There's long been that saying: There'll always be an England. But, what with global warming and rising sea levels, perhaps not quite so much any more. Its status as an island nation has always been an important part of its defenses: Against the German blitzkreig, which damn near flattened Plymouth, to Guillaume the Bastard (aka William the Conqueror). The latter may have prevailed at Hastings in 1066, and changed England fundamentally. But it always remained as a very distinct entity.
But nowadays, MPs are talking about abandoning low-lying parts of the country to the sea, including prime farmlands.
Earlier this month, the first report focused on farmland:
Many areas of low-lying farmland in East Anglia and southern England should be abandoned to the sea as flood defences are a waste of money say MPs. The Agriculture Select Committee is calling for "an end to the centuries-old war with the sea... and a peaceful accommodation with our former enemy".
The committee says a "managed realignment" of the coastline is preferable to suffering "the consequences of a deluded belief that we can maintain indefinitely an unbreachable Maginot Line of towering sea walls and flood defences".
This part of England is prime birding country, and indeed this scheme has been welcomed by the British Wildlife Trust and the World Wildlife fund.
Dr Sian Pullen of the WWF said: "We welcome the recognition that managed realignment is an effective solution to eroding coastlines in many places given the reality of sea level rise in response to climatic changes.
It's curious that the Tory Party (conservative Reagan buddy Maggie Thatcher's politcal affiliation) has been more realistic and forward thinking than the "liberal" Labor Party (Dubya's BFF and lap poodle Tony Blair's party). Tory MP Peter Luff almost sounds like a deep ecologist when he says "We must work with nature and not against it - we must be a little more humble about our relationship with it." Probably just a matter of opportunism of grabbing a position on an issue that they think they can gain something from. But still interesting in conjunction with reports that young evangelicals in the U.S. consistently list climate change as a top concern. (In contrast with older ones who still focus primarily on stem cell research and gay marriage.)
Abandoning low-lying farmlands? That's from a BBC story on August 5. Two weeks later - still in the season when most people are on holiday, and not much paying attention. Turns out it isn't just low-lying lands. Those white cliffs of Dover and other coastal highlandsare suffering from increased rates of erosion:
The story above is from the UK Parliament's Agriculture Select Committee. This from the Environment Agency as reported by the BBC this week:
Some parts of the British coastline are so badly eroded they are not worth protecting from the sea, the new head of the Environment Agency has said. Lord Smith of Finsbury said work was already under way to identify areas of the east and south coast most at risk. He told the Independent that the UK faced hard choices over which coasts to defend and which to leave to the sea. Lord Smith said parts of north-east Norfolk and Suffolk were in the most immediate danger of collapse.
There will be triage, such that more heavily populated areas might be defended, while others are abandoned.
From the Norfolk coast
A report should be completed next year, at which time communities to be abandoned will start being notified. Yikes!
"It's a particularly huge issue in East Anglia, but in quite a number of other areas as well." Lord Smith called on the government to assist families whose home will be lost, as ministers would not always be able to rely on insurance companies to cover them. He added: "We are almost certainly not going to be able to defend absolutely every bit of coast. It would simply be an impossible task both in financial terms and engineering terms.
The longer term picture contains even harder realities for Britain:
Global warming may see sea levels rise and with it increaed flooding. In 200 or 300 years, much of London and other major cities could be under water, the MPs said.
This is not a new story. But now it's getting more serious as Parliament addresses it directly, and policies are being proposed to officially abandon portions of the country.
A couple of small Pacific Islands have already been entirely abandoned to the sea, with the inhabitants becoming "climate refugees". (The United Nations does not yet track that category of refugee, but the day will probably be with us before long when they do.) Other Pacific islands, as I mentioned in a dairy yesterday, may have to follow suit. This could get pretty rough across the English Channel in the Netherlands, too. To say the least. A lot of South Florida barely qualifies as "land" as it is.
Don't Buy the "Drillusion"
The effects of climate change are not waiting for "us" - meaning humanity in aggregate - to decide to get serious about doing something to counter it. We cannnot, possibly, drill out way out of the problems we face today, never mind those coming in the years ahead.
Any politician that goes along with that will seal a long-term legacy for themselves. One of being cursed for "fiddling while Rome burned", for "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic". There will be a special ring in Hell for those who cynically pushed for more drilling for short term benefit, like John McCain. And the Republicans generally, and other friends of Big Oil. But the panderers and appeasers? No one's gonna be thanking them either.