Salmon Arm Secondary students Nyah Filipchuk, Caelie Hill, Kate Verdurmen and Isabelle Wilkie were the winners of an essay writing contest about what life in the Shuswap could be like in the year 2052. (Lachlan Labere - Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm Secondary students Nyah Filipchuk, Caelie Hill, Kate Verdurmen and Isabelle Wilkie were the winners of an essay writing contest about what life in the Shuswap could be like in the year 2052. (Lachlan Labere - Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm essay writers envision life in the Shuswap in 2052

Contest sponsored by Shuswap Environmental Action Society

Salmon Arm Secondary students recently took part in an essay contest in which they were asked to write about what they think life in the Shuswap could be like in the year 2052.

Eight entries were submitted for the contest sponsored by Jim Cooperman and the Shuswap Environmental Action Society. Prizes were awarded for the following: 1st place) Fire in the wind, Kate Verdurmen; 2nd) What does the future hold?, Isabelle Wilkie; 3rd) What we can save, Caelie Hill; 4th) Salmon Arm in 2052, Nyah Filipchuk.

Below is Verdurmen’s first-place submission.

••••

I will never forget the year 2052.

There was not a single speck of snow on Mt. Ida during the coldest winter nights. It seemed strange to me that no one noticed. Everyone ignored the planet’s agonizing cries of pain.

The perceived “eco-friendly” citizens of Salmon Arm continued to put their own dire needs before Mother Nature’s. The planet strained to give while we just took without gratitude.

I remember the day as if it was yesterday. The sun seemed to set your skin on fire and each breath filled your lungs with thick, humid air. The crumbling mountains surrounding our withering farm looked as if they were going to melt.

The lake was so shallow that you could walk two kilometers on the cracked mud before you reached the steaming water. It had only rained once that year, on April 25. Surprisingly, the drops were as large as golf balls and came down in sheets flooding our city’s streets. I would have given anything for that rain to return.

It was early evening and my sister, and I were fixing fences along the perimeter of our farm. Our farm is one of the last ones left in town. Everyone else traded their acres of rich farmland for those almighty dollars that we as humans trade our short-lived lives for. Sweat seeped through our dirt covered clothes.

“It is so hot out,” my sister remarked as she took a swig from her water bottle while leaning against the fence post.

“I know,” I replied, “We have to finish though.” My head throbbed and I felt as if I was about to collapse.

My sister nodded and tossed her water bottle behind her. With all the energy we had left, we finished the tedious game of fence patchwork. With a sigh of relief, we lazily gathered up the rusty tools and roll of fencing and trudged through what used to be our most prosperous wheat field. Now it’s nothing but a bed of dust.

As I dragged the heavy roll of fencing behind me, I noticed that the sky suddenly became drab and grey. Slowly, I looked up and noticed that several storm clouds quickly swirled in. The wind abruptly started to blow creating a hurricane of dust on the field. Thunder crashed through the sky rattling my bones. My sister’s eyes were filled with fear.

“We have to move,” I exclaimed. I dropped everything, grabbed her hand and made a run for our house. The dust swirling around us obscured our vision and smothered our lungs. But we had to keep fighting. We ran at full speed dodging cows, hurdling fences and avoiding pits. Skidding to a halt, we finally reached our porch.

“Go inside, tell mom,” I told my sister.

Read more: Opinion: Envisioning climate adaptation through land and water management in 2052

Read more: Opinion: Social life and education in the Shuswap in 2052

She quickly let go of my hand and dashed inside slamming the heavy wooden door. I needed to collect my thoughts and analyze what was happening. My legs were shaking. Then, without warning, a crash of thunder blasted through my ears and everyone’s worst nightmare followed. A blade of lightning tore through the sky and struck our dry field. Almost instantly, the field of weeds lit up in flames. I could have sworn I heard the forest around me scream. My blood ran cold, and my heart rate surged. In the spur of a moment, I felt my legs collapse beneath me and the world went black.

I cannot remember what happened between fleeing our house and arriving at my grandmas on the coast. It was all a blur. All I know is that we abandoned our house with very few belongings. It was heartbreaking to hear that the entire town was under an evacuation order. Three days later, our souls shattered when we learned that the city of Salmon Arm was burned to the ground. Droughts and fires had always been an element of the summer months in B.C. Everyone just treated them as the norm and adapted instead of trying to prevent them. But when they impact you, a sudden realization of how feeble the world is punches you in the gut.

When we finally returned, our home was nothing but a pile of ash. Everything we loved was burned. It was heartbreaking. But, in retrospect, as humans, we have been burning everything that the planet has ever loved.

We often don’t believe that the world is in danger until we are in danger ourselves.


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