C2GTalk: An interview with Michael Taylor, Professor of Climate Science and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Mona Campus, University of the West Indies

Should the Caribbean region be involved in solar radiation modification research?

15 May 2023

What are the impacts of climate change on the Caribbean?
Why is it critical for the Caribbean region not to overshoot 1.5°C warming?
How does the Caribbean make its voice heard internationally?
Should the Caribbean be involved in solar radiation modification research?
What benefits and challenges would solar radiation modification create in the Caribbean?
This interview was recorded on 1 March 2023 and is also available with interpretation into 中文, Español, and Français.
Caribbean countries have led the global push to limit warming to 1.5°C, because the impacts of going above that would be so severe for their future wellbeing. In a C2GTalk, Michael Taylor said it was important for the region to be involved in the research and governance of solar radiation modification, because decisions may soon be needed as to whether it could be an option to keep temperatures down. 
Michael Taylor is Professor of Climate Science and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI). He is the co-director of the Climate Studies Group, Mona (CSGM) which is a centre of regional thought and expertise with respect to climate change science for small islands and the wider Caribbean. He is a Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 3 of the Special Report on 1.5 Degrees of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has also received the Silver Musgrave Medal for Science from the Institute of Jamaica and is the 2019 ANSA Caribbean Laureate for Excellence in Science. 
Below are edited highlights from the full C2GTalk interview shown in the video above. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Let’s dive into it.  How would you describe right now the impacts of climate change at the current level of warming of around 1.2°C on the Caribbean region? 

 The first thing I would like to do is probably just make the case to succinctly describe the physical manifestations of climate change.  How do we see climate change in the Caribbean region?  We see it in a number of ways already.  

The first is, of course, warmer temperatures, and that’s warmer land temperatures and warmer ocean temperatures, and we have seen about the same 1.2°C that the globe has seen.  Of course, this has translated into many, many more warm days and many, many more warm nights; so we see the warmer temperatures. 

We also see, of course, a shifting rainfall pattern.  For us the rainfall has become way more variable, so one year it’s extremely wet and in the next year it’s just extremely dry, and we see this great variability; as well as changes in how rain falls: long stretches of dry and then we get really, really intense hurricanes. 

We also see the 1.2°C as extreme weather, and for us extreme weather tends to be, of course, hurricanes, and we can trace some amount of climate change impacts in the hurricanes, and especially in the intensity of the hurricanes that we have seen; but it’s also drought, region-wide droughts and longer, more severe droughts. 

And then, of course, the last one I would mention perhaps is sea level rise.  We have seen it, especially because the Caribbean is made up of a number of small islands, in terms of rising sea levels; reclamation of coastal land, but you definitely see the sea level rise. 

Why all of that is important is that when you think about the physical manifestation, then for us in the Caribbean what 1.2°C warming already has done has created what I would call a multi-hazard environment, because we don’t see one versus the other or one then another; we see multiples of these manifestations happening at the same time.  So for us that 1.2°C is the creation of a new multi-hazard environment in which we must live.  The 1.2°C is both intensity and frequency. That’s the physical manifestation.  

Why is that so important for Caribbean life?  There has to be an understanding that Caribbean life has this extreme sensitivity to climate and there is a strong dependence on climate for quality of life.  This strong dependence emerges from a number of things. 

The first, of course, is that we are small, and so we can’t escape, so when you have an event like a hurricane, it’s the whole country that is impacted and all aspects of life that are impacted.  

But then we have this really strong dependence on things like rainfall for water, on things like the natural resources for the economies to thrive, whether it’s agriculture or whether it’s tourism; and so you get this really ingrained sensitivity to climate that really pervades everyday life.  It’s not that an event has to happen; you have this strong sensitivity and it kind of helps to shape what Caribbean life is.  It’s an outdoor life. It’s very sensitive. 

Having said all of that, put the two things together now.  So if we have this strong sensitivity and yet we are beginning to see these changes in climate and changes as we have never seen before, I think this is how I would describe the impacts of climate change: First, what we have seen already is bringing about a disruption of total life.  Being so small, when a climate event happens, everything gets impacted — every sector, whether agriculture, tourism, finance, health, water.  The first impact is just a disruption of the total description of life. 

The second thing would, however, be a degradation of our way of life.  This is literally eroding the Caribbean way of life.  What is that way of life?  It’s our outdoor life, it’s our dependence on natural resources, it’s our livelihood, it’s our coastlines.  So it is degrading our whole way of life. 

