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Opinions and observations from environmental experts, activists, and luminaries

I did my Bachelor's degree at Oxford, and I have had the pleasure of visiting New England, and I would certainly agree that their climates are quite different. A dusting of snow in Winter in Oxford is not unusual. What confuses me here is that Ben Carmichael seems to be reporting from an area dusted by snow and, based on that, assuming that every other region of Britain (technical note - the country is Britain, or the United Kingdom; England cannot be used interchangeably with these terms, but refers to the part of Britain that extends north to the Scottish border and west to the Welsh) has been similarly lightly dusted and immediately fallen into a paroxysm.

Oxford being a little slow to start under an inch of snow is a very different proposition from London, for example, which experienced in places eight to ten inches of snow and which regularly operates near the edge of its infrastructural tolerances just moving its millions of inhabitants around.

This adumbration of the hardy virtues of New over old England, satisfying though it certainly is from a rhetorical point of view, detracts, for me, from the more pressing message of the piece.

Hi Dan,

First, let me say thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

You’re right, of course, that the snow fell unevenly across England. Oxford received a few inches, while London was covered in a about a foot. That can make the difference between life as usual, and life disrupted.

But that wasn’t the point, was it? Even in such areas as London and Scotland did the snow warrants bold headlines declaring “chaos”, as a number of the national newspapers reported. Did it warrant not only front page headlines, but two page spreads? And what of the Times yesterday that warned, “Prepare for another crippling fall”?

My point was not how much snow there was, but rather very similar to yours: weather is regional, and not everyone is prepared for even a small change in patterns. My further point was that, in a changing climate, even the globally privileged will have to adapt – and especially England, as northern latitudes gain more precipitation over the coming century, as climatologists predict.

Even now, England should by all means be prepared. They are a country admired for a rugged strength, as much for their antiquated aristocracy. Moreover, in this country, weather is used as excuse, filler and substance in conversations. They certainly have relied on it over the past few days, sometimes to existential effect.

Following the storm, on BBC Radio I heard the announcer ask: “But is the weather good for nature?” The guest responded by saying, “It’s neither good nor bad. It’s simply the weather.”

As I write this, more snow is falling – more in Oxford than we had in the first round. I suspect there will be more delays. This time, it’s expected for, as the Times is reporting, there are “fears that Britain is running out of salt and grit.”

Best as ever,

It is true that the UK (if not most of Europe, with the exception of the rapidly modernised Germany, France and the Netherlands) is buckling under the weight of living up to the expectations of being a first world developed nation. It doesn't take too much to disrupt the UK really. What the UK has invested in more than its infrastructure is in surveillance technologies to snoop on every living person, using biometrics, routine DNA collections from anyone arrested (irrespective of whether or not they are ever charged) and the push on ID cards and data sharing amongst separate agencies. All of this in the face of the government admitting that they have no way to guarantee the protection of the data gathered.

Certainly, living on the outskirts of London one gets used to the unreliable buses and trains, lousy services and attitudes from spotty 18 year old jobsworths or outsourced customer "care" (yeah, right, pull the other one!) with poor Indians who can barely speak English; one even gets used to the mealy mouthed politicos who espouse democracy but cling to ancient modes of power in a first-past-the-post approach to elections and who remain unaccountable and resolute in their dogmatic agenda of command and control. One gets used to many things living in the UK, but it is true that the disruptions one may imagine resulting from climate change (aka climate chaos) will be completely intolerable and the UK is (as usual, it seems) completely unprepared and content to keep their collective heads up their arses. As far as a cogent, strategic approach to risk management, the UK has next to nothing in place. Your article therefore does identify some serious issues that have yet to "click" for the general public who seem more interested in "reality" TV (what an oxymoron) and game shows.