Decade or two away from saying enough is enough

Last week the majority of Alberta schools cancelled two days of outdoor recesses and physical education classes because of poor air quality.

Early, intense forest fires in Northern Alberta were out-of-control with ash and smoke blanketing most of the province, B.C. and the Northwest Territories.

After coming off a cold February where virtually every school recess was spent indoors, it was discouraging that we are now experiencing indoor days during our short season of warmth.

Last year Alberta languished for two weeks in smoke from B.C. forest fires.

The federal agriculture department reported earlier this week that the growth and maturity of crops in B.C. were stunted because the smoke blocked out too much sunlight for them to grow properly.

We should not think that this won’t also affect our crops.

It really matters little whether we believe that the world is warming through natural cycles, an act of God or man’s activities.

What matters is we see daily the signs of more frequent and severe weather events all around the globe.

Our climate is dramatically changing.

The good news is scientists, researchers, engineers and innovative companies have developed solutions that will slow down and even reverse the warming trend over time.

We are on the same continuum that we once were with smoking.

Most, but not all people today believe that smoking raises your chance of getting lung cancer.

A smoker may still truly believe smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, but it would be highly improbable that if diagnosed with cancer, that smoker would not access every available treatment and drug.

In reality what caused lung cancer becomes irrelevant when the diagnosis is delivered.

It’s the decades of discoveries and advances by the scientific and medical communities that become critical to that patient.

Let us never forget how the tobacco companies propagandized the virtues of smoking for decades, with wholehearted support from health departments, medical professionals and politicians.

The tobacco industry was powerful and it took a long time and many class action lawsuits before those being lobbied, politicians and regulatory agencies were forced to change their minds.

When Alberta’s blue skies end up with more and more smoke-filled days, tourism will suffer and businesses will hurt.

Locals and tourists won’t be wasting their money camping if the children are unable to play outside or visit the Rockies if you can’t see the mountain peaks.

Inhaled forest fire smoke, like cigarettes, is unhealthy and dangerous for our health and deadly for those with breathing difficulties. Medical costs will go up and life expectancy will go down.

Every time another community is evacuated, it costs the provincial budget millions of taxpayer dollars and disrupts the lives of thousands of families and businesses.

Three years later, Fort McMurray is far from being back to pre-fire days. Crops need rain and sunshine, and with smoke blocking the sun, agriculture yields will suffer along with the survival of rural communities.

Today, politicians and energy regulators are aggressively lobbied by the fossil fuel industry and Alberta voters still enjoy the cash generated by that industry, as did the Ontario government and tobacco workers in their day.

We’re probably a decade or two away from the majority of Albertans saying enough is enough–our earth’s lungs need a doctor.

An indoor recess in May on the hottest day of spring because of smoke from four out-of-control wildfires was enough for me.

Any day lost to smoke during our short four months of greenery is just one day too many.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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