Sunday, July 05, 2015

Saskatchewan is on fire.

The Earth: a place to stand
Saskatchewan is on fire. So read the news headlines this morning. The number of forest fires burning in Northern Saskatchewan (117) is not that significant since Alberta and BC are dealing with similar numbers. Like Slave Lake in a previous year and now LaRonge and Montreal Lake in Saskatchewan, the newsworthiness is scaled to the numbers of people directly affected: in Saskatchewan about 8,000 refugees so far. 

It's always about us. 

Of course it is: trees don't read!

Forest fires, grass fires have been part of nature's evolved balance going back multi-millenia. Like us, the planet Earth gets indigestion; it belches and farts occasionally, moves its bowels in order to restore balance once again. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, tsunamis are disasters to us but to the earth they are like antacids and antihistamines, restoring balances that events and the passage of time have disturbed. 

To the people of LaRonge and Montreal Lake, to us in the rest of the province breathing smoke day after day, the fires are catastrophic; to Mother Earth they're good housekeeping, a disposal of accumulated trash. A restoration of balance.

Some of the earth's indigestion—like ours—is a natural consequence of its makeup and position in the universe; sometimes we contribute to its discomfort. Clearing natural vegetation to grow food crops, burning fossil fuels in ever-increasing amounts, pumping our sewage into fresh water lakes and rivers all contribute to the earth's bellyache and make the restoration of balance evermore difficult. 

Our sheer and increasing numbers as a species must give our Earth Mother moments of overwhelming anxiety: How am I going to feed all the babies I'm popping out like a Pez dispenser gone berserk?

That there exists in the universe a planet capable of sustaining fragile life as complex and enduring as we experience on Planet Earth is amazing, possibly miraculous. And if—as we often say—we're lucky to be alive, then this consciousness should humble us in the face of Mother Earth's occasional belches and farts. It should also teach us ways to stay out of her way when she rolls over: don't build your homes on fault lines, in flood plains, at the feet of volcanic mountains. 

Construct your dwellings in the shape of domes rather than boxes if you must settle in Tornado Alley. 

It's nice to be on the beach, but weigh the possible consequences before setting up house there.

And for Mary's and Pete's sake, try to govern your activities to resonate with Mother Earth's natural rhythms. She is, after all, your Mom and if she's too old or sick to look after you, well, you can imagine the denouement in that story!

For the people of Montreal Lake and LaRonge, it's not the right time for these thoughts. Far from the homes they love, afraid both for personal safety and for their futures, they can hardly be blamed right now for choosing to live where they live. But it must give all of us pause to know that the earth has always burned forests in the summer time, will always do so and if we're smart, we'll find ways to be less vulnerable to these events.

“Only YOU can prevent forest fires,” was Smokey the Bear's admonition. Well no, unless you can prevent lightning, that is.

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