The third thing I think it is doing is that it is presenting a barrier to a better way of life.  We all have defined the development pillars and all of those development pillars are hinged on climate, whether it’s agriculture or tourism.  Well, these development pillars cannot consistently deliver, and so it is posing a barrier to a better way of life.  

And then the last thing I would say about it is that it is creating a disproportionate impact on Caribbean life.  The truth is even if you compare other small islands, the latest research suggests there is more damage in the Caribbean, the Caribbean is more likely to be hit by a disaster, there is more percentage of our population impacted, there is this disproportionate impact on the Caribbean way of life.  That’s what I would say the 1.2°C that we have seen already is doing.  

So very real and very present even today.  How would you see the impacts of reaching 1.5°C, which now seems likely according to most analysis, or 2.0°C, or even higher? 

 If we actually should head towards 1.5°C, we would see what I have already defined continuing to happen.  That disruption of life, that degradation of quality of life, that kind of developmental delay, and that disproportionate impact would continue to happen and those would continue to increase in their scope and impact on how many people are impacted and how Caribbean life is impacted. But I would say the Caribbean has long defined 1.5°C as a threshold for viability.  The Caribbean was part of the push globally.  You know that I came up with the slogan “1.5°C To Stay Alive.” Why does 1.5°C kind of represent that threshold?  Well, for us it’s that kind of threshold because a couple of things happen after 1.5°C from our perspective. 

(1) After 1.5°C we know we don’t just kind of enter an environment where we see multi-hazards every now and then or beginning to happen more frequently.  I think we enter into a realm where the unprecedented now becomes inescapable, so we reach warming temperatures where temperature records will be broken that we have never seen, we reach drying conditions as we have never seen before. So when we begin to go there, we now get into the realm of the unprecedented and we cannot escape the unprecedented.  When we go past 1.5°C, the levels of vulnerability become expanded, and that’s critical.   

(2) We already have defined in the current environment some key climate-vulnerable people, and you can almost begin to think of them.  Clearly, farmers are key climate-vulnerable people, but so are people with certain kinds of diseases that are climate-sensitive.  When we reach 1.5°C, you not only expand the population of those who will become more vulnerable, but you almost as well create new climate-vulnerable people, so you are expanding the levels of vulnerability.  That will include not just people, but biodiversity, heritage sites that are not designed for this kind of intense climate, outdoor workers, children, elderly.  Even our future generation becomes part of this expanded vulnerability after 1.5°C, so you expand the vulnerable after 1.5°C and 2.0°C. 

(3) And then, the last thing I would say perhaps is when we reach 1.5°C we all have signed up to the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The kind of research that is being done says that the achievement of these goals gets pushed farther and farther away, and these development goals almost become unattainable for the Caribbean region. 

So for us the impact of hitting 1.5°C or even going higher is really significant for these reasons. 

 Given this extreme significance — it’s a difficult question to answer, of course, because there are so many different physical and social factors — what chance do you see?  Do you see a chance still of limiting global warming to 1.5°C? What would need to be done?  I realize that’s almost an impossible question to answer in a couple of minutes, but just share whatever thoughts you have on that. 

Sure, you’re right, it’s very difficult to answer.  You know I worked on the IPCC 1.5°C Report, and that report actually laid down some pathways to achieving 1.5°C.  I would have to argue that scientifically the pathways have not all closed as yet.  It clearly laid down some conditions for reaching 1.5°C.  Not all of them have closed yet, though the window for really achieving it is narrowing and narrowing and really, really becoming small.  

So we know things like we have to cut carbon emissions, let’s say, by 50 percent before we reach 2030.  There are still slim possibilities of doing that.  We have to ramp up the natural ways in which we sequester carbon, the mangrove reforestation and afforestation, those kinds of things.  So there’s a slim chance which we want to hold on to of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. 

Now, admittedly, the other side of that, which is the kind of global agreements that you need and the ramped-up ambition to do that, you are not seeing that currently on the table; and so, though the scientific pathway to do so exists, the other necessities that would have to enable those scientific pathways to be followed are not yet on the table.   

It’s really a small, very, very tiny window if we are to achieve it, and it is not looking so likely right now. 

I’d like to dive into a little bit about the regional response both as individual countries but also as a region and then also as a group of people with a voice on the international stage.  We sort of picked some of these separately, but just actually from the region itself, or even you could just take a single island, what kind of preparations, response, ability to respond, whether through mitigation or adaptation, do you see at the moment?  What are the sorts of headline responses that you see being undertaken by governments and society in the region? 

