I can’t believe it’s still raining in Texas. I guess I sort of figured it would be a bad storm and when I woke up the next morning to the news that five people were dead, I kind of nodded my internal head sadly – terrible for anyone to have died, but five people, five unknown people … it’s not an uber-disaster.
Now, three days later, it’s still raining. I don’t really understand what that means. Part of me feels like “how can rain be so bad?”, I mean, it’s “just” water, it’s not knocking things down, it will eventually recede, etc. I never really understood the logistics of why the flooding from Katrina was so devastating and fatal. It’s just alien to me.
By no means do I not believe that it’s terrible and fatal and destroying everything and killing people. It’s just that it’s hard to comprehend, hard to visualise. I can easily scale up something like “man with gun” to “lots of men with guns” in terms of wars. And bombs, I get that bombs and guns and all sorts of shit like that are making Syria a living hell. For those who manage to live. But I’ve been in rain. I’ve seen minor flooding in my own city, and I guess that should make things a bit clearer, but for some reason it seems to be doing the opposite in my mind.
We’re lucky where we live. Our house is about 4-5 feet up from the road. Even in the worst of flooding we tend to keep safe and dry. In our particular house. But I’ve seen the floodwaters rise in our city to a level where people have been taking boats down what used to be roads. It all seemed a bit amusing. The waters receded. Some businesses had flood damage – which I also didn’t fully understand – can’t they just put things up high? Can the slow rise and fall of water really do that much damage?
I get that I’m being a bit of a Marie Antoinnette about this, I recognise that there’s more going on here and if I took some time to educate myself (which I should do) I would get the physics of the whole thing. But I think what I’m trying to say is that instinctively it doesn’t make sense to me.
So, on the other side of the planet, the fourth biggest city in the US has had 5+ feet and four solid days of rainfall. And the climate change deniers will go on. Some few people will probably start Soddom and Gommorah-ing about the whole thing. Floods are pretty much Bible-punishment 101. But nothing will really change. I don’t think anything is really going to change until we’re practically wiped from the face of the planet.
Actually, that’s a bit too extreme. I don’t think we’re going to be even close to wiped from the face of the planet. 10 percent of 7 billion is 700 million, or 5 percent – 350 million. 350 million humans is nowhere close to “wiped from the face of the planet”. I reckon we’re technologically advanced enough that 5 to 10% of us will survive. But it’s going to be a poor-people disaster. Like most everything else that happens, starting with privilege gives you even more of a head start and widens the gap. And when survival is a matter of small differences in starting location, wealth, access to food etc., well then.
So people’ve been saying or thinking or feeling that it won’t happen in their generation. But it’s already been happening for a number of decades. This is only the most recent thing to happen in a country that the news cares about. Famine and drought have been on-going in countries for as long as I’ve been alive. Disaster level flooding has been killing people in developing nations – in “brown people” nations, places we’ve all internalised as being struggling and on the edge of death for so many years that it just doesn’t shock us when thousands die there. Don’t they always have “weird foreign” weather anyway? It doesn’t mean anything for us.
So now some people might be hoping that the silver lining to the tragedy in Houston is that these fatal rains will wash the scales from some eyes. I don’t think it will. I think it will get categorised as another “one off”. I don’t think people will accept it until it’s literally happening to them.
And those with the most power for change are those with the most access to escape. And I don’t think they’ll do anything in time.