During the last month the world as we knew it changed. Living in the middle of the prairies, floods are not something we think about or even anticipate. Without tsunamis or hurricanes, flooding seemed far removed; yet in June 2013 Alberta witnessed the destruction that accompanies the influx of too much water in too short a time frame. Alberta experienced similar water levels in 1932 according to Alberta Environment and Resource Development and even higher levels in the late 1800s, so it wasn’t just the sheer volume of water that created the vast devastation.
Why was the impact so much greater? In 1931, Alberta’s total population was 731,605 (37% urban/63% rural). By 2011, it had almost 5X larger numbering 3,645,257 (83% urban/17% rural). Alberta’s urban population is already what futurists are projecting for the world by 2050. From 1932 to 2013, science and technology provided insights into nature and systems were created to aid in mitigating its impacts (i.e. dams, reservoirs, early warning systems). However, some of the wisdom of the ages was lost as more and more people migrated to and built in historic flood plains, even fighting for the right to do so.
All this is of little or no value, when you witness the impact, loss and grief not only to individuals and families but to businesses, communities, Alberta infrastructure and the Canadian economy. Alberta Flood 2013 was personal. Despite the devastation, something beautiful has happened – community. Families, friends, and strangers are working together to alleviate or at least help lighten the load. People are not being left isolated, lost and alone. Facebook and Twitter were active in helping families, friends and pets reconnect and then in recruiting thousands to aid in the clean up. We are more connected than at any other time in history and this affirms the value of social media in modern communication and mobilization. The overwhelming volunteer response to the current catastrophe provides affirmation that more good than evil prevails in the world.
We learned heroes are home grown inspiring others to action. Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi exemplifies what the world seeks in leadership. He remains calm, transparent, informative, committed and supportive of his team and community, committed to his role; while remaining real throughout.
What lies ahead is still unknown. As Canadians, we are impacted, either directly or indirectly, by Alberta’s 2013 floods. Are we ready for the change? Ready or not – it is here. The future depends on our response.
“Change: A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.” Helen Keller