Comment taken out of context

First of all, I would like to thank the Caymanian Compass for its July 26 front-page report of the Cayman Red Cross climate change initiative. Your newspaper has kindly given visibility to this organization, which proved so valuable during the Ivan crisis.

As a researcher on climate and disasters, I was invited to collaborate with the ‘DIPECHO V’ project on disaster preparedness, which includes climate change and how it may affect your region.

During five intense days I communicated two simple and clear messages: (1) the climate is changing, and (2) residents of the Cayman Islands can prepare for it.

We consistently shared these concepts through meetings with a variety of stakeholders, including the cabinet, business leaders, talk shows, volunteers from Grand Cayman communities, and about a 100 schoolchildren.

We are very pleased with the response: overall, those who joined our programs learned about the changing climate and the growing risks it poses for Cayman’s people and businesses, as well as the opportunities to work together to better understand the problem and prepare for addressing new threats.

From government agencies to filmmakers to the most vulnerable local communities, the Red Cross is receiving substantial support – which is likely to grow as people learn and become aware of all that can be done. Your front-page article certainly communicated part of this, and we appreciate it.

There was, however, an important aspect of your note that has hurt our efforts to reach the hearts and minds of Caymanians. The opening sentence, which set the tone for the news piece, portrayed me as someone who wants to attack the people of this beautiful land. That was unfair and misleading: I was blessed by the opportunity to meet wonderful people here!

Those who participated in any of our events can attest the extent to which I want to support your country through positive, informed transformation; not through shame.

Unfortunately the sentence you chose to open the article made me sound like an aggressive outsider. That was damaging: it may deter people from participating in Red Cross disaster preparedness activities.

Your article failed to explain the context of that spicy remark: it was a humorous comment on how some people leave doors open while the AC is on, resulting in higher electricity or fuel consumption (and more global warming).

That out-of-context spice may have been good for attracting readers, but it really damaged our key message: the Red Cross seeks to collaborate with all residents of the Cayman Islands to prepare for the growing risk of disasters associated with climate change. Together we can.

I trust that your newspaper will continue to support initiatives aimed at helping the Cayman Islands be prepared for a challenging future. The Red Cross, and the Caymanian communities it serves, would certainly appreciate your continued help.

Pablo Suarez, Ph.D.

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre

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