Fire and Fury (and smoke)… like the world has never seen.


                                                 A Picasso -  Photo by Bruce Witzel

We’ve all heard the expression “business as usual”. However, considering current world politics I believe that many of us will admit that we live in unusual times.  Picasso illustrates it well. Life is such a paradox.

I imagine Tomas Merton calling out.

“Take thought, man, tonight when it is dark, when it is raining. Take thought of the game you have forgotten. You are a child of a great and peaceful race. You are son of an unutterable fable. You were discovered on a mild mountain. You have come up of the godlike ocean… Take thought, man, tonight. Do this. do this. Recover your original name.” 

(from Raids on the Unspeakable) 


Photo by bruce witzel - unknown artists


Recently I have kept a low blogging profile – partly from lack of initiative – more importantly, to focus on work and gardening as well as personal reflection and home improvement.


Garden from above



Fressh tomatoes from our garden Aug. 16, 2017 - bruce witzel photo



Telegraph Cove Kayakers, Aug. 5, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

Kayakers on Northern Vancouver Island


Here in British Columbia our recent provincial election of May 7th brought an amazing progressive shift. The Green Party won three seats and now holds the balance of power in the BC legislative assembly, in an agreement made with the newly elected New Democratic Party. This alliance holds a one vote margin over the Liberal party.


BC Election result 2017


The close election required 3 weeks of re-counts and one month of political negotiations before the “business oriented” Liberal Party was defeated in a vote of non-confidence on June 30, after almost 16 years in power. The Liberals do deserve parting credit for instituting the progressive British Columbia Carbon Tax Shift in 2008, the first jurisdiction in North America to do so. In this plan the Carbon fee charged on most fossil fuel transactions is then re-disbursed via tax credits – a sizable portion to lower income people. However, they dropped the ball in support of this important initiative, and then began to support various mega-projects like Site C damn on the Peace River and Liquefied Natural Gas development.




The current leader of the BC Green Party, Andrew Weaver, was originally elected in 2012. He is a well known climate scientist and a past lead author for the IPCC, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change. He and his caucus is creating a big shift in the body politic and there’s hope it will spread.

Speaking of climate change, British Columbia experienced a record breaking heat wave a couple weeks ago. Coupled with extensive and growing wild fires since early April, the province is experiencing the worse fire season ever. Today it’s effected 894,000 hectares and fire crews have now reached day 100. Many of these emergency teams worked on the BC spring flooding immediately prior to the fires. 


Smoky skies  - fran guenette photo

Smoke on the lake comes from 100’s of miles away.


Tens of thousands of people and livestock have been  evacuated and many people in BC and nearby American states are experiencing health debilitating effects from the smoke.



Nasa Satellite Image – July 31, 2017 – Wildfire Smoke over British Columbia


The added financial burden is immense. A small example is that wood prices have skyrocketed as numerous mills have shut down due to the fires. This is one of many costs not factored into the true price of burning fossil fuel. 




Recently I finished a novel, Convenient Mistruths, by Geoffry Strong. He’s a local atmospheric scientist who recently came to our local library for a reading. Strong sets the plot of his novel in 2020 and the main setting is the Canadian North. Large scale Arctic drilling and rapidly melting perma-frost is occurring.

Amidst murder and intrigue, the author adeptly weaves into the story the science on climate change, meteorology and changing weather patterns as well as their social and ecological impacts. The novel’s Prologue includes a short vignette about a migrant family from Syria. It makes clear his family lost it’s home drought and desertification caused largely by global warming. Civil war is a mere side effect.

The main antagonist of the novel is a few ardent American climate change denialists – funded by Big Oil of course. The main protagonist is a Canadian law student who is spending the summer gathering testimony in the north. She has been hired by a large construction company to outline the legal ramifications of a proposed oil pipeline.

Meanwhile, a Russian Climate Scientist working in Siberia discovers that methane readings are going off-the-scale. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent to global warming than Carbon Dioxide. An international crises ensues. Climate scientists and world leaders are left stunned. The urgency of runaway climate change stares humanity in the face.

Wow! Thumbs up to the author. This novel made me think about my own personal dependency on fossil fuel. Also, we use firewood to heat some of our home and water, so a lot of our energy requirements (including driving and flying) result in significant Carbon emissions.


Bruce with new stove just arrived - francis geunette photo

 Replacing our 24 year old woodstove


Our new alderlea woodstove Aug. 11, 20167 - fran guenette photo


Bruce with new stove


The novel also made me see that in general, poorer people have a small carbon footprint – they can’t afford many of the luxuries derived from my fossil fuel dependency. And yet, many who are downcast pay for climate change with their lives.


Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery - artist unknown

Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery – artist unknown


We must all work diligently to reduce our own carbon footprints. As a personal example, how do I connect my fuel addiction to my many other faults  – my arrogance, my quick judgements, my over eagerness, my heavy heart? And this is the tip of the ice berg. I need to match my action with my words – and to do this with genuine love and faith.


         the_dalai_lama__the_vancouver_peace_summit-500x500                                   Jesus-Holy-Wisdom-Robert-Lentz



In the closing lines of his 2011 book, Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming, Andrew Weaver says:

“It’s time to recognize global warming for what it is: the most self-empowering issue we will ever face. Every consumer of energy is part of the problem. Every person is therefore part of the solution. We are entering an age of creativity and innovation unlike any modern society has experienced before. Rather than fearing this change, we need to embrace it.”




