Just What, EXACTLY, Will It Take?

August 9, 2021

This June Western Canada demolished all its heat records. Lytton, BC, recorded the hottest temperature ever north of 50° latitude. The town burned down in a wildfire the next day.

This week, a second town in BC, Monte Lake, was decimated by wildfire. As of August 5, 2021, wildfires had burned over 5800 square kilometres of land—larger than the entire province of Prince Edward Island. The largest individual fires are bigger than some entire Caribbean island nations. The entire city of Vernon, population 40,000, was put on evacuation alert. There are over 270 fires burning in the province, and we're only halfway through the season.

I subscribe to province-wide emergency alerts on Twitter. Since the heatwave, the alerts have been nonstop, sometimes half a dozen a day. I'm getting alert fatigue, and have considered unsubscribing, but then could miss an alert that's important to me.

Large swaths of the province now have unliveable air quality for weeks and months at a time. Even if you live hundreds of kilometres away from the fires, you're not guaranteed clean air. This year, the smog from fires has blanketed the continent. Worse, this is becoming more and more common. In 2018, I drove the entire West Coast from Vancouver to San Jose and didn't leave choking smoke until I passed Sacramento. Summers have gone from fun vacation time to desperate searches for a place one can just breathe normally.

We're closing in on $100 million dollars to fight this year's fires, and that cost doesn't include the lost tourism dollars from areas that rely on the short summer season for income. It doesn't include the healthcare costs for people suffering from lung issues from breathing it all in day after day after week after month.

Apples cooked on the tree. Shellfish boiled in the ocean. Prairie crops withered in the field. The heat and drought can no longer be ignored.

Today the IPCC told us all, in no uncertain terms, that this type of event will now be the norm, and the damage is irreversible.

And yet, our supposed leaders somehow manage to ignore it all. Since 2015, the Canadian government has actually increased fossil fuel subsidies by 40%. The hypocrisy boggles the mind. We're fed pap about how we're on target to net-zero carbon, all while we pump more and more money into the industry that is killing the planet. Our green initiatives feel more like greenwashing than serious efforts to retool our economy towards a truly sustainable future. Our national political parties are beholden to the oil lobby. Our supposedly environmentally friendly NDP government here in BC is so beholden to labour that it's still pushing LNG exploration. The Green Party is in such complete disarray that it is suing itself, so I guess we can't look for any help there.

If all of the above isn't enough to convince our leaders—and our voters—that we need to change course, change it now, and get on a war footing to save this planet, then what, exactly, will it take? Tell me, what?

Because I sure as hell don't know anymore.

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