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Nature

Satirical Plan For Combating Wildfire Smoke Goes Viral After People Take It Seriously

author

Aliyah Kovner

Science Writer

clockAug 22 2018, 14:52 UTC

The man's "plan" involved residents putting electric fans on their rooves. Iryna Inshyna

A Spokane, Washington resident has succeeded in pranking an international audience after his comedic scheme for sending wildfire smoke back to Canada spread, well, like wildfire.

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So, here's the backstory. In case you've missed the headlines, British Columbia is six days into a state of emergency as more than 550 blazes continue to rage across the drought-parched landscape, chewing through over 6,000 acres of forest so far.

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High atmospheric winds have spread these toxic plumes of ash, carbon monoxide, CO2, and carcinogenic hydrocarbons through the atmosphere over other Canadian regions and Washington and Oregon, prompting warnings about dangerous air quality from public health officials on both sides of the border.

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Naturally, a disaster of this magnitude would make most people caught in its path feel powerless, yet a group of friends from Spokane, Washington seemingly refused to accept the meteorological status quo and forged a creative albeit unscientific plan to take matters into their own hands.

According to their Facebook post for an event called “Blow Spokane’s Smoke Away to Canada”, the ambitious foursome are hoping to mobilize as many residents as possible to gather electric fans, place them on their roofs, and push the smoke northward from whence it came. 

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The event details. Courtesy of Caleb Moon/Facebook

The post was widely shared by Spokane locals before it caught the attention of Canadian broadcaster Global News. Their subsequent report brought viral attention to the event and its lead organizer, Caleb Moon, after he was quoted as confirming that the plan is most definitely serious and apologizing to any Canadians who may be personally offended by the returned smoke.

“I love Canadian bacon on my pizza, I love hockey and I am sorry this is the only solution we have,” Moon said, according to the report.

The article even includes an environmental health scientist explaining why the plan is completely absurd. What it fails to mention, however, is that the whole thing was a joke.

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“So the air quality here was over a level 350 on Sunday when I decided to make this fake event,” Moon told IFLScience. An air quality index score of 301 to 500 is considered "hazardous", meaning that the entire population of an affected area is at risk of experiencing adverse health effects.

“It was a joke amongst four of my friends. We wanted to see how many of our friends would join in... [I] never expected it to spiral out of control like this.”

When asked how Global News could have missed this crucial bit of info, Moon told IFLScience: “The woman who interviewed me was laughing along with me, as she knew I was joking. But I imagine it’s much better for their ratings to paint me as a goon.”

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He added that once their piece was online, he began seeing a lot more indignant engagement.

“It’s totally gone over many people’s heads,” Moon said. “I thought for sure everyone would get the joke when I told Global News [about the bacon]."

And although he can’t set the record straight with every online commenter berating the purposefully stupid event for its stupidity, Moon has leveraged the unexpected attention for something positive.

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In the event details, he added links to the donation webpages for the British Columbia SPCA and Food Banks BC’s wildfire funds. Contributions will go toward supporting people and animals displaced by the fires. 


Nature
  • climate change,

  • wildfire,

  • internet,

  • joke,

  • satire