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Canadian wildfires call for changes

Several times a year Idaho Power sends my family a notice pointing out that we use more electricity than the average household with our number of square feet.

We have excuses. We have a well and three streetlights (installed by previous residents). There are four adults in the house–and two work at home most days. We’re polluting less than if we drove some distance to work, right? And, yes, we have two refrigerators and two freezers, but we buy our groceries weekly and raise much of our own meat.

Yet, I still felt guilty enough to nod yes and sign papers this week to have solar panels installed next month.

A study last fall found that 59% of Idahoans worry about climate change–90 degree days and wildfires remind us summer after summer.

I miss spending cool summer evenings outside, visiting with family and neighbors. Now the heat doesn’t break until 10 or 11 pm.

And I worry for my grandchildren. What will they be missing in 40 years?

The Canadian wildfires helped me make up my mind to go solar. My granddaughter in the Moscow/Pullman area complained of the smoke from Canadian fires last month. Apparently that was just a preview of the smoke that’s been suffocating the eastern U.S.

Recently the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre said there were 426 active fires of which 112 were “under control” while 232 were “out of control.” Eighty-two were neither moving nor yet under control.

More than 20,000 Canadians have had to flee their homes. Thick smoke has made working or playing outside dangerous for thousands more.

Last week, the prevailing winds veered south, driving heavy smoke as far as Washington, D.C. There, most outdoor activities were canceled as the city “closed all public parks, suspended work by city road construction and paving crews, and delayed trash collection” (AP, Idaho Press, June 9). Canadian smoke has reached Greenland and Iceland and is expected in Norway.

The Canadian Wildland Fire Information System has reported that the destruction from these fires is 13 times worse than the 10-year-average for this point in the season. Thirteen times.

The United States is sending 6,000 people to fight fires. Canada. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are also sending help.

According to Talker, an on-line source for podcasters and speakers, however, wildfires are small potatoes compared to other U.S. climate disasters. Between 2012 and 2022, there were 159 weather events that caused over a billion dollars in damage: 99 severe storms, 24 tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons), 17 floods, 10 droughts and nine wildfires.

The 24 hurricanes/typhoons caused the most damage–$744.3 billion. The 99 severe storms were far behind at $218 billion. The 10 droughts were third at $112.9 billion.

So people may be migrating to Idaho for reasons other than our staunch Republican legislature and low cost of living. Are they leaving places that are even hotter and dryer?

Although drought is a real threat in Idaho, we haven’t had lakes dry up or water rationed in our cities yet. (My household, however, is also in the process of hardscaping about a quarter of our yard.)

Yet, the worst is yet to come. Scientists cannot predict what will happen as methane escapes from the tundra and heat changes the course of the jet stream and the gulf stream.

I’m angry that the U.S. put off action for 20 years. I’m especially angry at those who knew the truth but willingly lied for pay. And I’m sad for them, too–did they actually think money would protect their grandkids?

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