Memo from Mordor 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Smoking hot This smoke forecast map illustrates just how widespread the problem is.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Smoking hot This smoke forecast map illustrates just how widespread the problem is.

Dear Justin,

The smoke is back.

Well, not only back, but it's been here for more than a week. No cause for alarm, though. We can handle it. Just wanted to let you know not to worry about us because I figure you have your hands full. After all, I just looked at a smoke forecast map for Western Canada (firesmoke.ca/forecasts/BSC00WC04/current/) and it's not just B.C..

That's climate change for you, eh? Ha ha. But what can you do, right? There's no escaping it and I know you political types are all over a solution.

I guess maybe we citizens could talk about it more. Especially when it's actually causing problems. Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and a few others talked about climate change last year when the Fort McMurray wildfire forced 80,000 people from their homes, but they got shouted down by conservatives, and other politicians were too cowardly to mention it. They said it wasn't the right time when people were suffering. What? Fools, right? I'll bet you weren't one of those...

Still, not that I'm worried or anything, but I should mention that a lot of people are saying that these hotter, drier conditions and crazy, massive wildfires are going to be the new normal. And the smoke, too. Like, something we might have to learn to live with. That would be a drag though, given that right now the Air Quality Health Index is 10+ (very high risk), and you can't see more than a few hundred metres, and people are wandering around Whistler trying to find fresh air stations and not even the library is open because it's a statutory holiday.

Did I mention that I haven't heard a bird in days? That tourism is suffering? That pollinating insects are affected? That there are more small animals and birds dead on the road all of a sudden? That there hasn't been dew in many parts of the valley for nigh on a week? (You know there's dew-linked ecosystems, right?) Sorry to get all sciencey and stuff, but I know you understand science — all your energy decisions are based on it, right? Anyway, I get technical when I'm stressed out.

Maybe you can calm me down a bit by helping me understand something: I know you and your sunny-business-ways party say we can pay for a transition to renewable energy by doubling down on destructive carbon-intensive extraction industries and their infrastructure like the tar sands, pipelines, LNG, fracking, and massive hydro dams and stuff, but the academic experts say it doesn't add up. I did the math, too — not because I'm good at it, but because the numbers are part of the public record — and I can't get it to add up either. Plus the greenhouse gas emission figures I come up with don't jive with commitments you made on Canada's behalf at the Paris climate summit.

Is it possible the math really doesn't add up? People say you've done some horse-trading behind the scenes, that you promised Alberta a pipeline to get it on board with a national carbon tax; ditto for Christy Clark's LNG disaster and the Site C dam boondoggle delivered with it. I read today that some International Monetary Fund guys calculated the global bill for fossil fuel subsidies at around $5 trillion annually, so that the real cost of fossil fuels is much higher than what people think. You were going to abolish subsidies, right? But now people are saying you never will.

But I don't believe them. You're a guy of principle. You wouldn't do something like that, would you? Just ignore all the peer-reviewed science (you know, the stuff real experts publish in scientific journals that isn't paid for by oil companies or yanked from a bogus, industry- or government-funded environmental review) and make a deal that short-changes our futures for crass political gain? Or that dooms us to smoky summers and shelling out billions of dollars every year for the damage caused by climate change like we're doing now.

Justin, I know you're a self-declared climate champion, but I have to say I'm a bit worried about the big picture. I was reading this other study today that showed how the timescales over which environmental changes associated with past mass extinctions occur are frighteningly similar to the timescales over which our current climate is changing. Fast build-ups of greenhouse gasses linked to warming, rising sea-levels, widespread oxygen-starved oceanic dead zones, and ocean acidification are all features consistent with major and minor mass-extinction events in the fossil record, and I guess, if you've done as much reading as you say you do, you know these same things are happening today solely because of human-driven climate change — and that we're emitting greenhouse gases around 10 times faster than the most recent, mildest extinction-event example.

Oh, sorry again. I didn't mean to get all morbid and stuff. I mean, like I said, there's probably no reason to worry. And hey — those blood-red molten sunrises and atomic sunsets sure are pretty huh?

Leslie Anthony is a Whistler-based author, editor, biologist and bon vivant who has never met a mountain he didn't like.

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