In the paradox of it all I recall the words of Thomas Merton:

”I remain aghast at our own weakness, our own poverty, our evasions, our infidelity, our hesitancy…. In such a condition there is no use in forcing the issue. Great patience and humility are needed, and humble prayer for light, courage and strength.”


Photo below by Thomas Merton 1968 – Hut in the Himalaya’s

photo by thomas merton


In peace – Bruce

13 thoughts on “Fire and Fury (and smoke)… like the world has never seen.

  1. So much truth here. Thanks, Bruce. My brother’s ranch in Tatlayoko Lake has been inundated by smoke for over a month. Williams Lake had to be evacuated in places, so my sister could not get through to visit. I flew to Sitka, Alaska last month, and flying over Vancouver Island I thought of you and your wife, and we could see the smoke even then from the mainland. Now Oregon is in flames, from one end to the other.

    So glad to her about the change in your political situation there, that’s very good news. We are struggling here in the States, as you no doubt know. Horrifying, really. We will save our country eventually, but at a huge cost to many. And meanwhile, the world is losing time with these idiots in charge at the moment. Stay safe and keep writing!!

  2. appreciate the encouragement
    to live in harmony
    reducing footprints
    staying warm & toasty.
    wishing you clean air
    & happiness, Bruce.
    a fair amount of smoke
    from N Cal fires has been
    affecting my local air quality. 🙂

    • Thank David… continuing forward with softer footprints, one step at a time. Didn’t realize the N. Cal fires… seems to be something we must learn to adapt and live with, and maybe breathing lighter too.

  3. Thanks for your post. Most of us that read your blog have been born into a world that is so dependent on fossil fuel it almost beyond comprehension. Life as we currently know it has been built on oil and would completely disappear with out it. We can chip around the edges trying to solve the problem but until we truly accept the fact the we are the problem the solution for a sustainable planet will continue to elude us. We all should do what we can but there are some things that would be very hard for me to give up given the “rules” of life and living in an increasingly urbanized world.

    • Yes – this dependency on fossil fuel we have is all pervasive, and indeed most of us in the so-called “developed world” cannot comprehend life without it. There are notable exceptions, like a few European nations who have been leaders in the move away from over-dependence on fossil fuels.

      I am with James Hansen (and many others) who realize the urgency and say, that until we can add in the true price of using carbon based fuel (through a carbon fee and dividend system), there is no hope for the earth to avoid runaway climate change. It is a simple system of taxation that does not increase overall taxes, but shifts the tax away from individuals and groups who are energy conservors and innovators by penalizing those individuals and groups who choose to continue the dangerous patterns of wasting energy and using the older and most polluting technologies and systems.

      I am often discouraged and flabergasted that many people continue to be in denial ofthe problem as well as unaware and/or unsupportive of the many solutions. We need to lobby our politicians to implement these solutions, and, as another person commented below, we need to vote with our dollars.

      Just yesterday here in British Columbia, the Green Party leader, Dr. Weaver, announced introduction of legislation that would bring in regulated ride-sharing via Uber etc.- changes that would also be inclusive to the taxi-industry. This is one small solution of many. Each of us must positively promote and act on such changes. in step with our ability and resources available.

      I do understand that somethings are almost impossible for us to change. I can’t take my tools to work on a bicycle – though I constantly asking Toyota, for example, when they will have a hybrid plug-in truck available They keep telling me, “soon”.

  4. I always look forward to your posts, Bruce. You share such a balance of inspiration and challenge, without the rancor that I have to admit I’m currently choking on. As an American I’m distressed with the current turmoil that seems to have no end, but when I can calm myself I do feel that these are times for personal growth and accountability, and perhaps that’s the lesson for me in these times. I’m glad to be reminded of Merton’s wisdom and I’ve recently discovered Fr. Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation, and he writes very openly and succinctly about the responsibility to leave a living world for those who come after us. I enjoyed all that you shared about your own growth and expansion in areas of concern about sustainability. We are certainly living in perplexing times, but we can keep moving in the right direction as individuals. You have a lot to say, so when inspired, please do! 🙂

    • Thanks Debra. In regards to Fr. Richard Rohr, recently I read his delightful book “Immortal Diamond” and I’ve also been delving into “Breathing Under Water.” His themes are so inclusive and challenging, I appreciate your candor, your encouragement, and the reminder that within struggle there is so much possibility. i.e – I’ve heard it said that disillusionment calls us to awaken – and although difficult, this can ultimately bring goodness. Cheers to you, Debra.

  5. Bruce, as a consumer I am angry at the producers who continue to stock our shelves with toxic goods. Their profits dictate what we can buy. It seems in the United States that lobbyists working for the companies put more restrictive legislation on the citizens while creating large loop holes for the companies they represent. What can we do about it? We vote with our money, attempt to be self-sufficient, and write posts like you have done to help others understand the big picture. Thank you.

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