It’s been two weeks since the historic and deadly flash floods in central Appalachia killed 39 people and destroyed countless homes, businesses and lives. Naturally, the narratives surrounding this disaster have gone so far as to attribute the people who dealt with it to their own destruction. And while this contributor will explain that narrative below, there is another narrative that needs to be explained: The flood of July 28, 2022 was not a natural disaster. This flood means that along with this flood, many other weather-related disasters are plaguing our world. A natural disaster means three things: we don’t know why it happened, we don’t know how it happened and we don’t know how to prevent the next one. But we know the answers to these questions. We have known them for some time. A combination of unfettered capitalism, environmental degradation through extractive economies and government indifference or naivety has created a land in these hills that is ripe for climate-related disasters and left communities behind. against whom there is no defense.
More:These are the people we lost in the Eastern Kentucky floods.
This disaster was man-made. Strip mining and mountaintop removal redeveloped the land and left communities and towns on the valley floor exposed to record levels of storm runoff. Coal companies then left and government officials allowed them to offload their bonds tied to abandoned strip mining operations on a promise to clean up their mess. Logging companies also helped, cutting down hillsides of trees capable of absorbing large amounts of moisture and holding the soil in place and leaving behind fields of kudzu, an invasive plant for hillside integrity work. A 20-year increase in greenhouse gas emissions from global industrializationTh Century and you have all the ingredients needed for more consistent and more frequent disasters.
For subscribers:‘I can’t do it again’: Can Kentucky avoid devastating floods and save cities and homes?
It is not the fault of the community.
It is not the fault of those who face this calamity. I identify with liberals and progressives and try not to harbor any hatred in the communities in which I live and work. But this is the reason to see the assumed votes of the affected area in 2016 and 2020 and earlier in the same skew. This man-made disaster has left them devastated, childish, infuriating and shameful.
To those critical thinkers, I would ask: Will you say the same thing when the next disaster hits your Democratic constituency (ie Chicago, LA, Austin)? Didn’t we reject conservatives’ references to Sodom and Gomorrah after Hurricane Katrina? It’s dangerously duplicitous, incredibly tough and easily exploitable. We cannot be the voices of climate change and fall victim to such unscientific claims in the same breath.
The science is clear.
Eventually the next disaster is coming. The science is clear on this. As our world warms due to the build-up of greenhouse gases and climate degradation, the more moisture will be absorbed into storms and the more unstable they will be, bringing longer rains and stronger winds. But when our government allows capitalists to destroy these lands for profit and then neglects to repair them before they leave, refusing any significant legislation to address climate change, they made these communities unsafe.
Without serious investment in land remediation, reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, and without providing free strong housing to the affected people to replace the ones they lost, these man-made disasters will continue to grow and many of us The most vulnerable will bear the consequences.
Charles Calhoun is a member of the Appalachian diaspora living in Columbia, SC but working remotely for the NPO at SEKY. He was there on the day of the flood.
This article was originally from the Louisville Courier Journal: The Eastern Kentucky flood is not a natural disaster. Call it what it is.