Good neighbours share. But what Canada is sharing these days with its good neighbour to the south is not appreciated.
I refer to the dense plumes of smoke from our manifold wildfires which are darkening skies and smothering cities across the continent, in our country and theirs. On Tuesday, New York registered the worst air quality in the world among major cities. State Governor Kathy Hochul called it “an emergency crisis,” announcing that a million N95-style masks would be made available to the public.
According to the New York Times “In the air hung the acrid smell of a campfire. Not fog, not mist, not really weather at all—this was something new to even veteran New Yorkers.”
Airline flights have been delayed, and three big theatre productions and two Major League Baseball games were cancelled. Commuters donned masks, children stayed indoors, some schools closed and officials warned people against going outside. Some restaurants closed their outdoor dining.
The worst may be yet to come, long after the smoke has cleared. According to some research, wildfire smoke may be the most toxic of all forms of particulate pollution. It can contribute to respiratory and cardiac disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cancer, mental illness and suicide, miscarriage and premature birth and low birth weight.
Areas far afield from New York have been affected. Smoke was appearing as far south as Alabama. Charlotte, North Carolina was under a hazardous air alert.
Canadian cities are being smothered as well of course, from Calgary to Toronto to Halifax. As of yesterday, almost 250 fires were burning out of control. We are smoking ourselves as well as our neighbours.
And there’s plenty more to come. A long hot summer is predicted, emphasis on the “hot.” And next summer? Well, we have ten percent of the world’s forests—all poised to burn—so lots of kindling for a long time. Hang on to those N95 masks.
As an Albertan I may have a special interest in all this. After all, global warming is a major contributor to all the excitement, and my province is the one most responsible for Canada’s contribution to global warming.
Ironically, one of the biggest fires in this country’s history almost wiped out the town of Fort McMurray, the centre of tar sands production, our biggest producer of greenhouse gasses. Alberta is not immune to its own mischief.
But back to the Americans. They may be a litigious people but they won’t be suing us over the toxic smog. The United States is, after all, guilty of producing more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country. And over 40 percent of American oil imports come from Fort McMurray.
The horror just gets bigger and badder. Anyone who can observe this year’s holocausts and not recognize the real and accelerating threat of global warming is not living in the world as it now is.