Natural disasters are a fierce reminder we are not in control

Nature and disasters are a natural marriage

As a species, we are legends in our lunchtime.

We are pretty sure the world is ours to do what we want with, whether it is throwing Hungry Jack's wrappers into the Mariana Trench or dropping atomic bombs on each other. We are free to expand into every tiny corner of habitable land, elbowing out the native animals with the foundations for our sprawling new five-bedroom home.

We have constructed worlds within worlds where we can control the climate, talk to people on the other side of the globe, carry out the billions of bizarrely-specific jobs we have made for ourselves.

We are the kings of our own expanding square metres.

It is only when our Earth moves beneath its blanket of structures, or the skies cry for days, or the sea gathers to form an enormous wave, that we remember we have no control.

It takes one stretch or flex from Mother Nature to remind us.

The poor residents of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee have just had a terrible reminder of just how tenuous our hold on the Earth is. The tragic paths of tornadoes tore through buildings and lives, making a mockery of our careful constructions - the things we have built to honour business, religion and money.

Here in my home of Gunnedah in NSW we are one of a number of towns that have had just a tiny taste of that power with recent floods. It's not on the same scale. Of course it's not.

Usually we live, work and play around a river that slides sleepily through our Shire. A year or two ago, during the drought, it lay dry like the shed skin of a snake.

So it seemed unimaginable that this friend, this backdrop for our lives, would swell and rise, climbing from the bottom of a steep gully to swarm over the top, across roads and into homes.

I looked out of the kitchen window one afternoon to see our large back paddock had become part of the river, its tributaries inching towards the house.

The flood was officially declared a natural disaster.

This is how we console ourselves that we have a handle on this thing. We lasso it with a name and we look about for people to blame.

The truth lies in the declaration. These things are natural disasters, they happen naturally. They always will.

We are not in control.

  • Marie Low is a freelance journalist based in Gunnedah, New South Wales.
This story Nature and disasters are a natural marriage first appeared on The Canberra Times.