Regionally, the first thing I would say is that I think the region has coalesced around the fact that there needs to be a response.  If you come through the Caribbean and you talk to any government or even to people on the ground, I don’t think there is a realization that climate change is really impacting us as a Caribbean region and we need to respond.  So the first regional response is a recognition and an awareness of climate change and the need to respond. 

I would say we are beginning to think through what the nature of that response should be.  

For a long time, the region and various countries have focused largely on adaptation, and that’s a recognition that even though we put 1.5°C on the table, 1.5°C is not a safe target for us.  It may be the one we are saying the world must coalesce around.  But we are seeing what 1.2°C has done and 1.5°C is certainly not going to be safe, and so adaptation for a long time has been one of the main thrusts of the Caribbean region. 

That will look different for different people because of different contexts.  For example, water is a huge challenge for a country like Barbados or Antigua or the coastal zone resources; so, especially in the eastern Caribbean where the islands are much smaller, adaptation will focus on those.  Those that have agriculture still as a main economic activity would focus on agriculture.  Jamaica has placed a fair amount of emphasis on resilience infrastructure and protecting our agricultural industry.  You will see adaptation as one of the huge responses, but it will vary as you go across the region. 

More recently, the Caribbean, however, has taken up mitigation as well.  People will argue, “Well, but the Caribbean is one of the smallest emitters.”  I think part of the taking up of mitigation, though, is recognizing that we don’t excuse ourselves from the responsibility to mitigate, but also because of the co-benefits that the particular ways in which we would mitigate will have. 

One of the keyways is to move toward renewable energy in the region, and a number of our islands have set really ambitious goals.  If you take for example Jamaica, Jamaica set a 50 percent goal for renewable energy to be the main energy source by 2030. There are other islands that have set even more ambitious 100 percent goals. But you see a coalescence around it.  Why?  Yes, because of the mitigation, the reduction in greenhouse, but also it removes our fossil fuel dependence as well.  And it certainly has other benefits, like in an extreme event, renewable energy is quicker to get back up, especially if it is decentralized renewable energy, that kind of thing.   

So mitigation is now emerging.  Renewable energy is one of the key plans of mitigation, but you also are beginning to see, again dependent on where you are, forestry is also emerging as a mitigation activity in, for example, Jamaica or some of the Caribbean continental countries. 

Waste is emerging again because of the co-benefits.  We need to deal with waste especially to deal with our environment.  And transportation.  So mitigation has emerged as a second kind of approach. 

And the one that the Caribbean has always picked up on is just education.  We have always seen that — public education, national campaigns, putting it into high school and university curricula, workshops, tools, decision making. 

I think those are the kinds of ways you see the Caribbean rising to respond. 

So taking that from the Caribbean to the international level, I have two questions.  First of all, to what extent do you feel that the Caribbean and all the concerns you just expressed and the challenges is making its voice heard adequately at the international level?  To what extent are you helping to push an international consensus towards action?  And then, perhaps on a slightly different side, to what extent are you getting the kind of international support that you might need, whether technical or financial or whatever other kind of support, to undertake the mitigation and adaptation activities you talked about? 

I would think one of the good things that has happened in the last couple of years is that the Caribbean has realized that individually, as individual nations, your voice is small, but certainly when you begin to collaborate and talk as a region the voice becomes bigger.  There is a lot of internal cooperation in the Caribbean on climate change, so we have that lesson internally.  Let me just give you quickly a couple of examples.  

For example, CARICOM, which is one of the major economic groupings within the Caribbean, the Caribbean Community, started what was called the “five Cs,” the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center.  That center led the Caribbean in putting down some of its regional approaches and strategies. 

But in a number of other regional bodies that we have long had — the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the University of the West Indies of which I am a part which has coordinated research around climate change, and the Caribbean Development Bank — we have always known that regionally we have a better chance of approaching this than individually. 

I think what the Caribbean has done is taken that now to the international stage, and so you will find that the Caribbean, for example, going into a Conference of the Parties (COP) prepares and comes up with its regional approach and its regional strategies and what are the key agenda items that we want on a COP.   

And certainly, through collaboration with other entities.  On the international stage we are taking that kind of collaboration forward — the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) would be a good example — so you join with others who are in the same kind of vulnerable position, and with that kind of collaboration and by going in with a united voice I think the Caribbean voice has gotten much stronger on the international stage. 

