Nikita Shiel-Rolle Founder and CEO of YME explained that “we were not surprised to see that the most severely impacted areas are also the areas that have received the most destructive coastal alterations. When we unsustainably build on our coast we weaken the natural systems ability to protect us from storms.” Solid waste management turned out to be one of the most important aspects of minimizing hurricane environmental impacts. Solid waste has to be consistently collected, processed for recycling, and managed, this speaks to the urgency for us to improve our waste management system.
Ms. Shiel-Rolle stated that “ we are now at the beginning of the Hurricane season and many Bahamians have not recovered from Hurricane Matthew let alone Joaquin. There are many homes in New Providence that still have blue tarps on their roofs – as a nation we are not prepared for this hurricane season, and that is a terrifying thing. The negative economic, health, social, and environmental impacts of hurricanes are long lasting. We have to start thinking long-term and as a nation and become proactive as opposed to constantly being reactive.”
YME is a marine conservation organization that engages youth in citizen science, which is the practice of using members of the general public to collect quantitative information in collaboration with scientists. The Hurricane Mathew project served as an example of how citizens and specifically youth can become actively engaged in disaster response and storm mitigation while developing critical life skills. The YME Hurricane Matthew Project had four components. First, YME worked with students to document hurricane impacts in their neighborhoods, and encourage students to share their hurricane experiences. Second, students worked with mentors from University of Miami to carry out coastal assessments in key locations around New Providence documenting coastal erosion, loss of vegetation, flooding and destruction of homes and buildings. Third, students learned about water quality and land-based sources of pollution to coastal water and what that means for the health of coral reefs and the impact that it can have on our economy, and fourth, students learned about mapping hurricane impacts along the coast and in the water.
Our coasts are a key resource for tourism and for island quality of life. The hurricane Mathew Project demonstrated that a simple partnership with researchers and citizen scientists can produce the basic environmental assessments needed to evaluate coastal impacts form a hurricane event. Through private-public partnerships there are affordable and practical ways to better protect our coasts and property against future storms.