Apologies to the very fine movie Things We Lost in the Fire, which approached emergency and disaster management from a different but very human level. This missive will look at fire from a different perspective. I just loved the title so much that I had to do a takeoff of it.
The fire of the year so far--stress: 'so far'--is the disaster that has befallen Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. We've covered this at multiple levels of news and analysis, including:
So consider if you will all of the things that went wrong that enabled this fire, destroyed a viable and valuable community on short notice, and still dominates our news today:
- First, we've ignored the impacts of climate change for far too long. They were well-known decades ago. If we had paid attention to them decades ago, we might have more effectively understood the potential impacts of acid rain, drought, wildland fire, etc.
- Second, we consider forests to be beautiful features of the Earth. And they are. But they are also killers, because if they dry out too much, or are infested by climate-enabled insects, they can spread wildland fire throughout our communities at will and not care. The forest will simply protect its seed cones, pop them out after the fire passes, and regrow. The forest doesn't care whether we're there or not, or whether we survive or not. Our survival is not the forest's concern.
- Third, We're still screwing up as a society and civilization by not paying attention to what the Earth is telling us. The Earth is telling us many things:
- that the burning of fossil fuels will make the Earth less inhabitable in many respects;
- that our excessive use of stored groundwater will result in the end of that resource soon, and our survival will be challenged by it;
- that wherever we have created beautiful towns and cities surrounded by dry forests, we will likely lose those cities;
- and the Earth is telling us that when we build our cities of civilization where sea level will rise, where drought will make them unviable, where hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes can destroy them in an instant--that we will need to have a Plan B to survive.
Are we listening? I really don't know.