The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Reminder: Prepare for the Forest Fire/Smoke Season

These temperatures from the West coast of Canada last weekend were absolutely insane.

I grew up in Western BC, Vancouver, and Victoria, in the ’70s and ’80s. These temperatures are crazy. Victoria, in particular (bottom right) is (or was) noted for mild temperatures. Hardly anyone has air conditioners. My parents retired there, and I visited regularly right up to about 2010. It was retirement paradise.

Anyway, if you live in the west of Canada or the US (and the West now extends far past the coast, almost to the mid line, in many cases), please be sure to buy a respirator mask (with extra filters) and an indoor air purifier, and do it NOW. The fire season is likely to hit early and hard this year, and after the rush you won’t be able to find any anywhere.

Make other preparations, including getting ready to leave, as necessary. If you are asthmatic, see about stocking up on meds, and so on. Don’t leave this, please. I know I’ve written this before, recently, and it’s a bit boring to write it again, but I want to be sure people hear this.

As for the West, I am in mourning. I love the coast; the rain forests dripping with water, the ferns looking like jewels in the dew, the deep, dark forests where decaying leaves soften each step and old trees shelter you as you walk. Much of that is going to go away. Future generations along most of the West coast will never know the beauty and ease of the temperate rain forest.

For this and many other crimes, those who chose to do nothing about climate change are guilty. We are losing so much, and will lose so much more, that should never have been placed at risk.

Some of what will go is no loss, mostly human things. But the animals and plants did nothing to deserve this, and my sorrow is even more for them than the humans who will suffer.

Only fools ask for what they deserve, but ask or not, we are going to get it. It’s just a pity that so many of the most responsible won the death bet, and so many of those who will suffer did nothing to warrant it.

Meanwhile… get prepared for fire season, so your suffering is reduced and less is added to the toll, at least these years.

Update: Barely ahead of it, wildfires have started in BC. Get the gear you need tomorrow, Wednesday. Don’t wait.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 27, 2021


Talking ‘Bout Cancel Culture


  1. Astrid

    As bad as it is, the people and wildlife are lucky to have a relatively wet winter in most of the affected areas and have the heat earlier in the year, when the ground and vegetation is wetter. If this happened in August with large nearby fires burning, it would have been apocolytical.

    Ian, you’re lucky to have grown up in the region. Of all the cities I’ve been to, Victoria is my favorite and Vancouver island is amongst the loveliest places on Earth. I hope I will have at least one or two more chances to make it back there and explore.

  2. Ian Welsh

    Victoria is arguably the prettiest city in Canada. Quebec City is often suggested as well, but they’re very different types of places.

    Vancouver used to be really nice as well. In some ways it still is, but there’s been a real plague of boring glass high rises (mostly badly built.)

  3. Willy

    Half my wife’s family lives there. When we’d visit back in the 80’s, I was a bit offput by the attitudes they seemed to have towards us dumb cowboy Americans. I certainly get it now.

    Back in the 80’s, I never imagined that the primary challenge for PNW gardeners going forward would be to replace their oceanic moisture-loving plant gardens with far more heat and drought tolerant Mediterranean style gardens, as quickly as their grubby little gardening tools can dig them up after they die.

    Now what to do about all their great many evergreen forests? If future heat wave temperatures are going to regularly top century long records by ten degrees or more, in late summer, this seems a bit more challenging. The firestorms of San Diego might seem like backyard bonfires by comparison.

    Maybe we can be reassured by the usual know-it-all suspects who’ll recommend we keep our leaves raked up. Perhaps spray the plants with hydroxychloroquine, or replace gardening with hobbies like helping Jim Hoft fight Critical Race Theory.

    I have relatives living in both Australia and Siberia. I’ll be sure to remind them to do this.

  4. Chicago Clubs

    I visited Vancouver maybe three years ago and considered it rather hellish. The landscape surrounding the city was nice, of course, but the place itself was the kind of austere density (too many cars, big buildings with blank walls and empty alleys, just nothing human scale at all) that I loathe in the biggest American cities.

  5. Ian Welsh

    Yes, Vancouver used to be a 1st class regional city. Now it’s a third rate world city. I liked it better in the old days.

  6. Plague Species

    If I lived in any of these places, in preparation I would make sure I had plenty of marshmallows. Some graham crackers and chocolate too.

  7. Plague Species

    The topography of that area is mystical. Imagine it pre-human or pre-european. Tolkien in its mystical grandeur. Then came the blight of civilization.

