Thursday, September 8, 2005

Due South
By Mark Entwistle
The Southern Reporter
Selkirk, The Borders

“Nice day” depends on point of view

People here in Scotland often complain about the Scottish weather.

In fact, Scotland’s weather is infamous. It has not been unknown for someone to find it raining or snowing at the rear of their house, while it remains sunny at the front.

And there are plenty of jokes about our weather - remember Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the film “Braveheart” saying it was still a nice day because the rain was only coming straight down.

But there will be a great many in Scotland these past days who realise we have very little to complain about when you look at the damage and suffering inflicted on New Orleans and America’s Gulf Coast states by Hurricane Katrina.

For the past week, people here have been glued to television news reports of the devastation caused by Katrina.

Regular readers of The Southern Reporter are well aware of the fact we have a link-up with another newspaper in Mississippi and that this was one of the US states hardest hit by the hurricane.

Although Linda’s column has only been running for a matter of weeks in our paper, a considerable number of people here in the Scottish Borders have been asking us how are the folks in Holly Springs and are they OK.

Happily, Linda was able to assure us that Holly Springs and Marshall County had avoided the worst of Katrina’s attention.

Strictly speaking, hurricanes do not occur over the British Isles.

However, we are sometimes affected by deep depressions that are actually the remnants of hurricanes.

A hurricane battering part of the eastern seaboard of the United States will see its tail spin out into the Atlantic pushing heavy rains and wind to parts of the UK.

The most widely publicised such depression occurred on October 16, 1987.

Although some gusts were as strong as a hurricane on that occasion, the average wind speed was only sufficient to classify the storm as a severe gale.

Weather forecasters in the UK had underestimated the strength of the wind because of a lack of weather reporting ships in the area at the time.

Several people were killed, mainly from trees falling on cars.

But witnessing the power of a genuine hurricane like Katrina is a truly frightening thing.

As we enter the 21st century, human-kind might think it is all-powerful and all-knowledgeable, with its space-age technology.

However, every now and again, Mother Nature chooses to remind us of just how small and insignificant we really are.

The scary thing to contemplate is that the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina might in some way have been exacerbated by mankind’s own actions in the shape of global warming.

Here in Scotland this week we have had environmental groups warning that a worrying drop in seabird breeding rates on the west and east coasts of Scotland may well be due to a warming of the sea and a resulting lack of sand eels which the birds feed on.

Scotland’s coasts are home to some of the world’s biggest seabird colonies, but the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says these are now under serious threat.

Guillemots, razorbills, Arctic terns and kittiwakes have all suffered very poor breeding seasons. Just look at one 2,173-strong colony of guillemots on the Hebridean island of Tiree.

It could only manage to produce four chicks in total this summer.

Meanwhile, the kittiwake colony on the isle of Canna, numbering 1,000 pairs, saw only five chicks fledge successfully.

How long before we all realise that we only share this planet and it is not here just for us to abuse and exploit as we like?

How long before we all realise that our actions also have consequences for us, our children and future generations still to come?

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