Moving Forward After the Fort McMurray Wildfires


It’s really been a trying week for Canadians, after a wildfire forced 80,000 residents of the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray Alberta (which is located in the heart of the Alberta oil sands) to evacuate the city on May 3rd.

Fort McMurray pic

Fort McMurray Wildfire via Wikipedia Some Rights Reserved Under The Creative Commons

 

There was many factors which contributed to this “beast of a wildfire.” Limited snowpack from a dry winter, from El Nino, along with a lack of rainfall and a hint of a warming climate help spur the tragic events.

University of Alberta told Climate Central what occurred in Fort McMurray, Alberta is on par with how human climate change effects wild fires in Northern forests.

While the fire rages, there has been a firestorm of controversy about if climate change should be even mentioned. Some on both sides of the climate debate have taken it to extremes, ranging from glee seeing Fort McMurray facilities burn down, to a Calgary Sun op-ed telling environmentalist Tweeters to screw off.

Personally, I am not a fan of either of these tactics. Fort McMurray residents have been through plenty, and my heart goes out to them, and may God bless them. Those who tweeted early this week they were happy that Fort McMurray was burning down need to learn appropriate manners when dealing with such tragedies, and only make things worse.

Now having said that, what occurred this week in Fort McMurray may not be a one-off? Slate.com climate reporter Eric Hothouse said discussing what occurred this week in Fort McMurray this past week “Isn’t natural.” He goes onto say further:

Talking about climate change during an ongoing disaster like Fort McMurray is absolutely necessary. There is a sensitive way to do it, one that acknowledges what the victims are going through and does not blame them for these difficulties. But adding scientific context helps inform our response and helps us figure out how something so horrific could have happened.

Holthaus is right. There is a way of mixing the scientific context, while respecting those who have suffered through these horrendous events, and not figure point at Fort McMurray residents. After all, many of them worked in Fort McMurray in search of a more prosperous future away from bleaker economic conditions.

However, now we must look forward. We owe it to ourselves, as Canadians to prevent these sorts of future disasters as much as possible, whether it’s Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, or even Winnipeg.

So heading forward, let’s have a discussion on how we make future development more environmentally sustainable. Newer cleantech industries like wind, solar energy and biofuels can play a role in this development, and helping to retrain those from the oil patch becomes very critical.

As for adaptation, my favorite suggestion is boosting the Canadian military. Yes, I said INCREASE  Canadian military presence! With limited dollars being spent on one of Canada’s greatest institutions, and participation falling dramatically, it’s time to rethink our Armed Forces role and improve it. Given increased security risks from climate change. The Royal Canadian Armed Forces must protect Canadians from all security risks, including climate security risks in the 21st century. A larger military would ensure there is enough manpower on the ground to help those battling these disasters, while comforting those who have lost everything.

So let’s talking and work towards rebuilding.

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