For me, some of the successes where you see that are: (1) just the recognition of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).  For a while, as a part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process, I met scientists who didn’t have a clue what SIDS represented but now know that SIDS are Small Island Developing States and have a recognition that SIDS as a vulnerable group deserve recognition and should be treated as a special grouping.22:04 

I think the 1.5°C is a success of the Caribbean voice and its collaboration on the international stage, that it is put on the table, that it is a global target, that the IPCC would produce a report on it. That kind of thing is a success. 

I’m sorry because I hadn’t realized the pivotal role the Caribbean played in putting 1.5°C on the table. So it really was the Caribbean that helped the world coalesce around that goal. 

Absolutely. You can trace the history of the 1.5°C going back and you will see that a long time ago actually the Caribbean had put forth a 1.5°C agenda.  Did they have the research to support it?  Not necessarily at the time when it was put on the table, but they were part of that key grouping that put 1.5°C on the table, and again in collaboration with others.  That’s also why it was so important for us to make sure that we had a research agenda to support 1.5°C and the Caribbean’s voice in the 1.5°C, because for us that is a defined threshold: “1.5°C To Stay Alive.” 

The third success, I would argue, is joining with others, not only Small Island Developing States but other vulnerable nations, inputting loss and damage and finally getting recognition for loss and damage.  Even if it is just recognition right now, but loss and damage has always been mooted and probably always been pushed a little bit to the side, but now there is a kind of formal recognition. 

I would argue that those are some of the successes of the Caribbean developing this collaborative voice. 

No small success either.  The loss and damage issue was one of the few bright spots of what happened at the last COP. Perhaps I could turn now to an issue that we are focused on in C2G.  Given all the challenges, even in the best of circumstances, you know there is a threat of very serious risks coming up, and as a result — and we haven’t even begun to discuss tipping points and so forth — there is great scientific research into whether this idea of solar radiation modification — the idea you’d reflect back a small fraction of incoming sunlight through various means — could play a role in reducing the risks from overshoot.  

You’ve done some of this research yourself.  I don’t know if you could tell me a little bit about what we know about this idea, some of the potential risks, benefits, governance challenges, and how we actually even go about learning about it in the first place, given that some of this is a theoretical idea right now.  I’d be very interested in hearing a little bit about that. 

We have done a little bit of research — not a lot, I must admit — and that’s part of the challenge we can speak about with respect to solar radiation modification. 

Probably to put in a little bit of context, why it is important for us as Small Island Developing States to even be in this discussion, it is some of what I have said before.  There is this growing urgency to tackle climate change and tackle it in real ways that can be transformative, and that will include research, as well as we haven’t spoken yet about some of the gaps, what are the hindrances for the Caribbean, which includes financing and that kind of thing.   

But there is this strong urgency for us.  We recognize that we were one of the people who were putting 1.5°C on the table, and so envisioning and looking ahead, we feel that there might come a point where the Caribbean will have to take a stand with respect to how to achieve this 1.5°C, and there might even be pressure to go after technologies about how to achieve it. 

Well, there is this group of technologies that is being put forward with respect to solar radiation modification technologies on their own cooling the Earth.  There are a number of different kinds of technologies, a number of them based around aerosols.  So you put aerosols in the stratosphere, or you add sea salt aerosols to the clouds to reflect what is called marine cloud brightening.  The  idea is these are techniques that somehow would decrease the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface, and in so doing you are modifying the solar radiation and cooling the Earth.  These are some of the techniques that have been put on the table.  

Now you will know that in current times there has been a lot more talk about these techniques, I think again partly for the context that I laid down — the window for 1.5°C is closing. The current methodologies or the current global will to do the increased ambition is not stepping up to the plate — so these technologies are gaining more and more I would say discussion about whether they should be utilized. 

We in the Caribbean believe that we must have a voice in that, and I think that is important, and that is our motivation for even beginning to do some research. 

Now there would be some benefits.  I don’t know if you could run away from the fact that the potential for cooling, or even slowing, or even going towards 1.5°C — maybe, after overshoot, you could use it to bring it down — there would be some clear benefits, I think, for the globe. 

However, for multiple folks in the Caribbean clearly one of the big problems is it doesn’t stop the emissions, and that becomes a challenge.  One of the key things about emissions, for example, is the acidification of the ocean; it doesn’t stop the acidification.  I just argue that the Caribbean, especially small islands, are very dependent on our natural resources, including our oceans, which represent a huge part of the resources that we have.  So that becomes one of the challenges with pursuing this.  

