Fire and flood by Angela Caldin
Unprecedented bush fires in Eastern Australia and devastating floods in the North of England.
Some of the responses to these tragedies have been extraordinary. Michael McCormack, deputy prime minister of Australia and leader of the National party, said concerns over climate change while fires were burning were a ‘disgrace’. He went on to say “They (the victims) don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time.” When do they need those ravings, one wonders; if not when three people have died in fires that are still raging.
Boris Johnson’s response to the floods has been heavily criticised. He has been accused of being preoccupied with electioneering instead of coordinating a national response to the floods which have affected Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Simon Greaves, the Labour leader of Bassetlaw district council, said, “The government had a fantastic opportunity to step up to the plate and take emergency action. For me, they were concentrating more on the general election campaign than they were on people’s lives. They had an opportunity to take action; they consciously chose not to. I think it’s utterly outrageous.”
Johnson was finally shamed into travelling to the flood-stricken area, but managed to turn his visit into a photo opportunity by grabbing a mop in Specsavers in Matlock and attempting to mop the floor (for just as long as it takes for a photo or two) with a broad smile on his face. Meanwhile a woman had drowned in floodwater and another woman described her home as smelling of stale, rotten fish.
It seems that it was only after Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, wrote to Johnson to say that he disagreed with the prime minister’s assessment at the weekend that the flooding was “not looking like something we need to escalate to the level of a national emergency” and urged him to convene the Cobra emergency committee meeting.
Corbyn made a very telling point, “If this had happened in Surrey, not Yorkshire or the east Midlands, it seems far more likely that a national emergency would have been declared.” This was echoed by a Green party parish councillor who said, “This is devastating for people’s lives. It’s the official response that’s the issue, whoever is in charge. It seems it has not been fast enough and because these people are not wealthy people and it has happened before, they have a sense that they’re not that important.”
In Australia, the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, was confronted by Ginger O’Brien, a resident of Nimbin, on the north coast of NSW, who told him: “Shame on you. Your house is not burning. My house is burning down. What are you doing? Nothing. You’re laughing. You’re having a circus. You’re playing with fire.”
Claire Pontin, deputy mayor of the MidCoast Council NSW, put things eloquently when she said, “As my community stands shoulder to shoulder to protect our homes and our bushland this week, I call on our state and federal leaders to put political point-scoring to one side and focus on what needs to be done to support us. And that includes acknowledging that climate change is fuelling the conditions for catastrophic fires, and that we need a new approach to respond to this increased threat.”
It’s so much more than a national emergency; it’s a global emergency. Perhaps when politicians’ houses are ruined by floods or their luxury pads are burnt to the ground, they and we might all begin to take notice.