Surrounded By Flames

Michael Nabert
7 min readAug 16

Thanks, climate deniers!

Image by GNWT fire services

As I write these words, Canada’s Northwest Territories has declared a state of emergency. A 163,000 hectare wildfire is burning out of control less than 16 km Northwest of me here in the capital city of Yellowknife, thirteen kilometres closer than it was just yesterday. A different fire is approaching from the Southeast, yet another from the Northeast, and a fourth is due North. Pretty much the only direction that isn’t on fire faces Yellowknife Bay and mighty Great Slave Lake, the tenth largest lake in the world and the deepest in North America. Breathing the smoke outside of my house is roughly the equivalent of smoking three packs of cigarettes a day at this point, tiny soot particles compromising lungs. The only highway out of town that connects us with the rest of the country pretty much runs straight through the biggest blaze. It’s not only the only surface escape route, but also the way groceries and other goods normally reach us. There’s a small airport, but I can’t imagine flying out a population of 20,000 people. If power or communications infrastructure gets hit, I may not be able to post this.

I find myself surprisingly calm. Within the city, my location is safer than most. My garden currently provides a daily harvest of fresh produce suitable for eating raw. If power goes out and the freezers start to thaw, we’ll feed neighbours for a few days until we run out. A short term crisis we can endure.

This will be a long term crisis. I knew it was coming. I spent more than the last two decades telling everyone I could. Few listened. Fewer than that really heard. Those that did, like me, had almost no power to do anything about it.

I was using my own time and money after I finished minimally meeting my basic needs to try to spread an unpopular but urgent climate imperative. I was competing with literally billions of dollars of coordinated disinformation efforts with more comforting, although spectacularly untrue, messages. I was part of a small shoe string grass roots effort, facing down a multi trillion dollar industry with a stranglehold on the very centres of political power.

It’s no wonder we lost. We lost for all of you, as well as all of us. The angry climate deniers who feel that they won also lost. They just don’t know it yet.

Michael Nabert

Researching a road map from our imperilled world into one with a livable future with as much good humour as I can muster along the way.