Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Flood Legends Will Include Manitoba 2011 

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column, Sunday,  May 15 / 11

Zack Gross

World-wide flooding is a recurrent theme in many religious and historical traditions.  The “big water event” is pivotal in the Judeo-Christian Bible, but also in the oral and written records of other groups around the globe. 

A new chapter is being written these days as unprecedented water levels overflow banks, threaten and inundate homes, businesses and farmland in Manitoba.  It seems there is nothing we can do to stop this “wet spell” in our earthly history, but is there?

The Gilgamesh Epic takes place in ancient Sumer around 2700 BC.  Our hero is confronted by a frightful storm but is singled out to save his family and livestock in a boat, and ultimately to settle back down as immortal in a world that has been cleansed of its previous people and possessions. 

About 1000 years later, Noah finds himself in the same position.  God wants to clean up the world (literally and figuratively) and Noah is instructed to take his family aboard an ark he builds, loaded with two of every animal. 

There’s rain and a flood, a dove, a mountain and ultimately salvation.

Scientists and archeologists have traced the mythic versions, noting that embellishment has been added centuries after the fact, and that the many “deluge” stories in popular history come from traditions that are both pagan and Judeo-Christian, that is, lots of different gods get credit or blame for what happens. 

Interestingly, the gods and God are in for a bit of anger, too!

About three years ago, a British scientist linked the deluge with ice age events of 8,000 years ago. 

Lake Agassiz, created 4,000 years earlier by melt water from retreating glaciers, almost totally covered Manitoba and parts of northwest Ontario, and emptied in a matter of months after a catastrophic glacial dam collapse. 

The volume of 15 present-day Lake Superiors gushed into the world’s oceans, raising sea levels by over a metre and changing weather patterns.

It is said that coastal people along Europe’s western and southern shores moved inland when this happened, bringing about the first significant farming in Central Europe around 6000 BC. 

At the same time, in what was to become Canada, the receding water and ice led to the growth of aboriginal populations in Central and Western areas. 

Migrations into the central parts of Europe would have mixed cultures at different stages of development, with different technologies, languages and cultures.  It is thought that this Lake Agassiz water event that affected the whole world might have led to stories like Noah’s Ark and Gilgamesh situated literally millennia later.

 Today’s Manitoba flood is said to be at the three century level – no flood so severe has happened in our area in 300 years!  But it is not unusual in today’s world for major floods (and other major weather events) to occur. 

We have entered a time of instability where massive precipitation and wind (as well as severe heat and drought) are delivered, often without warning. 

Whether it is Brazil, Mexico, Philippines, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, Australia, the Caribbean or the United States, your forecast is stormy. 

In our neck of the woods, years of excessive precipitation has mean that much too much water flows west along swollen rivers and creeks as the land can no longer absorb moisture. 

Nine of the past ten years have been the warmest globally on record.  Glaciers are melting, raising sea levels.  Greater moisture in the air means more rain, more snow and more extreme weather. 

In the US last year, 49 out of 50 states had snow, an unheard of event!

Some would argue that this is a just part of a natural cycle that will swing back to normal or indeed the other way in the near future. 

Others, many more, say this is climate change which is largely human-made that is building upon itself and must be confronted by change in government and corporate policy and consumer behavior in how we develop and use our resources. 

We need to look at our factories, our products, our use of technology – how can we live in a way appropriate for the emissions that our planet can handle?

First of all, obviously, we have to try to get through this disaster.  But, after the sandbagging, the evacuations, the insurance forms, the grieving over loss, we must make decisions for the future. 

Our authorities and citizens are doing what they can to respond to the situation confronting us, but how we can move toward getting at the root causes of these and worse disasters in the coming years? 

Noah is not going to do it for us.

Zack Gross works for the 
Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of more than 40 international development organizations.

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