Thursday, October 16, 2008

Omar wet my bed, shocked me, flooded my carburetor, and made me change jobs

I'm bumming power and internet off of some folks at CIEE research station. I may have had posts go out (I have them scheduled to go in case I don't have internet or can't get to a computer), but I've been without much power or internet because of tropical storm Omar. I don't have much power at "home" and the STINAPA office is completely flooded. Yesterday I decided to head to the office (note: it had been raining and blowing for a couple of days and the day before I had watched huge waves breaking near the office) and I took the scenic road with my roomate, Patrick. The scenic road is the shortest, but it's dirt. My truck made it, but barely. We had to drive through eight or nine rivers and I had to floor it so that we wouldn't get washed away. It was a rush. After making to the office, to find it abandoned, we found several inches of water inside and outlets that were shocking us. Omar was an odd storm. It came from the SW and moved NE! That's very odd for this part of the world (review your ocean currents) and so the side of the island that usually doesn't get hit and the side of building that usually don't see rain or wind got nailed. It was raining in the office and my mattress is soaked back at the park too. After a couple of hours of trying to get water out of the office, we decided to leave, but we couldn't. My trusty truck wouldn't start. It cranked and cranked. I got a jump, but it didn't work. I tightened things, but it still wouldn't go. Taking off the air filter and getting a look at the carburetor showed me the problem. Water, water everywhere. I dried the filter and sprayed the carburetor down with WD40 and then got another jump from somebody coming by to visit the office. It still didn't start. Finally, after a third person gave me a jump it started and now it's running like a dream.
What does this all mean? My job here has changed in my final week. I was monitoring the reef health and now I'll be giving all of that up to document reef damage. It looks like it is as bad as the last hurricane that hit Bonaire. In general, marine park managers try to manage for resilience. That is, keep the reef as healthy as possible and minimize damaging effects, so that if something big happens, like Omar, then it can recover. Keeping reefs and mangroves healthy is a moral obligation and an economic benefit. As reefs die and mangroves are removed, more people die from storms and tsunamis, and more damage is done to the homes and businesses on land. Too often people try ot argue that protecting the environment is bad for jobs and the economy, but that's if you leave out all of the incredible benefits that we gain from healthy environments that save us money (e.g., clean water, protected shorelines) and save lives (e.g., protection from storms, 50% of chemicals studied for potential use in cancer treatment come from coral reef creatures).
The waves are subsiding and this afternoon I will enter the water and see the effects of this storm. Perhaps, I will have pictures to share. Hopefully, they'll show a reef with very little damage. Bonaire probably has one of the best managed reefs in the world and is a model for areas all around the world, hopefully that management has built in enough resilience that this storm will not have lasting impacts on the reef or the economy of this little island.

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