Living in the House of Smoke
Yesterday morning those of us who live in the northeastern US were warned that even healthy people should not go outside because of potential toxic smoke from wildfires far up in northern Canada, a thousand miles away.
Our air quality index was above 300, which means very bad, dangerously bad (lower numbers are better, we should be at 50). New York City yesterday had the worst air quality on the planet, even worse than major cities in India and China where bad air kills thousands.
Here’s what the New York Times had to say this morning:
“New York City was filled with reddish haze yesterday, with its worst air quality on record. A Broadway matinee was interrupted when its star had difficulty breathing, and some nighttime shows were canceled. Pro sports teams in both New York and Philadelphia postponed their games. In Binghamton, N.Y., a meteorologist said that the area around him “looks like Mars” and “smells like cigars.” In Toronto, residents awoke this week to find a thick layer of ash near open windows.”
This is not like the smoky haze we’ve seen in recent years. That was high in the atmosphere where it made for cool sunsets. This stuff is different. It stinks. It’s like being downwind from a smoky campfire. Your eyes smart and wearing a mask starts to look like a very good idea.
This morning it has spread south and will affect the DC area, hopefully reminding climate denying congress members that something is very wrong and it is not just a thing in Florida. Not that it will do any good, those folks are bought and paid for by big oil.
I predict that this will be the summer where everyone in our country will experience the dire effects of climate change on a daily basis. My part of the country, western NY, has largely avoided fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and the rest of the calamities. And we have lots of fresh, clean water.
But these past few days the sun has been an apocalyptic red orb seen through a thick brown haze, not unlike the suns in Star Wars movies. It’s pretty weird.
None of this is news to those on the west coast where air quality emergencies have become a seasonal thing. Northern Quebec, where these particular fires are raging, is not thought of as a big fire area. It’s usually a little too wet and cool. But unrestricted growth of underbrush from poor forest management combined with…