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Climate change? – Poem – What little I know

This is me in the Mojave Desert, California, in 2009

Climate change is not new

Ever since there have been climates on earth there has been climate change. Today we know that large areas of the earth are threatened by rising sea levels and other areas are threatened by droughts. Such problems have been common throughout human history. Mankind has always been at the mercy of forces beyond his control, and sometimes forces that he could and should control.

I, for one, feel powerless to do anything about the current climate crises. At the same time, in spite of everything, I think that mankind will survive and enjoy the benefits of modern science.

I wasn’t thinking of the climate issue when I wrote the following poem which my notes tell me I wrote over several years, returning to it from time to time when I happened to come across it in a folder, but I think the poem may be relevant.

Poem – What little I know?

What does anyone know?

What do I know?

The origin
of the universe
its scale
its destiny
are beyond my understanding.

This earth
so rich
so poor
so vulnerable
so uncontrollable
is all we have.

I accept
that I am less than a speck
in the sandstorm
of stars.
I only know
I am a citizen of earth
and this,
my brief home.

David Roberts
2000, 2015, 2020

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The Fenland floods of 1947 – My memory of a natural disaster – and video

flooded Fen region 1947
flooded Fen region 1947

Do the media mislead young about climate change?  –  My experience of extreme weather

Young people who learn about natural disasters from the media may get an impression that things have never been so bad and are getting worse and worse all the time. It’s natural to be worried. There are always terrible things happening in the world but I think it is wrong to think the situation is worse than it’s ever been. We can blight our lives with fear if we get things out of proportion.

Many countries are experiencing more and worse problems than in previous history, but in some areas things are little changed or even much better. There have always been terrible natural disasters and extreme fluctuations in weather and everywhere is not consistently getting warmer and warmer.

And, most important, many places have learned to cope with the effects of ongoing climate change.

My story

When I was 4 years old, in March 1947, huge areas of the Fens in Eastern England were flooded, hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland. The floods extended to within a mile or two of where I was born in Spalding, Lincolnshire, and and to within a few miles of where I lived in the village of Surfleet.
My father did some” disaster tourism” and took the family out in the car one Sunday afternoon in March to have a look at the floods. I remember being driven along the Cowbit Road in Spalding by the side of the river Welland.

River Welland overflowing sandbags along the Cowbit Road in 1947

To my surprise I found a picture on the internet of this scene in 1947 close to the railway bridge across the river. My infant school was further along this road, about a quarter of a mile further north.

I remember the sandbags and not understanding how they could help with the flood. I think that when we were there the river level wasn’t up to the brim. And along the same road. I remember fire engines and long pipes, attached to the fire engines, along the edge of the road. This was also something I couldn’t understand.
The river Welland is to the left of the picture behind the trees and can be seen with the level of the water up to the top of the sandbags. Normally the water level in this river is twenty or so feet lower than it is in this picture.

We drove on past the village of Cowbit and along the bank and looked out on an endless extent of water with a farmhouse standing like an island maybe 200 yards from the bank on which our car had paused. A sort of raised road or causeway extended from the farmhouse to the road on the raised bank.
The flooding was said to be “the worst since 1880”.

Film of 1947 flooding of the Fens in Eastern England

Background: The winter of 1947

The winter of 1947 in the UK is remembered as one of the worst ever, but it didn’t begin this way. In fact, after the first cold week in January the weather was exceptionally warm. “During the night of 15-16 January, the temperature at Leeming in North Yorkshire didn’t fall below 11.7 °C.
The following day, maximum temperatures close to 14 °C were recorded in Norfolk, Herefordshire and Flintshire.” [Metlink article.]
The first night of frost was on 20th January. From then on matters got rapidly worse with snow everyday, blizzards, gales, and unrelenting low temperatures. The whole of the UK was gripped in freezing conditions and deep snow for almost two months. Life became very difficult.
A sudden change in the weather occurred on 8th March with the arrival of torrential rain which fell onto ground frozen solid and with drainage ditches blocked with ice.

There were burst river banks and floods all over the UK, but the low-lying Fens were particularly affected.

More information about the winter of 1947 can be found at

Coronation Channel and Marsh Road Sluice, Spalding

Preventing a recurrence of the problem

Following the flooding a long canal called the Coronation Channel was dug to direct excessive rising water out to sea. The drainage of the whole area is controlled by a system of channels, pumping stations and sluices (sliding barriers that can be raised or lowered to allow or prevent the flow of water)..

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Cold temperature variations, including Braemar 2021

The Met Office recorded a low of -23C in Braemar in Scotland over the night of 10-11th February 2021, the coldest February night since 1955.

But as the met office graph shows temperatures vary widely over the years.

Braemar holds the record for the lowest ever UK temperature – it has reached – 27.2 °C twice  –  in 1895 and 1982.