Friday, 27 August 2010

day 17: disasters

tonight we had a little celebration at work to commemorate 10 years of my working there. i can't believe that 10 years has gone by so quickly. it's been a decade of some quite spectacular changes for me, and also some quite amazing experiences. 5 years ago i was sitting in the tvnz studio debating winston peters, three years before that i was wondering how i was going to get through each day. i've grown older with my children, i've travelled and i've been part of some wonderful organisations. 9 years ago, i started wearing the hijab. what i can say with confidence is that the last decade certainly hasn't been boring!

so, today's topic is one that i really couldn't find a one word summary for, mostly because it's to do with an absence of negatives. it sort of follows on from yesterday's topic, in which i marvelled at the beauty of nature. today i consider nature's fury, and am thankful that i am protected from it.

here in hamilton, we hardly ever have earthquakes. i can't even remember the last time we've had a tremor here. compare this to palmerston north & wellington, which would have the shakes at least every couple of months. i remember the first time i felt an earthquake when i lived in palmerston north. i was lying in bed, and i thought a car had slammed into the house. it hadn't occured to me that the ground could actually move like that.

we're extremely lucky that we haven't had to suffer the kind of awful earthquakes that have hit northern pakistan, china, iran and indonesia in recent years. we're lucky because, even when such earthquakes hit, they will have a much lesser impact because our building are designed with earthquakes in mind. i live in a country that is rich enough to be able to afford to have and enforce such standards for buildings.

because we don't live by the sea, we don't have to worry about tsunamis caused by earthquakes. i recall my reaction to a tsunami scare last year, which really brought home to me what it must have been like to live in indonesia, thailand, sri lanka or samoa when the big waves caused devastation in these countries.

we do live close to a river, but the waikato has never flooded in hamilton. i only ever remember it flooding up near huntly some years ago, otherwise it's a very tame river that gives us no problems but nourishes our land and provides us with our water supply. we never even have to fear the kind of floods that have hit pakistan, that regularly hit bangladesh and many other countries. even other parts of nz, particularly the east coast around gisborne suffer from floods which cause devastation but rarely death. we're safe even from that.

we have had drought in the waikato. we had a major one back in 2008, and the memory of that is so strong in my mind that i have never complained of rainy weather since then. nor can i ever agree with people who describe a rainy day as "terrible weather". rain is life. i still remember that awful tension in the air during the drought, which i fancifully think of as the stress of the plants thirsting for water. that might be silly, but i just seemed to feel it. i know the animals on the farms were definitely struggling, and there was absolutely no milk production in april & may of that year for any of my dairy farmer clients.

so i can only imagine how horrible it must be for areas that suffer drought for years on end. it's not just the lack of water but the resulting lack of food that causes devastation and stress, and eventually loss of life. our drought in the waikato was a survivable one, mainly because the dairy payout was a record $7.10 that year, so the farmers didn't suffer a loss of income. i know that other places aren't so lucky.

here in the waikato, we don't get devastating storms. we don't face the gale force winds that i've experienced in wellington, which literally blow you off your feet. we have had trees blown over and roofs blown off, but nothing that has led to loss of life or major damage. we don't get the tornados that plague parts of america. we've had thunderstorms, and i remember the spectacular one last year that saw 7,000 bolts of lightning in a couple of hours. i had to be driving through that, and i have rarely been so scared. but we all got home safe & sound, and nothing more than a few computers were damaged in the city that night.

we don't get hurricanes like the ones that devastate the pacific, the west indies, cuba and southern america. we've never had to suffer a situation like new orleans did in the aftermath of hurricane katrina.

it never snows in hamilton, so we never get stuck in our houses as a result of snow fall. the schools don't have to shut down and the roads don't ice over, making it treacherous to drive anywhere. of course this also means that we miss out on snow fights, snow sculptures & tobagganing. but as i mentioned yesterday, the snow is only about a 3 hour drive away if you're into that kind of thing.

we don't get extremes of temperature. 30 degrees celcius is an extremely hot day hear that has everyone complaining & turning on their fans. the humidity does actually make it very hot at lower temperatures, but we don't have to suffer the 40-50 degrees that you get in asia and the middle east. as to cold, it gets to about minus 2 degrees at its coldest, and then the dew freezes and we wake up to frost on the grass. but a frosty night will usually lead to a day time temperature of at least 12 degrees, so it's not too bad.

we've never suffered here from the raging forest fires that devastated new south wales recently. our forests can be at risk, but we've never had to face anything so devastating both to life, property & livelihood.

when it comes to natural disasters, i can't think of a much safer place to live than this one. i'm extremely grateful for this. despite the objections of an anonymous commenter yesterday, i'd strongly urge you to donate to pakistani flood victims, if you are able. oxfam is taking donations here, as is the red cross who have information here. if you're not able to do that, i'd certainly recommend volunteering with your local civil defence organisation, and also reading up the information on the ministry website about being prepared for emergencies.

for those who have suffered or are suffering as a result of a natural disaster, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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