If you've walked outside this summer just to be greeted with watering eyes, coughing, itchy throats, and shortness of breath, it could be allergies or you could just be Canadian. Even if you live in a province that is not currently on fire, the winding winds have blown the smoke so diffusely across the country that in many cases its unavoidable. The smoke isn't just originating from a singular spot either. Depending where you are, you can get flavors of different fires from Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and most recently the Northwest Territories.
On August 14th, the Northwest Territories has issued fire warnings to evacuate for residences near an increasingly approaching fire. The Kakis fire has threatened a town along the Hay river due to high winds causing disruptions to electrical lines and structures and making emergency responses impossible. The Canadian Forces have been deployed along the NWT-Alberta border to quell the blaze. Home owners across the NWT have been told to leave their homes and go to the airport and await further instructions. As of Monday August 15th there were 234 active wildfires in NWT making it the worst wildfire season on record with still weeks left of the summer.
Further south of the NWT is British Columbia where 377 wildfires are currently raging. Reminiscent of California, BC is burning and blowing smoke across the Canadian prairies. Like California, BC occupies a large mass of land with widespread forests and a rapidly drying climate due to climate change. The drier climate and higher winds have allowed fires to both break out and build up in power and destructive force. This same deadly combination of drier climate and heavy winds led to the destruction of Maui less than a week ago. If any trend can be recognized, its the higher frequency and hotter flames of forest fires as time goes on.
Canada has a total of 906 active fires going on right now. New York, Portland, Oregon, and Washington D.C are getting hit with the runoff smoke, hazy skies, and fumes. Many of these states on the east coast are being affected by the wildfires going on in Quebec.
So why are these fires increasing in frequency? Canada has 9% of the worlds forests and a massive oil reserve present primarily in the province of Alberta. Albertan premiere Danielle Smith, the authority responsible for the provinces natural resource allocation, is a climate non-believer or ecologically genocidal depending on your preferred word choice. Either way she believes that there is no point in any form of emissions reduction whatsoever. In an interview with the Calgary Sun she stated: “We are simply not going to achieve these 2035 targets and we’re not going to pretend they’re achievable." She claims that any attempts at federally legislating the issue are "unconstitutional." To put this in perspective, Alberta has emitted over 206 million metric tons of CO2 in 2021 which is 55% above 1990s levels. Smith vows to not recognized federal net-zero mandates and she does it from the province with the most disproportionate emissions. Her views aren't unpopular within Alberta either considering her recent re-election with 52.6% of the vote.
The Albertan people suckle at the teat of oil. Why wouldn't they? Oil has delivered them economic prosperity, lower taxes, and higher employment. Yet Canada is burning. Its burning because of this continuous need for more economic growth. Its burning because conservatives cannot accept change, especially change that disadvantages them. Its burning because populists promise easy solutions to complex problems and to promise that climate change doesn't matter is a perfect way to uphold the status quo. Its burning because the economic system that requires endless growth is fundamentally impossible to maintain or dismantle. It is burning because the rights ignorance and malice will lead to extinction.