Madison’s Climate Story
St. Catherine, Jamaica
How are you sensing climate change?
A smile was plastered across my face as I sat in the backseat of my mother’s gray Honda Civic. I had just returned to the country for my annual summer visit, and my mother knew that I had been itching to go to the beach. A day at Hellshire beach was a staple during all of my summer visits even before I had immigrated to the US. Whether I was with family or friends, I knew that I would have a good day jumping over waves, eating fried fish, and riding the occasional horse that strutted across the shore. As my mother pulled through the gates, the road turning to sand, I had no idea what laid ahead of me. I first noticed the lack of dogs roaming around the beach grounds. It was normal to see strays occupying much of the open space. I didn’t think much of it, although the lack of people at the beach itself should have said something to me as well. The air still had the distinctive smell of salt and oil, something I never thought would be a comfort I would miss. After parking the car, my mother and I walked into the closest hut to order fish, festival, and fried dumplings. Usually, we were able to pick between parrot, doctor, and grouper fish for our meal, but the chef told us that we had no choice that day. The fisherman had been facing shortages: the waters were no longer as safe as they used to be, and fishermen did not have the proper boats or equipment to take the risks that they used to. In addition to this, fish had become scarce at that point. I settled for doctor fish that day, convincing myself not to let that ruin my mood. I was not prepared for what I was walking into. I walked through the open door on the backside of the hut that faced the beach. If my mother hadn’t stopped me, I probably would have walked right into the water. The waves were touching the wooden chairs that were placed in the same spots where I used to make sand castles and angels. It appeared as if there was almost no sand at all; I didn’t remember the waves ever coming up that close to each of the huts. There were pieces of rope closing off the majority of the shore, and the rocks lacked any source of life. The coral that used to be visible with a few steps into the water – originally much farther away – was replaced with green algae. My heart sank. I could still swim, in the small designated area, but at that point I no longer wanted to. I was crushed by the idea that this beach had transformed, and it wasn’t the beautiful place I had remembered so vividly. I was angry that a place I had associated so closely with home was now the last thing from it.
How do these changes make you feel?
I think at most I am angry about the erosion that my favorite beach is facing. Although not surprising, Jamaica makes such small contributions to the production of emissions, for example, yet it reaps the consequences. I am frustrated that a common source of income for the country is now threatened by rising sea levels and natural storms. I am overwhelmed that it feels like not much can be done, and the future of the country is at stake.
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