11 February 2014

Every cloud has a silver lining...?

The floods in the UK in the last couple of months have truly been newsworthy, in fact some of my own (uninspiring!) footage of Guildford was used on a BBC London News bulletin:




In some parts of the country, water levels were (are!) reaching unprecedented heights, property, livelihoods and transport infrastructure has been damaged, and people are questioning how warnings have been ignored, with funding allocated to more vote-winning (until now) political areas.

I hope everyone comes through this safely, and Great Britain will bounce back and become stronger, perhaps considering some longer-term sustainability wins...

Respecting Nature

Although it's easy to assume that human activity hasn't exacerbated the impact of prolonged, heavy rain, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that changes in land-use in upland areas mean there's a greater likelihood of flooding in lowland areas.  Towards the end of 2013, before this recent flooding started, I started reading a book by Tony Juniper, "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?".



It's an incredibly well-researched book with page after page of examples about the importance of the biodiversity and ecosystems we live around - and the monetary impact of taking them for granted.  Specifically, it cites examples where countries have seen the impact of changes of land use impacting flooding.  It certainly adds complexity to the potential move to allow destruction of ancient woodland (see Independent Article) - a habitat which is crucial to the UK.

Climate Change

Climate change is happening, and of course whether humans have contributed/caused it, is debated by some.  There is though, significant evidence to suggest that as the planet warms, the atmosphere has a greater capacity to store water and this will lead to a greater frequency of extreme weather events.  



Sometimes extreme weather in distant lands can be hard to relate to (albeit with global supply chains, the UK can feel the impact in indirect ways). Having such extreme weather events in the UK though, brings it (literally) home, and might help revitalise the debate about climate change.  What's going to be really interesting though is how to apportion efforts (and budgets) between adaptation (e.g. flood defences), versus mitigation (reducing carbon emissions to prevent as much as possible any negative changes in climate).

Sense of Community

Parts of the UK have lost their sense of community, but the importance of community is critical to a sustainable future.  There is nothing like a crisis to bring people together, so for flood-impacted areas, maybe a huge positive can be born.  Could we see collaboration between the local authority, large employers, community groups and charities coming together to create a resilient 'civil defence' group?  Could the same group explore community energy schemes, collaboration consumption, cycle (or canoe!) hiring schemes, etc?

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