Canada's blazing fires, wildfire refugees, and New York City's plight in breathing our smoke has got me thinking about the ways we're all connected. When it happens to larger-than-life New York City, it seems even bigger to me than it has seemed until now, and, already to me, it has seemed overwhelmingly huge.

I've been breathing summer smoke from wildfires for a good seven years now. But as New York and other far-flung places send firefighters to help us battle our flames, it's a burning reminder we really are in this thing together. This planetary thing where we share the same oceans, land and air, locked together in the human predicament.

And yet, despite all we share, we can't effectively collaborate internationally and in Canada, our government can't get its act together, not strongly or boldly enough, to really stop this thing. I keep calling it "this thing." I mean climate change. Global warming. Megafires. Noxious smoke. The end of the world as we've known it.

“Pretty sad that a country like Canada can't even put a dent in its climate change plan. I've had many doubts that this country will ever meet any targets set. There is too much misinformation, disinformation and greenwashing by the oil and gas sector.” This comment from Canada’s National Observer subscriber John Akermanis was written in response to Thursday’s article by Barry Saxifrage, “Blindly accelerating into the climate train.”

Graphic by Barry Saxifrage for Canada's National Observer shows G7 nations climate pollution change since 1990.

“Too many people who can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. Unfortunately, Canada will be left behind, become the biggest emitter, while our PM continues to talk-the-talk with little action to show for it. Of course, it would be far worse if the Conservatives were in power,” Akermanis concluded.

Yeah, I thought, reading the passages. This pretty much sums it up. It’s bad. Really bad. But it could be worse. Well, actually, if things stay on course, it will be worse. We all know that.

Canada’s 400-plus wildfires blaze beyond what firefighters can control, beyond human control. That’s freaking scary.

And it's messing with the public health of New Yorkers, so now it’s really on the cultural significance map. The wildfires out West didn’t have quite the cachet to make the top of the New York Times two days in a row. But will more New Yorkers connect the dots between the ugly pollution and the fossil fuel industry?

Finally, perhaps more people will start talking about climate change, worrying about it, fearing it (as we should) and thinking about what to do about it. #CanadaBurns #CanadaFires

My friends in New York City tell me that no one talks much about climate change. Not in their social circles. Too depressing. Well, perhaps now they will, I’m thinking. Finally, perhaps more people will start talking about climate change, worrying about it, fearing it (as we should) and thinking about what to do about it. But will they really link the wildfire smoke they are choking on today with the noxious and greedy plundering of fossil fuel resources tomorrow? Of that, I’m not so sure.

It’s very simple, but not everybody makes the connection. Climate change is directly related to fossil fuel use, those decomposed carbon-based organisms that died millions of years ago. They are non-renewable and supply 80 per cent of the world’s energy needs. So while our government subsidizes and permits our fossil fuel industries to expand, and we buy it, climate change and global heating accelerate. We burn and get burned. We need the government to be stronger, bolder and act faster to wind down our fossil fuel addiction. To represent the people, you and me, not the oil and gas industry.

Maybe I’ve watched too many post-apocalyptic movies since Mad Max (OK, yes, I have), but I think it goes downhill from here if we don’t wise up fast. Our Canadian government should put its Liberal foot down and say no to all new fossil fuel projects. We should begin winding down. ASAP. We should do at least as well as America, if not better.

Meanwhile, you don’t like that grimy, sorry excuse for air you’re breathing, New York City? Want to know who’s to blame?

“Say their names as you huddle indoors. As you cough," tweeted Richard Brooks of Thursday morning: Exxon, Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Cenovus, Suncor, TC Energy, Enbridge, Marathon.

And, there’s one more that should go on the list.


Say that name, too.

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While it is easy to blame big, bad corporations, this masks the human face of the issue. At the same time, it also obscures the systemic nature of the problem.

In Canada, the deep state starts with the Big Banks and Corporate Canada. The oil patch's financial backers — and the chief patrons and main constituency of both main federal parties. And O&G shareholders, who live mostly outside the country.
Political parties led by industry-captured politicians — left, right, and centre.
Industry-captured regulators.
CAPP and other industry lobby groups.
The courts, which uphold the rights of extractionist interests over indigenous communities and protestors.
The RCMP/CSIS, which crack down on indigenous communities and protestors.

The legions of industry cheerleaders, apologists, and drum-beaters in the media, at the National Post, CBC, and even The Observer's star columnist. The renewables bashers over at The Tyee are not helping.
The web of extractionist think tanks: Fraser Institute, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Ethical Oil, Friends of Science, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Int'l Climate Science Coalition, Canada Action, Resource Works, Canada's Energy Citizens, Canada Proud, Oil Sands Strong, Canada Powered By Women, etc.

Academe engaged in fossil fuel R&D.
Industry-funded scientists doing bad science to create confusion and obstruct action.
Academics who line up to endorse the "climate-sincere" Liberals and their plans to fail on climate before every election — but remain curiously silent while we choke on wildfire smoke.
Climate denial outfits (e.g., Friends of Science).

Corporate pseudo-environmentalists/lobbyists, industry collaborators, and big ENGOs that sideline grassroots activists, support pipelines, carbon capture — and make bad deals on our behalf with industry.
"Meet the green group that the oilpatch can work with" (Financial Post)
Groups and thinktanks that push false climate solutions like carbon capture and EVs.
With climate leaders like these, we don't need obstructionists.

First Nations promoting or at least on board with fossil fuel development (either willingly or after being bulldozed by govt and industry — for decades).
And, finally, it must be said, the millions of climate activists and concerned citizens who fail to connect the dots between their frequent-flier jaunts around the world and the smokestacks and toxic tailings ponds in northeastern Alberta's "sacrifice zone".

As is becoming painfully obvious, we all live in the sacrifice zone.
It's like living in an ashtray this past month.
We all have some soul-searching to do.

Focussing on O&G companies and CEOs leaves the large army of political leaders, media pundits, and environmental collaborators off the hook.
The O&G industry would be powerless without its large cast of enablers. The suits and ties. And all of us.
Welcome to the deep state.

So how long have you got? How about naming CAPITALISM as the over-arching culprit?!!

Thank you, Linda Solomon Wood, for this essential piece. Thank you.

“It’s very simple, but not everybody makes the connection.” How true..the majority of people appear to have no problem rationalizing maintenance of the status quo…even recreational fuel use (air travel, RV travel, ATV’s etc), which should be the “ low hanging fruit “ for reduction of CO2 emissions is not even mentioned.

And one more: "Canada. Say that name, too."
Except remove all those other names from the scene in Canada, and Canada, too, is off the list.