Monday, 28 January 2013

Flooding Again

So after a weekend of wild weather across southern Queensland it seems that Brisbane is about to be flooded again.  Fortunately for us the event is being described as a "minor flood" with levels 2 metres below what they reached in 2011, so we should be high and dry, unless further rain intervenes.  Not so our friends in Maryborough and Bundaberg, a bit further up the coast, who are facing a lot more water than they did in 2011.  Thinking of you all up there.


Ironically, although so far we have suffered no damage worth talking about in the storms that arrived this week, we did suffer a number of technological failures including of all things a blocked water main which meant our running water was reduced to a trickle.  I didn't mention the irony to the poor Queensland Urban Utilities guy who had to come out and fix it in the pouring rain on Sunday afternoon.  That would just have been annoying.  I'm hoping he got double time plus an extra wet weather allowance.

Someone mentioned that they wouldn't cope if the water pressure was always that low.  That set my brain whirring. 

A few years ago, our church put a lot of effort into raising the money to install a well in a two-thirds world village.  We had a poster of a hand water pump someone had drawn, and as we got closer to our goal the water got closer to the top of the pump until it gushed out.  We felt good when we reached the goal and the people of the designated village got a shiny new pump where they could fill their water tins.

Access to safe water is one of the key aspects of health improvement.  Contaminated water leads to all sorts of diseases and 3.4 million people die each year from water-related illnesses.  About one in ten people in the world - almost 800 million people - don't have access to safe drinking water. 

We're not talking running water in their homes here, we're talking safe clean water in their community - a village well like our church paid for, reticulated water to some accessible location, a decent rainwater storage system.  The kind of access we have is a whole series of steps above that.  The fact that we take it for granted shows just how wealthy we are.

Nothing makes this gap between rich and poor clearer than a natural disaster.  When we had to evacuate our home in 2011 we were incredibly stressed.  Yet our living conditions - sharing with my sister in her safe, roomy house with lots of running water and electricity - were infinitely better than most people live their whole lives.  If our water had remained cut off this weekend the solution - to stroll over to our neighbours' house and fill our buckets from their tap - would be what billions of people do as a matter of course every day.  Hundreds of millions can't even do that.

When these things go wrong it feels like we can't cope, but our experience of natural disasters shows we can.  Although we have become dependent on our affluence and are not sure what to do without it, when the time comes we are more resilient than we think.  We learn how to improvise.  Others in our community help us out.  We live with less.  We share with each other. 

This is fortunate, because if we insist on continuing to ruin the planet we will have to do this a lot more.  It's heartening to be reminded that we are more adaptable than we think.

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