  8. Astrid


    Ha! There are far too many cities that fit that description, as the old is tore out for the gleaming generic new. Even if they old was shabby, the new feels unmoored. Kind of like when older actresses get plastic surgery. No matter how well done and how “stunning” afterwards, they lost character and their past in the process.

    I remember thinking that Vancouver has lovely parks but the city part is like Toronto with better weather and many more homeless people. I remember houses behind tall hedges in Richmond. I wonder how much of this will be left after the next Cascadia Fault full rip.

    Montreal strikes me as the most physically attractive large Canadian city.

  9. anon

    If I could have chosen anywhere in the USA to be born and raised, it would be the West Coast – Oregon and Washington state. I love hiking and the outdoors. I am from the upper Midwest where winters were brutal growing up. Now I think the upper Midwest will be the place to be in the next several decades because the winters these days have been mild compared to my childhood. I was thinking about applying for a job in Oregon but considering climate change, forest fires, and higher cost of living there, I might be better off staying put in my hometown.

  10. js

    I visited Vancouver like 10-15 years ago maybe. But yes had too much of a big city vibe, that’s where I live not where I vacation. So quickly snuck (haha) back over the border to Seattle whose vibe I loved, loved, loved like crazy.

    I had N95s early on in covid because I had a few for fires (not many and a few were lost in an unopened first aid box, so I made one last way too long, but being that they were unavailable it’s what I had). Now I have a huge box of N95s that I acquired during covid.

    Yes in morning, it’s part of the reason I put less stock in my survival than many, too much loss to almost even want to go on in a world you no longer recognize anyway. Pretty much all is lost, it is for those of us who prioritize the natural world, who even knows what the rest prioritize. Still I used those N95s.

  11. Willy

    I’ve raced down mountains on my bike after watching hang gliders launch. I’ve watched sunsets from the cliff of the westernmost island in the lower 48 after rafting past tidal pools and above harbor seals curious about my dog who was swimming alongside. I’ve slid down mountains in the snow after hiking up on a whim. I’ve failed badly at fly fishing, but didn’t care because watching our guide and college buddy expertly cast, pause, pull, and let float downstream in the current, over and over again was mesmerizing, and the scenery gorgeous. Then I remember him quoting a lyric from a then-popular Eagles song: “You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.” Prophetic for sure.

    It was 110 degrees yesterday, “a once in a thousand years event”. But then that’s what they told us the last time, ten years ago.

  12. Plague Species

    Yes, it’s related. Directly. COVID SCHMOVID. Not to worry. Progress. Always progress.

    China’s long-awaited Chengdu Tianfu International Airport has officially begun operations, offering travelers a new gateway to the home of giant pandas.

    Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is now the third city in the country to have two international airports, joining Shanghai and Beijing.

    Constructed at a cost of about 70 billion Chinese yuan ($10.8 billion), phase one of the massive aviation hub has the capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers per year, further opening up the country’s southwest region.

    Three runways and two terminals, covering a total area of 710,000 square meters, are in operation. State media outlet Xinhua reported the airport will eventually house terminals covering 1.4 million square meters, capable of handling 120 million passengers annually.

  13. Plague Species

    Obviously, this also is directly related. COVID SCHMOVID says progress and growth. The pandemic related pause in air traffic was nice while it lasted.

    United Airlines unveiled Tuesday its largest-ever aircraft order: 270 narrow-body jetliners from Boeing and Airbus as the carrier charts its post-pandemic growth.

    The fleet plan is central to United’s goal of capturing more travelers, particularly high-paying ones in major coastal hubs like San Francisco and Newark, New Jersey. The Max 10 and A321neo planes are the largest models in their families and United will use them to grow in those markets, which have capacity constraints, said Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer.

    It also plans to expand in hubs like Denver and Chicago and have annual systemwide growth of about 4% to 6% in the next few years, Nocella said.

  14. Jan Wiklund

    So it’s there the hot weather is! Here in the French Mediterranean it’s only 20°C, kind of North Sweden for this time of the year.

  15. Willy

    Just wait a while. Vérargues saw 115 a couple years ago, with typical summers not too different from Portland.

  16. rangoon78

    On Monday, according to government weather agency Environment Canada, Lytton saw temperatures soar to just above 118 degrees on Monday. …that is one degree higher than the record in Las Vegas, the desert city more than a thousand miles south of Lytton.

