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About the Author

Image credit: Journalist John Vaillant at the 2015 Texas Book Festival. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44599458

Obras de John Vaillant

Associated Works

Storm: Stories of Survival from Land and Sea (2000) — Contribuinte — 44 cópias


Conhecimento Comum

Nome padrão
Vaillant, John
Data de nascimento
Local de nascimento
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Locais de residência
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Oberlin College (BA|1984)
Vaillant, George C. (grandfather)
Vaillant, George E. (father)
Governor General's Award (2005)
Writers' Trust Prize for Non-Fiction (2005)
British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
The Globe and Mail Best Book for Science (2010)
Nicolas Bouvier Prize (2012)
Windham–Campbell Literature Prize (2014) (mostrar todas 7)
Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (2023)
Pequena biografia
John Vaillant has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic–Adventure, Outside and Men’s Journal. He lives in Vancouver with his wife (an anthropologist and a potter) and their two children. (from www.randomhouse.ca)



Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World is one of those “every human being should read this book” books. It’s that important. I have to admit, I’ve been a little bit of a head in the sand consumer of climate change journalism. It isn’t that I don’t believe in it. In fact, it’s probably just the opposite: I know it’s real and it’s catastrophic and it’s inevitable. Out of sight, out of mind. Well, that has to end or we end. Maybe not “we,” but certainly our grandchildren and great-grandchildren…if they manage to make it to existence.
The first 2/3 of this book provides the hook. It’s all about the wildfires in Alberta Canada. The last third is the lesson, a lesson that far too many, especially the political right, have refused to believe. I found out reading the book that much of the climate denying industry has quietly divested themselves of energy investments, not because they want to send a message, but because they know those companies are doomed. These deniers just don’t want to contribute to the truth getting out because it will hurt the price of their soon to be abandoned investments.
The political right all over the world but most notably in this country has been responsible for an awful lot of awful things in the past generation including an attempt to overthrow a duly elected government. But hard as that is to believe, its attempt to deny climate change is existential. We can live under an autocrat. We can live if climate change wins.
… (mais)
FormerEnglishTeacher | outras 9 resenhas | Apr 10, 2024 |
Summary: An account of the Fort McMurray fire of 2016, when a forest fire consumed a town and became a harbinger of things to come in a hotter, drier world.

I never wore face masks outdoors during all of the COVID epidemic. I did several days last summer when a smoky haze that had traveled a thousand miles settled over the Midwest and other parts of the eastern United States. For much of the summer, vast tracts of forest were on fire in Canada. News just today indicates there are zombie fires burning underground and dry conditions in western Canada portend another fire summer.

John Vaillant tells the story of what happened when a raging wilderness fire intersected with an oil industry town, Fort McMurray in Alberta. Fort McMurray grew to a city of 90,000 people because of our insatiable thirst for oil. The tar sands nearby are rich in bitumen, which can be converted through energy intensive processes to the petroleum products helping to warm our atmosphere. Fort McMurray also exists in the heart of the boreal forests that stretch across the north of Canada.

Conditions in the spring of 2016 were exceptionally warm and dry. A high pressure system yielded blue skies unseasonably high temperatures and low humidity, further drying out the forest around the town. On May 1, a small fire known as Fire 009, the ninth fire around Fort McMurray, was sited southwest of the town, on the other side of the river. By May 2, officials began to worry, even as they projected calm. But those in the know knew May 3 would be hard. No one knew how hard. Another hot, dry day, with winds coming around to blow out of the southwest and freshening. All the ingredients were present for the fire to explode…and it did. The morning began with brilliant blue skies. Suddenly, at 12:15, everyone discovered that a monster was among them. In rapid order, neighborhoods were consumed. While people got up expecting a normal day, suddenly they needed to evacuate–immediately–90,000 of them.

The amazing story is that none of them died. But much of the town did. Firefighters tore down rows of houses and were able to save others. What they discovered however was that when a fire became this intense, rivers were not a barrier, that fire tornados and other freak meteorological occurrences could cast the fire over firebreaks and natural obstacles. The fire would seek fuel.

That’s one of the interesting things the emerges from Vaillant’s rendering of the many eyewitness accounts–that the fire was a kind of living thing–akin to the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings. He describes the flammability of the boreal forest, particularly the black spruces, dripping with sap, exploding into flame as the wall of heat of the fire approaches. They are like bombs, containing all this stored energy. Vaillant describes another kind of bomb–the residential houses in the fire’s path. Made of vinyl siding, kiln dried wood framing, shingled roofs, polyurethane, polyester in furniture curtains and clothes, and all sorts of other petroleum based plastics throughout as well as gas cans, propane tanks, and other flammables. Houses went from livable structures to holes in the ground in less than five minutes.

Vaillant describes the stunning awakening from “this is no big deal” to “the apocalypse has come” of the residents. He goes on to describe the slower, more insidious burn as our atmosphere warms. He retells the story of what we know and when we knew it about greenhouse gasses and anthropogenic global warming. The basic physics was demonstrated in 1856. By 1956, scientists were testifying before Congress. Their predictions, even back then are startlingly accurate. There was no partisan debate. But nothing was done. As early as the 1970’s, the oil companies own scientists knew. And there was a window of time when something could be done to avert the dramatic climate changes we are seeing. Now we may be facing a rapidly closing window to avert changes on such a scale that they result in a mass extinction of much of life.

Vaillant is one of many voices describing the future on our doorstep. Year round fire seasons in many parts of the world is the impact on which he focuses. Fuel, dry conditions, wind, and a spark are all that’s needed for another Fort McMurray at the wilderness urban interfaces where many of us live. The irony is that we keep lighting the fire that fuels the fire everyday. Fort McMurray with its petrochemical industry, is in microcosm the story in which we all are implicated. Vaillant not only tells a riveting story about a monster fire. He tells a sobering story that demands we face the reality of the world we are leaving our children and grandchildren. It could very well be one where they are fighting, and maybe running, for their lives. But to where will they run?
… (mais)
BobonBooks | outras 9 resenhas | Mar 5, 2024 |
Some VERY beautiful writing early on, and an interesting story. I found it a bit hard to get into, but somewhere around page 100 I was hooked. I know it's being compared to Into the Wild and other wilderness-meets-madness stories, and I don't think that this tale compares favorably. However, if this is the author's first book, I am excited to read more.
patl | outras 44 resenhas | Feb 29, 2024 |



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