updated as appropriate

JUNE 26 2007
We can all share the frustration of the council official today who said his problem was there was nowhere to pump the water so that he could even start to help the residents of his flooded town. In the decades to come, we have to be prepared to deal with periods of excessive drought, excessive heat and excessive rain and a shortage of energy at peak periods. That is why I wrote in ENERGY SUPPLIES IN THE 21st CENTURY that we must prepare raised water storage facilities at many locations throughout the UK where excess water can be pumped and stored for later use, either as a source of stored hydro-electric energy or as a source of stored water, or as both. We should have started a few years ago. It will be a programme that must run for years until every urban area at risk of flooding has a nearby system of reservoirs fulfilling this role. They can also be linked to a system of hydrants for fire control. Just DO IT please.

JUNE 28th
Although we have heard and seen a lot about the effect on housing of these floods, the effect on agriculture may well be as consequential and costly to the nation, and disastrous for the farmers affected.

JULY 22 2007
We have now had even worse flooding and although the rain held off all of today, the water levels will go on rising with some dangerous surges in many areas. The immediate action required is to get everyone to a place of safety where they can be supplied with enough food and clean water. Then they must just wait until the water has drained away, and that will take a long time. Unfortunately further rain is forecast for next week.

We have to work toward a medium and long term solution to handling the risk to property in flood plains. These events should demonstrate there are limits to the urbanisation of low-lying ground unless revolutionary methods are found to protect them. Further than that it should make it clear that expanding the population of the UK through either breeding or immigration does not in any way guarantee a corresponding growth in the availability of places to live. Of course all new houses could be built with the lowest floor 10 feet off the ground, with the space underneath available as garden, or open sided garage for movable vehicles and objects etc. The point is that all over the world human society must realise it cannot rely on growth either in population or unsustainable commerce and production to solve the problems humans make for themselves in their perverse insistence on the right, rather the possibility, of a life that fulfills their personal desires.

JULY 23rd 2007
The good news is that these particular events, as well as the general warnings we have now had from environmental catastrophies elswhere, are striking home. The leaders of our institutions and politcal organisations now realise they have to take a revolutionary approach to growth and development if society is not to collapse under the force of natural consequences to our abuse or neglect of the environment. While there are some religious leaders who are ridiculed for talking about the 'wrath of God', those more enlightened clerics who understand that God is Nature and vice/versa, and none the less impressive for that, can take heart that it is 'working its purpose out' in the good old traditional way. It is the challenges set to life by the changing world that have brought life from the primordial soup to everything we can experience and achieve today. Our reaction to the environmental changes, whether it be more in mitigation and control or in adaption to fit unstoppabe change we have triggered, will shape the future and, as we can see from the past, this will not be more of the same, which is just as well.  The good news is the excellent way in which so many people who are in very great difficulties right now are being helped by their fellows. But there will also be looters, and some people who just get in the way of those struggling to save power stations and waterworks etc. More rain and more trials lie ahead.

While most flood defences could not have prevented most of the damage, it is the maintenance of the rivers that is primarily the cause of the disastrous outcome. Rivers are no longer regularly dredged, due to pressure from ecologists. Banks are poorly maintained and fallen trees are left to block and rot, preventing the full flow. To put it simply, the rivers are not up to the job. They could be. They need to be enlarged, have bye-passes built to be opened as and when required, and modern pumping and storage systems added.

JULY 28th 2007
On Any Questions this week the first question was about the floods: "Is human behaviour to blame?".
That such a question is even asked shows how confused our society has become. If thousands of people are killed as the result of an earthquake in San Francisco, human behaviour is to blame. If thousands die when Vesuvius next erupts, human behaviour is to blame. However, we all have to weigh up the risks, the costs and benefits, of any action or inaction we take. Just before the Falklands war a Canadian family, concerned about the direction of world events, decided to sell up their property and business assets and move to to a safe place. They chose the Falkland Islands. Individually, we can take all sorts of precautiions and still be struck by lightning or an onfreseen disaster. In the case of flood victims, they could not all sell up and move just because they were apprehensive about climate change and the failure of their local government to maintain the drains, dredge and enlarge  the rivers and supply better flood defences. So they took the risk, hoping that an extreme event would not, for statistical reasons, repeat in 7 years. They got it wrong. Even a 1000 year statistical event could occur next week, of course, without any prgressive or consistent climate change or global warming.

But we DO have global warming and we DO have climate change. So what we have to do is decide how we agree on mutual support for those communities that find themselves in 'the wrong place at the wrong time'. This is not easy. Indulging in a blame game is a waste of time. What we need to do is render the vulnerable areas economically inhabiltable in the future, not just  for the local population but in the interests of the country as a whole. They cannot all be expected to sell up and leave; indeed they would find it difficult to sell at a reasonable price just now. We need to think long term and with national solidarity.

AUGUST 3rd 2007
To put the above in perspective...
In Southern Asia 20 million people have just been forced to flee their homes and over 250 are know to have died as the result of floods.