Gardening on the Planet

From green to brown in the Caribbean

A view of St. Lucia, which wasn’t in the path of hurricane Irma.


If you want to get a dramatic sense of hurricane Irma’s worst devastation, visit this site, which offers before/after satellite images of the Caribbean islands that were in her path. It’s not just the debris, flattened infrastructure, and—most terrible—deaths. These islands seem to have lost the lush green landscapes that provide a reason why many flock to them, especially in winter. Many have been—from appearances and reports—fully or partially defoliated. In one story, a tourist visiting St. Maarten said, “It’s like someone with a lawn mower from the sky has gone over the island.”


It’s probable that this damage will be among the last to be repaired, aside from downed trees being carted away to be chopped up. There are more urgent priorities. But it is a grim reality that a storm many feel is one result of human-prompted climate change continues the deadly trend by stripping these islands (and much of SW Florida) of their carbon-sequestering trees. Some trees that have been cleanly uprooted can be replanted, but many are split or otherwise irreparably damaged.


During our Caribbean visits—to Barbados and St. Lucia, which do not seem to have been terribly affected—we’ve always marveled at the large areas away from tourist centers that seem completely covered in green, including swaths of plants that I’d only seen as summer or holiday annuals in Buffalo. It’s beyond sad to think of this beauty—and habitat—replaced by sandy devastation.


Thinking of my friends and gardeners in Florida and points south today.


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