Spreading Like Wildfire

It's an old phrase that has taken on a new meaning in the Anthropocene epoch. Wildfires that sweep vast regions, year after year, sometimes spreading at such speed that they overtake people desperately making for safety they never find. Whether through mostly natural causes or through land clearing, wildfires have become a dire problem across western North America, southern Europe, Siberia, the Amazon, Southeast Asia and Australia.

A study conducted by The Guardian finds that not only are these wildfires worsening but they're shifting from grassland fires that dominated the past to woodland or forest fires that impact us today. Climate heating is a major contributory cause of this chaos.

In recent years, fires have devastated areas of California, Australia, Siberia and the Pantanal that used to be relatively unaffected. In Africa, by contrast, there has been a reduction of savannah fires.

Experts believe the changing fire patterns are driven by human factors: global heating, which is creating more tinderbox conditions in forests, and land conversion, which is turning grasslands into farm fields, conurbations and roads.

The causes and consequences are still being studied, but scientists are concerned this shift will put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from forests, while eroding the unique bio-vitality of grasslands, which are better adapted to fire.

“Since the early 2000s, we are seeing a decline in grassland fires, which dominate the global numbers. At the same time, there is an increase in some high-fuel systems such as the western US that several studies have connected to climate change,” Niels Andela, an expert in remote sensing at Cardiff University, said. “This trend is not yet visible everywhere, but it is likely to become more apparent in other parts of the world.”

Once again, the quiet killer of climate change, "creeping normalcy" comes into play. Creeping normalcy is about forgetting the past. Layer upon layer of forgetting blurs our vision, buries our memories and our understanding of the world changing beneath our feet.

Jared Diamond and others write of "creeping normalcy." It's our ability to forget even the recent past and accept whatever is today as the standard. Imagine if we could pluck a dozen people of various ages from the 1960s (back when there were fewer than half as many humans as now exist) and let them experience the weather and climate today. Introduce them to today's severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. Show them what has happened to our glaciers, ice caps and sea ice. Let them see Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas paralyzed by deep freeze. Play for them the video of fires racing through entire neighbourhoods, consuming everything in their path. Imagine how they would react.

Creeping normalcy is blinding us to the urgency of this climate crisis and it too is spreading like wildfire, even if we don't notice. As the fires spread our focus narrows and dims.


  1. Climate change is just getting started. It's warming up, so to speak, and doing its pre-game stretches. Once it hits its stride, we're in for a tough, long slog. It will be going from one disaster straight into the next. No let up. Countries that will do well versus countries that will fail will be not on based on the efforts of private citizens but on how well nations can adapt, react, and respond.

    It's about infrastructure, and the ability to prevent and repair damage in a timely manner. In the past twenty years, Canada's gone from a nation that could respond quickly to disaster to one that has trouble putting on its clothes in the morning. Harper wanted to Texasfy Canada, and Harper-lite hasn't bothered to undo any of this damage so we get a healthcare system that is pretty much guesswork in terms of preventing the spread of Covid-19.

    BC's main two disaster scenarios (apart from the big earthquake we all know is coming) is the yearly forest fire threat and landslides threat. A big enough forest fire would cut off communities from each other, and the possibility of a Paradise-like disaster becomes truer every year.

    Landslides though are something that is really beginning to emerge. Cache Creek is really becoming a bellwether for what's to come. My hometown community of Salmon Arm nearly lost highway access on both sides of the Trans-Canada. A bad year, and BC would almost seem to go back in time by decades with much of it needing to be traversed by river rather than road.

    I suppose it's fortunate BC was able to retain control of its power utility but that was only because Gordan Campbell didn't have enough time or political clout to sell it off. He did do his level best to discredit it by instituting free market rules in its budget operations though (same as he did to ICBC), which the NDP have done nothing to change.

    The loss of BC Gas and BC Rail though sting now. Well, actually, natural gas seems a dead end now, so it's probably for the best that BC's no longer reliant of such a utility. Probably better to let it gasp for air and suffocate by reducing and ending subsidies for its production.

    But BC needs to go all in on public rail transit between cities. A dedicated passenger rail line from West to East, and from North to South, and all points in-between.

    Mandate in-home batteries for all new homes built. Ensure cities have localized energy production via windmills and solar farms. Build large scale batteries for hospitals and other such institutions.

    End building single family residential neighbourhoods. Mixed use only from this point on province wide. Create a tax structure which would allow for people to live in a single family style residency but they'd have to pay a certain amount of tax to make up for the loss in tax revenue from doing so. This should have a duel benefit of reducing sprawl and reducing spending on infrastructure. It would also reduce encroaching on nature putting communities at risk to disaster.

  2. Re,
    End building single family residential neighbourhoods.

    The German Greens have just advocated such .

    The loss of BC Gas and BC Rail .

    The loss of BC rail was to release lands to speculators within the real estate industry and had nothing to do with the welfare of anyone else.
    Natural gas and other fossil fuels , coal and oil, will be cyclical issues until most of our energy comes from renewable's.
    The biggest holdout for fossil fuel energy will be the military establishment , without such energy would become redundant; many a military conquest has been fought for the control of fossil fuels.
    Advocating 'localised' makes much sense but will stir the ire of multinationals whose influence is now out of governmental control; think social media.

    As for,
    BC's main two disaster scenarios.
    They are will full ignorance and complacency.

    We are our own worst enemy.


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