Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quick Update: Tragedy in Fast-Moving Water

It's been a bit of a crazy week for me.  Crazy, but incredibly fortunate, compared to the people of Japan.

Last week I posted about the approach of a cold front to Vermont.  This cold front was originally expected to drop a couple inches of snow, then 10 inches of snow as of my post, but instead, there was a major blizzard.  Two feet of heavy and wind-driven snow dumped over almost all of Vermont.  I was essentially snowed in without Internet for two days, though very cozy and comfortable.  The whole state was shut down for a while.  After this heavy dumping of snow was cleared away, I made my way out to California to visit family and friends. After I left Vermont, much of the Northeast was pounded by flooding due to heavy rains, in some cases on top of snowpack.  My home in Vermont was under evacuation notice due to possible ice jam flooding, but none occurred.

While in California, I visited a very neat native plant and wastewater filtration park.  I'll have more about this later.

Finally, just a short thought about the Japan tsunami.  Disasters of this scope are unpredictable, unpreventable, and unstoppable once unleashed.  With something of this scope, horrible tragic loss of life and loss of shelter and way of life are inevitable.  Japan was as prepared as anyone could be; if they hadn't been, the already horrible death toll would be even higher.


It is well known and well documented that healthy wetlands along a coastline and in estuaries can delay and decrease the impact from tsunamis and storm surges.  Preservation of wetlands is often looked at as a way to 'save the Earth' and protect endangered species, but in truth it is often the best way to protect endangered PEOPLE from the many water-based disasters our planet is unfortunately so prone to.  Every wetland lost along a waterway is not only a lost ecosystem, but lost protection for us and our homes as well.  When we remove a wetland we are gambling against the future - betting that floods and tsunamis will not occur.  Unfortunately, in the long term, this is a bet against nature that can never. never be won.  Whether it is a horrible tsunami in the Pacific Ocean, or a ice jam flood in northern New York State, stochastic events WILL occur and the less buffer we have against them, the more loss of life we will see.  And restored or constructed wetlands may not function quite as effectively as naturally occurring wetlands,. but they are still far, far better than nothing.

If you don't consider yourself a conservationist, and don't worry much about lost habitat, please still consider the above when a new proposal to drain a wetland comes up.  It's not that much of a stretch that you or someone you care about may be put in danger by the very same wetland loss you are deciding whether to oppose now.

The LA Creek Freak blog had a good post about this as well, check it out if you would like to read more.

Best wishes and warm thoughts to our neighbors in Japan, connected to us in Vermont and the rest of the US much more closely than we realize.  May the loss of life be minimal, may the recovery be swift, and may we learn from this so it does not need to happen to this extent ever again.

No comments:

Post a Comment