When one thinks of Southern England, the conjured images are typically of beautiful cliffs, rolling plains, and pleasant walks finished off with Somerset cider. Instead, the current reality is that southern England is currently under a deep blanket of water and, with about an inch of rain every day, this problem is likely to stick around for a while.
Having personally spent early January in the area, it was made apparent that this winter has weather of the like not seen for many years. Since late December, conditions has gone from train delays and many ponds in the place of fields to ghost towns, politicians arriving to survey in wellies (rain boots), and Marines being sent in to assist. Needless to say, the situation has steadily worsened, bringing new meaning to the common stereotype of the British always complaining about the weather.
Humans, despite being able to solve complex problems, have yet to conquer the natural world, particularly weather phenomena like flooding. Despite this innate human inability to dictate the weather, blame is being flung in all directions and many are using this as justification for their personal platforms. While some of these are quite obvious, such as the sale of Hunter boots or the increased demand for pumping systems, others are more strategic and long-term agenda oriented. It remains to be seen, though, whether the flooding is the result of chance weather or the political blunders that continue.
While the issue truly began in late December, 2013 the past week has spread awareness of the issue around the world, as Marines moved in and Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that, “Money is no object in this relief effort.” Citizens are increasing demand for aid, citizen interest is spurring a spike in political interest for environmental stability, and structural improvements to safeguard towns from rising waters. Political groups in turn are turning up at sites of flooding and hashing out blame or making promises to reassure citizens.
While the images of submerged streets have proved to move the masses, it must be noted that flood defenses which had been up prior to this series of storms did work, to the point for which they were designed. Unfortunately, such structures are designed based upon the past history of flooding, and therefore many have been simply overwhelmed. This flooding event should raise awareness in the potential need to increase budgetary allowances for flood prevention in the future, particularly if one believes climate change advocates who claim that this sort of unusual weather will become more commonplace. Recently, the budget of the Environmental Agency was cut by approximately 25%, a decision which seemed necessary at the time, but now appears to be political carelessness. However, since the turmoil of this winter broke records past the point of likely anticipation, one cannot reasonably expect that any one political group or governmental agency is the direct or indirect cause of the problem.
We must face that, with the unanticipated extreme weather, this is a reminder of the power of Mother Nature rather than any political intent to have southern British citizens forced to vacate their homes without any timeline estimates at when they will be able to return. While this will continue to be used to prove political points concerning the value of British citizens to different political parties, hopefully the stronger reminder which stands out will be the power of the natural world and that inevitably humans must learn to live life in the current state of the world, regardless of the chance weather that crops up.
By Natasha Marie Levanti