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Kiwi Konexions: The Earth Moved

...It was 4.30 am when our bed became a ship in a rough sea. I woke with a jolt and wondered, “What?” It calmed and I thought “earthquake.” A few more rumbles and rocks followed but we were only on the edge of the disaster...

Glen Taylor tells of the recent New Zealand earthquake and reflects upon climate change.

It doesn’t seem that long since I wrote about earthquakes and tsunamis. Are these becoming the norm? This Indo/Pacific plate, “the Ring of Fire,” which New Zealand sits on and which circles the Pacific is just not happy.

It was 4.30 am when our bed became a ship in a rough sea. I woke with a jolt and wondered, “What?” It calmed and I thought “earthquake.” A few more rumbles and rocks followed but we were only on the edge of the disaster.

In the morning we discovered that Christchurch, although not at the epicentre, had taken the brunt of it. Pictures on the TV resembled the London Blitz. Buildings had fallen down, fires had broken out, the roads were reduced to cracked and impassable areas and the railway lines looked like twisted snakes. The airport was closed and all inbound overseas flights landed in Auckland, with nowhere for those bound for Christchurch to go, and still the earth rumbled on. The pictures on the walls were askew and crockery slipped to the edge of shelves and we were a long way from Christchurch.

Meanwhile Civil Defence moved into action. There was no water, sewage pipes had been broken so raw sewage was a problem, power was out, roads were impassable and people were homeless and afraid. Refuge centres were set up and folk rallied round with food, clothing and bedding and billeted folk in their own homes. Crises bring out the best in people. The epicentre was west of Christchurch in a farming town called Darfield, and huge cracks, too wide and deep to cross, ran across paddocks. 7.1 on the Richter scale and we were warned that there was worse to come.

Our friend in Japan, a country used to earthquakes, rang to see if we were affected. No, we were fine but we didn’t like the wobbly earth. We tried to contact all our friends in Christchurch and were relieved to find they had escaped the worst, a few cracks in the wall, a few things broken, grandma’s tea set, but nothing compared to life or injury. No-one was killed in the earthquake, a minor miracle.

The road north of Christchurch was closed by a major landslide, the road south by huge cracks and holes in its surface, supplies could not come south from Christchurch or into the city itself and, of course, there was no railway. Now, weeks on, folk still have to use portaloos, placed at strategic intervals along streets, the water is not fit to drink in many places and the really badly hit have no homes any more.

The army moved in to stop looting and to help with the clean up, schools were closed and youngsters got cracking with huge brooms, sweeping out their homes and sections. All the big earth moving vehicles which could get there made their way to the city. Charity concerts were arranged and churches dedicated their collections to the disaster fund while banks set up a Relief Fund for donations. But nothing can replace the historic buildings which fell down. Thankfully the Cathedral had recently been earthquake proofed so is unharmed. The Old University with its Great Hall and cloisters, now the Arts Centre, the museum and Christchurch Boys High School, magnificent buildings, are untouched but the Art Gallery is badly damaged.

And still we rumble. This morning, out at sea off North Island, an 8.1 quake occurred, thankfully much deeper, 250km, than the one which hit Christchurch, so no damage was done. But that plate is on the move. This isn’t a one off, it is happening too often and we look north, to the islands and to Japan and down the west coast of America, as the plate sifts around.

Not only that, but Global Warming lurks around us. The Northern Hemisphere has had one of its hottest summers ever. We have had one of our coldest winters with endless rain, floods and snow, not to mention wind. Folk look down in the mouth and long for warmth and sun, we need vitamin D the doctors tell us, but what we really need is to stretch out and enjoy the rays from on high and the new growth and warmth. Farmers pile their dead lambs against their gates and hope that the collectors of slink skins, (baby lambs,) will give them a good price and the grass is not growing, it is too cold and wet and the freezing works start to worry about filling their orders from abroad.

We are told a huge piece of the Antarctic ice sheet has detached itself and is drifting north, global warming. It is bringing a low as big as Australia. Cold sea due to the ice sheet, battles with warm air above it, causing heavy rain and gale force winds. What a world.

The smaller countries of this planet Earth heed the instructions of the experts and cut down on carbon emission, plant trees and use renewable energy sources, wind, water and solar power. The bigger more powerful countries go their own merry way. Maybe it is too late anyway to turn the clock back, the damage is done already. One big volcanic eruption and all our efforts are for nothing and that plate keeps moving.

However, old Mother Nature refuses to acknowledge any of this. My cherry trees are in full bloom, like masses of candy floss from a fun fair. The daffodils and bluebells are popping up all over the place and my beautiful magnolia has given its all to decorate the church for this Sunday, and still has loads to spare to delight us. Mr. Chaffinch has his best courting coat on. The blackbird sits on the top of his tree informing everyone, with his loud song, that this is his patch and the native birds have abandoned the nectar I put out so carefully each day through the winter and have returned to the bush to find their own food.

Perhaps Mother Nature knows better than us and life goes on. Roll on summer and sunshine and as for what is happening beneath our feet we can do nothing about that, it is the price we pay for living on this beautiful world of ours. But let us try and do our bit, however small or feeble to make sure the old earth keeps on turning.


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