Friday, 30 November 2012

Sorry. It's been a while.

Spurt. It's one of my favourite words. It is so onomatopoeic. Unlike onomatopoeic - which doesn't sound like itself. Spurt sounds like the noise it makes. Like boom. And pop.

Anyway - my initial spurt of blogging calmed down as I decided to judge the aftershocks. Predictably, friends enjoyed my writing, whilst doubting my wisdom at publishing. Wha'evah. I'm back.

I have decided, way before the weather folk tell us, that this glowing year of 2012 has been the worst for weather we have had for some time. Not just the summer - which was so poor they should take the season out of the calendar - but the whole year. From the lingering snows of January & February, through the torrents of April, May, June & July. There were a few decent breaks of dryness during the Olympics and September. Then October and November went downhill into the terrible flooding.

In 07 I spent an inordinate amount of time in one of our helicopters filming the floods for the various news organisations, and that came after filming the Boscastle floods in Cornwall. In 09 we were again filming floods from the air. The knowledge I have from seeing a unique angle on the disasters is obvious.

We, as a nation, have built in places where nature would rather run water. We have farmed our fields so intensively that the soil and debris run-off is clogging the arteries of nearby rivers. We have concreted and tarmacadamed so many areas wihout providing suitable alternative drainage. Our civil engineers have been most uncivil - diverting the rivers and streams that are the natural drainage systems of the country in order to build over them.

I don't subscribe to climate change as a reason for the increased flooding. It's not the (new figure this week) 1cm rise in sea levels over the past 2 decades. I believe that the relatively short space of time since this country got industrialised and wealthy - just 150 years - has done more damage than the millennia that came before.

It's not just the built damage. It's the thrown-away stuff - this clogs our rivers and fills needless landfills. Our water tables get higher and more polluted. The least shower of rain, and there's a flood.

Did you see the poor folk of Malmesbury in Wiltshire last week? They worked hard to sandbag their properties, only for the water table to come up through their floors. Sandbags only made the problem worse - the floodwater couldn't drain away quickly.

What can be done? Well, future planning and building must take the mistakes into account. Traditionally our towns and cities were built at crossing points of rivers. But we don't need that restriction now. The way life runs in the 21st century is very different to the 18th & 19th centuries.

Traditionally, we built in valleys and in low-lying areas - it was convenient when all you had was a horse, cart or barge for transport. But we can now all live in elevated positions - we have powered transport. We don't mind a hill.

And, traditionally, we've always built "normal" houses even in areas prone to flooding. But look beyond our shores to the stilted houses of the US deltas and coast. Even closer to home, in the flatlands of northern Europe. Beautifully-engineered housing that sits above flood level.

So we can architect, engineer and build our way out of a situation which was created by architects, engineers and builders. We need to let the best of these people create - and we don't need the turgid, petty planning laws that pervade through the parish, county, regional and national levels of government in the UK.

The alternative is millions with no home insurance facing increasingly frequent floods. Polluted drinking water. Infrastructure destroyed. Who do you think pays the bill for all of this?

Us.

So WE must change.

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