My son Luke tapped me on my shoulder saying “the sunrise is happening soon, if you want to see it.” I had just weathered the night atop Golden Ears getting a less than ideal sleep — sleeping in the open air on mountaintops is not part of my normal routine.
I slowly opened my eyes and fortunately my sleeping bag was well positioned for me to see the dawn unfolding. So I was content to lie there for a while and soak it in slowly.
Once I got up, someone said, “have you seen where your son is?” When I saw Luke perched on a point much higher up, I knew I had to join him, so I climbed up slowly on leaden legs still in pain after our ascent the previous day.
It wasn’t until almost reaching Luke that the fireball of the sun actually appeared. We were a little perplexed by what we saw, especially later when we made the final ascent to the peak of Golden Ears and saw odd misty waves in the atmosphere and our hometown Walnut Grove somewhat obscured in haze.
When we got “back to civilization” we learned that the haze was caused by forest fire smoke hailing from Washington State.
It seems to me that this haze of unknowing is very common to our experience. We often think we have an ideal place with which to view the world’s problems, perhaps even an exulted mountain-top position. But it is so easy to be fooled.
So it is with so many environmental problems. The increased severity of fires in our region this year, coupled with very unusual hot, dry weather is exactly what is expected as one of the outcomes of climate change.
Of course, it is not a simple matter of saying “it’s warm so we’re in trouble.” Climate must be evaluated over many years and locations by scientists who understand the workings of our atmosphere. Yet at least I would say the summer we’ve experienced in BC is a good wake-up call.
We still have the option of going back to sleep. Many quickly dismiss the warnings of climate scientists and try to live as though our meddling with the carbon cycle is of no consequence.
Others of us are slowly waking up, rubbing our eyes, and scanning the horizon. When we see the sunrise obscured by smoke, do we then consider our carbon footprint, or how to develop collaborative solutions that could collectively reduce Canada’s carbon heavy boot mark?
The choice is before us.
David Clements is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University.