I was stood looking over Swansea Bay on Thursday afternoon thinking how calm the sea was. I had just been reading on social media that the Met Office had issued a rare Red Warning for High Winds on Friday.
‘Wind gusts…could be in excess of 90 mph which could bring significant impacts for many and represent a danger to life’
As I stood there in the calmness I couldn’t help feeling…well from what I can see that doesn’t seem very likely! I mean I remember Michael Fish the TV weather man saying not to worry about a possible Hurricane… hours before the Great Storm of 1987.
CUT TO SCENE
FRIDAY MORNING – GALES BLOWING – FENCES COMING DOWN
As I read through my social media time line on Friday morning I got all sorts of views about Storm Eunice from across the country.
Some said the storm had destroyed their garden whilst others couldn’t understand why their access to transport and roads had been denied to them on Friday morning. They likened the decisions made by councils and transport companies to being an attack on their civil rights.
Now depending on where you were when Storm Eunice struck probably impacts your evaluation of the Met Office expert opinion.
If you live in say, Bude, North Devon, and you saw a massive tree that has stood for centuries being uprooted almost destroying passing traffic you would probably think, ‘good on you’ Met Office. If you live in a sheltered ‘cul de sac’ and all you saw were some bin bags being blown about you could question what all the fuss is about.
It was Michael Gove who once said in a television interview that the people of Great Britain had had enough of experts…who consistently get it wrong. The thing is, these days, with a mobile phone in your hand or an internet connection at home, you are only a few clicks away from convincing yourself that you are an expert on any subject in the world.
Let me say straight away I’m not pointing the finger at anyone here because I am just as guilty of being an instant expert as anyone.
These past few weeks I’ve been following the Winter Olympics from Beijing. Its probably 4 years since I last even gave the sport of Curling any attention at all. I first became a Curling expert in 2002 when I followed Rhona Martina and her team to Curling Gold in Salt Lake City. It was GB’s first Gold medal in a winter Olympics since Torvill and Dean in 1984.
My involvement with the sport has been somewhat cursory following some shocking displays in subsequent games since those Goldens days in 2002. BUT a week into competition at Beijing in 2022 and I’m back. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I was on the ice armed with a big stone and a couple of brushes I’d be in with a shout of a podium finish this year.
It’s taken me a little longer to get up to speed with some of the new skiing and snowboarding competitions. The downhill and slalom skiing are pretty straightforward but to be honest for the first few days I couldn’t make head nor tail out of the Giant Parallel Slalom, the Half Pipe or the Snowboard Cross.
This year I’ve really taken to the Biathlon where competitors ski for miles before stopping to take pot shots at some targets. The trouble is they make so many basic errors. I really think some of them should have taken more care with their aim… I know I would have!
These people have been involved with their sport all their lives’ training for hours every day year in year out and a week into the Winter Olympics and I’m shouting at the TV telling them to slow down or speed up, or turn quicker…or that they are useless and should just give up!!!
It was only last week I talked about the little sayings and words of wisdom my mum had told me which still ring true. One was that
‘A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’
Take flying. It would be great to learn how to take off and fly a plane but if you don’t know how to land your flying career could be quite short. Yes, we might have grasped some of the basics of many things in life but the problem is we often don’t know what we don’t know.
In fact, I would say we are at our most dangerous, to ourselves and others when we are completely and utterly certain that we understand the situation completely with no room for doubt at all.
So here are a couple of quotes for you to consider.
‘A real scientist is someone who doubts science.’
That is literally their job. If scientists weren’t people who questioned science then we would still believe the sun travelled around the earth. The job of a real scientist is, to study hard, look at the ‘facts’ and see if they still hold true. They then publish papers that are able to be challenged by their peers. They put their theories out there so that people who might have a different set of skills can use their knowledge to test the new ideas. By publishing they are admitting that they might have missed something. They are asking for people to be sceptical and asking to be challenged.
Over the pandemic the guidance from scientists changed. Some people were up in arms about that. But that is what science does, it’s guidance changes with more information.
Here’s another quote from Bertrand Russell.
We should never, ever be afraid to question those in authority and scientists. That is our human right, but we should also be wise enough to know we don’t know everything.
The Met Office said there would be a storm and there was a storm. Whether it was as bad as they predicted is probably too soon to tell but what I would say is that if a recognised group of experts give you a warning there is a probably a good chance they could be right… even though occasionally they might get it wrong.