Opinion

Please Advise! Is Vancouver World's Most Liveable Smoky Hellscape?

Sure is, says Dr. Steve. Hey, when climate change gives you fires, make s'mores.

By Steve Burgess 7 Jul 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Doctor Steve,

This weekend in Vancouver I couldn't help but notice that the blood-red sun was masked by acrid smoke from uncontrolled fires raging around the province. Do you have an approximate ETA for the apocalypse?

Signed,

Ready for the End

Dear Ready,

Aw, don't be like that. Think of it as a little vacation. Air quality-wise it was like spending the weekend in Beijing, free of charge. And don't you love the smell your clothes get from sitting around a campfire, singing songs? Well, sing a song. Your clothes are way ahead of you. Really, this is like the July equivalent of the Yule Log Channel at Christmas, except instead of Mr. Hand it features The Hand of God.

Then again, many will tell you this smoky summer is no act of God. We're doing it ourselves. Climate change is drying out our forests, and like the pine beetle infestation this forest fire season means we are now reaping the results. Is that true?

Well, climate is too complex for that sort of definitive claim. Those who highlight specific events as evidence of climate change risk putting themselves in the same basket as the Fox News crowd who take advantage of every cold snap and blizzard to loudly proclaim global warming is a hoax. Wacky weather cycles have always been with us, and surely there must be a middle ground between obstinate climate change denial and attributing every weather-related event to global warming. As many Vancouverites cry climate, remember smoky summers have long been a reality elsewhere in the province. But once the wind blows smoke our way -- boom! -- it's Armageddon.

Nonetheless, climate change models from the BC Ministry of Forests do suggest that this is the way we're heading -- wetter winters, dryer summers, great susceptibility to forest fires. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), climate change will cause forest fires 25 per cent more often, burn areas 46 per cent larger and last on average 30 days longer by 2040.

Yes, this past weekend may in fact be a preview of our future. If so, I say let's be positive, just like those happy campers singing around the fire. When climate change gives you fires, make s'mores.

Affordability, here we come

First item on the page of pluses: savings. Smokers will benefit since a good, satisfying smoke will be absolutely free. Mandatory, even. Expensive camera equipment will become pointless -- that zoom lens will have nowhere to zoom.

Even better, consider our sky-high real estate prices. Many have suggested that our ocean breezes and beautiful mountain vistas are part of the reason demand for Vancouver real estate is insatiable. If so, rejoice -- big discounts are surely coming. Who in their right minds would pay a premium for the kind of atmosphere we got on Sunday? "Three-bedroom split-level in a smoky hellscape, less than an oxygen tank away from schools and transit" just doesn't command the same appeal. Affordability, here we come.

Next bonus: new experiences and broader horizons. Did you notice all the flying ants around a week or so back? That too was a result of the warm summer, experts said, with ant queens emerging simultaneously to take advantage of the heat to seek more mates. Thus it was that for at least a few days it was not possible to order a plain vanilla soft ice cream cone -- it had to be Flying Ant Crunch. Would anybody have tried that exotic treat if not forced to do so by incipient climate change?

And consider the expansion of local menus. The always-popular hot 'n' smoky barbecue sandwich will be joined by new favourites like hot 'n' smoky Caesar salad, hot 'n' smoky Nanaimo bars, and hot 'n' smoky lemonade. Go ahead and sell that deep freeze -- put some salt and spices on those cuts of meat and hang them outside for a few hours for some natural curing and smoking.

Vancouver has long aspired to rank with the big urban centres. Well, congratulations -- these days we are truly the Big Smoke. But if you don't like the potential ramifications of climate change, don't worry. The government can always hold a referendum. Then you can vote "No."  [Tyee]

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