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The fall season has begun
Northern Capital News returns to a very different media landscape and are we ready for ecosystem and media collapse?
So here we are. News is no longer available on Facebook or Instagram, and on Twitter it seems unwelcome by the man who owns it (and the people who increasingly dominate the conversation there). Glacier Media — which owns the Prince George Citizen — is signalling strongly that even weekly print editions are not long for this world. And the Prince George Post is on indefinite hiatus after its last standing reporter left for a new job (going from three to two to one to zero reporters does not make me especially optimistic about the publication’s future). Meanwhile, it’s mid-September and we’re still getting smoke levels high enough to cause permanent long-term health issues from wildfires burning in the area.
It’s strange times we’re living in. I tend not to buy into the “things are worse than they’ve ever been” narratives that it’s easy to fall into (writer Dan Gardner is very good at explaining that everyone, at every period in time, is quite confident they are living through something unique) but I also don’t think that means things will automatically work out for the best, either. I was rather surprised to see the New York Times writing up an explanation about eco-anxiety and what it is in the wake of this year’s extreme heat because, I thought, aren’t we already aware of eco-anxiety? And then I realized — oh, no, we’re a few years ahead of the curb here because we’re already used to summers being marred by wildfire smoke and mass evacuations and other parts of the world aren’t (on the other hand, there are still other parts of the world that are years ahead of us in coming to terms with it. Everyone at their own pace)
Why am I writing about all of this in what is, ostensibly, a newsletter about the going-ons in one mid-sized northern B.C. city? It’s because, for me at least, summer has become the time of year when it becomes most difficult to disengage myself from seeing connections between the global climate (both political and literal) and the effects here at home. I remember back when I first started covering mass wildfires in 2017 there were lots of questions about how much we should draw the connections between the conditions on the ground and the overall issue of climate change — now, it seems, those connections no longer have to be made for most Canadians because they are well aware that things should probably not be this way, even if they’re more concerned about the cost of groceries than ecosystem collapse. And I feel like I kind of have to just free-form out my thoughts here, otherwise I’ll have a block preventing me from moving forward with the daily news, so that’s what you’re getting right now.
There was a grizzly bear in Quesnel this weekend.
There have actually been a lot of bears around this summer. You probably noticed. I sure did. For a while there, I wasn’t leaving my house without checking for one in my driveway or yard and when there wasn’t one there, it was pretty much guaranteed it was down the street. And like the fires before it, there was quite a bit of debate over how we should talk about these bears. Some people got angry when I posted on Facebook asking if people had noticed an increase in bears because they figured I was being alarmist — there have always been bears here, no reason to make a big deal of it.
Eventually, a few officials actually confirmed what until then had been anecdotal data, with the police and conservation officers and the city saying they were receiving record calls about bears and, more telling, more of them were problem bears who had to be put down. Still, though, the biologists I’ve heard from aren’t really giving us a reason behind why we have so many bears this year.
There are plenty of theories — drought, berry collapse, wildfires, new subdivisisions destroying habtitat — but just as it’s nebulous to say any individual fire is the direct result of climate change, it’s also difficult to say any individual bear in the city — or even dozens of bears in the city — are there because of any one cause, even if we can agree that all of those are probably, overall, bad for the bears and bad for all the other animals, too, and by extension, bad for us.
Then there’s other people who feel it’s a failure not to draw the links between the bears and the overall ecosystem collapse we’re witnessing every single time we talk about it, but this is where scientists and journalists sometime get hamstrung because when you’re sticking to the facts, even reasonable speculation is a difficult thing to communicate and when it really comes down to it, do we need to give a history of modern capitalism and it’s flaws every time we write about bears? I mean, maybe we should but sometimes a grizzly is just a grizzly, you know? Even if other times it’s a symbol of a greater problem.
The question I have now is what is the future for us and the bears? Like… is this the new normal? Just as we’ve gotten used to having our phones buzz to tell us the air is toxic and we’ve gotten used to a new disease that’s still killing people off are we going to get used to bears wandering through the downtown core every summer? Will we be able to ignore that as easily as the people I saw sitting happily drinking beer and eating dinner on outside patios Friday night were able to ignore that they were breathing in smoke levels that come with an image of a little man in a gas mask on the air quality apps? Will it be just one of those things I hold in my head as “oh yeah, we never used to have bears wandering down the streets in August” but go about my life as normal the way I do with these other sea changes? Or unlike wildfires and viruses will the bears be something more easily controlled and eliminated from our public spaces so we don’t have to learn to live with them even as the reasons they arrived in the first place carry on unabated?
Anyways, welcome to the fall season of Northern Capital News.
I’m not going to try and catch you up on everything that’s happened over the past few months. The big one is the demolition of the camp in Millennium Park which I wrote about here and about which much else has been and will be written and debated and will be covered in this newsletter in the weeks ahead.
There are a few new restaurants in town — Om on Central is a personal fav, and it’s nice to have a soup and sandwich spot downtown again. I still haven’t made it to the new pasta place in what used to be Cimo but the reviews look good and there’s a bunch of new stuff in the Hart, too. Get out there and eat!
In electric vehicle news, fast chargers are coming to Mackenzie.
Hydrogen energy low-key continues to be one of the more interesting emerging stories in the city.
And even though Save-On is leaving it looks like something is moving into its space at Parkwood Place.
And that’s it! We’ll be less existential tomorrow.
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