The outpouring of support for the victims of the massive forest fire burning in Northern Alberta is truly heartwarming. The evacuation of nearly ninety thousand people, most of whom will have lost some or all of their material possessions, is a shocking development and perhaps the worst case of a forest fire encroaching on an urban area in recent memory. That so many Canadians have opened up their homes, wallets, and hearts is a testament to the ability of Canadians to put aside the controversial context of oil politics.
It's a feat, to be sure, especially given the temptation to call the destruction of Fort McMurray "ironic" or "karmic", largely with poor comprehension of these phenomena. While it is blatantly offensive to insinuate that Fort McMurray had it coming, I think it is the only rational conclusion to say that we, as Canadian society, did in fact create the environment in which the fire would start and in which it would cause such destruction.
While the science that correlates forest fires and anthropogenic climate change is clear, I'm in fact referring to the social, political, and economic forces that have led to our present catastrophe.
Every Canadian, regardless of where they live, has some connection to the intensification of the tar sands. A process which, over the past fifteen years, has been caused by a greater demand for petroleum products (whether plastics, fuels, asphalts, lubricants), an emphasis on developing domestic "ethical oil", and a desire to produce a robust Canadian economy.
What I think requires honest political reflection on the culture of attacking transfer payments. In the past year or so, I've seen more and more on social media bemoaning Eastern Canadian provinces' status as a have-not region and looking at Alberta as the engine that powers the country. It's important to note that the message connotes Alberta's economic independence.
I will, without hesitation, suggest that this is the true irony of the forest fire. Alberta, now destined to compound its ecnomic downturn, is relying on the support from Canadians across the country, most of whom are all too happy to contribute without making it political, as I previously noted. Perhaps the most impressive part is that Syrian refugees are coming to the aid of those affected. This is particularly impactful when you consider the proliferation of social media postings that insinuate that we should be helping Canadians, not outsiders.
Human tragedies and natural disasters are an opportunity to come together, but let's not shy away from talking frankly about our shared responsibility and our collective duty to work toward a solution.