Floods

16 Feb

Well here it is. The climate change we have been warned about is actually happening. The rain keeps pouring down and apocalyptic scenes with storms of 80 to 100 miles an hour have become a terrifying regularity. The floods and violent weather across the UK have caused billions of pounds of damage with little way to mitigate it – where I live flood waters have been diverted away from the main road into side streets or pumped into allotments, making it impossible to grow anything there. people have seen their livelihoods washed away, trees and crops rotting under the flood waters, workplaces having to be closed for weeks and people unable to get to work. in Somerset, one village has been cut off for over three weeks, forcing residents to commute by boat.

Government spending on flood defences has gone down within the last four years, despite repeated claims to the contrary, indeed that the government has spent more than any other administration on flood defence.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/defra-concedes-flood-defence-figures-were-inaccurate-spending-falls-from-237bn-to-234bn-under-the-coalition-despite-repeated-claims-to-the-contrary-9068443.html

Further cuts could mean over 3 billion pounds in damage, and up to 15% of jobs at the Environment Agency are to be cut over the next year, and proposed privatizations and cuts in the fire service, vital for rescue operations and flood defence, are due to make a grim situation even worse. On Friday there was a landslip between Leamington Spa and Banbury which made it impossible for trains to run, and parts of railway line have been washed away, problems more reminiscent of developing countries than one of the richest economies in the world.

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Existing flood defenses, described as ‘ageing assets’ needing urgent upgrades, have been overwhelmed by the crisis. an additional cost has been the loss of power to areas affected by the flooding and power lines blown down by the hurricane strength winds.

What the flooding crisis has also laid bare is the substandard housing in many areas of the UK, the poor insulation and damp conditions, mostly for poorer residents who cannot afford to live anywhere else, or who need to live there for work. unscrupulous landlords are all too able to get away with letting out accommodation which is damp and poorly insulated due to laws which favour landlords, the prohibitive costs of housing and the shortage of homes. The BBC documentary ‘Poor Kids’ shown about a year ago showed the devastating effect of damp mouldy conditions on children’s health, and the current weather would only have made this worse. Mould and damp conditions can produce respiratory problems and lung infections, as well as nausea and a reduced capacity to deal with milder illnesses such as colds. The rising costs of fuel bills (despite the government recently saying they will take £50 off them) and the rain and wind will only worsen the conditions within much substandard housing to say nothing of the ‘beds in sheds’ and people forced to sleep in garages and other completely inadequate areas.

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The response not only of the government and and main parties but also of many leftists hows how wholly unprepared they are for this crisis. And how ideologically driven there responses have been. The most infamous example was the UKIP councillor who declared that the floods were caused by gay marriage and were a punishment from God. Yet we saw a similar response from some leftists who were quick to gloat that the floods had affected areas where the population voted largely Tory or UKIP, as if Labour was that different to the Conservatives – and that in many areas a majority of people do not vote, especially in local elections, not because of ‘apathy’ but because none of the parties represent their interests at all. such a response shows the irrelevance of the mainstream left and the contempt for working class people.

I will make a final and more optimistic comment. During the initial flooding of my road some weeks ago, we experienced incredible generosity from other people affected by the flooding, who we did not even know. People helped us lift sandbags and gave us trolleys from the supermarket. Rather than the ‘every man/woman for themselves’ view many have of others during a crisis which is often given to justify the idea that Marxist views are unrealistic, the opposite seemed to happen despite the scenes which were reminiscent of a disaster movie. This and other recent initiatives in my area such as a tenant’s organization which has been set up give me hope that one day things will be different.

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