Wednesday 29 December 2010

Stop Press

Good grief, Boxing Day brought another earthquake in Christchurch - 4.9 this time, compared with 7.1 in September, but closer and shallower, so feeling more violent, and doing damage to buildings that had escaped unscathed, like the lovely old Press building in Cathedral Square, which was evacuated when cracks appeared in the frontage.

Meanwhile, there have been massive floods in Queensland in places like Rockhampton and Bundaberg where we visited earlier this year, and dramatic blizzards on the east coast of the US, with people stranded, freezing, in subway carriages as well as in cars and airports. Heavy snow continues to make life difficult in Britain, and Haitians still struggling with the aftermath of their earthquake have had to cope with hurricanes and cholera as well.

It's been a dreadful year for natural disasters: devastating floods in Pakistan and elsewhere, earthquakes all over the place, tornadoes and typhoons, the cyclone in the Cooks, killer heatwaves, the Icelandic eruption. Then there's the oil still killing the wildlife and making people miserable in the Gulf of Mexico, mining tragedies (and only one miracle), the dreadful toxic spill in Hungary... Too many to remember, though no doubt the year-in-review programmes about to clog up the TV schedules this weekend will do their best to remind us.

Everywhere I go, people say that the weather is different, less predictable, the patterns changed, the extremes more pronounced. Whether this is a permanent or temporary climate change I wouldn't dare to say, but it's clear that we need to take more care in how we treat this planet, just in case. It's the only one we've got, and it's a beauty.

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