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Opinion: what else do we need to see that this is serious?

As I’m sitting on my bed today and looking outside the window at the grey-yellowish sky, I can’t help but wonder what else do we need to see that this is serious? Since Tuesday, the sky in Toronto has an apocalyptic look. The reason for this? More than 400 wildfires are burning in North Ontario and Quebec and half of them are out of control.

Yesterday as I walked in the city, I smelt burning wood and ashes. There was also a lot of smoke and some buildings weren’t even visible. My first thought was that there was a fire not too far away from where I was and so I checked my phone. At that moment, I gasped and realised that something far worse was happening. The fire wasn’t as close as I thought and it wasn’t a fire but fires! The smoke was reaching not only various cities in Canada but also cities in the USA like New York.

The air quality was almost on the red and the government was asking people to stay inside if possible or to wear a mask if people needed to go outside. “Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations” I read on the government’s website. I lifted my head and looked around me: nobody seemed to care. No one was wearing a mask (neither was I).

Since yesterday, I have been thinking about wildfires and other natural disasters happening with more frequency in the world. As a Portuguese, I grew up seeing my country in fire every summer. Although it wasn’t as regular when I was a kid, it eventually became more frequent, habitual, almost expected. I also lived in Switzerland and if wildfires are not as common there, I have seen another striking phenomenon: every winter comes with less snow and glaciers – aka eternal snow – are melting. These are only a few examples that I have personally experienced, and unfortunately there is a lot more around the globe.

On top of that, a team of scientists assessed the planet’s health against eight key thresholds needed to protect life on Earth. In the report published last week, the scientists found that human activities have led to seven of the eight of the boundaries already being breached.

So why we keep living our life as if nothing wrong is going on? What else do we need to see that climate change is happening right now? I think most of us are tired because it feels so hard and sometimes even impossible to change the trajectory of our future as a specie. In times of crisis, we may want to choose to ignore that our house is burning. And honestly, I’m not feeling like writing a hopeful opinion piece today. I feel tired too. But, deep down, I think it matters to keep fighting. It may look like it’s the apocalypse but I cannot believe it is. Humans are resourceful and can adapt; that’s how we got here in the first place. I still trust that we will find ways to adapt, repair the damages and live in harmony with nature. Until then, I will keep writing about the environment.

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