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Fort McMurray and the Fires of Climate Change


Fort McMurray and the Fires of Climate Change

Elizabeth Kolbert

he town of Fort McMurray, some four hundred miles north of Calgary, in Canada, grew up very quickly on both sides of the Athabasca River. During the nineteen-seventies, the population of the town tripled, and since then it has nearly tripled again. All this growth has been fuelled by a single activity: extracting oil from a Florida-sized formation known as the tar sands. When the price of oil was high, there was so much currency coursing through Fort McMurray’s check-cashing joints that the town was dubbed “Fort McMoney.”


Not a peep about the Chippewa people being subjected to the degradation of their traditional lands, the health impacts, the abrogation of treaty rights so this insane hubris with its knuckle dragging destruction plows on.

And the above link is PRIOR to this travesty.


If the logistics of life were truly reflective of a level playing field, I would object far less to the "we" frame. However, the fact is that most people adopt to the world they're born into. And so long as entities like Big Oil control politicians, and use fake science to thwart efforts at roping in their product (and lying about its impact on the balance of the natural world and its long established climate rhythms), the frame that spreads blame over the great ocean of WE is disingenuous.

"We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility and then we need to do something about it. The fire next time is one that we’ve been warned about, and that we’ve all had a hand in starting."

Would this WE all consume oil if alternatives were available? Would this WE have major components that didn't "believe" in global warming due to the preponderance of false messengers who act as mass media's gatekeepers?

The people in THAT town profited from the Tar Sands. THAT is why they were there.

Mother Nature has to react to what's being done to Her.

Since the Energy moguls have NOT cut back enough having witnessed the coal slurry come down the mountain in Tennessee, or reacted enough to the coal trains that caught fire and polluted whole towns, or the fracking disaster that let loose tons of methane not far form L.A., or the tremendous wound to the Gulf of Mexico via the Maconda deep sea oil drilling operation, or the ruin of the Niger Delta, or the continuous stream of radiation pouring into the atmosphere from the poorly-designed nuclear plants at Fukushima (ten of which--of that same design--sit inside the U.S.)....

Mother Nature is upping the ante.

It is true that people use energy; but what's less true is that people have the ultimate SAY in the type of energy they can access.

Oil companies were a huge player in inciting wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.

Oil companies have had major honchos (like Dick Cheney of Halliburton) in powerful government (decision-making!) offices.

As the Page and Gilens Study reveals, the opinions and positions of everyday citizens do NOT factor into government decisions or policies.

So enough with this crap!

We all are not rapists.
We all are not serial killers.
We all are not soldiers.
We all do not consciously work to destroy the natural world.

There are MAJOR shades of gray in the calculus. However, those at the top who make decisions are the ones who belong in the Hot Seat. And those who profit from direct destruction of the Earth Mother are next in line.


"To realize that our knowledge is ignorance,
This is a noble insight.
To regard our ignorance as knowledge,
This is mental sickness.

Only when we are sick of our sickness
Shall we cease to be sick.
The Sage is not sick, being sick of sickness;
This is the secret of health."
---Lao Tzu


As Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist who is a Green Party member of British Columbia’s provincial legislature, noted, “The reality is we are all consumers of products that come from oil.”

But to fail to acknowledge the connection is to risk another kind of offense. We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility and then we need to do something about it. The fire next time is one that we’ve been warned about, and that we’ve all had a hand in starting.

More importantly, to me, we need to own up to our own power, to reject continued use of fossil fuels, and build that into our resistance.


Or wait for the big helpful corporations and governments to save us.


So Kolbert suggests it is not just the evil fossil fuels companies who are to blame for climate change but all of us who use fossil fuels. I think there is a third way of looking at it which is to blame the Industrial Revolution. That way we can stop the blame game and just get to work dealing with this awful problem. Basically there was no way for this situation to occur without the Industrial Revolution and despite decades of research it has been difficult to find good alternatives to fossil fuels. Only now is the research starting to finally pay off. So forget the blaming and help your local community go solar, wind, EV, energy efficiency, etc.


Hey, Lrx, if you're reverting to your RobertL shtick, shouldn't you revert to your RobertL identity? You're not getting confused are you?


Way back in the 1970sI recall going through the highway uo from Banff to Jasper. This is where the Athabasca Galcier is that feeds that same river that flows through Ft McMurray. It was considerably closer to the Highway back then as compared to today.

The flow of that river is going to drop more and more and yet they build ever more plants along its banks to use the water for their processes. It a strange sort of disconnect , that being the very thing they use that water for will help ensure none flows in the future.


