Weekend forest fires
Almost two weeks ago we weekend we, in Halifax, again had a taste of the raw power mother nature. Twin forest fires in Tantallon and Porters Lake let us know that forces of nature are not just what we see on TV or what we read in the newspaper. They happen to us as well. We are not exempt. We are certainly no strangers weather related events and flooding. If we were, Hurricane Juan, Extra Tropical storm Noel and this past winter’s record snowfall and ensuing spring melt and flooding, laid those misperceptions to rest.
Forest fires on the other hand are something that most of us have little experience with. We are used to seeing their effects in California or in Australia or in British Columbia. And while we have forest fires each and every year in many rural areas of both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, all, in my experience, have been at a distance and far removed from the large urban regions. This past weekend brought home quite viscerally the fact that no one is immune and that there no safe haven from the unexpected ravages of nature.
It leads me to believe that perhaps we have been living in a bit of a perception bubble. Perhaps we have underestimated the chances of disaster. It is too late to mitigate the damage after the disasters have happened. The reason that we have governments is to protect us and to provide planning for bad times when the come. And to do that we have to have planning, the foresight to see what will affect us adversely.
We have lived through a remarkably stable time these past two millennia. And that has made us complacent. As a result, our expectations are that the stable, unchanging times will continue. And that is unrealistic. For generations we have been able to rely on constant conditions and circumstances and that coupled with relatively short life spans we have come to think of the weather and climate as unchangeable.
That perception also extends to the other major disasters that befall the Earth from time to time. Even though in some areas of the world, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and severe storms are common place, disaster happens infrequently in a given area. We have grown used to the idea that things on the Earth are reliable and by and large safe. It shakes our understanding of what is “common sense” when we think and consider the massive changes that we have ahead of us as we leave this remarkably stable reliable period and enter a period of turbulence, chaos and upset. How we treat changes that are counter to what we have experienced will determine how easy or how hard those changes will be. Underestimating the probability of change and the likelihood of disaster makes us vulnerable and unprepared. Just talking about it is a valuable and useful beginning.
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