If you’re Canadian anywhere on the East Coast of the United States this week, you’re at risk of being inundated with smoke jokes.
A doctor joked to a Breaking: reporter during a medical checkup Thursday in Washington, “Tell your country to take back its smoke.”
With that joke out of his system, the doctor shook his head in disbelief and mumbled in disbelief that there are still people who doubt climate change.
That is this week, summed up to the raw elements: fear on the one hand, gallows humor on the other and politics on the other as gigantic amounts of carbon floating over the continent.
An apricot-colored sky creeps over the most densely populated region in the upper half of our hemisphere, casting its haze over tens of millions of people.
Sinus tingling smoke is suddenly Canada’s most talked about export.
It closes zoos. As the haze moved south, the last one was in Washington, DC; tourists were told they could not enter, while pandas, monkeys, bears, tigers and lions were forced inside.
The elephants were allowed to choose: they could walk in or out, as they wished. Baseball games in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC were canceled
As darkness descended on the national capital, even the most celebrated presidents saw their monuments disappear.
The Washington Monument, made invisible from the Capitol. The Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by smoke.
High school seniors took selfies in their graduation gowns on the famous staircase where Martin Luther King gave his I Have a Dream speech.
Since this is a political capital, disaster talk naturally became political.
Across the river in Virginia were the state’s Democratic and Republican parties arguing about the bushfire on Twitter.
The Democrats called it morbidly ironic that just this week was the Republican-led state to leave a regional carbon trading market.
The Republicans mock them. “Yes,” the GOP tweeted in response. “Please tell us more about how wildfires in Canada are to blame for fossil fuel companies in the United States.”
The theme played out repeatedly.
In Washington, Democrats made speeches about the crisis, making an explicit link to climate change.
At the White House, President Joe Biden mentioned it in the first sentence of a rack where he promised to send whatever aid Canada needs.
“Climate change is not a hoax,” said Adriano Espaillat in the US House of Representatives. “Is this the future for our children?”
In the Senate, the leader of the chamber, Chuck Schumer, gave two speeches in two days on the issue.
This is some of the worst air pollution from wildfires in United States history, the New York state senator said.
“My home state looked like the scene of a scary movie,” Schumer said Thursday, urging the government to send additional personnel, on top of the 600 already deployed to Canada.
“Walking in New York City yesterday was like walking on another planet… The climate crisis is real, and it is here to stay.”
There has been a significant increase in wildfires in recent decades, both in frequency and in acres burned in the United States warmer temperatures often quoted like a significant the driving factor.
But one Senate Republican was aiming for a different goal: too much regulation.
And there’s been plenty of gallows humor, like the doctor’s joke.
The New York Post blamed Canada with a front page announcing it as Eh!Pocalypse Now.
Sometimes it is less clear where the joke ends.
In another Rupert Murdoch media outlet, Fox News, Jesse Watters laughed at people for making a lot of smoke. But he also demanded reparations from Canada in a tongue-in-cheek monologue.
“Canada dropped a smoke bomb on us,” he said. “First China hit us with the virus, then Canada hits us with a smoke bomb.”
Fox News personalities mocked residents of smoke-filled cities for wearing masks again. In downtown Washington, many pedestrians had put them back on Thursday.
Sean Hannity made fun of Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wailing how unprepared we are for the climate crisis – in our energy networks, food systems and infrastructure.
He also mocked the young, healthy people who complained about the smoke.
“I was having trouble breathing,” Hannity said, imitating them. “I walk in the same place you walk and I don’t feel anything… Are they all snowflakes?”
She derided some public health warnings as hysteria and teased coverage in outlets like The New York Times.
“Knee-slappingly hilarious,” Ingraham described it.
“No one denies that (this smoke) is unpleasant. My eyes are itching and watering… But is this at all unusual?”
Others weren’t kidding.
At Reagan National Airport near Washington, Claudia Pineda-Tibbs called the sky apocalyptic.
She told Breaking: it reminded her of the blazing fires in her home state of California. And she said that we are now undeniably suffering from the effects of climate change.
In New York City, Ron Meisner said it reminded him of another harrowing scene: the hazy sky after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
He commented on the cover of his local tabloid.
“No, I don’t blame Canada,” Meisner told Breaking:.
“I feel like the whole world is not concerned with the environmental situation.”