What Do Syrian Refugees and the BVI Have in Common?

What Do Syrian Refugees and the BVI Have in Common?

Bill Moore

You'd think very little. The Syrians are fleeing a civil war, ethnic cleansing, terrorist organizations, and a years-long-drought.

The residents of the the idyllic British Virgin Islands enjoy a relatively stable government set in a tropical paradise of waving palm trees and sparkling blue water, a place to which billionaires retreat and many more stash their money.

That changed dramatically over the last several weeks as two record-shattering Category Five Hurricanes named Irma and Maria, with Jose wedged in as "chaser", swept through with 175 mph and higher winds. In the words of one of those billionaires, Sir Richard Branson, it left behind devastation that "looked like an atom bomb went off."

The twin hurricanes not only smashed the hell out of the BVI, they wrecked Barbuda, Dominica, the US Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, and of course, Puerto Rico, leaving more than 3 million US citizens there without power and running water.

Yesterday, as I participated in a conference call with the co-founders of EnergyRelief.org, Tom Koll described how he'd sailed the Caribbean for decades, making good friends with residents in the BVI, many of whom are now openly considering leaving. Two destructive hurricanes and the likelihood of more to come as the climate and waters around them warm now have them looking elsewhere to live: the US, Costa Rica, back to their native Netherlands.

In effective, they too are becoming climate refugees, perhaps the first of many to follow in the Western Hemisphere, who because of their personal financial resources, skill sets, family, business or political connections can afford to do so. This is the same thing that occurred in Syria: people with the ability to leave did, leaving behind those who would only be able to escape under extreme duress, staining Europe politically.

Sadly, assuming the climate models are correct, this could be just the beginning of a tide of families forced from their homes, their jobs, their lives by anthropomorphically amplified extremes of weather, be it too little rain or too much.