Saturday, 19 January 2008
Five Disasters Waiting To Happen, BBC2
Did we like it?
While the subject matter of the perils of global warming is so undeniably important, it was this very factor that muddied the polemic thrust as the stories were already so disturbingly familiar that it often didn’t add anything new, rather grouping everything together like a greatest hits collection.
What was good about it?
• The revelation that property companies are building exclusive flats in the Thames’ floodplain in London. While they are building them on stone stilts to ensure that the projected waters don’t swamp homes, it still seems a little unscrupulous.
• The enlightening explanations of why Shanghai is at risk from typhoons. The inherent rural poverty causes mass migration to urban centres like Shanghai, and so more people requires more energy, energy needs provokes the construction of coal burning factories, which in turn bumps up the summer temperature, meaning warmer seas that ultimately make typhoons more frequent.
• The dissection of the mess in Mumbai. It too suffers from an unmanageable influx of indigent folk from the surrounding villages that has caused shanty towns to spring up on the fringes of the city. But in order to make room for these towns, the mangroves that help soak up the monsoon rains are being built over leaving the water nowhere to go. Perversely, the biggest area of mangroves left is owned by a wealthy multi-national that won’t sell them because of the damage to profits the torrential floods of last year caused them. Oh, and also it means less people will drown or be made homeless which is the primary concern of all big companies across the globe.
• The tragedy of Tuvalu, which will soon be inundated and lost forever beneath the Pacific waves.
What was bad about it?
• The rather desperate tone of trying to make the dangers sound immediate and life-threatening. On the topic of London being swamped by North Sea tides, Sarah Lavery was reduced to saying: “IF we didn’t have the barrier and IF there was a flood.” And further undermined her undoubted wisdom when she exclaimed “the status quo is not an option”, which is a trite sentiment only ever expressed in the trailer for a drab political thriller which has purloined the few dramatic moments to use for the film’s promotion.
• And the argument of London flooding was blunted as such a rush of water has only ever occurred once, in 1953, and while global warming makes such a event more likely the measures already being taken such as reverting the Thames Estuary back to a natural floodplain from farmland to soak up any excess shows that steps are being taken and that it isn’t really “a disaster waiting to happen”.
• Most of the segments began with the dubious introduction of “experts claim”. Experts can manipulate facts into whatever shape they choose to adhere to their own personal ideology or goal, and of course the only way to convincingly present these views is to counterbalance them with opposing views, which were absent here.
• Of the five disasters, the ones we were most knowledgeable about were the London floods and the Paris heatwave, yet this pair took up more time than the other three.
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