Even if you didn’t stay in BC for the summer, chances are you are aware of the multiple forest fires that burned and are still burning many parts of the province. BC declared a provincial state of emergency in mid-August, after it became clear that we could not handle the 500+ fires burning at the time. The fires have devastated communities, torn apart homes and cities, and impacted the air quality across the province. This is also a grim repeat of previous years, where the forest fire situation has been similar, if not worse.
Out of the current situation arises the question of why our last few summers have been like this, characterized by daily news of fires and skies filled with smoke. Suddenly, BC is a burning inferno every summer. Unsurprisingly, climate change is a key factor. As global warming occurs, conditions become more favourable for fires, with drier brush, less rain, and higher temperatures. Although climate change isn’t directly starting fires, these conditions amplify the fires we already have, making more of them and making them deadlier. Higher temperatures also bring more lightning, which was the cause of many fires this summer.
Although there are those out there who deny climate change, the weather patterns seem to be clear. In the last few years, temperatures have risen, with temperatures as high as 38 degrees being a norm for the Okanagan. Forest fires have also increased, matching the temperature increase. Clearly, there’s a correlation, and climate change is having a real-world impact on our province.
So, what can we do about it? For starters, make the obvious environmental changes. Use less plastic, take the bus instead of driving, avoid aerosols, take steps to lower your carbon footprint. As humans, we can try and avoid situations that may cause fires. Don’t throw lit cigarette butts out of your window, and if you see someone doing it, say something! Ensure that you put out your campfires, and just don’t play around with fire. According to Globe and Mail, humans have been responsible for more than 400 of the BC fires this season! As students, we can also ensure that our institution and government follow suit, by advocating for the reduction of single use plastics on campus and in our cities, increased education on climate change including on controlled burns, increased recycling and compost, and a decreased carbon footprint.
It is difficult to make these choices, especially as a student, when most of us are broke, and pressed for any extra time. However, as each summer gets scarier and scarier, our choices seem less like choices, and more like necessary decisions to save our province.