UB’s Sustainable Conference seek to learn lessons from Hurricane Dorian

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OPENING UB CONFERENCE - The Second annual Sustainable GB Conference focused its itinerary on the impact of Hurricane Dorian and the lessons learned from the Category 5 Hurricane. The conference was held at the Pelican Bay Resort March 5-7, 2020. Opening the conference were from left, Dr. Ian Strachan, vice president of UB (North); Dr. Rodney Smith, President and CEO of University of the Bahamas; Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Damian Blackburn, Chief Aliv Officer.

By E.J. Rolle

Compass Contributor

“Hurricane Dorian was the worst disaster in almost one hundred years in our country. But good can come out of horrible tragedy,” says Vice President of the University of the Bahamas, Dr. Ian Strachan.

“The good will come if we learn and change; if we raise our voices against climate injustice; if we practice what we preach, in terms of conservation and clean energy use; if we build more intelligently; if we equip those who must stand in harm’s way with the tools that they need; if we give each citizen the knowledge and skills necessary to increase their chances of survival and if we prepare, prepare, prepare.”

As a result, the second annual Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference, which was held at the Pelican Bay Resort, from March 5-7, focused its entire three-day meeting on the impact of Hurricane Dorian and what could be learned from the Category 5 Hurricane.

The conference is expected to boost the country’s collective intelligence in the way it plans, prepares and responds to storms. According to organizers, there are few conversations more important nationally than this one.

The theme for this year’s Conference is “Hurricane Dorian – reflecting, reimagining, rebuilding.”

UB’s Vice President Dr. Ian Strachan, noted that the Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference was conceived in order to position the University of The Bahamas as a premier space for objective and informed dialogue on matters relevant to economic, social, environmental and cultural future of Grand Bahama and by extension, the Northern Bahamas.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Strachan said that there are so many lessons to be learnt from one of the most horrific natural disasters in Bahamian history.

 “Grand Bahama is unique, as most of you know, because of its economic diversity,” said Strachan. “That diversity brings with it concerns related to environmental impacts, public safety and issues about the depth and breadth of local participation and ownership of the economy.

“Grand Bahama is also unique because of the governance model it employs. There are few, if any examples, in existence of a private company like the Grand Bahama Port Authority, running a city and its suburbs.

“There could be no better place to study issues of sustainable development in our country, than in Grand Bahama.”

This year’s second Sustainable conference was set to take place in 2019. However, Hurricane Dorian came through Grand Bahama and interrupted those plans. Dorian was also the cause for organizers of the conference to change its subject matter focus for the second conference.

“We saw the wisdom of shifting our focus from broader questions of sustainable development in order to zero in on the impact of this extraordinary hurricane,” added Dr. Strachan.

“We know that UN’s sustainable goal 13 speaks to climate action, so we’re not going that far off field by focusing on this history making storm.”

Dr. Strachan said that their big concern was ensuring that Bahamians become smarter as a people when it comes to climate change and hurricanes and that Bahamians must learn to prepare better, build stronger, plan and execute effectively and respond methodically.

He noted that the Bahamas, in general and Grand Bahama, specifically, will face more life-threatening storms of increasing intensity in years to come.

“Will we be ready…how will we get ready?” he asked.

UB’s Vice president said that the University wants to play its part and fulfill its mission in supporting national development. The hosting of the Sustainable conference, he added, seem the perfect way for the University, which by the way was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, to do its part.

The conference featured some 50 speakers from around the country, the region, North America and Europe, all of whom will be engaging in a 360 degree look at Hurricane Dorian, its impact and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

“I believe the recommendations that will emerge from these sessions will help the Bahamas be more resilient and be more proactive in the future,” added Dr. Strachan. “Adaptation is the key to our survival.

“As Greta Thornberg once said, ‘the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions, all we have to do is wake up and change.’”

President and CEO of the University of The Bahamas Dr. Rodney Smith praised Dr. Strachan and the team of professors and staff at the University for the way they weathered hurricane Dorian. He noted that the staff’s ability to adapt and make strong decisions helped to keep the University’s curriculum on track.

“Within less than one month after Hurricane Dorian, UB North was relocated to two new and innovative settings and classes resumed,” noted Dr. Smith.

“Because of the University’s resiliency of having all data management systems modernized, all business and academic record functions remained accessible. Students who were scheduled to graduate in May 2020, will graduate in May 2020.

“There is no doubt that the faculty, staff and students of University North are our heroes by their example.”

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