The World Today for July 21, 2021
NEED TO KNOW
The Heat’s On
Cherries roasting on trees, crops baking in fields, mussels being boiled alive in the ocean – these are some of the casualties – alongside humans and their villages – of a record-setting wildfire season in the wake of a record-setting heatwave in Western Canada recently.
For example, the village of Lytton in British Columbia reported a temperature of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit during a recent heatwave, a record high for all of Canada. While no one knows the cause, the scalding heat has made the fires more intense, destroying 1.7 million acres, including 90 percent of the village, according to the New York Times. Two people died.
Most of the more than 1,000 people who live in the Lytton area are members of the Lytton First Nation and the indigenous Nlaka’pamux people, CNN added. The punishing heat and flames, the latest in a string of challenges that have included colonization and exploitation, were hitting the community especially hard, argued Nlaka’pamux advocates.
Experts told Al Jazeera that a “heat dome” of dry, warm air had covered the region, stopping rainfall and spiking temperatures, drying out the brush that fuels fires. But the intensity of the heat dome that struck Western Canada was earlier and more intense. They described the recent heatwave as a once-in-a-thousand-year event.
Almost 500 people perished from the heatwave in British Columbia over five days recently, nearly three times the normal amount in the same period, Reuters added. Officials hundreds of miles away in North Dakota were warning people about the dangerous health effects of breathing ash, the Bismarck Tribune wrote.
The scorching temperatures wrought economic damage. Fire risks caused the country’s railway operator to cancel train traffic to the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port, noted Bloomberg. A trade bottleneck in the region would have repercussions for supply chains throughout North America.
Meanwhile, consider the environment of the future. The heat has accelerated the melting of glaciers that are already forecast to disappear over the next 80 years, according to the Canadian Press. Millions of mussels, clams and other marine animals died as water temperatures rose. Stunned marine biologists described an “ecological catastrophe” to USA Today.
Critics said the Canadian government lacks a sufficiently robust disaster response preparedness program that can help its citizens when wildfires wipe out large swaths of land in the massive country’s rural regions, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
They might be right. But Canada is not alone in this club.
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