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Open Access Wild Smoke: Managing Forest Pollution in Northern British Columbia since 1950

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

Almost every year, ash drifts from forest fires in north-western Canada into northern Europe, altering forecasts on both continents, settling in Antarctic ice and turning the skies over the world’s major cities an apocalyptic orange. As smoke drifts from the forests into nearby communities and distant urban centres, it becomes the medium through which most people experience forest fire, leaving traces on memories and bodies. Although wildfires and their associated plumes are getting worse, people have a long and dynamic relationship with forest fire smoke which can be understood through the lens of air pollution and forestry history. Using British Columbia, Canada as a case study, I argue that the difficulty of separating wildfire smoke from other types of air pollution has worked to the advantage of land managers interested in supporting the forestry industry, with negative impacts for northern communities.

Keywords: air pollution; forestry; land management; northern history; wildfire

Appeared or available online: February 21, 2023

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