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So right now, I was thinking this. - The Fengi Newsletter [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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So right now, I was thinking this. [May. 9th, 2016|06:16 pm]
Greetings Fellow Comstoks!
Over the last week Fort MacMurray, a major city on Canada associated with the tar sands, was partially destroyed by a wildfire which is still burning. It was one of the largest mass evacuations in Canadian history - but not the largest, which wasin 1979 when a chemical train derailed in Mississauga, Ontario forcing 218,000 people to flee (it's now called the Mississauga Miracle because no one died).

It was massive, spectacular connected to climate change and spreading smoke as far as Wisconsin, impacting the weather even further. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan had expressed regrets about not being able to help more due their own wildfires.

I'm up on much of this because part of my daily podcast listening are news break pods from Canada, but it's also been getting major coverage in Australia and Ireland. I suspect this is partially a commonwealth/former British thing, partially a sense of kinship in massive natural disasters that have increased in intensity in recent years (for Ireland floods, for Australia, flood and fire).

Yet despite fire being high on the list of atavistic fascinations for humans, conversation about this was light on my social feeds. I follow a lot of people, but that conversation involves enough factors (Canadian or paying attention to Canada, paying attention to the news, uses social media to discuss news and/or terrifying/depressing things, has thoughts about a specific event they consider interesting enough to post, posting at a moment when I'm watching feed) cohere into a venn diagram far more rarely than the confirmation bias machines in our heads expect. Instead the social media slot machine coughed up far more chatter on how long it took for the coalition in Ireland to select a Taoiseach. At my workplace, well, the conversation is limited most of the time. My in the flesh friends and family had little to say on this particular item out a million others save "WTF". So I had feels in every direction with no outlet and now the crisis appears to be passing without enough massive devastation to buzz in my circles at least. Which is about the least interesting aspect, but there you are. It's me on Livejournal.

To somewhat coalesce this set of tangents, the most recent news search I did while typing this post produced this comic yet appalling result.

No one died except my profit taking.

The algorithms decided the biggest trending aspect I'd be interested in was how less tragedy than expected was a bit of an economic loser. Capitalism everyone!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: tx_cronopio
2016-05-09 11:18 pm (UTC)
I really agree with you as to the extent that this is being ignored in the US. I mean, these are our neighbors, our allies, and while I've seen some nice things on FB, I've seen diddly squat mostly.

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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2016-05-09 11:54 pm (UTC)
Just to mention it but this is not being ignored by our press and media. I heard it about on Radio 4 recently.Either way, it is appalling.
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[User Picture]From: fengi
2016-05-10 03:20 pm (UTC)
The BBC is great. They now have a minute podcast that often conveys more info than a 5 minute NPR break.
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[User Picture]From: franklanguage
2016-05-10 01:54 am (UTC)
I've seen news on the tar sands disaster in a few places, but what's been really downplayed in most places that report on it is the whole environmental nightmare the whole oil-processing thing is in the first place. I don't think it's too strong or too off-base to say Mother Earth is getting her revenge for our wrongheadedness.
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2016-05-10 11:43 am (UTC)
I've been posting about it and it's a huge conversation for debate up here, but of course most of my FB feed is Canadian.
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[User Picture]From: fengi
2016-05-10 03:18 pm (UTC)
What struck me is even if there was a conversation on Facebook or Twitter, I might miss it as Twitter is a firehose and Facebook shows weird narrow fragment due to how I use it (pretty much only as an events calendar). Plus more and more of my Facebook friends are, like me, too weary of it to post much. And most of the Canadians on LiveJournal - where it is easiest to actually see everything people write - are long inactive.

I've become a bit of a Canadaphile as the CBC has more robust and substantive news podcasts than NPR. The news brief one takes care to shift focus in the secondary stories every few hours for a more cohesive view. NPR is varies less and is a distant view from Washington and New York too often. Chicago Public Radio has zero news pods just a quirky listener question once a week. It's easier to hear about the nuances of Toronto's transit funding issues than the train I ride every day.

Granted, I may be reacting to Canada a bit like a superfan of a show I've followed for years (I'm certain that informs my view of Australia). "The worldbuilding is substantial, everyone is so rounded and sympathetic." But I also care because the news is informative and interesting yet unconcerned with being "boring" - i.e. if people are listening, they want to know. And it's easy to care if you know what the fuck is going on. [I love This American Life but there's this growing undertone of "you cannot expect anyone to process information, let alone care about it, without a thick sauce of wit and narrative and a charismatic narrator".]

I don't really have one point here. I also have many thoughts and feelings about fires, despite little direct personal experience (save seeing the aftermath), maybe because it's part of Chicago lore. Maybe it's just a personal fear. The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster is another event that moved me despite being far away, again due to good reporting and personal biases. I think because no matter how natural the event as a whole, fire disasters usually have a tangible elements of human carelessness - it is that bigger existential issue of human accelerated disaster made concrete. Or fire scary, I dunno.
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[User Picture]From: fengi
2016-05-10 03:39 pm (UTC)
Adding: Looking over my feed, I'm wrong - of the remaining active accounts, Canadians are statistically significant. They just post more about Ontario than Alberta.
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2016-05-10 11:18 pm (UTC)
I forgot if I asked already but do you follow Canadaland? You might like it.

We had an interesting talk at work today about it between me, my colleague (who lived in Alberta for awhile) and one of my kids who's from Newfoundland so knows a lot of people there (a large chunk of the population at Fort Mac are Newfies). I don't know how much it comes across in our media, but we're all kind of horrified and scared shitless and it just hits too close to home. And yeah, it's climate change affecting people whose jobs are a major contributor to climate change, but it still seems like something huge and overwhelming and rage-inducing.
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[User Picture]From: fengi
2016-05-15 02:45 am (UTC)
I listen to Canadaland now! Thank you for the recommendation.
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[User Picture]From: adam_0oo
2016-05-10 12:12 pm (UTC)

I only heard about it because I follow a Canadian cartoonist on twitter.


Then when I was paying attention, one article on the NYT twitter feed and a BBC Radio report.

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[User Picture]From: matthewsrotundo
2016-05-10 01:32 pm (UTC)
For the record, smoke from the fires reached as far south as Nebraska. 'Twas a smoky Saturday in Omaha.
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