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Tolkien: Lo! Behold the Unseen Enemy—A Malady of Smoke from the Distant North

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  • The dwellers of New York City, chiefly those of elder years or with afflictions of the lungs, are counselled to shun outdoor exertion and to arm themselves with masks of the highest order.
  • The bane is felt most strongly at the roots of the inferno, where Environment Canada has sounded its most dire air quality warning, setting Ottawa in a state of ‘extreme peril’.
  • Inhabitants of Toronto and its environs likewise find themselves breathing air declared ‘high risk’.
  • The flames have driven thousands from their homes, with conflagrations reported in lands as diverse as British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.

In the heart of the great city of stone and steel known as New York, a call was raised to those frail with age or beset by breath’s maladies. They were urged to shun the open air and the exertion it would demand, and to don masks of the finest make, for an unseen adversary was afoot.

Indeed, from far in the north, where the pine forests stretch unto the horizon, an army of wildfires was raging, casting forth a vast pall of smoke and ash. This smoky malady had travelled far, borne on the winds, until it descended upon the city and its surrounds, rendering the air a hazard to breathe.

It was in Ottawa, closer to the dread fires, that the situation turned dire. The guardians of the environment in that land rang out their most urgent warning, declaring the air a perilous foe of the highest order.

The citizens of Toronto and the lands about it were no strangers to this plight. They too faced the menace of an air turned enemy, one that bore the label ‘high risk’.

Many were the peoples driven from their homes by the fiery onslaught. Fires were reported far and wide, in the lands of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and even the remote Northwest Territories.

Warnings of the poor quality of air hung heavily in the air across the United States, with the invisible enemy casting its shadow over states as far afield as North Dakota, Missouri, and Virginia. The denizens of these realms were advised to confine their exertions to the indoors and to protect their breath with masks of good quality when venturing out into the smoke-filled air.

Such was the potency of this smoky foe that it wreaked havoc upon the health of those who breathed it in. It caused chest pains and irritated the eyes, nose, and throat. Hospitals saw an influx of patients, particularly those already contending with diseases of the lung.

Having crafted tales of mighty battles and heroic quests, I find this silent war against an unseen foe somewhat disconcerting. The wildfires, I am inclined to liken to the dragons of old, such as Smaug the Golden, who brought ruin to the Lonely Mountain and its surrounds. Just as the dwarves, men, and elves united to face the fiery onslaught, so too must we come together to combat this modern dragon of wildfires and its smoky breath.

I believe deeply in the resilience of nature and the human spirit. The Ents, the tree shepherds in my tales, were slow to anger but proved mighty when roused. Their love for their forests drove them to great deeds. So too, I hope, will our love for our earth drive us to greater action in preventing such fires and preserving the health of our lands. Yet, it is distressing to imagine the many innocents suffering the consequences of this disaster, much like the simple hobbits caught in the turmoil of a war that was larger than them. It is my sincere hope that we find a way to return the air to its natural state, much as the Shire was healed after the War of the Ring.

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