Makeshift “book-burning centres” have popped up nationwide and in parts of the northern U.S. in an effort to stay warm through the cold snap currently chilling many parts of North America. First starting as a desperate measure during ice storms that knocked out power in many parts of Eastern Canada, the creation and maintenance of these small centres were encouraged in an advertising campaign launched in the last week of December by the Canadian government.
Through gold-leafed pamphlets delivered door-to-door, as well as a series of bus ads in most Canadian cities, the Conservative government has taken a proactive stance on both keeping its citizens warm and destroying priceless and irreplaceable texts in the new year.
The government announced in 2012 that it would begin shutting down many national archive sites across the country, in what it called a “totally legitimate” cost-cutting measure as positions and programs were slashed.
A significant number of these archives were relied upon by environmental researchers and activists attempting to piece together records and reports of climate change. Skepticism dogged the closures, as limiting access to information regarding climate change was publicly referred to as being “goddamn sketchy.”
The closures have now been rolled into a national strategy on “fighting the symptoms of climate change,” according to the Minister of Environment, Ollie Spille, in a press conference on January 2.
The ads offered helpful advice on different uses for old and discarded archive collections and any other materials that “indicate so-called ‘alarming’ global climatic trends.” Tips included using loose pages as kindling for bonfires, hardcovers as longer-burning fuel, and shredding pages to use as stuffing for makeshift quilts or pillows.
Since the archive closures leave thousands of books destined for landfills or scattering to private collections, the book burning initiative makes better use of these unique and rare tomes for the good of both citizens and the environment. “We know that landfills are bad for the environment, right,” Spille explained. “So by destroying these books instead of sending them to landfills, we’re helping the environment. Boom.”
While Spille would not comment on any change in official government opinion on the issue of climate change itself, she heavily emphasized the role the government is taking in addressing its aftereffects, “now that people are starting to complain about it.”
In Montreal neighbourhoods, many of the books come from the dismantled Mori Lamountain Institute Library, after some were digitized for public viewing. “People don’t use books anymore, let’s be real,” said Spille. “Not like there’s anything different between reading books in person and online.”
Many American neighbourhoods struggling with power outages and uncommonly cold weather these past few days have begun burning books in kind, and a number of these were supplied directly from closing Canadian libraries. With many Americans unfamiliar with, and unprepared for, below-freezing temperatures, book burning has taken off as an easy and “relatively safe” emergency measure. Spille said the Canadian government is helping in any way possible.