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What a Difference a Year Makes

Today I took a stroll through a beautifully sunny, frosty Carlisle. I’d been stuck at home this weekend thanks to a couple of car problems and couldn’t get my Lake District fix. I suppose – if you’ve got to be stuck in… there aren’t many nicer places than Carlisle.

 

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Traders looking hopeful in Carlisle in the run up to Christmas.

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Beautiful sunshine in Carlisle a dramatic contrast with this weekend a year ago!

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Water levels on the River Eden – a good 20 feet lower than last year I would guess! Who’d think that this time last year the river was spilling into the heart of Carlisle?

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The River Eden brings a swathe of green parkland right through the heart of Carlisle which makes it one of the most countrified cities in Britain. But the weather can turn this peaceful stream into a full on monster, as last year’s Carlisle Floods proved.

This weekend in December 2015 was a complete contrast: a very wet spell through the late Autumn had left the ground saturated and and river levels twitchy! It was a bonanza for the white water paddlers but even they were to be unprepared for what followed! Between the 4th – 7th of December Cumbria in particular and much of Northern England, endured some prolonged, heavy rainfall due to a depression that was christened “Storm
Desmond”. This exceptional event set new 24 hour and 48 hour UK rainfall records, with Cumbria gaining both unfortunate titles. These broke previous record  rainfall events, which had been set in Cumbria as well: during the November 2009 floods which saw the Cockermouth devastated and the city’s newly built defences only just holding back the deluge.

As I wandered back through Hardwicke Circus this morning the contrast with last year couldn’t have been any more complete!

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Hardwicke Circus underpass looking very normal and sunny! Carlisle on the 4th December 2016.

Whereas last year on the 6th of December – the morning after the hurricane of the day before! You would have needed scuba gear to be in the same spot!

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In the Carlisle flood of December 2015, Hardwicke Circus was completely submerged!

 

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Devonshire Walk car park and the Main Glasgow rail line were one big lake!

 

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My son and ex-wife being rescued from the house they were moving into that weekend- because it didn’t flood last time!

 

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Rescue efforts on Warwick Road with absolutely “everyone” lending a hand!

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The wreck of the Sheepmount Titanic!

 

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Emergency services flooded the area with manpower to match the scale of the inundation. This was a fantastic example of people actually being a community!

 

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I’m not a celebrity, but get me out of here anyway!

A year on – most of Carlisle looks pretty normal. But take a stroll along Warwick Road or into the Greystone area behind it and it’s plain to see that a lot of people are still a very long way from normality!

During the late Spring a networking buddy of mine from the North East came across for a long threatened visit, so I could take him for a stroll in the Northern Fells. On his way to my place, he got a bit lost and ended up in the maze of side streets just off Greystone Road… He was absolutely aghast at the amount of work that was still in progress 5 months after the flooding event itself! People beyond the bounds of such major events have very little idea just what the residents of Carlisle have had to cope with since the initial clear up. The tales of un-cooperative insurance companies that have dragged out authorisation of repairs, shoddy workmanship and just the sheer grind of having to bunk up somewhere else, such as the in-laws abound. That shouldn’t take away from the great things that have been done in the city! It’s almost as if the Carlisle Ambassadors and Andy Fearon’s “Give A Day To the City” movements were in place to field this kind of disaster.

And the work goes on. Claire Armstrong’s “Amplify Cumbria” is looking to organise a music event to bring funds into Carlisle and the wider county next year and she needs a lot more support to make that happen. Colette McQueen has also thrown herself into the fray with an event on the weekend of 10th December 2016 “HotStepping For Floods“. It’s a massive gala event with the highlight being teams of folk walking across beds of coals! Should be absolutely epic.

What of the future? Cumbria Flood Expo will be happening in February at Carlisle racecourse. This event will bring national and local experts to speak on strategies for flood recovery, resilience and mitigation. It is open to the general public and professionals alike over the 2 days. This is an initiative that brings together Cumbria and all the neighbouring flood ravaged counties to share experience, expertise and products! The government has put aside a chunk of cash for flood defences around the country. Several million are earmarked for Cumbria – but I do wonder if people have woken up to the warning signs that this kind of event is part of.

