The Sun is Orange

Tonight, I learned that smoke suppresses rainfall. How ironic is that? (Scientific American)

All day I have been living under a smoke-filled sky. I first noticed it this morning when I saw that the rising sun was orange. I knew from past experience that this meant the smoke from western wildfires was now over my city. Sadly, this is not the first year I have seen this, but this year is the worst.

I am sad. I am mad. I am frustrated. The effects on me are minimal, but my sense of bewilderment about the lack of urgency in our politicians is huge. Tonight I learned that a second town in British Columbia has been destroyed by fire. The first, Lytton, was lost In July. Today the town of Monte Lake was erased. Lives and houses and stores and restaurants and businesses. Gone.

And yet, as I read the news, I see next to nothing about climate change. You know it is happening. I know it is happening, Our neighbours know it is happening. But, apparently, our local, regional, and federal politicians don’t. Or, if they do, they are not making it a priority. They are busy doing things that are important, and sometimes essential, but climate issues do not seem to be among the urgent items on the agenda.

Worldwide, we see floods, droughts, and oceanside buildings falling off of cliffs. It is very dramatic. Why aren’t our politicians connecting the dots? And, why are we looking to them for solutions? Perhaps our political systems are the problem. So long as we elect representatives for a limited number of years, that is all they will care about. In fact, they will only care for the first 50% of those years. For the rest, they will be campaigning for reelection. They simply do not have a long-term focus. No-one seems to have a combination of a ten-year plan, a global perception, and power.

For decades I have been aware of and supportive of the efforts of climate activists, but like most people I assumed that the people who had power would deal with it. I was wrong. They have pushed it aside for so long that we have gone beyond the tipping point. We are now experiencing the effects that we had been warned about.

I always assumed, too, that a good steady rainfall would put out wildfires. That assumption depends on there being rainfall. And, the rainfall would need to be heavy and lengthy. In Alberta, where I live, we were promised rain today but that turned out to be about five or ten rain drops on my window while there are 277 active fires in British Columbia to the west.

This year in British Columbia, there have been 1,168 wildfires, and 338,97 hectares have burned. In Alberta, there have been 1,057 fires this year, and 52,360 hectares have burned.

So, if rainfall can’t solve the fire problem, and all the levees cannot stop the problem of the sea rising, and the politicians don’t see any of this as their problem, what can we do? Perhaps the solution is already presenting itself. People migrate. They migrate for all sorts of reasons, but the quest for habitable land is high on the list of reasons. If anything can get politicians motivated it is migrants.

We are already seeing the effects of climate change on agrarian communities and the loss of fish and wildlife on people who are dependent on hunting and fishing. Some of those folks are giving up and moving away from their homes. They are hoping for sustenance away from drought-ridden farms and away from their loss of food sources. They are moving to cities.

If they choose Edmonton, they will find it hard to acquire affordable housing. They will also find it difficult to get a job. What they will find, though, is a smoke-filled sky. Those apocalypse movies got a lot wrong, but one thing they did get right: the sun is orange.

10 Comments

  1. I listened to a lecture by James Hanson back in the early 80s. He talked about this then. So imagine the frustration of climate scientists being told THEY are the problem for 4 decades now.

  2. It was even more frustrating when the response was manipulated to be switched away from our toxic energy system responsible for 97% of global warming and into a ‘what can we individually do to help reduce our carbon footprint’ con job. People have fallen all over themselves thinking well of themselves for recycling plastics and perhaps planting a tree or two. But the system has gone on and on and on. In fact, over 50% of greenhouse gases causing climate mayhem today were put into the atmosphere in the last 10 years by people convinced they were doing their part or trying hard to do their part when we see it matter almost not at all addressing the real problem.

