Column: 2020s will bring roar of wildfires, storms, social upheaval

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

The arrival of the new decade provides an opportunity to reflect on the one previous one, make predictions about the upcoming one, as well as compare it to its namesake, the Roaring Twenties.

No doubt, the 2020s will be as roaring as the 1920s, though the roar will likely not be coming from wild dance parties. Instead, it will emanate from wildfires, intense storms, rising social upheavals and yet more wars.

With so many countries now run by leaders seemingly populist, but increasingly authoritarian and in cahoots with greedy elites, it is likely at some point citizens will rebel when they see themselves increasingly marginalized. As climate change impacts more people, it is inevitable that the public opinion tide will turn with Greta Thunberg’s movement gaining support and influence.

What is too often missing in any article about climate change is the true nature of the problem, that all predictions call for exponential growth. We are witnessing the exponential growth of most impacts already, including glacier loss, wildfires, ocean acidification and intense, unpredictable storms. There is little doubt the upcoming decade will be much warmer, which could provoke a tipping point in public opinion towards greater uncertainty about the future and greater distrust of status quo governments.

It has been an ominous start to the new decade here in the Shuswap, as an unprecedented storm that combined massive amounts of heavy, wet snow with strong winds resulted in thousands of trees either snapped in half or fully down. As a result, most homes experienced a power outage, while some customers were without power for up to four days.

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The impacts from the new year’s “snowmegeddon” will be felt far into the year, as likely every hiking and cross-country skiing trail is crisscrossed with upwards of hundreds of trees. Especially hard hit is the recently restored Margaret Falls trail where fallen trees have severely damaged the new bridges and walkways. The downed trees can also attract fir bark beetles, whose populations can then expand into the standing forests.

With record amounts of snow and more on the way, the possibility of flooding in the spring increases. As well, if warm weather arrives early and is accompanied by heavy rains, there will be more slides and other erosion events as we have already seen too often in the Shuswap.

Even though there will be greater uncertainty about the climate and the environment, trends from the previous decade indicate the Shuswap is poised for much more growth in the new decade. Salmon Arm is in the midst of a population expansion, as more people are choosing to move here, including many young families. As the population increases, so too will the local economy improve.

With forest fires currently ravaging Australia, there is a growing concern that the entire continent could become uninhabitable within decades. Last year we had a reprieve here in British Columbia, but the trend is definitely towards more droughts and more fires. It is only a matter of time, before wildfires threaten Shuswap residents again and yet government action on reducing fuel loads remains minimal.

At best, we can begin the decade with our fingers crossed with the hope that one of the best places in the world to live will continue to remain green and viable. Thankfully, in addition to being fortunate to live in a magnificent environment, we also have incredible organizations with countless numbers of dedicated and generous volunteers; all adding to the big rewards we enjoy living here in paradise.

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