Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak about the issue most affecting the youth of my Territory.
September 6th, 2017 was a day that changed the life of every youth in the Virgin Islands, myself included. What should have been a fun-filled summer, turned into a life-threatening experience. Within the space of six weeks we experienced severe flooding due to heavy rainfall and widespread destruction from two category five hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Mr Speaker, territories like the British Virgin Islands whose carbon footprint is almost non-existent, are the ones that suffer the most from the environmental challenges the world now faces. In fact, for six months of the year from June to November, the concern of an active hurricane season is always daunting. The reminder of the terror and destruction that the floods and hurricanes brought has resulted in a growing mental health challenge amongst the population including young people.
For many months after I was evacuated, I could not imagine what it must have been like for those I left behind – no school, many with no roof over their heads, and sadly no hope. Life as they knew it was changed forever.
The future and sustainability of our islands rests with us, to mitigate against the effects of climate change. The youth will have a heavy, costly burden to bear. Our inheritance is an ever-increasing bill to rebuild our territory with each natural disaster that pays us an unwelcome visit. Climate change – sweeps across all areas of the lives of Virgin Islands Youth: our education, our food security, our paths to employment and entrepreneurship, our mental and physical health.
Even though the future is uncertain, I am still hopeful, because though we are small we are mighty.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.