You know, I am outraged with myself for being as shallow, superficial and self-interested as everyone else. Two days ago I found out that the Queensland Floods were covering an area of the state as large as France and Germany combined, and the affected area has only grown since then. Today a few hours ago after coming home from doing whatever I was doing during the day, I received a call from friends of mine who moved to Nanango in Queensland back in 1982. We are good friends, and although I haven't been up there since 1999 (for a family wedding) and only saw them briefly then, I'm fond of them and stay in touch.
A day or two ago they were okay, and I was watching the whole Queensland thing, along with satellite pictures of cloud cover, with some concern. And honestly, if I hadn't been home for that phone call, that's all I would ever have done. Now things are very different, though. As we spoke on the phone a short while ago, though, I switched on the ABC to find unscheduled flood coverage had replaced "normal programming". Some parts of Nanango are lower than others. Jack and Michelle, both ex-military, retired up there when they moved, with some capital, and set up a hobby-farm on a smallish patch of land outside town. Last I heard, they had a house-cow supplying their milk and yoghurt needs, rather a lot of dogs, a veggie patch and an extensive orchard.
Seems they sent their teenage daughters to relatives for the holidays, so they really had to worry only about the animals. Jack was talking about evacuating, saying he didn't really know what he could do with his animals. He was saying that if the situation got much worse, even the final solution wouldn't be a solution - the fewer dead animal carcasses were around, the better.
They have two vans. Michelle has hers packed with an evacuation kit: clothes, valuables and heirlooms, HDDs for the computers (the rest of the systems can be replaced, it's really the data and software that is valuable), sleeping bags and thew like. Jack has already headed to Brisbane with his van full of blankets donated by his neighbours and food donated by neighbouring businesses, to help out at the evacuation centres.
If he can do this when his place is in danger, how can I sit around living life normally when my place is nice and dry?
Answer: I can't. Or, I can, but it would be wrong. My financial resources to be able to help - just to get myself there to help - are meagre, but what the hell, I haven't spent the last hour or two being idle. I've made a number of phone calls. A friend of mine works for a well-known car and truck hire place: first thing tomorrow morning I'll find out of she's managed to get her boss to donate a vehicle for a week to enable me to go up there and pitch in. Friends of a friend of mine, who operate a roadside fruit and veggie stall, have said that if I can organise transport, they'll donate some boxes of slow-to-spoil foods, like potatoes, pumpkins, citrus. Even my normally quite insular neighbours across the road have said they'll water my veggie patch and throw food at the cat once a day.
I barely have enough money for fuel right now (in a day or two that will ease up), and I'm certainly no Mrs Musclewoman who can repair damaged infrastructure at a single bound, but what I can do is this: I can bulk-cook. I can serve out food to people in evacuation centres. I can play with children whose parents are freaking out. I can provide a shoulder for the parents (or non-parents) who are freaking out. And because it's not my environment and not my community, I wouldn't have the temptation, that I would have if it was happening here, to keep checking on my place and my neighbours, so I'll be reasonably calm and unruffled, something that will be needed. And best of all, I can fall asleep at will and even sitting bolt-upright, allowing me to "stock up" on sleep in advance of needs, so I'll be able to work ludicrous hours, sleeping when its convenient rather than being kept awake because my body is not used to sleeping then (something that has always surprised me in other people).
So yes, tomorrow morning I find out if the idea - and I - have wheels. If it does and I do, I'll be out of here an hour or two after finding out. I'm going to put a Paypal donation button on the bottom of this post. Please, if you can spare something, do so. Donations received after I return will go straight to the Flood Relief fund that's been set up - I believe wireless internet has been set up in a couple of centres for relief workers, so I may well be able to access it fairly immediately. Any friends of mine or locals around here might want to get in touch with me tonight if they feel like contributing: Paypal chew significant percentages of received payments when you transfer it into "real" currency.
If I don't receive a van or a car to use, I won't be able to make the offers of vegetables or my own labour happen. But then again, I will be able to donate what I would have spent in fuel to the relief fund, plus anything I receive from Paypal donations, so please, anything you can, now or in the future. There are going to be plenty of people who will be needing help for at least two seasons after this.
Oh, and wish me luck. Even if everything goes exactly as planned, it's going to be a hell of a drive.