Friday, 14 January 2011

Yesterday I had an e-conversation

with a friend who lives in Edinburgh. She was making some inquiries about the flooding in eastern Australia. This morning someone else I know made a comment on another forum about the fact that less is being said about the floods in Brazil.
Now the loss of life in Brazil has been far greater. If the news media is to be believed around four hundred Brazilians have lost their lives. All of them are someone else's family. Outside of Brazil that is, unfortunately, unlikely to make much impact. The area affected is small. It is disaster prone. The people are poor. There will be no major impact on the world economy. It is an every day sort of disaster that people now just accept as "ordinary" or "one of those things".
It does not make it any less of a disaster to those who are experiencing it - and it should not make it any less of a disaster for the rest of us. I will try to remember that as I write the rest of this.
The floods in eastern Australia cover about one fifth of the country. That is now an area larger than France and Germany combined. They have also directly affected about one fifth of the population and are already having an indirect impact on the rest of the country. That one fifth of the country is also responsible for about one third of the economy. The economic impact of the floods is yet to be recognised but it will reach beyond Australia.
The floods will affect everything from the availability of some fruit and vegetables in the local greengrocer to manufacturing in China. (Coal cannot be transported at present.)
More could have been done to avert the disaster. Everyone knows that although not everyone agrees on the possible solutions. There are even some people who say we have to learn to live with these sort of situations, that nothing can be done to prevent them. That may well be true but there are things that can be done to reduce the damage done by flooding. We do not do nearly enough to conserve and redirect water in Australia. It has often been considered economically and environmentally unsound.
Reports in the news media do not suggest that this is likely to change in a hurry. Whether we learn anything from the disaster has yet to be seen. We have a responsibility to do so, not just for ourselves but for the rest of the world. Other people depend on us as well.
As I write this twelve lives have been confirmed lost in the floods. Some of those were unnecessary and avoidable. Somehow that makes it even worse but people simply did not do the right thing. They are not living in precarious shanty towns in a Brazilian slum.
My father wanted something from the hardware store. They are out of stock. When will they get some in? They have no idea because the only importer is based in Brisbane and has been flooded out. When he came home and told me this we looked at one another and shrugged. It is a minor inconvenience compared with the loss of life.

No comments: