For the second consecutive summer, much of western Canada and other parts of North America are covered in a smoky haze. It’s a pattern seen in other countries as well. The knee-jerk tendency is to blame global warming as if nothing can be done. But the tragic losses of life from fires (in Greece, for example), are often directly connected to austerity cutbacks, in other words, to the drive by big capital to put private profits ahead of human life and the environment.
Of course, there is a bigger picture as well. The fires in British Columbia follow earlier decades of global warming meant that mountain pine beetles weren’t killed off by frigid winter temperatures. By the 1990s, vast stands of forests had been turned into tinder for lightning-sparked wildfires. Other aspects of 160 years of colonial capitalist exploitation of west coast forests also left the province vulnerable to the pine beetle explosion which is spreading relentlessly across the western half of the continent.
Humanity and other species are starting to pay the price for centuries of unchecked imperialist expansion, with the burning of fossil fuels having the most significant long-term impact. Arms manufacturers make a killing, as governments spend a trillion dollars a year on armies and weapons. Meanwhile, the US, the biggest military spender on the planet, is sabotaging attempts to shift towards renewable energy.
There is still time to avert catastrophe, with a global green jobs strategy to slash carbon emissions and put people ahead of profits. To succeed, we need to scrap the private profit system which generates economic and ecological crisis. That means socialism – a system that puts ownership and control in the hands of the working class. The only alternative is a dark capitalist future, in which summer is the perpetual season of fire and smoke.