‘The wise man built his house upon the rock’ is a phrase which keeps to coming into my mind as I reflect on the turmoil of the winter’s floods. By now people are hopefully beginning, at least, the long process of putting their homes, and their lives, back together. Obviously the short term priority is to enable them to return to a close resemblance of what they had before, although it can never be the same. And that involves examining what can be done to limit the possibility of it happening again.
The long term problems are different. There is no doubt that we have sleep-walked into the situations we now have in so many parts of the country. But statistics show that we have had the worst conditions since records began. We may have to accept that eventually, however beautiful some of these places may be to live, the changing weather patterns will be too much for human activity to compete with.
All over the world human beings have, for reasons of heart or simple economics, chosen to live in places vulnerable to flood, tsunami, avalanche or any other natural disaster which is part of the nature of our world. Part of the cost is the element of risk. I guess that the practical wisdom is recognising how firm the rock is. The folly is in failing to accept responsibility for the choices we make.
Places like the Somerset Levels have been made habitable once and, while we cannot assume that they will always be so in time to come, there is still a lot which can be done to preserve the way of life which has been so severely disrupted this winter. There is a large cost but the longer it is left the larger the cost will be. It isn’t enough to blame the Government or the Environment Agency; load all the responsibility elsewhere. Residents need to dig deep, not just to repair the damage to their lives but also to raise the productivity of the area and justify the cost. And they need the support to do this.
The compassionate response of the nation to the plight of those devastated by the floods has been heartwarming. It shows the potential that exists in this country. Yet more is required. Why does it take disaster to bring us together? How quickly will we return to our insular lives and forget the needs of others? God’s Justice requires that we live in a right relationship with one another and with the world. The world is his; it is alive and has a right to erupt, shake and rage in a storm. We need to learn again how to live in harmony with the world rather than seeking to subdue and control. We may harness the forces of nature but we must always acknowledge that Nature is too powerful for human resources to overcome.
Likewise with people, we need to learn again to cooperate; to support and serve – not just spasmodically but at all times, and appreciate the current irony of Amos 5:24 – Let justice roll on like a river; righteousness like a never ending stream.