Editor's Comment February 14
PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:02 23 January 2014
With the recent flooding in the region, Cotswold Life's editor Mike Lowe wonders why we're still at the mercy of the waters that once made us rich.
During last month’s floods, a village called Muchelney on the Somerset levels was the focus of a great deal of media attention when it was cut off for several days and supplies had to be brought in by boat. That’s not surprising, because it made for great TV pictures – a little patch of land poking up from acres of inland sea.
However, this should not have come as a surprise. The Old English name for this settlement – Micelenie – meant ‘increasingly great island”. You see, our elders knew about these things and deliberately built their little village on land they knew wouldn’t flood. If only we were as smart these days, when the demand for new housing has led to estates springing up on the flood plain where the sheer volume of concrete and tarmac being laid down plays havoc with natural drainage.
The irony of the situation, at least here in the Cotswolds, is that it was water that helped make us rich. Our ancestors harnessed the rivers and streams to power our industry; our mills and forges. Now Mother Nature has decided that it’s payback time.
While the eco-warriors will pin the blame for shifting weather patterns on our modern lifestyle generating carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, the truth of the matter – in my humble opinion – is that the planet has always experienced climate change. We have documentary evidence of the River Thames freezing over several times in the 16th century and also as recently as 1963. Scientists forecast that Earth will suffer another Ice Age in the next 1,500 years. So things are always on the move. It just so happens that we’re entering a period of heavy rainfall or, like last spring, spells of very cold weather.
The annoying thing is that despite the incredible pace of technological development we’ve enjoyed in the past two decades, when the floods come we seem to have little to fight back with apart from the simple sandbag. We’ve tamed the waters once; surely, here in 2014, we should have the wit to tame them again.
With all of the major retailers reporting a huge increase in internet shopping, we should again be concerned about the small, independent shops on our ailing High Streets. I assuage my own guilt at pressing that damned Amazon ‘one-click’ button by alternating purchases. For every book impulse-bought online, I go out and buy another from one of our brilliant local bookshops.
The problem is, buying stuff online is just too easy. So what I suggest is a compulsory piece of software that pauses any internet transaction to play a 30-second video of your nearest High Street and suggests shops where the item in question can be bought over the counter. At least then we’d have to make a conscious decision to go electronic rather than local.
Needless to say, the purchase of magazine subscriptions will be exempt from the above...
This article by Mike Lowe is from the February 2014 issue of Cotswold Life
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