I have been ‘living with climate change’ for the last few years, living on the Somerset Levels with the highest ever recorded rain fall events causing vast flooding to the area. For me this year it all started around Boxing Day when the road from the next village of Muchelney to Langport flooded and became un-passable. As I write in the first week of March, it is still underwater. It is not unusual for that road and surrounding fields to flood during the winter, but not in living memory has there been so much recorded rainfall over winter.
Nor has there been the widespread flooding across Somerset causing so many main roads to be underwater and impassable for many months, as well as many homes, communities and businesses affected by the flood waters. It is only in the last few days that I can no longer see the flood from my front door across the road filling half of Thorney (and sadly neighbours homes) making it look like I live in a West Country version of Venice.
Yes I live on the edge of a floodplain and so am aware that the area floods, but to have two successive winters with yet more water causing friends and neighbours to be flooded two years in a row where no recorded flooding had been before? Something is changing and it’s not just the fact that the waterways haven’t been dredged of silt as they were back before the early 90s.
Speaking to the elders they even recall widespread flooding of other homes locally not affected this time by the floods back when the dredging was a regular activity and there was less recorded rainfall. To me this demonstrates that these recent severe floods are not directly linked to the lack of dredging. Quite clearly the problem has come from the deluge of rain, the most ever recorded since records began around 250 years ago.
I felt that these floods were coming, I felt this after last winter’s excessive flooding here had gone that that was just a taster of things to come. I felt that since the focus on climate change by the Government and media had diminished that the planet would do something to show what the effects of increased CO2 levels created by humans since the industrial revolution to date would look like and here it showed a very very wet and very very windy retaliation.
It has, however, split opinions of people locally. Last time it was an “Act of God”, a one in one hundred year effect that people living on the levels have to cope with once in a while and maybe climate change was impacting but it was just life. This time though the majority of the loudest opinions are those blaming the Environment Agency for not dredging the silt from the rivers and spending too much of public money on saving birds not people. Though no person died on the levels during this flooding, many parts of the ecology and wildlife did. Humans want to blame someone for their pain. The psychology of change is interesting and in this instance shows that its easier to blame an Agency than look at the bigger picture where we are all part of the problem but equally part of the solution.
The positive aspect of all this is that it did bring the community closer together and tightened our bonds. It has enabled those with an understanding of climate change and it is effects to discuss and debate what caused the excessive weather effects creating these floods in the community.
The floods have reignited my desire to live an even more low impact lifestyle. I have felt so guilting driving long ways around the floods to “civilisation” so have been planting trees and am making plans to switch to an EV (I am fortunate that I work from home for an environmental charity so I have drastically reduced my daily transport CO2 emissions) and i’m looking to move to an off grid small holding up hill 😉
The local community group Transition Langport formed in 2007 as a way to help people of the Langport area reduce our impact on the climate as well as supporting local renewable resources and supporting each other in working together to transition from a fossil fuel based society to one sustained by renewable non polluting solutions. The group have also been reinvigorated to make a difference within their own lives as well as with the community to reduce their use of fossil fuels and to inspire others to do the same.
We are also working on reinstating a train station in Langport to run on biomethane from food waste to enable the community to use sustainable transport as the nearest train station is 17 miles away and this would give transport resilience to the community as the train lines here were less effected by the flooding than the roads. Details of our group and how to get involved or seek advice can be found on www.transitionlangport.org
Most excitingly the Town Clerk is supporting our idea of a community renewable energy project as well as the planting of a wild flower meadow at the cemetery. We are empowered by the effects on our door step to do something about climate change and to improve the lives of the people as well as the ecology on the Levels which makes this part of the world such a wonderful place to live.
Cara Naden, member of Transition Langport, resident of Thorney/Muchelney Somerset Floods 2014