The CBC newscasters say that Fort McMurray, Alberta, looks like a war zone, a place that’s been burnt out and destroyed. Three days ago more than 80,000 people, the city’s entire population–were ordered out by the authorities. A RCMP “SWAT” team has been sent in to make sure the diehard laggards comply. The 25,000 residents who had to initially flee north of Fort Mac are now being herded south in tightly controlled convoys run by the police—no turning off the main evacuation route allowed.
There is irony in this disaster story. While Canada just finished accepting 25,000 Syrian civil war refugees, we now have better than 3x this number of our own internal refugees.
While it is only a minority of houses and structures in Fort Mac that have burned, key parts of the infrastructure like hydro-electricity powerlines have been destroyed. The true cost of this fierce wildfire at Fort Mac will not be known for some time. Insurance companies are bracing for a potential hit of $9 billion in claims—making this fire the most expensive disaster in Canadian history. Economists are saying they’ve revised down by 1 percent the entire Canadian economy’s GDP to just 0.5 percent for this second quarter due to oil production facility shutdowns, lowering production about 1 million barrels of oil per day. These are huge losses. This is a major hit to the nation.
Why did this happen? Lack of moisture always turns the spindly conifers surrounding Fort Mac into overgrown matchsticks waiting to be struck. And when a fire breaks out and the winds roar the results always have the potential to be disastrous. Why didn’t the Fort Mac planning department insist on creating a 2 kilometre-wide belt of prairie grasslands around the city to protect it by having an effective firebreak?
The writer of the biblical book of Proverbs notes: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he (Proverbs 29:18 King James Version).
The “law” in this case can certainly include natural law. Some environments, like the conifer forests surrounding Fort Mac, are meant to burn from time to time. A lack of forethought and action got one of Canada’s most important economic hubs into its current problem.
But there’s more to say about why our leaders lack vision. Let’s look at how another Bible version renders Proverbs 29:18:
Where there is no ·word from God [L vision; prophecy], ·people are uncontrolled [T the people perish], but those who ·obey what they have been taught [L guard the law] are ·happy [blessed].
During the last few day of March this year my video production company had a contract to cover a conference put on by an Aboriginal group in the northern B.C. city of Prince George. We noticed how bone dry the north was. even though it was so early in Spring that many lakes were still partially frozen. (BTW: There are currently about 50 fires burning in N.E. British Columbia. My province, unfortunately, doesn’t have any firefighters to spare to help out our neighbours in Alberta, so they say.)
The keynote speaker at this conference made a remark about how public schools in Canada used to strengthen the moral character of their students by starting the day with a reading from one of the Psalms of the Bible to give the young people both vision and humility. On the other hand, the speaker remarked, the teachers also had a leather strap to discipline students who stepped beyond the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Sadly, the speaker noted, since our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect in 1982 Canadian young people have been deprived by our politically correct politicians of both this vision and discipline.
Everyone is agreed that the fierce wildfires of Fort McMurray will only be contained and then extinguished with rain. Who is it that causes drought or provides rain? You can find this answer in the Bible. Check out in the Old Covenant scriptures 1 Kings chapters 17 & 18. We don’t have to be helpless in the face of wildfires. Instead of egotistically turning our backs on the Bible’s God, maybe we should return to Him in humble prayer and ask for both forgiveness for our increasing sinfulness and, rain! Yet somehow, I don’t think our leaders in Canada could publicly humble themselves before the Bible’s God and actually do this. So I guess we’re going continue to burn for a while.