Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And Who Do We Think We Are - Nero?

Asia has been hammered by flooding this year but is that such a bad thing?   After all, floods are a solution to drought, no?  Well, no.  Except for a few spots like the lower Nile valley where gentle, seasonal floods both irrigated and fertilized swathes of farmland, flooding is normally a curse.

Flood waters are inundations that race toward the sea.   Little floodwater ever trickles down into empty aquifers.  Floods tend to ruin the areas they inundate, destroying settlements and killing livestock and sometimes people.   They can ruin crops already in the ground or leave the land unsuitable for planting.   And floods are a scourge that just keeps on giving long after the floodwaters recede.

A couple of articles from the UN Humanitarian Affairs news service, IRIN, illustrate what can befall flood victims after the deluge passes.   In the African state of Chad flooding has struck the capital.  That has not only displaced thousands but the floodwaters have engulfed household wells and toilets, contaminating the local water supply with cholera.  Not only do people have to make their way through the sometimes neck-deep waters but some of the displaced have no choice but to use well water that is often contaminated.

You've probably heard something of the floods that hit Bangladesh recently.  They also have sanitation-related problems but what they're struggling with at the moment are mosquito-borne diseases, dengue fever and malaria.   A lot of Bangladeshis, mainly poor, lost everything including their homes, their beds and, of course, their mosquito netting.  Now having to cope with the logistical nightmare of the displaced they're also finding the shops have run out of mosquito nets.

Here's the deal.   If you believe the escalation in frequency and severity of severe weather events such as droughts, floods, and storm surges is tied to global warming, anthropogenic or man-made global warming, then we, the rich neighbours and the major emitters of greenhouse gases, are giving our poor neighbours a real shitkicking.   We have a direct responsibility to these people and that includes a duty to furnish them with aid and assistance to cope with these scourges and a moral obligation to change our ways to at least try to keep their plight from getting worse, much worse.   We owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves.

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