Here's a dramatic video clip of the nightmare that is now Fort McMurray. I found it over at Kinsella's page where he admonishes those of the left or the right who might exploit it for political purposes to claim "victory" whatever in hell that might mean. Shame, shame - shame on them.
The fact is this wildfire could easily have happened forty miles north of Fort McMurray, 40 miles east of Fort McMurray or 40 miles west, perhaps 40 miles south of Fort McMurray and it would have gone largely unnoticed save, perhaps, for some news accounts of people in the region having to deal with a lot of smoke.
However this is Fort McMurray, a small city just down the road from the Athabasca Tar Sands, and it had a population of 80,000 people who have had to leave their homes. Got it.
So what is this "victory" to which Kinsella alludes? What is the political angle on this? Climate change, is that the political angle? Does he think climate change is a political football to be kicked this way by the left and punted in that other direction by the right?
Climate change is a matter of science. There should be nothing political about it. However in a petro-state it is intensely political because the petro-powers do their best to squelch public discussion about it. Sometimes they even call it a hoax or a "socialist plot."
We don't need the Fort Mac tragedy to demonstrate that climate change impacts are here, that they're destructive and that they're getting a lot worse faster than we had ever imagined just a few years ago. I guess you don't see that in the concrete slab that is urban Toronto. Out here we see it, we live it. We don't have a choice.
We watched as pine beetle infestations killed off thousands of square miles of once verdant forests, turning them in death an awful rust colour. What's that got to do with climate change? Everything. We don't get the cold winters we had even a decade ago. Without enough cold days there's no winter kill of the beetle larvae. Come summer they emerge en masse and destroy vast swathes of forest.
We watch as new species enter our coastal ecosystem. White-sided dolphins in large numbers. Humpback whales too, plenty of them. Brown pelicans taking up residence in Victoria. California sea lions roosting year round in Fanny Bay. Marine life is migrating away from the warming southern waters. As the herring and sardines swim north, they bring their food chain with them. There's climate change in action.
We now fret over whether we'll manage to accumulate an adequate snow cap on the local mountains. Life out here - from spawning salmon to bears and eagles and wolves, even the forests - depend on that snow cap and the life-giving summer meltwater it provides. There's your climate change.
Fort McMurray is afire. It's not alone. There are massive forest fires underway from British Columbia to Manitoba. The entire middle third of Saskatchewan is under an extreme fire advisory and the rest isn't much better. That's what climate change does. It messes up the hydrological cycle, the lifeline of every terrestrial species on Earth. Get your heads around the idea that the hydrological cycle as we knew it during the 11,000 years of human civilization is broken, kaput.
While Fort McMurray is ablaze, America's eastern seaboard and Gulf coast is bracing for inundation from sea level rise. Miami streets flood regularly. They did an amazing job at looking the other way but that's over. They're not looking the other way any longer. They can't. Sea level rise compounded by high tides and hurricane season storm surges is a climate change Trifecta.
But if it's heatwaves and blazes and drought you're looking for, take a gander at the nations of south and southeast Asia. From Pakistan to the MeKong delta, it's a mess, a real nightmare that eclipses anything going on in Canada. It's causing unrest in India. China could be next. Climate change is a global scourge and countries in the tropical or equatorial zones are Ground Zero.
If this is, as Kinsella maintains, a political football then, and I'm sorry to say this, we're fu_ked, completely. Like the pine beetle infestation, like the steadily worsening wildfire season, like the species migration underway, like sea level rise and coastal inundation, like severe weather events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration, like our dangerously broken hydrological cycle, all Fort McMurray represents is another in a long line of routinely unheeded wake-up calls.
You have to be insensate to frame this as a political issue. It's a scientific matter. It's a matter of geology, hydrology, chemistry, biology, botany, atmospherics, physics, glaciation, meteorology and every other Earth science. Research in all of these disciplines - all of them, without exception - confirms the central hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming. Nobody is asking anyone to take this on faith, it's not a question of belief. Save that for your favourite religious fantasy. This is a question of science and an overwhelming mountain of omni-disciplinary research and testing. That's not something you believe. It is, however, something you must accept.
There is no political victory in this and there can be no victory unless and until our political leadership fully accepts the science and acts accordingly. Unfortunately there's no sign of that happening on the horizon.