On a clear day on southern Vancouver Island, you can see mountains in Washington state.

But the horizon is a much different picture these days.

The smoke drifting to Vancouver Island as a result of wildfires south of the border is not only changing the landscape but changing people’s behaviour.

The smoky skies on top of a pandemic are key reasons why people are changing the way they live, according to Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater,a professor in the psychology department in the University of Victoria.

She said people were used to venturing outside after the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s not easy for us to deal with the pandemic, and back to school, and smoke all at the same time,” she said.

Leadbeater said anxiety is common these days but can be managed.

“I think our mental health could benefit from doing just a few strange jobs that you haven’t done for a long time. Like, clean out your drawers. and take the things you don’t need to Our Place Society, or the Salvation Army, or Big Brothers and Sisters.”

“If you are really feeling stressed out, and anxious, you need to reach out to someone else.

But the changes to the environment may not be temporary. The climate is shifting, evident by the smoke smothering much of southern B.C.

Dr. David Atkinson is a professor in the department of geography at the University of Victoria and the department chair of climate said we should expect more events like the smoke from the wildfires burning south of the border.

“We have higher highs and drier drys. And we have periods where these warmer events, these drier events are longer. They’re allowing areas to burn now that just never experienced much burn,” he said.


Mary Griffin