  17. different clue

    @ jan wyklund,

    This lends credence to the “wandering jet stream” observation. As the high-latitudes have warmed up faster than the non-high latitudes, the jet streams have been seen to weaken some and to wander north and south more as against blowing straight west-to-east as before. Wherever a jet stream goes south, cold northern air goes south behind it. Wherever a jet stream wanders north, warmer air goes north behind it.

    Some warmologists think the greater pole heat-buildup relative to non-pole heat buildup may even be driving the weakening wandering jet stream.

    Anyway, if its this hot in Pacifica, is it “colder than normal” somewhere else right now? I believe you mentioned a part of France. A Somali co-worker recently told me that in the past few years, Somalia has had the kind of cold that Somalis have not seen before and are not used to.

  18. different clue

    Here’s an interesting article from NaCap, about atmospheric water-management studies by China. I have only had a chance to skim it, not read it deeply enough to imagine what implications might be.

    Regardless, it seems interesting. Especially if the ChinaGov can figure out how to increase precipitation over China by diverting precipitation away from North America. Here is the link.

  19. Ché Pasa

    It’s been distinctly chilly and rainy here for the last couple of days. High temps in the 50s and 60s. Not at all usual, but the heat dome in the PNW and Canada is keeping those on the other side of it cooler and wetter than we’d otherwise be.

    We welcome the rain, and the cooler temps are distinctly more comfortable than the near 100 degree highs we faced most of the previous week.

    But it’s almost like the world’s turned upside down. Again.

    Friends in Seattle are… coping. No A/C, but fans help. “It’s a sort of dry heat!”


  20. different clue

    @Che Pasa’,

    One wonders if a wandering jet stream has wandered south of New Mexico, letting northern air mass come south after it, to ” balance out” a jet stream wandering way northward over Pacifica.

    I haven’t looked at a weather map so I don’t know. But I do just wonder.

  21. Plague Species

    There’s this about the wandering jet stream theory and arctic warming.

    For about two decades, the jet stream — a powerful band of westerly winds across the mid-latitudes — was observed to have a “wavier” flow, which coincided with greater Arctic warming through climate change.

    These waves have caused extreme weather conditions to strike mainland Europe and the US, bringing intense cold air that leads to extreme cold weather.

    In this new study, Dr Blackport and Professor Screen studied not only climate model simulations but also the observed conditions going back 40 years.

    They found that the previously reported trend toward a wavier circulation during autumn and winter has reversed in recent years, despite continued Arctic amplification.

    This reversal has resulted in no long-term trends in waviness, in agreement with climate model simulations, which also suggest little change in “waviness” in response to strong Arctic warming.

  22. Jan Wiklund

    To those who commented about my comment:

    Yes, last summer was terribly hot here in the French mediterranean. So I wondered where the heat had gone.

    And yes, global heating doesn’t heat everywhere. But it loads the atmosphere with a lot of energy that can take just about any form – storms, thunder, heavy rainfall, whatever. Someone said that dry climates would get dryer and that wet climates would get wetter. But we really don’t know how just our own spot in the world will get affected.

  23. different clue

    Here is an article claiming that Old Growth Forests keep the temperature within and right around themselves cooler than the low-forested or deforested land in their general area.

    If this is true, then how big does an area of Old Growth Forest have to be to be able to dampen a heatwave’s super-heatup within and right around itself? If this is found to be consistently true for Old Growth Forests at or over a threshhold size, can that fact be used as a tire iron to beat the system into preserving unlogged the remaining Old Growth Forests?

    That is longer range thinking which won’t help anyone caught in the HeatWave/FireWave death zone now or soon. But it might allow us to keep the terracide and ecocide in these regions partial rather than total.

  24. different clue

    I was just watching the Weather Channel’s little weather news items. Weather Newsman Ari Sarsalari stated in one little news-bit that a town ” in Southwest Canada” posted a temperature of 121 degrees.

    In addition to fire and smoke survival, people should think about surviving several-day stretches of amazing heats and temperatures like that. Such survival will probably work out better and be more likely if most or all the people in an area all do similar things to avoid overloading the power grid to blackout or meltdown. What if, for example, all the detached-dwelling people within a gridzone decided not to try cooling their whole houses? What if every homedwelling person and family agreed to designate one single room as the ” survival cool-room” and super-insulated that room and designed and installed an air-conditioning system for just that one room? And decided to keep that room just cool enough for safe survival, not cool enough for comfort? Perhaps if everyone within a gridzone did that, everyone could keep their survival coolrooms just cool enough for safe survival and the grid would stay up and stay lit and everyone would stay surviving within their survival cool-rooms.

