B.C. Forest Fire
August 23, 2018
Yesterday when I was paddling to the Gulf Islands, crossing Swanson Channel, it was so smoky I had to contact a freighter on my VHS radio and explain my position because I could hear it but not see it. When the Japanese coal ship, the Corona Xanadu, finally did come into view I could see that it would pass a little ahead of me. I was O.K. Nonetheless, it was spooky. (It would be ironic if I were to be run down by a ship from Japan, a country I admire and have visited often, on its way to a Canadian port to load American coal for burning in a Japanese power plant because many of that country’s nuclear reactors were shut down and replaced with coal-burning plants after the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in 2011, which incidentally set off a deluge of plastic garbage that reached B.C.’s shores three years later.)
On last count there were 565 fires burning in B.C. — a record number that exceeds last year’s record. 20,000 people are on evacuation alert or under evacuation order. The place is ablaze. California is burning, too, as are countries in Europe from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, which are experiencing an intense heat wave. Scientists use a concept called “Extreme Event Attribution” to tell us whether an event was likely caused by global warming. They may run 500 simulations and if the event cannot be predicted without human caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere they can predict with some certainty that climate change was a contributing factor. This is certainly happening near my home.
At what point will people move from just talking about climate change to actually doing something meaningful about it? When will we make changes to our own lifestyles, such as flying less, eliminating or reducing beef from our diets and reducing our gasoline consumption by switching to smaller or electric cars or to riding bicycles? When will we insist that corporations stop polluting? When will citizens in rich, developed countries who have contributed the most to the climate crisis realize that we have a duty to act now as we have suffered the least from climate change while those in less developed countries are suffering most? How bad does it have to get?
These are important questions. After all, there is a time lag between when and if GHGs are reduced globally and whatever benevolent effects this has on the rate of climate change. Even if GHGs were reduced markedly today the oceans will still absorb heat and become more acidic and anoxic for the foreseeable future and many shell fish and other creatures will still become extinct.
The trouble with waiting for the effects of climate change to affect everyone in the nostrils or paycheque is that by the time that happens it may well be too late. How to bump start change? Best answer: listen to the children, and act. They see their futures are increasingly bleak and are calling out to be heard. And elect politicians who listen to them, especially indigenous, other ethnicities, and women.