Salmon Arm took on a orange-yellow-brown hue due to the smoke and ash in the air from nearby wildfires on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm took on a orange-yellow-brown hue due to the smoke and ash in the air from nearby wildfires on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Column: Hoping for the best isn’t enough for our future

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

I’m hearing this a lot as we try to get through one of the hottest, driest, smoke-filled wildfire seasons (aka summer) in recent memory.

Amid this, we’ve learned we’re being thrown into another federal election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s seeking a new mandate from Canadians.

Whoever is elected to lead the country, let’s hope they give more weight to preparing for the worst.

As I write this column, the wildfire smoke-filled sky has turned a discomforting orange-yellow-brown hue. It’s 30 C and the outside air quality index (AQI) rating is 203. Good air quality has an AQI rating from 0 to 50.

I expect, for many, concern around air quality is secondary to the cause: the 270 wildfires burning in the province (as of Aug. 15). A priority for the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) was the 62,273-hectare White Rock Lake wildfire.

Mark Healey, the BCWS incident commander for the White Rock Lake fire, recently said this has been the most volatile season he’s ever seen, calling it not a wildfire season, but a catastrophic event.

Read more: Significant structure loss on Westside due to White Rock Lake wildfire

Read more: Evacuation order issued for neighbourhoods southeast of Falkland

Let that set in. He’s not talking about one specific incident, one particular fire. He’s talking about the summer as a whole, no doubt starting with the “heat dome” in late June that shattered temperature records and was linked to the death of more than 700 people in B.C. Other wildfire related tragedies have occurred since, including the losses at Lytton and destruction at Monte Lake.

Wildfires are currently ravaging other parts of the country and the world. The fire situation in Greece has been referred to as a “natural disaster of unprecedented proportion.” In total, wildfires burning in Siberia are said to be greater in size than all the other wildfires currently burning on the earth combined.

Though wildfires have occurred historically, this year’s in particular are said to have been exacerbated by human-caused global warming. In a recent report, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a bleak picture, warning extreme weather will be more frequent. In addition to taking immediate action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the IPCC said we also need to invest in climate adaptation. You know, prepare for the worst.

I don’t expect going to the polls ranks high right now among British Columbians. But it is an opportunity to make sure politicians know what needs to be done. Taking action as recommended by the IPCC likely won’t stop wildfires from happening in coming years. However, it is better to do something with hope for the future than it is to continue dragging our heels while hoping for the best.
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B.C. Wildfires 2021