June 19, 2013
It’s raining, it’s pouring
Perhaps yesterday’s experience of the City underground serves as a reminder that political decision-making and human factors are not everything in life. Ironically enough, after subway workers suspended the strike scheduled for yesterday after City Hall acceded to host collective bargaining talks as from tomorrow, Sunday night’s sustained cloudbursts (with something close to 10 percent of annual rainfall in some zones) ensured an almost comparable collapse of transport — indeed the Metro was perhaps running earlier and more frequently yesterday than it should have been with many seats still drenched and some underpasses almost ankle-deep in water. All of which raises the future of the subway in a 2013 now only two months away without provision in either national or municipal budgets although in this country the urgent forever outweighs the important.
This city’s virtual collapse yesterday should draw attention to infrastructure deficiencies in the medium term and climate change in a not much longer term. In hindsight the previous Monday’s announcements seem almost prophetic — the insurance sector was enjoined to invest several billion pesos worth of its earnings in public works (it remains to be seen, of course, whether this actually improves the quality of infrastructure any more than the multiple announcements of the last nine years). At the same time President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has highlighted on more than one occasion the lack of rural insurance (although not last Monday, strangely enough) — the torrential downpours of recent hours (even worse in some prime agricultural areas) should raise questions of whether we are not having too much of a good thing after the drought stunting the last harvest, challenging the “condemned to success” assumptions that a bumper soy harvest (along with Brazilian pickup) will ensure a better 2013. As for climate change, this is a truly global problem and we should not limit ourselves to the weather here — just look at the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the Eastern Seaboard in the United States where over 50 million are exposed to the “perfect storm,” crippling Wall Street and Broadway alike.
The worst reaction to the recent storm would be to regard it as a one-day (or one-night) wonder, bury the mercifully few dead and move on. In the immediate term, we have every reason to expect an exceptionally wet summer with an impact on everyday life and the economy alike while in a longer term the remorselessly rising sea levels of climate change stand to make yesterday’s flooding scenes in low-lying Buenos Aires even worse.