Friday 27 July 2007

Blame Game

Nothing like China to put a little perspective on our flooding dangers!

Here in the UK, the blame game beings. Actually it started a few days ago once we were no longer the lead story. Everyone who is not in government is now blaming the government. This seems strange to me for sooooo many reasons:

Government is powerful. But, believe it or not, they do not control the weather. There is absolutely nothing the government could have or should have done to stop prevent the flash flood of last week which lead to the rise in the river levels. Now an argument could be made that this is all caused by global warming and the government is not doing enough to stop global warming but again, I think this all starts with what individuals do and encourage corporates to do (although I do believe corporates will require legislation to consistently behave in an environmentally sound manner). Regardless, the government did not cause the rain. The government did not cause the floods.

Government is made up by the people for the people. Even here in the UK, although not explicit in a constitution (the UK does not have a constitution), this is a democracy and we vote for our leaders. We scream that our taxes are too high and the government doesn't spend enough money on education, health care, and the safety of their citizens (policing, fire protection). But no one says yeah, ok raise my taxes. I'll give you more money to improve the drainage pipes in my neighbourhood.

And this isn't like New Orleans where under investment in the levees for decades lead to a failure of the levees. Here in the UK an unprecedented amount has been spent in the last decade on flood defences, both coastal and in shore. I live just down river from the Jubilee river. This is a man made flood defence which splits the River Thames in 2 to alleviate the threat of flood in Maidenhead. The bad news is when you split a river you eventually have to bring it back together again and this just happens to occur just up river from us. However, in this case, unlike in 2003, the flood defence worked and Old Windsor, Datchet and Wraysbury have remained dry!

Hundreds of thousand of homes are without clean drinking water. A sanitation plant was flooded and without running water toilets are not working. Bowsers and bottled water is being distributed by the military. But there again, people are hoarding and not being sensible with their water usage. People don't know how to make do and just get by with what they've got. They expect that in the middle of a disaster area, their lives should pretty much go on as normal. One woman on the news complained she couldn't use her dishwasher. Are you kidding me?

Some homes (although not many) are without electricity. Several power substations were threatened by flooding. Thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters, power plant workers and just about every hand available all but 1 substation was prevented from flooding. The one power station that did go out was back on line within 24 hours.

People are price gauging accommodation. People are stealing from evacuated homes. Parents are allowing their children to play with the bowsers and drain them of their precious water. People are hoarding bottled water.

Finally, people are blaming the government for not evacuating them soon enough or providing them with hotel quality accommodation. What people just don't get is at some point they have got to be responsible for themselves and their neighbours. If we help each other get through, we'll survive and thrive.

I recall the stories of the British during the second world war. They had victory gardens and grew their own vegetables. They made do with their meager rations. They sat in black out. Neighbours helped neighbours.

I don't think the UK could survive another time like that. What has happened to that stiff upper lip? It is quivering. And it is not attractive.

No comments: