IS THE END of summer on the horizon, or the end of days?
It feels more like the latter. We’ve come to commonly apply the term “Apocalypse” to wildfire season. A sense of doom hangs in the air like thick smoke.
They blame climate change, worldwide nationalism, and Donald Trump.
As a comparison, when I was a kid in school back in the early ‘60s, we had 12 minutes left. Then came the nuclear-war scare, when we started doing drills in class that included hiding under our desks, and the margin was cut to seven minutes.
When you think about Trump having control of the nuclear-launch codes, two and a half minutes is probably optimistic. Nikita Khrushchev might have been a safer bet.
I’ve long espoused the view that we are all inevitably doomed. It’s only a matter of time before we run out of oil (at which point we have about a month before everything comes to a halt and we start dying), or we totally mess up the environment. Or our population grows too big to feed itself.
Even if we solve the energy problem, somehow stop wrecking the planet, and get a lot better at birth control, the next ice age will put us into permanent hibernation or a giant meteor will kill us all. If that doesn’t do it, the Sun will run out of juice.
After that, the Earth will become a dead planet and nobody will know any of us was ever here. Sorry, optimists, there’s no way to avoid it.
Now to the wildfires. In 2014, there was an “Apocalyptic” fire near Yellowknife. In 2015, there were “Apocalyptic” wildfires in Siberia. During last year’s Fort McMurray fire, fleeing residents described “driving through the Apocalypse.”
The experts say we better get used to extreme wildfires. Our weather is changing. Wet seasons are followed by windy, dry seasons. The wet seasons flood our homes and grow the fuel, the dry seasons burn it.
We can rant about punishing smokers who toss their burning ciggies out their car windows, but we can’t do anything about the fires Mother Nature starts. The heat waves keep getting hotter and longer. And the fires get bigger and bigger.
In 2003, the massive McLure fire reached 27,000 hectares. Seeing it on a map didn’t do it justice, but I took a ride over it in an Armed Forces helicopter and it seemed to go on forever, and one couldn’t imagine anything stopping it. The only thing that did was winter.
This summer, the Elephant Hill fire roars and rages, and now approaches 94,000 hectares, and is only 30 per cent contained. We choke on its smoke and wipe ashes from our cars, stay indoors and wait for the mercy of cooler weather.
Summer wasn’t supposed to be like this. If this isn’t Armageddon, it’s close.
Every year, some nut predicts it will be the last. As near as I can tell, this year’s date for the end of everything was June 12 but has been moved to Sept. 23. Or sometime in October.
Some say Nostradamus predicted both Trump’s election and the end of the world in 2017. I doubt that, but Stephen Hawking is a good source for what’s going on and he’s pessimistic. “We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it,” he says.
I don’t know about you, but the fact that the Big Finish is still two and a half minutes away — by which time I won’t be around to be part of it — doesn’t provide much comfort. Something bothers me about the fact there will come a time when I may as well not have even been here.
All this writing I do, all these golden words, my bottomless font of sage pronouncements, will have been a complete waste of time. Almost as disturbingly, history books and PBS documentaries will also be gone. No record, no acknowledgement, no evidence of our existence.
It’s a hard thing to wrap my head around but I’d rather not jump-start the process, so I sincerely hope this long, hot summer is not really the beginning of the end.
Mel Rothenburger has been a mayor of Kamloops, school board chair, and editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published regularly on CFJC Today and he appears Wednesdays on the CFJC-TV evening news with his Armchair Mayor commentary. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.