Alastair and Clarisse discuss why there seem to be mounting problems around the world caused by flooding – and what people are doing to solve the problem!
A – Hello and welcome to WoW!, the positive podcast, introducing kids aged from 8 to12 to the people who’re fixing the world, strengthening our communities and making change happen. I’m Alastair and I’m here with Clarisse to look at the back story behind this week’s lead article in the WoW! newsletter. Don’t forget to sign up for free at wow dash news dot EU.
A – WoW! is on the water this week. It feels right for the time of year, when there’s plenty of rain about in most places. Is it raining where you are? Some places have been getting too much rain. And we know what too much rain can mean, Clarisse?
C – Flooding! Yes, hello Alastair. We’ve been looking at solutions people are finding to protect ourselves and our towns from too much rain – and also from the flooding that can come from the sea.
A – Yes, Clarisse, there are new problems we’ve looked at. But obviously flooding in itself isn’t new. We’ve all heard the story of Noah and his Ark. But do you know, too, that the great civilisation of Egypt, thousands of years ago, when the pharaohs built the pyramids, was entirely based on the river Nile flooding out onto the fields along the banks every spring to water the crops. That was vital right up into modern times.
C – So what’s causing us problems with flooding today?
A – Well, one reason we have more flooding problems in towns and cities is simply because there are lot more people around, building towns and cities. There are just more people living in towns to get flooded. Because people in history have set up a lot of their towns and cities along riverbanks or by the sea, those growing towns are sort of getting into fights with the water that’s already there.
C – So that’s the main reason that there’s more flooding?
A – It’s a part of the problem, Clarisse. But scientists also think that we have more flooding now – and we may have to get used to more flooding risks in the future – because of global warming. Now, this is happening in two ways. The average temperature of the planet is going up a bit – at least partly because of gases that all our industry and farming is giving off (something we’re starting to do less of!) That rise in temperature is causing changes to our weather and one change seems to be that in many parts of the world we’re getting more kinds of weather that used to be unusual. So in northern Europe for example, we seem to be getting more hot, dry summers…
C – That’s good isn’t?!
A – … well, we can all enjoy hot, dry summers – though maybe farmers don’t like them so much – but we also seem to be getting more heavy rain. Not necessarily more rain overall, but more rain coming in shorter bursts. You’ve maybe heard people saying things like ‘we had a month’s rain in one day’. There were parts of England in the past few weeks where they got 10 cm of rain in just 24 hours – more than they would normally get over a whole month. When that happens, rivers overflow and all the pipes and tubes that we have underneath our homes and towns to carry away the rain get overfull and the water ends up running down the streets and into people’s houses.
C – Gosh. And that’s the main reason there’s more flooding these days?
A – That’s certainly part of it, Clarisse. That and the fact that we’ve often built more and more houses along the riverbanks, giving the rivers less room to cope.
C – But there’s another reason?
A – Yes, Clarisse. This one is a bit more long-term but the other thing that’s happening with global warming is that all the ice which is stored up at the South Pole and the North Pole is starting to melt. And that melted ice is adding water to the sea, so the sea is creeping higher up on to the land. Now this is happening by tiny, tiny amounts. In the last 100 years or so, the sea has come about 20 cm higher. Those kinds of changes have always happened – just think, England used to be connected by land to France and people once walked from Russia to Canada.
But the changes seems to be speeding up and people are worried that the melting ice caps could mean that over the coming century lots of low land on the seashore could be under water. Even a rise of a metre – about the height of a typical four-year-old – would be a big problem for lots of people.
C – That sounds a bit worrying…
A – Well, we certainly face challenges with water. But there are things that people are doing about it. In WoW! this week, we look at big stuff and small stuff.
C – Big stuff…?
A – VERY big stuff, Clarisse. We looked at how the Dutch have basically built a whole country out of the sea – or at least half their country. If they hadn’t been building dykes for hundreds of years, half of The Netherlands would by rights be under water. They’re now the go-to experts for people from around the world who are starting to think about how to deal with higher sea levels. And one Dutch engineer has been in the news because he reckons it might be time to start thinking of building hundreds of kilometres of dyke around the North Sea, linking England to France (again!) and Scotland to Norway.
C – Is that really possible?
A – Well, engineers say it could be done. Though it would be perhaps the biggest construction on the planet. And since it would cost gazillions in money and have all sorts of other complications, I don’t think we’ll see this new dyke system soon. But remember, some of the flood defences we have now seemed pretty unimaginable to people not all that long ago. When I was a boy, people were just starting to talk about protecting London from high tides. And when I first went to work in London, I remember seeing plans for how to deal with massive flooding in the city centre. Yet today that kind of worry is pretty much history because they built the Thames Barrier, a huge set of gates that can stop the North Sea surging up the river to reach the city. It’s been there for nearly 40 years and Londoners hardly think of it now.
C – But we haven’t just been looking a big stuff this week, right Alastair?
A – Yes, you’re right, Clarisse. There’s also been some small stuff. And, what I think is really important, is people finding ways not to keep fighting against Nature but also to just work with it and help Nature to help us. The Dutch – again, of course – have been finding new ways to give their rivers room to spill over their banks from time to time, as part of the natural cycle of seasons. That means building towns, or rebuilding parts of them, in ways that can cope with the river’s moods. I particularly like the idea of building houses which, if the water comes up from time to time, can just float up with it and keep the residents’ feet dry.
C – Ha, I’m not sure I’d want to live in one myself! But I’ve been looking at all sorts of other tips for how to stay safe if you’re ever near somewhere that’s flooded.
A – Ah, yes, Clarisse. You’ve seen quite a lot of flooding rivers in your home region, right? Tell us what that looks like.
C – Exactly ! Well, a few years ago, in eastern France, where I’m from, there was also a lot flooding. I was SO surprised ! It was quite unusual for me to see water in town ! Well, I was lucky, the water level wasn’t that high, people could still easily walk around in RUBBER boots without any risk.
Oh, I also remember the waterfalls. They looked even more beautiful ! With so much water, it becomes bigger… I thought it was wonderful but at the same time a bit scary.
A – And you were saying you had some safety tips around floods, Clarisse?
C – Well, first, no matter how well you can swim = don’t! You could be swept away by the current or struck by things floating in the water. Just go up to the highest floor of your building – and wait for help.
A –That’s good to remember. Of course, it’s very, very unlikely that any of us will have to deal with a big flood. But perhaps the most important things I’ve learned from this week’s research is how we need to think about how we can all do some fairly small things to be part of big impacts and how we can work with Nature.
C- Ah yes, we nearly forgot! The beavers!
A – Oops. Yes. Those beavers. My favourites. It’s been hundreds of years since there were beavers in England but they’ve been brought back in some places. As you know, beavers naturally build houses, dams and ponds for themselves along riverbanks. Do you know what we call the beavers’ homes? A lodge. (Une hutte en FR) And all this building by beavers on some rivers has been found to help the rivers cope with the kind of surge in water they get when there’s a lot of rain. So, thanks, beavers! And thanks, Clarisse, for telling us about dealing with floods.
C – Thank you, Alastair
A – We’ll be back soon with more from WoW!, the positive podcast. Remember, check out our website at wow dash news dot EU. Tell us what you think of the newsletter and the podcast – and let us know if you’d like to receive our new print edition of WoW! coming soon to your letter box – if you tell us your address!
That’s it for now. Until next time, stay positive.