I’m sure you’ve all seen endless footage of the devastation in the Bahamas. From building after building obliterated to the human mass exiting by boat, it is indeed a humanitarian crisis. According to the AP, Hurricane Dorian was “the most powerful storm on record to ever hit the islands.” As much as 45% of the homes on two of the islands were destroyed. The storm “practically parked” over a section of the Bahamas for a day and a half.
But I want you to notice that phrase “a section of the Bahamas.” Most Americans don’t know that the Bahamas is a very large archipelago which includes over 700 islands spread out over 500 miles. They don’t know that while the well-known Grand Bahama was severely hit, there are lots of other islands that faired very well, with airports and tourist attractions still intact.
Why does this lack of geographic knowledge matter during such a tragedy? Because the number one industry in the Bahamas is tourism. It provides over half the jobs for the nation and is about 50% of the GDP! Thousands of people visit the islands during a cruise vacation each year.
So, if you are ignorant of their geography, you will not know that plenty of places in the Bahamas are still open for business. Now more than ever, they need our business to help them rebuild. Fully 90% of the islands were unaffected by the storm. Not knowing this will exacerbate an already dire situation, potentially leaving many vulnerable people without financial resources to climb out of the quagmire.
If you were planning a trip there, and didn’t know geography, you might be tempted to cancel that trip. But nothing short of donating funds to the Red Cross could help the nation more than actually taking that trip and spending lavishly in their restaurants and tourist traps.
In Putnam City, we do offer geography as a social studies elective in the high school. Middle schoolers must take geography as well, but I think all the schools in our nation should be required to take geography in high school. In a world that is increasingly globalized, the less we know about it, the more likely we will make assumptions from our ignorance. And that could be quite costly.