Friday, May 06, 2016

Forces of Nature?

It was a meaningful gesture when Prime Minister Trudeau walked across the floor of the House of Commons to console Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose yesterday. Ambrose is from Alberta and her emotion was a response to the wildfire devastation in the province's north. The evacuation of Fort McMurray involved more than 80,000 people, surely the largest evacuation of any community due to a catastrophic event since --when?-- did the Halifax explosion result in a large-scale exodus from the city? That was a human-made disaster and most media sources, including the New York Times, describe what is happening in Alberta as a natural disaster.

It is a difficult subject to broach when we are aware of so much loss and suffering for so many, but is this a "natural" disaster? Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, took some flack Wednesday for suggesting that there could be a connection between human made climate change and the fires which are raging at the moment. Climate scientists are quick to caution that individual weather events are not of themselves proof of climate change. At the same time, events such as "100 year floods" every few years, or what would have formerly been unseasonal forest fires because of hot, dry weather, are part of the bigger picture of a shift in climate patterns brought about by human activity.

May responded to a question with an honest answer, and that was deemed insensitive when so many were in distress. I think all of us should have the question in the back of our minds, even as we respond compassionately to brothers and sisters in distress. If these destructive events accelerate in number the cost, human and financial, will be overwhelming. Insurance companies are estimating a cost of $9 billion if Fort McMurray is destroyed. The people who have experienced loss will never be the same.

Since I first posted this blog I came upon this sobering article in the New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert. In it she mentions that fire seasons in the US are are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970. I hope you read the article.

I better take a few minutes and make my relief contribution through the Red Cross. And say prayers for those who have been affected, and for the smoke to clear in terms of meaningful actions on climate change.



Judy McKnight said...

Just made a donation to the Red Cross, too... I hope lots of folk will do that ... the need is urgent and great!

David Mundy said...

$30 million and counting to the Red Cross. I'm gratified that Canadians do care. We're all imagining what it would be like for us to be forced out of our homes and communities.

Judy Mcknight said...

Ah, yes, and although I do believe we should pray for everyone involved in this tragic event, prayer alone is useless if it doesn't move us to generous action as well.