I used to proofread a jaunty newspaper columnist who – whenever he was stuck for an idea – would open his column with some variation of: “It’s _____, and politics is in the air!”
He’d trot that one out whether it was fall, winter, July, tax season, or Tuesday. He always got away with it because it was never exactly false even if it wasn’t precisely true. At least, not until now.
We always thought politics was full of hot air. Turns out, our hot air is full of politics.
Today, as we recover from a weekend that saw air darken and thicken until it was the worst in the world, it behooves us to reflect on what we got hit with – and what we should do about it.
Firstly, I think we need to remember it.
We need to remember the look of a bloodshot sunrise. We need to remember the way the haze smothered the streetlights until they gave off just enough light to carve the smoke from the dark.
We need to remember the silence of no kids playing outside but most of all, we need to remember being in a hot room and hoping our windows would repel specks of ash and smog hanging over the community like a grim omen. We need to remember wondering how long it was going to last . . . this time.
That’s how we need to talk about climate change. Instead of sitting across from the nation’s climate-change-denying brothers-in-law and telling them about polar bears and dwindling glaciers, we need to talk about how hot the room was. We need to think about what we would do to never go back there.
We need to remember that we were inhaling the failure of senior levels of government and we need to demand accountability because, on this issue, we really will choke on excuses.
There is much to say about the federal government’s decision to buy an oil pipeline and their rationale that bitumen would somehow grease the wheels of a greener future.
For one thing, it seems that buying a pipeline to transition away from fossil fuels is a bit like going vegan by buying a butcher shop.
On Sunday, the smoke cleared and the writ dropped. So, for the next five weeks, I want to hear how we’re going to keep our coast clear.
We don’t need blaming – particularly from political parties that have faced looming disaster with all the foresightedness of the mayor from Jaws.
We need leadership – even if it requires sacrifice. We need courage. And we need honesty. If we could get all three it would be a breath of fresh air.