I live in an apartment building beside the Elbow River, a normally gentle, sparkling stream fresh from the mountains that once a year transforms into a roiling brown monster. This year it broke 80 years of relatively benign behaviour and went rogue, 80 years that lulled those who live along its banks, enjoying its many delights, into a complacency now deeply buried. Joined by its big brother, the Bow, it went on a rampage that drew international attention. Between them, they caused the evacuation of 75,000 Calgarians, eight per cent of the city's population.
It stormed through our building, turning everything on the ground floor, including three apartments and the furnace and utility rooms, into garbage. Fortunately my apartment is on the fourth floor and so escaped the ruination. Nonetheless, as I form these words I have been homeless for four weeks, displaced until the building is appropriately repaired and declared safe.
As the Elbow, still my favourite river despite its misbehaviour, puts its ill-tempered outburst behind it and returns to its gentle summer self, Albertans struggle to learn the lessons the flood has taught us. We must first recognize that rivers flood and the Elbow and Bow have flooded worse in the past. We have not taken them seriously enough, providing insufficient safeguards and allowing excessive building with inadequate codes to proliferate in the flood plains. This must be dealt with if damage from future floods, and there will be many, is to be significantly mitigated.
We might also keep in mind our reckless attitude toward our environment. We are Canada's pollution province, pumping more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than any other. We are the major contributor to global warming and thus to the increase in extreme weather events. It is quite possible that our mischief contributed to the flood. The price of disrespecting nature may be the most important lesson we can learn.