Wakeup Call 2021 – BC Floods and Forests
By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News
This year has been difficult in beautiful BC. My home province has certainly had a rough go. Despite having a pretty good covid response and vaccination rate, mother nature has decided to bring some pretty heavy stuff down on us in 2021. Drought in the spring, followed by record-setting temperatures in the summer foretold a season of many fires. Following multiple consecutive days of temperatures, on June 29 the town of Lytton set the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada.
The very next day, sparks from a passing train ignited tinder dry grasses beside the tracks on the edge of town. Accelerated by high winds, the result was a brush fire that quickly spread and engulfed the entire town. But it wasn’t just Lytton, fires all over the province destroyed homes, infrastructure, and lives. Similar fires raged all over the Northern hemisphere, releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere.
Then the rains came. Unlike most years, we welcomed them as their water nourished the parched earth and fed the roots of dry trees. Salmon once again filled local rivers, in turn feeding the birds, bears, and other creatures of the forest with their bodies. But unlike normal years, where each week of rain is followed by a period of sun, the rain did not stop. The water-saturated soil, already damaged by fires and clear-cut logging, was full to the point of running off of the surface instead of filtering through the network of live roots and mycelium. Then, just as we approached record consecutive days of rain, the atmospheric river arrived. Unlike a typical pineapple express event that will drop rain and warm temperatures on the south coast of BC, this was very much an extreme rain event. In only three days, ten times the normal monthly precipitation fell. Some areas received as much as 252 millimeters in only 3 days.
The results were catastrophic. As the deluge poured down the mountain it triggered landslides on the already saturated mountains. Rivers overflowed levees built to withstand hundred-year floods. The water filled low-lying areas and inundated farmland. Loss of life, destruction of farms, mass deaths of animals, and existential fear gripped the community. Helpless, we were unable to do much other than to support the Canadian red cross, ration fuel, groceries, and watch the news.
It was with this as a backdrop that I found myself at our family’s cabin in the Purcell mountains of British Columbia. An area spared by the worst of the fires of the summer, ironically it is a dry climate and as such was also spared the worst of the rains.
Traumatized in our own way by the surreal events that occurred in our hometown, we reconnected with old friends and family, watched movies, and played board games. We followed news reports and weather predictions fearful of the impending rains soon to come. As I write this, meteorologists predict another 150mm of rain will fall in the coming days – further compounding damage and slowing recovery.
So I walk and hike in the forest. At first, I hiked quickly, gaining altitude and raising my heart rate, fully absorbed in my thoughts, conquering the trail, expending pent-up energy and frustration. Then, as I began to unwind, my pace became slower. I walked with respect and reverence for this amazing, living organism – the forest. The forest is connected and possibly sentient in ways we simply don’t understand and it is here, in this verdant forest that my mind finally relaxes. I soak in the quietness and observe wild creatures; bighorn sheep on a rocky ridge, an owl watching me from its perch in a tree, whitetail deer in the glades. On one hike, a Canadian Jay followed for kilometers, its curiosity of me, a visitor to its forest, reflecting its higher than average intelligence.
As always, time in the forest nourishes my soul, calms my brain, and helps put things into perspective. These are tough times. This is not normal, but I fear it is becoming that way. I fear the only optimistic thing I can find in this mad world right now is hope that the world notices. I hope that 2021 is the year we really, really collectively understand that the effects of climate change are now upon us and that yes, the scientists were right after all.
Maybe I am preaching to the choir, but it is more important than ever to be vocal in support of climate action. Email your local elected officials and CC their opposition. Email the companies whose products you purchase and CC their competitors. Demand them all to be accountable and do not stop until you see the results you want. It is the only way to be heard through the noise.
Thankfully, climate action and accountability are now mainstream. Now, every country and large company has a net-zero plan of some sort. Cities and smaller companies are joining in.
Despite the inaction we have seen in the past, there is hope for the future.
PS – The province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada have pledged to match donations to the Canadian Red Cross for flood relief in BC. Please donate if you can, every dollar provides $3 in funding.