Four weeks after a wildfire began in the Canadian province of Alberta, thousands of structures in Fort McMurray have been destroyed, over 100,000 people have been evacuated, and 2200 square miles have gone up in smoke. The fire has also shut down commercial extraction of tar sands, a source of fossil fuel and the reason for Fort McMurray’s prosperity. Greg Laden points out the perverse cause and effect of it all: tar sands contribute to global warming, global warming contributes to weather variation and drought, drought makes regions extra-vulnerable to wildfire, and wildfire shuts down tar sands extraction. While it’s tempting to think residents of Fort McMurray are ‘getting what they deserve’ for their involvement with fossil fuels, Greg Laden writes “the people of Fort McMurray did not decide to cause climate change.” As John DuPuis says on Confessions of a Science Librarian, “The issues around fossil fuel development that have gotten us into the trouble we’re in are systemic and historic, not in any way directly the fault of the actual people who are caught in this situation.” Thus, the short-term need for disaster relief is independent of the long-term need to stop using fossil fuels.
See also: Ft McMurray Fire and Climate Change: Michael Mann Comments