factories send massive volumes of fossil fuel byproduct called greenhouse gases into the air. These greenhouse gases come in many forms, but one of the most abundant, and detrimental, forms of them is carbon dioxide, which gets trapped within the atmosphere and resultantly warms our planet and oceans. The researchers in my village say that if we don’t stop the pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, storms will only continue to grow in intensity and size. This would be devastating to our fragile country of Haiti, where we are oftentimes left defenseless against the relentless and merciless paths of hurricanes. The future would be devastating, not only to the people of my country, but also to millions of other people that lie within the hurricanes’ vicious paths (Jones).
Today our oceans are warmer than ever, and as a result of the carbon dioxide in the air being absorbed into the ocean, more acidic as well. It is this ever-increasing temperature that causes the many storms that pass to increase in magnitude and intensity, all the while wreaking havoc in my country. Warm ocean water provides the extra energy that storm systems need to increase the intensity of their winds and causes issues involving sea levels and the currents, ultimately destroying our shorelines and quite possibly, one day, the island where Haiti sits today (Slagle and Rubenstein).
Hopefully, one day, the successors of our village will adjust their ways, avoiding the terrors that are the radical changes in our climate. One day I hope for them to go out to the field and prepare the crops for plentiful harvest in the fertile soil. I hope sea levels return to their original levels and that our coastlines become sage again. I hope people learn to nurture and love the land, oceans, and earth and that the water is celebrated, not feared. Education on the subject is critical, and I hope that one day more efforts are made to teach the world’s citizens about the dangers of climate change. This is my hope for a better tomorrow.
Abraham, John. “Haitians Are Noticing Climate Change Impacts on Extreme Weather and Agriculture.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 17 Dec. 2015, www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2015/dec/17/haitians-are-noticing-climate-change-impacts-on-extreme-weather-and-agriculture.
“Climate Change Impacts.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, www.noaa.gov/resource-collections/climate-change-impacts.
“Environment.” U.S. Agency for International Development, Mar. 2017, www.usaid.gov/haiti/environment.
Janvier, Rony. “Drought and Climate Change in Haiti.” Church World Service, Church World Service, 25 Jan. 2016, cwsglobal.org/drought-and-climate-change-in-haiti.
Jones, Sam. “Why Is Haiti Vulnerable to Natural Hazards and Disasters.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Oct. 2016, www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/04/why-is-haiti-vulnerable-to-natural-hazards-and-disasters.
“Ocean Acidification – Effects on Humans.” Climate Interpreter, NNOCCI, climateinterpreter.org/content/ocean-acidification-effects-humans.
Slagle, Tracy, and Madeleine Rubenstein. “Climate Change in Haiti.” State of the Planet, Columbia University, 1 Feb. 2012, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2012/02/01/climate-change-in-haiti.
Sutter, John D. “Hurricane Matthew Looks like Climate Change.” CNN, Cable News Network, 7 Oct. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/10/07/opinions/sutter-hurricane-matthew-climate-
While working on this fictional story of a young man living in Haiti, I was able to educate myself about the true effects of climate change on people in vulnerable regions. It never truly occurred to me how devastating and what a hardship climate change is, and how much worse it will become if something is not done. Unfortunately, many underdeveloped countries do not have the financial and governmental stability to make the necessary changes to take preventative action. This cycle quite sadly causes climate change to rapidly spiral out of control and make life extremely tough for many impoverished countries. Writing a story about the fictitious Simon Wilguens and the direct impact of climate change on his life and the lives of those in his village helped me reflect on how we should all pitch in to end or reverse the effects of climate change. Global warming has a negative impact on our atmosphere and oceans. It also has the potential to eventually end much of the life that currently thrives on our planet. Outside of impoverished and unstable countries such as Haiti, much of the world is preparing to take action against climate change through agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord. I can only hope that more of the world realizes the importance of reversing climate change, and how its negative effects can eventually lead to a grim future. Education is key to preventing the effects of climate change.