    Because if everyone tries to keep all their whole houses at 72 degrees inside when it is 120 degrees outside, then everyone together will crash and black-out their collective gridzone and everyone will end up living inside 120 degree houses. Or dying inside them.

  25. Che Pasa

    Well I guess Lytton BC burned down right after recording a high temp of 121Fahrenheit on Tuesday or Wednesday. Fire is raging all over the PNW and parts of California.

    There may be a morning after, but it’s not certain to be better.

  26. Soredemos

    I see that over in the permafrost topic a couple people were spewing denialist nonsense. At this point I treat climate change denialists like evolution denialists. It’s basically in the same vein. In the same way that evolution has been repeatedly observed in reality, and is literally an applied science (biology makes zero sense outside the context of evolution, and people use evolutionary concepts and principles as part of their day jobs in fields like vaccine development), the climate catastrophe is literally happening outside right now. And not just one isolated data point (like a specific abnormally hot summer), but many of them, year after year after year. It’s actually happening, right now. The positive feedback loops have already started.

    It’s not up for debate in the same way that plate tectonics isn’t up for debate. At a certain point the body of evidence becomes too robust for dissent against “this is a thing that’s real” to be credible. Dissent on the specifics of various technical points, yes, but not on the thing as a whole.

    metamars in particular was attempting to equate climate change science with the obvious bias and political machinations going in regards to covid-19 in the medical profession. He seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that there the dynamic to clearly to pretend the danger is over, because now Biden is president and the rich want the economy back to normal.

    The dynamic with climate change is the exact opposite: actually doing anything meaningful would be massively disruptive. I guess metamars lives in a world where a whole lot of substantive activity is going on to confront the (in his mind fictitious) threat of climate change. I really wish I lived in his world, to be honest.

    In fact status quo capitalism dearly wishes climate change weren’t real. Because to actually tackle it would require a bottom-to-top restructuring of basically everything about industrial civilization. It’s pretty wild to posit that between an established petrochemical industrial complex that has existed for over a century and is made up of mammoth firms worth trillions, that are connected to all the pillars (energy generation, plastics production, industrial agriculture) that modern society depends on, and that has every incentive to want things to continue as they are, and a bunch of nerd dweebs (sorry, but I’m making a point) slaving away in their labs or out in the field gathering measurements, funded by their modest research grants, the conspiracy of lying villains…is the dweebs. I mean, really?

    Also, I know it’s fashionable now to be enthusiastic about a Green New Deal, but in reality proposals like that are woefully inadequate. They basically rest on the profoundly naive premise that we can more or less keep society as it is now, but just do it ‘better’ (buy electric cars, plant more trees, more bike paths, etc etc, and we’ll all get Green jobs in the process). No serious discussion of completely transforming how our civilization operates, probably with a massive decline in the standards of living in the process.

    I think we’re not just heading for a cliff, but well over the edge, and yet we’re still having frankly pathetic discussions about lukewarm band-aid measures that don’t even begin to address the scale of the problem.

    I’ll add that I seriously doubt anyone here is any kind of paid shill, because (apologies to our host), I seriously doubt the comments section of this blog is significant enough to warrant paying someone to spread hasbara in. I think they’re just earnest useful idiots.

  27. “At this point I treat climate change denialists like evolution denialists”

    This speaks volumes about the success of the propaganda system you’ve been brainwashed by. There is zero scientific doubt that speciation occurs over the millenia. There is also zero scientific doubt that climate changes.

    If you can’t – or won’t – distinguish between climate change and the the more specific allegation that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are determining most of it, nowadays; and leading towards disaster; then it makes about as much sense for me to waste my time with you on this score as it would to try and explain to you that the fact of evolution is distinct from the theory of evolution by natural selection.

    I refer you to a sub-reddit of my mine that gives a decent, if very modest overview of dysfunction in science and medicine, in the unlikely event that you are capable, or even interested, in developing a more nuanced view of what is really in doubt, viz., /bad_science_culture/

    “He seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that there the dynamic to clearly to pretend the danger is over, because now Biden is president and the rich want the economy back to normal”

    You seem pretty clueless about this, also. Here’s a clue for you: ivermectin. Find out about how it was embraced by the Indian federal government, ever so briefly, before being sidelined, after about 4 weeks. Based on my sampling of their mainstream media, they are also fully complicit in suppressing ivermectin.

    This happened AFTER Trump left office.

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