UK floods: we need to conquer nature, not bow to it
Over the past few weeks, the great and the good are telling us that nobody is to blame for the floods. We can debate that until the cows swim home. There is, however, plenty of blame to go around for the extent and duration of the floods which have seen towns and villages in the south-west of England under several feet of water. What should have been a manageable problem is now an economic and ecological calamity. We count the cost to our homes and businesses but wildlife will also suffer as a toxic brew of diesel, sewage and chemicals inundates habitats.
While simpletons blame ‘Tory cuts’, the UK Environment Agency has in recent years found millions to build new wildlife habitats, and hundreds of thousands have been spent on sluice-gate bypasses for the safety of eels. Meanwhile, the dredging of rivers and drains has been neglected for 20 years. This is not to say that the Environment Agency has failed. It has merely acted within the limitations of the law. On the one hand we have the Habitats Directive, which compels EU member states to set aside more land for wildlife, and on the other, the Water Framework Directive, which prohibits regular dredging. The EA were only obeying orders.
To understand how this came about one needs to understand the nature of such regulation. EU regulations are not plucked out of the air. Regulation is often written by UN agencies, NGOs and international committees. The EU is the mechanism by which they become law, but it is not at the top of the food chain. In many respects, unelected, unaccountable NGOs are.
What these NGOs share in common is their belief that humanity’s needs are secondary to those of flora and fauna. NGOs reach into every primary school, college and university, and influence the curriculum that produces the unthinking eco-zombies who haunt the corridors of the Environment Agency. This is why an idiot with prestigious academic credentials can always be found to lend weight to the back-pedalling of politicians, who are off the hook if nobody is to blame.
But we need not heed the ‘experts’. They are the mouthpiece of NGOs and eco-zealots. Their expertise is not how to defeat the elements, but how to surrender to them. Instead of producing a new vision of how we can defend our homes and livelihoods, they have given way to the doctrine of ‘managed retreat’ and abandoned the notion that humanity can control its own fate.
For example, no significant reservoirs have been built in Britain since the late Eighties. Water companies have wanted to build reservoirs for years, but permission from authorities has not been forthcoming because the doctrine of ‘demand side management’ prevails in matters of both energy and water. In other words, don’t supply more, use less. Reservoirs could not only save us from dreaded hose-pipe bans, but also provide storage capacity in times of persistent rainfall, but the media mantra is that the problem of flooding stems from building on floodplains. I’m guessing the Dutch didn’t get the memo. There is absolutely no reason why we should not build on floodplains. It is not beyond our wit or capacity to keep floodwaters at bay, but before that can happen, two things need to change.
Firstly, policy should be driven by local circumstances. What is true for the Rhine is not true of the Thames, and what is true for the Thames is totally irrelevant to the Somerset Levels. Until we have national sovereignty, we are powerless to develop solutions that work for our own unique landscapes. But secondly, even in that eventuality, unless we can purge the pessimistic mindset that protecting ourselves from the elements is ‘unsustainable’ we will get nowhere. For that to happen we must cleanse our schools, universities and governments of the malign influence of bunny-hugging NGOs.
Pete North is a writer and researcher. Read his blog here.