This time exactly one week ago was a bad time for almost everyone in my neighbourhood. The air, already choked from the smoke from the wildfires down south, was made 100x worse by a local fire at the waterfront pier. Creosote soaked wood burned out of control, producing toxic smoke. It was a challenging week of keep windows closed and air purifiers on maximum.

By this weekend however, a few days of rain and favourable winds had pushed the wildfire smoke out of the way. The local fire was also put under control. The result was a weekend of sunny and clear, blue skies. More importantly, the air was once again fresh, clean, and breathable. Last Sunday, when I dared to open even a tiny fraction of my windows during the local fire, the air quality sensor in my apartment read 70 micrograms per cubic meter of harmful particulates. Ideally, that value should be around 10 or less. Today, that value now reads at 7 or below. I can open the windows as far as I want. For most of this week, the temperature in my apartment ranged between 25 and 26 degrees Celsius. It was too hot for me. It’s now around 22 degrees, which is much more comfortable.

I imagine that this week has revealed to some people that they have taken the clean air of this city for granted. Not to sound smug or anything but I have not. When I was kid, my family went to Hong Kong a few times. After being out in the city for the day, I remember coming back to the hotel and my boogers would be black. Blowing my nose into a tissue would leave it like I rubbed charcoal on it. My parents explained to my sister and I that the air here was not like at home. It was dirty and probably not that great for us. I learned that trip that not everyone has the opportunity to breathe in clean air on a daily basis. Millions of people are stuck in cities where they are choked by dirty air and unfortunately, it’s just something they have to deal with.

There have been many times where I’ve travelled somewhere and when I come back home, I know I’m back not only because my eyes tell me so, but also my lungs. That unmistakable clean air I’m very thankful for.

So, what this week did make me realize is that we and I’m not sure who is encompassed by that “we”, we need to make progress in preventing the large scale wildfires that burned up and down the coast of this continent that lead to the majority of the smoke that blanketed large swaths of North America. I’m not expert in this but as a first guess, I’m thinking it probably involves a lot of money and also education.

Well, at least we can just go back to worrying about the global pandemic now.

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