Posts Tagged ‘flooding’

What can the rest of us learn from this past day’s disaster in Japan?  Watching live footage of the tsunamis devastating the landscape, or fires burning at refineries, you can’t help but wonder if your community would fare any better. 

People in many countries along the Pacific Rim have been warned to move to 50 feet above sea level (6 floors in a building) in wake of the threat of tsunami waves hitting their shores.  To a greater or lesser extent, coastlines around the globe will all eventually feel the ripple effect of the 8.9 earthquake that originated just off the coast of Japan.

I once saw a television crew set up in the location pictured above, filming a forest fire along the eastern shore that was blazing across the water.  Viewed from a safe distance, disasters can be mesmerizing, but experienced up close, they’re a different story altogether.  At a recent workshop on climate change held in Eastern Passage, one of the questions residents were asked was what our evacuation strategy would be in the event of a disaster.  What roads would we take in order to reach safety? 

Once again, watching live footage taken from a helicopter of the disaster in Japan today, it was clear that many vehicles were travelling on roads that were leading towards disaster instead of away from it.  From the ground, it’s often difficult to determine the best route to safety.  A prepared plan of action would make a big difference in a crisis situation.

Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.

~ Sir Robert Baden-Powell

Is your household prepared for disaster of any type?  If you live along the coast, do you know if your elevation is low enough to require evacuation in case of flooding?  If you had to evacuate, what route would you take?  Where would you go, and would you have enough gas in your vehicle to get you there?  It’s never too early to make plans to seek higher ground. 

If you would like to find out the altitude of any point on the planet, an application that makes use of Google Maps can be found at Daft Logic.

For more information on emergency preparedness in Nova Scotia, see Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office.


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The ancient Celts believed that barren wastelands existed because their leader and people were cursed.  Surely whether or not a space is a wasteland has more to do with one’s point of view than a curse.  A few days ago I visited a bog that I hadn’t seen since Hurricane Juan hit in 2003, destroying the old logging trails I used to follow to reach it.  Due to the slow tree growth typical in bogs, it had changed very little. 

For over a decade I walked through this bog daily with my dog, careful to place my feet on higher ground so that I wouldn’t sink into the bottomless black mud.  Though the bog looked especially pretty in spring with its bright pink orchids and rhododendrons, in winter it could be equally wonderful.  One cold day I suddenly heard wings flying above me and was surprised to see two bald eagles hunting for hares or other bog-dwelling prey just a few feet overhead. 

Snowshoe hare tracks in the bog

Body preserved in bog for over 2,000 years

Bogs were once considered magical places, probably owing to their reputation as cursed wastelands.  Some Northern European cultures sometimes buried their dead in bogs and it’s suspected that human sacrifices were made there during the Iron Age.    

Bogs were also places where treasures were hidden from invaders.  In 2006 the Irish found a thousand year old illuminated psalter manuscript in one of their bogs.  Could treasures still be waiting to be discovered here in Nova Scotia?

Today bogs are just beginning to be valued for their role in absorbing extra precipitation and acting as filters for air and water borne pollutants.  Sphagnum moss which is abundant here is also being studied for its role in absorbing oil from disaster spills.

Many of the lichens that hang from the trees in bogs also absorb moisture from the atmosphere.  The most marvelous of these can convert nitrogen in the air to a form usable by plants and animals. 

Unfortunately, in Nova Scotia, bogs are still considered wastelands and cheap real estate.  Locally, they continue to be filled with rubble and developed into subdivisions.  If the original evergreens left standing at the edge of new streets appear stunted, chances are that the homes nearby were built in a bog.  Sadly, once bogs are filled, they cannot go back to their original form.  If urban planners refuse to consider the role bogs can play in alleviating flooding and cleaning the atmosphere, perhaps we really are a people cursed.

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