    I have been writing for years that this is an opportunity for those who know what’s coming, not least of which is deciding where to live that will offer the best chance for the least disruption. Living in a major drought, major heat, major flooding, major fire area is not clever. We know where these areas are and what the risks mean but, as people often do, few people want to act on this knowledge… hoping that maybe ten thousand climate scientists are dead wrong and some local politician concerned about money from oil and gas might be right. This shows the power of selling doubt… so easy and people want to believe… a decidedly deadly combination to put the maximum number of people at the greatest possible risk.

    It is very frustrating. The real world cost is not equivalent in any way for these scientists to be able to say, “I told you so. Too bad you CHOSE not to listen, not to act.”

    I wonder how many folk are heading out under that setting orange sun to light up a backyard fire and sit around it claiming it just smells so good.

    1. Oh, Tildeb. You speak so much truth. I am one of those people who has been reusing and recycling for decades. I have planted a tree in the garden of every home I have ever lived in, and I’ve lost count of how many that is. You are right. They put the responsibility on us, and we had so little power.

      And I have never understood backyard fire pits, but then I’m not a native Albertan so I can blame my Cockney roots.

  3. I am going to be moderating a discussion group on Addressing Climate Change in the fall. Not long ago I read a book by Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate which I recommend although I admit it is hard going.

    She points out that we have been misled by those who say small individual choices can make a difference. Massive changes are required – she calls it a civilizational wake-up call. The fossil fuel industry needs to be closed down for one thing. How do you Albertans feel about that? How much popular support does that have? The motivation of capitalism is profit for shareholders- it will never be the welfare of the people or the health of the planet. That has to change also; a strong government is needed to do what needs to be done. Sounds pretty extreme, but extreme measures are required. Sure political parties are concerned about getting re-elected, but if they are not elected, they can’t do anything. This is not an easy fix.

    Educating the public about this is essential, but we are having trouble even convincing people to get vaccinated in order to save their own lives. We need a really big grass roots movement for big changes.

    1. My sense is that change is happening, but it is happening too slowly. In Alberta the fossil fuel industry is in decline, even though our politicians are in denial about that. I know some people who worked in oil- and gas-related jobs are retraining because those jobs are harder to get now.

      As you say, educating the public is essential, but experience may be the most effective teacher.

      1. The politicians are slow because they do not have public support on these issues. That is my point.

        1. Exactly right.

          For individuals to do their part means granting politicians the power to effect large scale change by policy. This is essential.

          But rather than individuals understanding it is their duty to vote responsibly this way, individuals vote for people to take public office who deny climate change is real, who make excuses that it’s too expensive to alter course, who believe there’s some doubt about the science, who are not willing to tackle the problem. But these individuals will recycle their water bottles and think they are part of the solution rather than the major impediment to it.

          I’ve also noticed the lack of understanding plays out in things like Tesla, where anything negative about the company gets a bigger font and higher placement and wider circulation in all kinds of media whereas the fossil automotive industry get kudos for the slightest appearance of token advancement. Even the metric commonly used of adding renewable energy or reducing fossil fuel use is equivalent to ‘taking this number of cars off the road’ as if CARS are the problem. This spills over to energy use in things like light bulbs and appliances as if ELECTRICITY is the problem! And it spills over into all kinds of competing industries where unregulated stuff (like ‘natural’ pharmaceuticals and low intensity farming) use ‘carbon footprint’ to make it seem like these products are more conscientious than the other ‘bad’ ones… you know, the regulated industries.

          See what’s happening? See the tactic unwitting people play in advancing the wrong problem? The problem is burning fossil fuels. It’s not that hard to understand. So the solution must rest with changing the energy at the SOURCE and this requires government regulation to tilt the playing field away from burning fossil fuels and directly towards renewable energy.

          I suspect most people don’t understand that they – through government regulation – are already subsidizing oil and gas to the tune of billions – even tens of billions – per year right now (in Canada) while going along with whatever criticisms and complaints cast renewables as ‘too expensive’. So part of the way to mitigate climate change is to understand the solution REQUIRES government action and subsidy. That’s how individuals can make a difference: by waking up.

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