In my research on Canadian and American emergency management agencies, I've found significant differences between official disaster strategies and how disaster responses actually unfold. For example, 'lessons learned' and theories of emergency management consistently call for formal coordination of all the organizations involved in disaster response.
Fires are a natural part of many boreal forest ecosystems, but the massive blaze raging in Alberta is a catastrophe that threatens human health, the economy and the environment. This current episode in the Fort McMurray area is remarkable in its size, extent and human impact. Data from the Global Forest Watch platform provide context on what's going on with Alberta's forest fires
May is on track to be the 12th consecutive hottest month globally ever recorded. The day the fires raced into Fort McMurray, Alta., set 24 different temperature records, including a record-breaking 32.6 degrees Celsius in Fort McMurray (20 degrees above normal) and a scorching 4.8 degrees above the previous record set in 1945. These tinder-dry conditions helped lead to one of the earliest wildfire seasons in Alberta's history and fuelled the fire that raged through the city.
Why does Elizabeth May get a media beating for stating we have another terrible example of our need to be very, very serious about climate change? Just like other catastrophic events, a given tragedy is proportional to the tough questions that necessarily follow. "But not now"? May was immediately berated by Justin Trudeau, other politicians, some of the media and social media. The charge? She was "trying to make a political argument out of one particular disaster." How's that? Stating that climate change is political, instead about science, is exactly the problem.
Fellow friends, as we care deeply and mourn the great losses of our friends in far-flung parts of this great nation, as we grieve for Fort McMurray -- as we grieve for others: may we never forget that it is the care that binds our hearts together, knitted tightly and perhaps even eternally with cords of love and compassion.
Most McMurrayites, myself included, are still coming to grips with what is happening in our town. Most of us left in a hurry, despite wanting to hold on to every last moment we possibly could. Maybe there was one more thing we as an individual could accomplish to save our city. And that's what was running through my mind as I drove north. I couldn't help but think that I could have stayed longer, provided just a little bit more coverage, before I fled. But it didn't happen. We had to go, just like everyone else, and we didn't go willingly.
Earth is clearly experiencing more frequent extreme weather than in the past, and we can expect it to get worse as we burn more coal, oil and gas and pump more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This can have profound and costly impacts on everything from agriculture to infrastructure, not to mention human health and life.