Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wish you were here

I am on holiday and while it is rather unseasonally cold and wet here in Geneva, I am sort of consoling myself with the fact that it is much more so in London right now.

Watching the news and seeing the flooding in parts of the U.K. has been quite shocking, but the reporting of it has made me feel a little annoyed and a lot uncomfortable. OK, so technically the U.K. is in crisis. Obviously it's not going to be a barrel of laughs for those affected. Yes, it will affect livelihoods and it must be unpleasant to have to sleep in a community centre night after night, especially if you have young children.

But we have to keep it in perspective - there is no large scale loss of life, there is no threat of malaria sweeping through the country to add salt to the wound, nor will people starve as a result. All in all, those directily affected will suffer upheaval, discomfort, emotional upset and will lose possessions (a large proportion of which will be insured). The farmers are likely to suffer severe financial hardship but for most it will be a case of being displaced for a period and then the painful process of cleaning up, replacing all those damaged furnishings and electronics, and of course, coming to terms with the loss of all those irreplaceable items - the family photos, the childhood drawings, the heirlooms and mementoes.

However, while I feel extremely sorry for all those who have had their homes and businesses flooded, I refuse to fling my hands in the air and wail as if it is the worst thing that has ever happened. Rather, it makes me feel lucky that we live in a country where such an occurance is fairly rare and where those affected are well looked after by the authorities, given shelter, warmth and sustenance, with financial aid promised for those who will need it to get back on their feet after the flood waters have subsided.

But think of this. Even though the British media has paid heed to little other than flooding across the United Kingdom over the past week, more than 400 have died in China (which has had the heaviest rainfall since records began), 770 people have been killed by flooding in South Asia, hundreds of thousands have been displaced by flash floods in southern Pakistan, 50 people have been killed in Sudan due to flooding, and in Colombia parts of the slums have disappeared due to rising floodwaters which has resulted in more than 50,000 people being displaced.

With this in mind, is the United Kingdom incredibly, insanely lucky? Hell, yes.

I might be less inclined to focus on the big picture if my sitting room was knee-deep in muddy sludge, but we should be urging the media to take a different tack; instead of endless images of cars floating along A-roads and interviews with angry homeowners, let's use this as an opportunity to celebrate all those who have been rallying to help; not just the Army, the Fire Service, the Police and the rescue crews (many of which are volunteers), but all the ordinary people who have been collecting water and food for elderly or sick neighbours and volunteering at local shelters.

And please, let's not forget the many people across the world who have had both family members and possessions washed away by powerful flood waters - so many losses so many times greater than any of ours.


sarah said...

This is a great post! It's so easy to lose perspective when we focus on our own little corner of the world.

And of course, here in Washington, DC, I've only heard the most cursory mention of the UK floods and certainly nothing whatsoever about the other situations around the globe.

From now on, I'm just going to rely on you for my news.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Cup half full, not half empty. You are so right.

Anonymous said...

Don't be too sure, honey. Much of London is flood plain. Good opportunity to re-plug Climate Change in the Third Millennium