I read an editorial by Mel Rothenburger recently that provoked me to write this responsive opinion piece. His view was that the smoke rolling through town in the late summer shouldn’t be considered the “new normal”. Sure, it is rare for consecutive years to better each other in the record books. The wildfires of 2018 just bypassed the damage toll of 2017, after all. As a born-and-raised Kamloopsian though, the fear from watching water bombers fly by all day and night made me aware of what kind of natural disaster lived in my backyard. He acknowledged the problems caused by the smoke’s effects but offers no solutions other than focusing on unspecified climate-stabilizing and wildfire control methods. These were statements that made me wish I was back in New Orleans, well-prepped for hurricane season.
Let me dwell a bit about how I stopped worrying and learned to accept the worst. Four full months passed before my first hurricane experience in 2004. When it came to leaving my apartment and taking important belongings, blessings-in-disguise kept me safe. The hotel I worked at in the French Quarter housed and fed any employees and their immediate families. Arriving there with a suitcase with three days worth of clothes, my ukulele and a framed picture of my father was an immense reality check.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina made history. It was the first time I took a “hurri-cation”. Flying to Florida, at the urgency of friends, three nights before eighty percent of the city flooded was a life-changing move. Now — my Katrina-caused PTSD kicks in when mixed messages related to the smoke issue makes the news.
The ripple effect of poor leadership is nothing but revealed cons from unprepared liars. The city’s mayor called for a mandatory evacuation a day before the storm made landfall, which led to thousands dying unnecessarily. Politicians ignoring the domino effect that climate change will lead to more storms, hence coastlines and levees requiring re-enforcement funding. (New Orleans in 2005 and Houston in 2017 paid the price massively for neglecting the weak barriers.) Text messages and emails directing confused and scared folks to safety became unreliable due to overloaded satellites (a post-Katrina realization I had when trying to reach lost friends). Kamloopsians don’t deserve a headache bigger than the one from the irritating haze.
Summer smoke in B.C will connect itself to the River City in one way or another. ANNUALLY! Previously, as a major refuge hub, currently as a reason for canceled events and forever in monuments. Unless your electric scooter doubles as an air-tight bubble, your lung damage is unfixable and/or think wearing autumn-weather attire on Labour Day weekend is O.K. — get creative and make a checklist.
A number of pluses can grow from these times. Depression specialists will be studying the area’s summertime cabin fever syndrome. Locals might congregate at D.I.Y. tiki bars, including fake tropical flowers and umbrella drinks. Movie fans can make a marathon out of uplifting stories, such as Forrest Gump and The Wizard of Oz. The unemployed should be hired to do any avoided garage cleaning. Satirical memento-makers of “Burning British Columbia” novelty license plates are in line to profit as well. Exciting dishes are bound to appear from bored cooks stuck indoors. Playwrights and musicians surely are inspired with phoenix-type stories. Masks-designers’ creations could become chic seasonal accessories. K.I.B.T. could include Ribfest.
The facts are inhale-able. The EXPERTS aren’t sugar-coating the numbers attached to the poor air quality. “Worst than Beijing” is a level which makes me strategically plan my day of how I’m to complete errands on my bicycle. The PROFESSIONALS send their messages of caution through the media. Hopefully, the public absorbs the words of the PROS and not of MEL. If the man was still active in politics and/or a young person with a threatened future, his optimism could be swallowed with a pebble-sized grain of salt. Instead, I rather take the piece of salt and put it under his nose, wishing for an awakening.
*Gabe Salvatore is a former Omega writer who has fucked and been fucked by Mother Nature*