After almost an entire summer free from wildfires, several ones across the province blanketed the greater Vancouver with a thick haze of smoke. Smoke from wildfires has unfortunately been a common sight and smell during the summer in many B.C. cities now.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and I didn’t even need to look out the window. I could smell the smoke immediately. I have an air quality meter in my apartment that measures the presence of particulates in the air. From my bed, I could see it was red, indicating the air was not healthy to breathe. I got up and closed my window down to a sliver. The whole city was covered in white hazy smoke. I then turned up my air purifiers to max.

The one silver lining about living in a pandemic where a virus is transmitted mainly through airborne particles is that you’d think most people would already have some system to mitigate against other airborne pollutants, say smoke from wildfires. To be clear, the air was so bad this weekend that B.C. had some of the unhealthiest air in the world. You would think that people would have masks ready to wear and have the willingness to protect their lungs and bodies from this smoke. Yet, I saw very little of that common sense on the weekend. What I did see were lots of people doing outdoor activities in the smoke. I saw people driving around with their windows down. I also saw lots of people indoors with no masks but that’s a topic for another day.

I don’t really get it. The smoke covered the whole greater Vancouver area and left everything in a haze. You could smell it indoors and outdoors, and it was not a pleasant smell. A quick Google search showed the air quality was worse than big cities in China and India. The air was not healthy to breathe. You can’t argue that no one has access to masks, they’re plentiful now. Yet, in the face of all this evidence, people were willing to suck in this dirty and unhealthy air as if it was no big deal. I supposed people have just done this in the past and they will do it again for many summers in the future. I don’t have a lot of hope for society.

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