The other big challenge is of course there are huge uncertainties associated with this. These are things being mooted right now.  We don’t know how, for example, they will manifest.  How will they result in the changing climate if we do a large-scale SRM experiment?  Who will benefit?  Where will the deployment be?  Who will not benefit?  What will be the rate of cooling?  Does the rate of cooling matter?  We don’t quite yet know many of these details or the manifestation. 

If we don’t know those, then we certainly don’t know the impact side, so translating all the climate changes into the impacts.  And remember small islands are extremely climate-sensitive, so we don’t know the impact on agriculture and livelihoods and vulnerabilities, that kind of thing. 

So there are huge uncertainties still involved in it, and with those kind of uncertainties, in the present climate system there are a number of inequities already existing: Who gets to be the major voice?  Where is access to financing?  Who decides what research is to be done?  Those kinds of things. So those inequities that exist currently have the potential to be magnified even more on SRM. 

And then, of course, you know what?  In the Caribbean, because of the strong association with climate, you also have to talk about culture and acceptance as well. So SRM is one potential, but there are these huge uncertainties around it. 

Given these uncertainties, first of all, do you advocate more research?  I realize it’s not an endless pie and there is some sense that maybe research here might not be money for research there.  But do you advocate more research, and what are the sorts of challenges facing researchers in the Caribbean or even in the Global South more generally in terms of basically getting access to the information they need and having their voices in the right international scientific circles?  I’m just interested on this research point.  What would you see as needed over the next ten years on SRM research? 

For us, certainly one of the things that we advocate is we must be able to put the Caribbean in a good position to speak about this, and so in that context research then becomes important, but it can’t be research that excludes the Caribbean’s voice. 

So I would argue there is need for research on SRM.  I think there is need for a lot of research on how you would deploy this.  I don’t think the Caribbean is at a point where it would support any kind of deployment without this kind of research.  So you need to know the effectiveness of SRM, how different interventions would play out in terms of climate change, the ability to detect and attribute the impact of SRM, the governance structures, the ethical dimensions, the safeguards that you would need, the policies — all of this — but research will be needed to support all of this: the model simulations, the observations, the analytical studies. 

So I would argue that research is necessary, but we have to put some considerations as we do this kind of research. Certainly, from our perspective we must have a voice in deciding the kind of research, the focus of that research, including things like the experimental design, the impact studies, the governance, and it is critical for the Caribbean and the small islands to have a voice in that kind of research because we are at the front line of the vulnerability.  So yes, research, but we must have a voice. 

We must have not only a voice, but we have to have the ability to engage in the research and engage at comparable levels to everybody else doing the research.  So we must not only be able to help to direct, but we must also indirectly have the ability to engage — and right now, even for climate change as it is with mitigation and adaptation, that ability does not exist — to engage and have access to the resources for research.   

If we don’t sort that out, then I think we are at a challenge with how to go forward with SRM research.  It is a legitimate fear that if you pursue SRM, you are going to take away from other aspects, and we must not hide from that fear or hide from that reality.  The Caribbean would have great concern if SRM becomes a replacement, for example, for mitigation and you take the attention from the increased ambition that is needed to finance and even research an investment into mitigation.  That would be a real fear of the Caribbean region.  SRM research must not represent a shortcut to the future.  In other words, you cannot do it at the expense of research in other approaches.  

And so I think what I am arguing is you would really have to scale up the research abilities within the Caribbean to participate in this research, to provide the Caribbean context to a lens through which to view SRM, and that needs to be, I think, one of the critical things on the table as we discuss SRM going forward. 

I’m going to ask a slightly mischievous question because I don’t think it’s possible to answer it.  How would you ever know that you knew enough?  Would there ever be a point at which you could say, “Yes, we’ve now reached enough of this research level, and it is sufficiently on a research level of others, to actually start taking decisions about SRM?”  How would you know when you have reached that point?  Is it possible to know that?  Or is it more that you have to do the research and then political things will happen and in the meantime you just learn about it?  What are your thoughts on that? 

An interesting question.  I don’t know if I can answer it, except that I would say the question isn’t even so much for us as opposed to the global SRM governance and research community.  

The truth is the Caribbean’s voice has increased with respect to climate change, and especially small islands as the least vulnerable voice has increased.  

