In honor of those devastated by the recent flooding all over the world, including Texas and Florida in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and across Southeast Asia, NWNL takes a look at photos from our archives of flooding in our case study watersheds.
Columbia River Basin
In British Columbia, Columbia River flooding from melting snow pack and storms, threatens barns and farmlands. (2007)
Barn and truck underwater in British Columbia from Columbia River flooding due to melting snow pack and storms. (2007)
Mississippi River Basin
Mississippi River flood of 1993, St Genevieve, Missouri.
Road flooded in West Alton, Missouri during the Mississippi River flood of 1993.
Raritan River Basin
A submerged park bench during the spring floods in Clinton, New Jersey, part of the South Branch of the Raritan River Basin. (2011)
Hamden Road flooded near Melick’s bridge in Clinton, New Jersey, part of the South Branch of the Raritan River Basin. (2011)
Omo River Basin
Dassenech village, located on the Omo Delta in Ethiopia, flooded by the Omo River and polluted by livestock effluent. (2007)
Granary hut built on stilts on a flooded plain in the Dassenech village in Ethiopia. (2007)
A STRONG PUSH… In Paris this month 195 countries tackled climate change together, due to increased public awareness. TO KEEP MOVING… Climate change is still in question, NOT out of the question! AND PAYING ATTENTION. Climate change is invisible, but its causes and effects are visible.
Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Maasai women walking on plains
Canada: Alberta, Athabasca Glacier
USA: New Jersey, Raritan River Basin spring floods
Photography has been a critical tool in communicating the dire need for the cooperation and progress that began at Paris COP21.
Let’s all continue this conversation and purposefully work to create a world that sustains itself with recycling and renewable energy sources.
“This problem isn’t for another generation. It has serious implications for how we live right now.” -Anonymous
One reason people resist change is that they focus on what they have to give up, rather than on what they have to gain. -Anonymous
Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.
-Alice Walker, American author
NWNL has witnessed the effects of climate change over 8 years of expeditions to document watersheds in North America and Africa. From wading through flooded towns, running from hurricanes, interviewing farmers tackling long-term drought, trekking with pastoralists with thirsty cattle and many things in between. Click on images below for captions and links for related articles.
USA: Missouri, Middle Mississippi River Basin, West Alton, tornado skies
Africa: Kenya; Lodwar, Turkwel River tributary, almost dry due to upstream irrigation extraction and climate change
USA: California, San Joaquin River Valley, empty irrigation canal for pistachio orchard
USA: Texas, Palo Duro River in 2012 drought
Canada: British Columbia, Columbia River flooding from melting snow pack and storms
Africa: Kenya, Mara River Basin, Maasai in 2009 drought with dying cattle after walking 1000 km for 7 days seeking food and water
The interactive digital version of the new 840-page National Climate Assessment report is at www.globalchange.gov. It’s complex, so NWNL recommends two articles that summarize the issues as outlined.
Seth Borenstein’s account emphasizes that the report’s value lies in that it is written in less scientific language than others and that it underlines how climate change is already affecting our pocketbooks in areas ranging from our health to our homes.
An NBC News account delineates climate change impacts, region by region. Reading these reports today, NWNL has noted the current and expected climate disruptions in the Pacific NW region for its one month Snake River Basin expedition which starts tomorrow. We are looking forward to hearing local stakeholders’ solutions for mitigation and resilience in the face of continued extreme climate events.
Engineers used to say, “The equation for inundation is elevation,” as they raised their levees. Now the USACE promotes “flood risk management” instead of “flood control” because every levee pushes the water onto someone else. The USACE also promotes healthy ecosystems at its National Great Rivers Museum in St Louis.
Even so, American Rivers lists the middle Mississippi as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers ® of 2014 because of a new old-school USACE “flood control” project.. As we all focus on upstream-downstream issues in the face of climate disruption, American Rivers is advocating for floodplain connection, not levees. Perhaps the question isn’t what will happen to young corn in a flood year, but what will happen if we keep building levees?
Why do I, as a New Yorker, care about Missouri’s habitats and communities? As I describe in the following story, my connection to the Mississippi began twenty years ago.
“The Flood of 1993: A Month in Missouri”
I didn’t care about the Midwest Flood of 1993. I knew all about floods. For three December days, my Connecticut home had been under five feet of icy water. Hollywood called it “The Perfect Storm.” I flew to Missouri that steamy July to photograph iconic Midwestern scenes.
I visited Daniel Boone’s homestead, pig farms and craftsmen. But after torrential thunderstorms at a dairy farm and seeing new-mown hay swept off low-lying fields, my adrenaline rose with the river. Singing “I drove my Chevy to the levee,” I arrived in the Creole river town of Ste. Genevieve. But the levee wasn’t dry. Brown water threatened this week’s sandbagged walls, inches from the top; and it seeped out underneath.
This flood was different. Many levees had been constructed since a 1973 flood, upsetting previous prediction models. These added restraints just intensified the Mississippi’s fury. Forecasts were for another week of rain. As herons flew into the storm clouds, my mood of creative elation disappeared.
I saw the grit of people resisting nature, the invincibility of humor,
and the camaraderie of strangers fighting together. Using sandbags and bulldozers, sweating residents and uniformed troops stayed ahead of the river: block by block, inch by inch. Putting my cameras down, I joined in.
“I can’t be here and not sandbag,“ I wrote.
Flying home weeks later, I stared at the “inland sea” below. While photographing levees and Levi’s, cheerleaders and retirees, and the grateful folks of Ste Genevieve, I’d become part of that community. Using Bryce Courtenay’s words, we worked with “one heart, one plan, one determination.” Whether it would happen again or not, that was the Spirit of 1993.
My thoughts, April 2014: The Mississippi rolls on, but we still need to better adapt to its swells and floods. History should have taught us that. American Rivers is trying to do that. As Mark Twain predicted, “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.”
Africa: Kenya; North Rift District, Turkana Land, Lodwar, Kawalase River (ephemeral tributary to Turkwel), almost dry due to upstream irrigation extraction and climate change
USA: Missouri, Mid-Mississippi River Basin, West Alton, storm approaching
USA: Missouri, West Alton, road flooded in the Mississippi River flood of 1993
“Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
~ President Obama, State of the Union, Jan. 28, 2014