LETTER: Lessons of Alberta’s crisis

Everyone has thoughts about the Fort Mac fire. I’ll try to be brief, as I know page space is precious.

LETTER: Lessons of Alberta’s crisis

Everyone has thoughts about the Fort Mac fire. I’ll try to be brief, as I know page space is precious.

First, the fire in the capital city of fossil fuel is a political phenomenon. How could it not be? We who oppose fossil fuel now, not in future, want to leave the tar in the sand. Naturally it occurs to me that the fire is mysteriously apt, a comment by nature on what capitalist economics does to our planet. But people need jobs. This fire will focus the debate wonderfully.

Second, there is a just balance between judging the effect of the fossil-fuel industry and being compassionate toward people whose lives have been so overwhelmed. I hope I strike that balance. I want to remind readers that before this catastrophe many people expressed opinions about Fort Mac as a place to make their home that are at odds with the present chorus saying “it is a really wonderful hometown, a true community.”

Years ago, offered a job in Fort St. John, I made a choice against big paycheques, in favour of a Nelson quality of life. Fort Mac has been Moneytown for many people. Without the insanity of our fossil-fuel dependent economy, that city would never have existed. It will be re-built, everyone says. We can ask why.

Third, our compassion and charity for Fort Mac refugees focuses the mind on ways we regularly ignore vast challenges for other Canadians: the homeless and our First Nations need action as much as Fort Mac. We seem unable to act on deep societal and economic problems with the resources we muster for sudden crises like fire, flood, or earthquake.

Last, Nelson must think about its own peril from fire. I walk the edges of our town a lot. I see the build-up of dry fuels in woods near the cemetery and at Red Sands; the latter beach is a frequent locale for people making fires, against the requests of the private property owner.

Climate change demands we think deeply about the lessons of Alberta’s crisis.

Charles Jeanes, Nelson