We seem to have become immune to all the world climate-related catastrophes with huge numbers of victims, displaced people and financial losses.
When huge killer floods hit Asian locations such as China or Bangladesh, or even the USA, or drought assisted forest fires go on a rampage, Italian papers headline the event for a day with no subsequent follow-ups. When tragedies hit home, though the impact on public opinion is strong, the actual numbers are thankfully much more limited than abroad. That is, if numbers really matter. I’m talking flash floods and mud-slides – we have earthquakes here too, but unless science comes up with new data, they don’t count in terms of human-caused changes – though the fracking issues being researched in Oklahoma could change that.
To go back to the south of France, there’ve been very many violent weather disasters in the last few years. Last week’s Oct. 3-4 heavy torrential rains caught forecasters by surprise: the amount of rain that poured in just a few hours was equal to a whole month’s seasonal rainfall. Nice (the city, not the adjective!) was spared compared to the coast to its west, and “only” experienced rapid street and basement flooding leading to 24-hour power cuts. And one mud-slide in a higher area of town.
Cannes, Antibes, Vallauris, Golfe-Juan and Mandelieu-la-Napoule were the hardest hit, together with their hinterland. Five days later, train connections weren’t back to normal, in a region in which commuters are the backbone of the economy. The final toll was high in terms of European disasters (20 dead and thousands homeless). Most deaths occurred in flash flooded underground car parks.
To quote one survivor “to die for a car is beyond belief”.
In the wake of the disaster, you still have the naysayers who claim it’s not really climate change, but only the result of excessive urbanization of previously natural countryside. What they call “cementing”: enormous swaths of fields and forests have literally disappeared, to accommodate new towns and suburbs with impermeable ground where waters don’t penetrate, creating few and narrow paths for waters to flow down to the sea.
The cementing explanation is definitely well-documented, also in Italy. But the naysayers are disregarding the objective statistics that clearly indicate that tornadoes, storms and rainfall have become increasingly violent and frequent in the last decades.
At this point signs are ominous for all Mediterranean countries. Sad to say, after the first day of attention-grabbing pictures in the Italian press and a couple of TV newscasts, and no comments whatsoever from our politicians, no further news this end. When I asked a usually well-informed person what he thought about it, all I got was “Oh really? The Côte d’Azur? I didn’t know”. Presumably too engrossed in our day to day political circus, squabbles and scandals.
Environmental emergencies are now undeniably global, they’re right at everyone’s front door, bar none. The overall indifference should ring an alarm bell for the next generations (or will that only be “generation” in the singular?) yet our societies seem to be in denial.
I’ve always been an unsinkable optimist, but find I’m slipping down into the pessimists’ camp when I look at the earth-damage humanity is giving few signs of even acknowledging. Let alone wanting to fix. How about you?