Book Review: When John Vaillant Contemplates Catastrophe, We Should Listen

By Crawford Kilian
The Tyee
May 25, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, Canada West

Vancouver resident John Vaillant’s new book focuses on one day in May 2016, in the small city of Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta. But from there it sweeps two centuries into the past, around the world to California, Europe and Australia, and brings us back to our own hot, smoky spring and ominous future. It is a fast-paced narrative of a disastrous wildfire and of the culture that both created the fire and was damaged by it. And it is a brilliantly written description of our own insights and follies: we saw the present disaster coming long ago. We could have prevented it, and we let it happen anyway. …Vaillant ends his book with the discovery of “revirescence,” the return of life to fire-blasted land. The forests are reviving around Fort McMurray, and in the ashes of its Abasand neighbourhood Vaillant saw tulips blooming.

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