WE choose to drive cars and to use air-conditioning and aerplanes and WE choose not to try to change those activities through hard and difficult and persistent and time-consuming and frustrating political action.

But I am glad that you accept that this white Anglo male is neither a rapist nor a soldier-boy.


"To raise environmental concerns in the midst of human tragedy is to risk the charge of insensitivity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alluded to this danger at a recent news conference: “Any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster, I think there’s a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome."
Wow... who the heck is blaming these people... I don't think anyone is doing that.... but to not to discuss Climate Change and this fire in the same sentence, because it may be insensitive?... That's ridiculous... it IS THE CAUSE.... IT IS THE CAUSE OF THE PAIN THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH...> I HATE WHEN PEOPLE SAY IT IS "TALKING POLITICS IN THE FACE OF HUMAN TRAJEDY...." THAT'S BUNK ....
First of all, we are all suffering and WILL suffer more... We are all in this together... although, TPTB... ARE THE ONLY OUTSIDERS... AND ARE ACTUALLY MORE CULPABLE... most have known about this long before we did or were too stupid and too greedy to understand it.... POLITICAL/??? NO ... IT'S SCIENCE STUPID...


YES, thank you for putting that out there for us.... the whole situation, is going to be ONGOING... FOR A VERY LONG TIME... and the destruction... will be beyond what we are prepared for...


You are right, to an extent... but, by getting "off fossil fuels" ... we are going to go to what?... Renewables, are fossil fuesl intensives... so, what we really need to do is be prepared to GO WITHOUT... There is no way we can continue the kind of lifestyles we have now..... that is the case, if we go with Renewables... or if we just decided to go back to no electricity and practice a simple life.... like the one that our ancestors were successful at for thousands of years... but yet we couldn't make it through the last three hundred without killing ourselves and our planet... it's really not that complicated.... our lifestyles are just like that of spoiled rich kids.... many of us in the western developed countries...
Its true, that if decades ago.... oil and coal energy were used to make renewables... and were lived lives based on values of love appreciation of relationships and nature.... not money and power... in that perfect life... we may have been able to use a small amount of fossil fuels... while practicing subsistence agriculture... I think most here will get what I have been saying... we are too late to switch now... AND ... we really are not switching... we talk a big game... but, really... the scaling up is way to long a time frame to save us... and the HABITAT LOSS FROM BUILDING RENEWALBE INFRASTRUCTURE.... WELL, IT'S ALL LAUGHABLE.... AND CRYABLE... we are already in the SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION... YET WE THINK WE CAN STILL GO TO PROFESSIONAL SPORTS GAMES AND BUILD MASS NUMBERS OF ELECTRIC CARS... PLEASE...


Precisely so. Not an easy road, a hard road, no promises, but so? What else are we to do?

Each of us must practice three things to care for the Earth and its people, to care for for the ecology we inhabit and are part of:

  • Take only what you need, being honest with yourself about what "need" means;
  • Work with your hands upon the living land around you, and grow food for all among a riotous diverse complex resilient ecology;
  • Use only the barest minimum external energy to meet your human needs - not using all available energy for every trivial purpose, as encouraged by fossil-fueled industrialism.

Start where you are. If you drive now to survive - whatever energy-fueled industrial processes you cannot immediately drop - plan how to stop or transition. But drop what you can. We risk our lives, for our lives.


I agree. I did "drop" what I could already. Got rid of a job that demanded 600 miles a week or more... Now, I drive 12 miles one way. I sell second hand furniture... at least it clips demand for new furniture.... I am working on cutting down the 44 hours a week, so I can do my own business, which is mostly writing....
I also have been growing a huge garden every year since 2004. Now, however, I need to learn more about growing in a more permaculture method... been reading, but, it's hard since my husband doesn't get it....
We live simply, but, need to do much more... we do not have a dryer, we heat with a wood stove, but have a two electric heaters for back up... on is really small for my daughters room.....
I do not spend money on new anything really,( 'cept underwear....) We rarely go out, really not... .my 16 yr old gets mad because we do not live like a lot of her friends... we do have cell phones... we do have Tv... I
I am trying to build up my library... with books that will teach people ... books that people can read in the future.... well, the next couple of decades.... and understand what happened... to our beautiful world....
I have a long way to go yet... AND ... thing is, I think that the future could be so dire, that I may not even be able to stay here, in my home... something may happen, so that I end up like a hunter gather.... that is a possibility for ALL OF US.... there are nuclear plants here in NY...... and one weird thing... is that we are now getting small tornadoes in our area.... on a more frequent basis.... this could become more severe... with Abrupt Climate Change... so, who knows.... it may be difficult for people to actually stay in one area... it may be that we have to travel to find what is necessary for survival.... I am 58 years.. old... my old age could very well be... very difficult... but, I will say ... all my life.... ( I am very serious about this... ) I thought that I needed to stay physically capable ... physically strong with good endurance.. .so, I was a runner.. ( not marathon material)....... I thought something was going to happen in the world... so that I would need to be able to survive.... in a catastrophic world... no kidding... I really thought this way since my teen years... I once had a dream... I was about in my early twenties.... I could see landscape, far and wide, but it was decimated... like a bomb had gone off or something... the sky was weird and dark.... there was a line of people walking...... then, I was in the back of the line... helping the old and sick... so the wolves wouldn't get them...... I was strong enough to help....