The EU referendum demonstrated how myopic people can be. The media managed to portray the UK’s “existential crisis”, as being immigration, border control and wasted cash in Europe. Millions swallowed the lies and utter fabrication that were put out by both sides of the “debate”. As a very definite remainer – I was under no illusion that the EU was all sweetness and light. The EU commission is an unholy mess of corrupt insider dealing to my mind. But working more or less together we’ve got a better chance of actually getting control of the real threat to my kids and yours!

The result didn’t go my way so I suppose I’ll just have to suck it up at this stage. Unlike the sociopathic architects of the whole sorry mess: Cameron just waved it goodbye!  Meanwhile that single issue excuse for a politician, Farage; disappeared off the scene – still taking his money from Europe and now with his nose firmly attached to Trump’s backside! Note carefully how they didn’t stick around to deal with the shit storm they brought into being! They didn’t have a clue about the real issue and they certainly didn’t care: so long as their short term “political” ambition was served! The real issue that has to be dealt with NOW so that we don’t have too many Storm Desmonds is Climate Change – the human accelerated part of it!

NASA's log of CO2 levels in atmosphere based on ALL the SCIENTIFIC research.

NASA’s log of CO2 levels based on ALL the peer reviewed SCIENTIFIC research.

Human activities have induced a huge increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere! (Don’t even think of trying to argue with me that the science isn’t proven, unless you can come up with contrarian research that wasn’t peddled by the stooges of the Heartland Institute and their ilk!) Air, sea and now the land too; are storing ever more energetic surprises for us.

Methane out-gassing craters in Siberia and methane plumes in the Arctic ocean that have multiplied by a factor of over 100 in the past 5 years are one sign that is ignored by the mass consumption rags like the Mail, Sun, and Daily Express. Neither the Telegraph nor the Times are very interested in the drought in California that’s intensified over the past 5 years! I didn’t hear the Brexiteers weighing up the environmental impact of creating even more export / import traffic on the oceans! The drastic decline in sea ice in the Arctic isn’t just screwing things up for a few cuddly polar bears – it’s altering the entire heat balance of the planet!

In 1982 I was lucky enough to visit Peru and trek over the glaciers to climb the SW Face of Alpamayo – we were the first British team to do that route as it happens – but I saw a Youtube video today which showed at least half of one of the approach glaciers has vanished. The following year a mate from Penrith and myself went to Mt Kenya to do the Diamond Couloir an absolutely classic climb. In 1983 this ice climb – 13 miles from the equator- started with a steep 70m ice pitch! Now the pitch is almost never formed and involves desperate M7 mixed climbing to get to the remaining ice! I’ve seen the difference with my own eyes so to speak!

In this country the government has taken away the subsidy (effectively) for installation of solar PV and is instead feeding the oil companies and London’s Heathrow airport more cash to pollute as usual! There’s even talk of opening a new coal mine off the coast of Cumbria. To cap it all off we’re now having a poisonous orange buffoon installed in the White House across the pond who clearly hasn’t got the slightest understanding that his type have screwed people and planet over for far too long.

If our politicians, media and people themselves don’t wake up, to the real elephant in the room, then Carlisle will see more floods, more often! Just as heavily populated areas of the world lose their ability to support agriculture; famine, conflict and sadly large scale warfare are on the cards. Just take a look at the emerging leaders and the emerging fascist tone of so much political posturing around the world. The desperate struggle in Syria was seen as part of the Arab Spring uprisings and that might indeed have been the trigger to bring people out on the streets. However, drought had been an unusual feature of Syrian life from 2007-10, pushing up to 1.5 million people to from the farmlands into the cities. The increasingly obvious poverty and social unrest were another pressure on top of resentment of the older Assad’s regime. The drought and the extra pressures it brought to bear in a fractious country are the often missed ingredient in the lead up to this nastiest of civil wars.

Conflict over water and resources will intensify and the movements of people that we have seen in recent years will seem insignificant if we cannot wake our politicians up to a longer term view of this world and if we don’t start to change our own consumer habits. When Primark came to town I had very mixed feelings. Pleased because it opened up a few jobs and will bring more people to the city but sick in my heart as well because Primark is the absolute epitome of what’s wrong with our world! Cheap throwaway tat that simply consumes more resources, feeds the global warming conveyor belt while more clothes get thrown away or not used than the charity shops can ever reuse! Let’s get sustainable folks! We can turn the tide working together but not as separate little enclaves!