Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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1

May

2019

Never take water for granted

Author: Jim Taylor

Every newscast recently seems to make floods its lead story. Floods in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Less recently, floods in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe. Largely unpublicized, floods in Iran and South Africa.

            Understandably, some residents resent having their floods described as “once in a century.” 

            “That’s what they told us last year,” grumbled a resident of New Brunswick’s St. John River valley. “Now we’re having another hundred-year flood this year.”

            I have some sympathy for those people piling sandbags to protect their property. I did it myself, once – but never, I hasten to admit, year after year. 

            I was still at university. A group of us sat around the common room of our student residence. Someone stuck his head in the door and said, “Hey! The Seymour River’s flooding. They’re calling for volunteers.”

            In the pelting rain — which was not easing the flood threat — we worked through the night. We waded through water above our ankles. The rain plastered our hair to our heads, dripped off our noses, fogged our glasses, soaked through our light jackets. 

            But we kept working until the army relieved us about 3:00 a.m. 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: extremes, floods

26

Aug

2018

Fires and floods mark the new normal

Author: Jim Taylor

This has been a summer of natural disasters. Some rain has finally come to B.C., but by the end of this summer, the province will have fought some 2000 forest fires. Smoke from those fires has spread across the prairies, into northern Ontario, even crossing the Atlantic to Europe. Just as smoke from fires north of the Arctic Circle, in Sweden and Siberia, drifted into Canada. 

            Meanwhile, California had its worst wildfire season. In Greece, some residents chose to drown in the Aegean Sea, rather than to burn on land. 

            Fires rampaged in Australia. And an estimated half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef died, from rising ocean temperatures. 

            At the other extreme, southern India had its heaviest monsoon in 100 years, displacing close to a million people. Floods ripped through almost any country you can name. Highways washed out. Cars vanished into sinkholes. Mudslides swept houses off their foundations.

            But still some people deny that all this has anything to do with climate change. And certainly deny that humans had anything to do with it. 


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10

Jun

2018

We could have made flooding worse

Author: Jim Taylor

The flood danger seems to have passed, at least for this year. Okanagan Lake has peaked. Grand Forks is drying out. A half million people in the lower Fraser Valley, who had been bracing for the worst flooding since 1948, can relax.

            But things could have been worse -- much worse -- if a couple of political ploys in history had been carried through.

            The difficulty, you see, is that God -- or plate tectonics, if you prefer -- didn’t design the land west of the Rocky Mountains very efficiently. Highways, railways, and lines of communication run east/west. But the valleys and rivers mostly run north/south.

            Only the Fraser and Skeena river systems lie entirely within B.C. Every other major river ignores national boundaries. Especially the Columbia.

           In negotiating the Columbia River Treaty, General MacNaughton brought in diversion as a bargaining chip. Unless the Americans agreed to a fair deal for Canada, MacNaughton threatened, Canada could divert the Columbia into the Fraser, leaving three U.S. states high and very dry.


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6

May

2018

The ways we make flooding worse

Author: Jim Taylor

Flooding has hit British Columbia again. News reports overflow with stories of property owners sandbagging their homes, their farms, their businesses. Oliver, Kaleden, Tulameen, Cawston, Cache Creek -- the chorus of afflicted communities swells day by day.

Mudslides close highways. Culverts wash out. Hundreds of homes are ordered evacuated. 

            And I haven’t even heard about what might be happening farther east, in the Kootenays. Or farther north, along Highway 16. 

            I heard a politician pontificate, “It’s a one-in-70-year event.”

            Really? Weren’t we saying the same thing during last year’s floods?

            Connect the dots, people! Connect the dots!


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