If SRM is to really take a place as a possibility, I think it is only going to take that place when places like the SIDS, the least-developed countries in the Caribbean, feel comfortable enough to begin to include it as one of the suite of options that are out there.  So the global SRM community actually has to play a strong, convincing role when the Caribbean can begin to talk about it openly and freely as, “Oh, yes, this is a viable additional element in the suite of options.”  Then I think we would have known that we have done enough research to do so. 

Could I maybe turn that one around a little bit, because of course it is a decision to do something but it is also a decision not to do something.  You know there are both pressures from the North maybe to go in this direction, but there are also pressures from groups in the North to not go in this direction, and I’m wondering to what degree you may actually see it almost the other way around, that being on the front lines of climate change, a region like the Caribbean might actually be pushing reluctant groups in the North to consider this. I’m just wondering which way around the pressure is going to go. 

I don’t know.  I think for now, with our known knowledge of the inequities with respect to climate change, there are a couple of things the Caribbean would definitely put on the table before we decide which way to go, and I think I have been trying to allude to them —– not at the expense of other research or other strategies.  If at all, it must come within a suite of solutions but not at the expense. 

The Caribbean would probably put on the table, with our current asks not being met, the urgency on the amped up ambition, the global financing to support adaptation.  There would have to be a comfortableness, if I could call it that, with the current asks and the ability to meet them: access to finance, easy access, that kind of thing.  I think they would say, “Not without a governance framework in place, and that governance framework would have to have some key characteristics: it has to be inclusive, it has to be well-informed, it has to have independence, that kind of thing.” 

 So I would almost say that the Caribbean right now is saying, “Research in the context of making sure we have a voice.” 

Where do you think that governance process — I mean it can take place in many different places, but where would you see its natural home? 

I can’t tell you that one. I’m not sure where the home lies, or even if across a number of institutions, but it has to allow for everybody’s voice.  

I have one more question about SRM research, if I may.  One thing that I learnt as I looked into it obviously to understand what the impact of SRM might be on fisheries, health, whatever it may be is you have to both know what climate change would do and then you have to know how SRM might affect that.  From what I understand — perhaps you can correct me, and it may be different in different regions — once you start to get down to the regional impacts on fisheries of climate change or whatever, actually there’s so much we still don’t know even on that. Actually, sometimes you get the sense that SRM science by doing this comparison between these two things is actually just climate science because you are still learning things that are — I don’t know if that’s fair or not to say — at a degree of sort of specificity in terms of location that you might not have otherwise known. 

Let me start with I agree with you that there is so much we just don’t know in the regular climate. Again, it kind of speaks to my point, not at the expense of that kind of research.  But certainly knowing what SRM might do also adds additional information.  What I was suggesting is that where SRM research becomes important is for us to set those kinds of baselines, certainly to have knowledge of what it might do, additional knowledge of what climate is doing versus what SRM is doing, and so the research for us is still at that level, certainly not at the level of deployment and that kind of thing. 

If I could just finish on a personal note, something I often ask people is: The more you learn about the climate challenge, there could be a sense of hopelessness that creeps in.  It’s just such a big problem and there’s only so many times you can read some of these reports and just think, Well, I’m not sure how I’m mentally processing this.  You actually sometimes almost have to stop processing it to be able to process it.  How do you maintain a sense of agency and hope and keep going, both for yourself and also for your students, given the huge complexity and enormity of this task? 

A very difficult question. I think a couple of things. 

One, I want to argue that there’s perhaps just a kind of natural resilience within the Caribbean region.  We have gone through some really difficult things, slavery being one of the huge ones, and the region has emerged as a resilient region. So, seeing this within that kind of context is a challenge, but we have the ability to be resilient and overcome and that is one of the things that keeps you going. 

Two, I think we celebrate the kind of successes we have seen so far, so the Caribbean voice has really emerged and some of our issues have really become the global issues — the recognition of the vulnerabilities, the recognition of the need to give the most vulnerable a chance. So some of the successes help to buoy you and say, “We must keep going.” 

I think in youths themselves there is an optimism and especially an increased activism amongst young people, and I think seeing that and the willingness of youth to hold the rest of others to the fire or say, “We need action” gives you a sense of optimism that there is potential for change. 

Those are the kinds of things that I think help to keep me optimistic.  In the end, I do have a basic belief in human beings, that the common good and the desire to have the common good can emerge, that it still exists and perhaps can still emerge as the dominant desire to guide a number of these actions. 

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