Wednesday, May 18, 2016

room for all

From what I've read it appears the terrible fires are still raging around Fort McMurray in Alberta. It's a sad thing and sadder too to think just how stuck so many of us are in the current economic paradigm. We don't like what burning fossil fuels is doing to the environment but at the same time people need jobs. It's just the same for every other unpleasant business or practice we might condemn.

I did find out one thing that happened during the major evacuation that I'd worried might have been forgotten. People weren’t the only ones who needed to escape, hundreds of pets needed to evacuate too. While airlines typically restrict how many animals can be on board, for a number of pilots, the choice was simple: no matter what the rules are, those pets wouldn’t be left behind.

Pilot Keith Mann, Suncor Energy’s manager of flight operations, is the owner of a “four-month-old golden retriever” and empathized with those trying to save their furry friends. He said, “the terminal was quite a sight. Just full of animals. We did everything we could to keep pets with their owners, and insure that the flights were safe. That’s the Canadian way. We wanted to help.”

For about 50 hours, his planes saved cats, dogs, bunnies, frogs, hedgehogs, and even a chinchilla from the inferno. At times, there were close to 40 animals on board one flight, yet Mann reported that the trips were mostly peaceful.

See? A nice story. Hopefully it won't be long before Canada, among many other countries, gets behind diversifying its economy. I'm sure that would make many more people and animals feel safer again.


  1. I've had many a seating companion I'd have traded for a golden lab, for damn sure. I hope the town is starting to be inhabitable again, it's faded from the news down here.

    1. I agree I'd be delighted to have a dog as a seatmate - even a poodle. They're still working on Fort McMurray being inhabitable again but the fire has continued to grow - just further away. Most recently the tar sands camps had to be evacuated of 8k workers.

  2. Hi Susan,
    The post reminds us of the plight of the animals and a nice story with pictures to go with the tragic events of that raging inferno. Given the millions of square miles of forests I guess it is virtually impossible to put out such a huge fire but rather to focus attention on evacuation and protection and to wait until it burns itself out in maybe a month(s).?

    From my limited knowledge I also gather Canadian boreal forests do depend on the intense heat of bush fire heat to generate new growth for some species and in support of biodiversity to be sustainable which is a natural part of your evolved landscape. But I gather due to milder winters and increased dryness fires are growing in intensity and frequency.
    As you know down under to large scale bushfires are part of our environment. The main thrust is to stage large scale burn offs annually in the national parks in the off season. But the practice of burning off was also attributable to the fire stick farming by aborigines to achieve better hunting outcomes, open up grasslands and to reduce the build-up of fuel in cooler periods. Many species cannot geminate except by the pods opening for seeds to explode out and subsequently take root as a consequence of the intense heat. The problem seems to be that we have stopped evolving with fire and how to deal with it at a community and national level.
    Best wishes

  3. Hi Lindsay,
    It was something of a relief to know the pets had been rescued as well.

    That fires are necessary to open the seed pods of trees in a boreal forest is something I learned about when I lived out west. The problems nowadays are twofold in that the fires seem to be much more frequent (and begin earlier in a give season) and there are so many more permanent communities in areas that tend to burn. I'm pretty sure that's likely as true in Australia as it is in North America.

    When I read your note about bush fires I was reminded of a section of one of Iain M. Banks early novels wherein he described a natural fire cycle on another planet:

    It was not unusual to find distinct equatorial bulges on once fast-spinning planets, and Echronedal's was comparatively slight, though sufficient to produce a single unbroken continental ribbon of land lying roughly between the planet's tropics, the rest of the globe lying beneath two great oceans, ice-capped at the poles. What was unique, in the experience of the Culture as well as the Empire, was to discover a wave of fire forever moving round the planet on the continental landmass.

    Taking about half a standard year to complete its circumnavigation, the fire swept over the land, its fringes brushing the shores of the two oceans, its wave-front a near-straight line, its flames consuming the growth of the plants which had flourished in the ashes of the previous blaze. The whole land-based ecosystem had evolved around this never-ending conflagration; some plants could only sprout from beneath the still-warm cinders, their seeds jolted into development by the passing heat; other plants blossomed just before the fire arrived, bursting into rapid growth just before the flames found them, and using the fire-front's thermals to transport their seeds into the upper atmosphere, to fall back again, somewhere, on to the ash. The land-animals of Echronedal fell into three categories; some kept constantly on the move, maintaining the same steady walking pace as the fire, some swam round its oceanic boundaries, while other species burrowed into the ground, hid in caves, or survived through a variety of mechanisms in lakes or rivers.

    Birds circled the world like a jetstream of feathers.

    All the best

  4. I read a post about that on facebook, also a few posts about animals who survived being left behind and animals who didn't. sad and scary.

    1. A terrible business altogether, Claire. I was relieved to read about to many being saved.

  5. Forest fires under normal conditions are healthy part of the ecology - clearing old growth and spawning new; but during unusual dry seasons and windy conditions fires burn uncontrolled and become a hazard to human populations. It is, however, a characteristic of our species that we feel we have to control everything - and if we are not in control we classify events as catastrophic.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    1. In 1950 the Wisp Fire burned nearly 4 million acres of Northern BC and Alberta between May and October changing the colors of sunrises and sunsets all over the northern hemisphere. In those days they only fought fires that came within a few miles of human habitats and since there were few of those back then it burned until the fall rains came.

      There are far too many people and buildings in the way of them these days.. and that goes for just about everywhere.