Thanx God, the lack of Social-Emotional-Intelligence is getting humanity closer to war than to a common effort to survive future environmental conditions. (http://wp.me/P2Oube-hA)

SocialEmotionalIntelligence a Definition:

Since nothing & nobody exists on its own and everything is a collective & common achievement, the Social Emotional Intelligence is the only Intelligence there is ! - The only Intelligence able to support the collective effort nessesary to survive the environmental conditions or climate of the future.
Social Emotional Intelligence (SEI) is our capacity to recognize our own, and other people's emotions, to differentiate & communicate these feelings and to put them into a constructive & responsable relationship to our natural & social environment.
SEI is our ability to join empathy & emotions with rational observations & abstract thinking to enhance thoughts & understanding of interpersonal dynamics & collective consciousness.
Humanity seems to have lost its common sense, this SEI; consequently, any effort to change, reform, renew or heal has to start right here & now with our Social-Emotional-Intelligence.


The fossil fuel industry receives a lot of criticism these days, and rightfully so. But in the final analysis, we are the ones who support the energy industry and it is our standard of living that will need to change. So contemplate what you can do for the cause

Personal Actions
End our love affair with the automobile
Ride more trains and buses
Car pool
Walk and bike more
Turn off the air conditioner in the summer and dial the thermostat down in winter
Become vegetarians or vegans
Refill plastic bottles with tap water
Discontinue using aluminum cans with and without carbonation
Maximize use of reusable bags and products
Recycle junk mail
Forego fast junk food
Go to “slow food”;
Recycle maximally, especially aluminum cans
Drive and accelerate more slowly
Climb more stairs
Plant more trees
Forego use of spray cans
Ride more trains and buses
Repair, mend and alter as much as possible
Buy solar panels
Compost as much as possible
Last person out of the room turn off the lights
Eat and farm organic
Ride more trains and buses
Fly fewer planes
Promote conference calls and web cams, fewer meetings
Use manual tools instead of power tools
Share more
Use rakes rather than leaf blowers
Decrease use of bottled water and refill plastic bottles with tap water
Maximize reusable bags and products
Push rather than power small mowers
Replace lawns with vegetable gardens
Stop fertilizing and mowing lawns
Compost as much as possible
Minimize use of disposables (Pampers, Ikea furniture);
Maximize high efficiency LED and solar powered lighting;
Limit endless gadgets
Use motion lighting, where appropriate

Local Government Actions
Reorganize cities, building taller residences with a smaller footprint (the end of suburbia)
Institute a carbon tax
Promote car pooling subsidize and expand mass transit
Expand bike paths
Have shareable (zip) cars
Ban electric outdoor signs;
Eat and farm organic
Promote conference calls and web cams, fewer meetings
Eliminate approximately 50% of all street lighting and office lighting in unoccupied buildings
eliminate “fast junk food”; go to “slow food

Federal Government Actions
Ban gasohol
Rein in the militaries for defense only and outlaw war
Discontinue night baseball
Shift from long distance truck to rail transport
Make electronics, house wares, furniture, etc to be as durable and long-lived as possible
Recycle maximally
Make appliances to be as energy efficient as possible
Discontinue aluminum cans
Ban electric outdoor signs
Maximize solar and wind power;
Change from petroleum based fertilizers to regenerative agriculture
Reverse deforestation, plant more trees
Restrict spray cans
Promote conference calls and web cams, fewer meetings
Promote zero population growth with free condoms and family planning world-wide
End yearly auto model changes;
Promote subsidies for renewable energy
Diminish junk mail