by Larry Powell
It's time to wake up and smell the smoke!
Forest fire smoke (from as far away as BC) over southern Manitoba. PinP photo.
As wildfires rage around us on the Canadian prairies, forcing thousands of poor souls from their homes, we click our tongues and complain about sore eyes and reduced visibility on the roads. (Trust me, reduced visibility is the least of our worries.)
We apparently lack the brain power to listen to and actually hear what the world's scientific community has been warning us about for over a generation. If we do nothing to curb our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels, we can expect more and worse heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and a host of other extreme weather events which are decidedly not positive, in our future. Our relentless burning of gas, oil and coal, apparently without a thought for tomorrow, produces greenhouse gases which trap the sun's heat and cause the earth's average temperature to increase.
How much hotter will it get?
That question does not seem to be on the minds of most humans, who are more intent on climbing aboard another climate-destroying jet plane to get to the next Olympics on the other side of the world.
Even the common sea slug does not defile its own nest the way we do.
Just last March, I wrote a story I called, “Only Heroic Efforts Will Spare Earth’s Mighty Boreal Forest From the Worst Ravages of Climate Change.”
This in-depth, illustrated article documented the latest (and what should be now-familiar) warnings of world scientists. Unless we drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the mean temperature in the Boreal, a band of mostly evergreen trees which girdles the globe, will continue to soar more than most any other place on Earth. If the peat bogs and permafrost underlying both the Boreal and Arctic continue to melt, all bets are off. A “carbon bomb” will be ignited and the “tinderbox effect” will only spread.
(The story appeared on my blog, Planet in Peril and in a couple of weeklies. Possibly afraid of losing lucrative ad contracts with Big Oil, Mass media show their cowardice and yellow-journalism by remaining largely silent on the link between this fossil-fuel consumption and the great "burning of the Boreal" now unfolding before our eyes and TV screens!)
A scant few months later, the stark warnings of the scientists quoted in the piece, are proving painfully correct, yet again. This immense eco-system is precisely where huge wildfires now rage, in Canada and Alaska. Maybe you've noticed. Smoke has now spread over entire provinces for thousands of square kilometres.
We drove all the way from Calgary to Regina recently (almost 800 kilometres). There was smoke all the way.
We stayed in a hotel in Regina which was filling up fast with people who have had to flee their homes - "environmental refugees" from the north, now numbering some 13 thousand in total in Saskatchewan alone. That province is now in the midst of the largest evacuation in its history. These scenarios are unfolding pretty much as they have been predicted to do, if only anyone would listen!
One would think such spectacularly ominous events would give we mortals "cause for pause" - a chance to reconsider our ways.
We seem to worry more about avoiding the fires of Hell in the afterlife than we do about our own Hell, right here on Earth!
We drove to Prince Albert Park in Saskatchewan a couple of week ago. A road into the park is being "improved." We were treated to many kilometres of heavy equipment - caterpillars, front-end loaders, earth-scrapers, big trucks...all doing their part to scratch away at Mother Earth, emitting their own payloads of greenhouse gases into the air - just so "connoisseurs of the backcountry"can more easily access the wilderness with their luxury RVs - all on the comfort of a superhighway, of course.
In the face of this vast wildfire threat, Environment Canada has been scrambling to advise those with breathing problems, especially, to stay indoors. And, surprise, surprise, such people are reporting it harder to breathe!
I used to think that we humans wouldn't sit up and take notice of the climate crisis until we were gasping for air in the streets.
I was wrong.
We are gasping for air in the streets! And we are still turning a blind eye.
I guess I can only dream of the day when we might, in addition to taking the heroic efforts we are now - by bombing the flames and bringing in the army - all necessary steps now that we have let things go as far as we have - that we also change our behaviour in ways that improve our planet's chances over the long-term, too.
Oh, by the way, my story also included oft-repeated concerns by the scientists themselves, that we don't really pay enough attention to their advice.