Monday, June 30, 2008

Flooding and science literacy.


Our local Jackson County Mississippi peak looms. Highway 3 at Chester, my favorite route to St. Louis, will be closed.

I like this quote from a NY Times blog interview with Kamyar Enshayan, a science educator in Iowa:

Q. Why did the same practices that were blamed for a lot of the devastation of the 1993 floods continue afterward, even though laws were passed and promises were made that old habits would change?

A. Memory loss, short-term thinking, and lack of math and science literacy among policy makers and elected officials. Science illiteracy is costly, even fatal. Cities see the floodplain lands sitting there “doing nothing”: they are a “tax base,” waiting to be developed. Setback distances for building near a street are sacred, but building near a river, no problem.

I worked with colleagues at the Missouri Department of Conservation back in the 1980's to develop the distant ancestors of our Emriver models because we realized then that only education could combat the dumb things that people do to rivers.

While I'm quoting, I got a great email today from an conservationist/educator in New York State who uses our Emriver model (thanks, "Echo"), here's an excerpt:

"We [use the Emriver model to] train everyone from kids, landowners, fair goers, contractors, regulators, politicians, and ourselves. Not everyone believes in stream geomorphology, but they all believe what they see in the Emriver model."

A while back I talked about the size and scope of the levees, how its difficult to fathom the cost and human effort. The top image is about that, its from a US COE site here. Note the sequential raising of the levee, far beyond what you see in the photo, which was taken about 1882. (A click on the image will open a larger one).

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