Coming To Terms With Flooding
The vox pops from flood zones this week have been heart breaking. Being in Somerset we've had friends who have experienced being flooded out in the past. Watching your kitchen furniture bobbing down the lane is a life changing event, financially and emotionally. Some of the stories have been terrible, and people's resilience really remarkable.
There have been other themes too, which I fancy will repeat again and again as we confront the consequences of climate change.
The first is the struggle to directly link what has happened to climate change. Interestingly, I haven't heard anyone interviewed explicitly do this.
There are always local issues which make matters worse. There could be problems in catchment areas - soil compaction, deforestation, drained/burned moorland. Thousands of homes have been built on flood plains. Rivers have been squeezed and straightened through urban areas. These are all contributory, of course, but people often think they're primary factors. The principle reason there's such dreadful flooding is because we're seeing such extraordinary rainfall. We're having extraordinary rainfall because of climate change.
It seems to be human nature to look for an explanation we can easily understand. I guess this is why people always talk about dredging - or lack therof. In Australia there has been much talk about forest management. It's not just easier to understand, it means there's someone to blame and a reasonable chance things could be put right with a bit of money.
And money is another issue. Many victims feel forgotten. I've pointed out before that the government's response to flooding in Wales is not going to the same as when the Thames barrier fails. That's a sad fact of life. You can argue about government priorities, but even if it prioritises our response to climate change - which it isn't - we just haven't got the resources to make all this better. This isn't just a question of reversing repeated cuts to Environment Agency budgets. Climate change has consequences we can't avoid, try as we might. With ingenuity, good science and a lot of money we can mitigate them.
In the meantime, perhaps it's a good thing flood victims think there are local solutions or people they can blame. It's at best unfair on the EU, or the Environment Agency, or whoever, but it helps them get through this - for the time being. The prospect of this being a harbinger of worse is too much to bear.
The problem with this narrative though is that it turns into something political opportunists hijack. We need to face this together, not divided.