Burning eyes. Otherworldly orange-hued skies. Plummeting air quality levels.
As wildfires raged in Canada, millions across the eastern United States were urged to stay inside as smoke shrouded the skies and heavy haze caused numerous disruptions across the country.
In New York City, the extreme conditions invited stark comparisons of post-apocalyptic films like “Blade Runner 2049″ and warnings about the drastic consequences of climate change.
Social media was filled with dystopian scenes of masked individuals walking vacated streets, an obscured Manhattan skyline, and memes evoking the pervasive sense of unease. On Facebook, a doctor in Syracuse named Ken Strumpf summed up the situation.
“We are right in the path of the smoke from Canada,” he wrote. “I can taste the air.”
See some of the reactions below.
Gone were the clear skies and crowded parks. In their place were scenes of ruin, as if from another planet.
One person tweeted it was “the most post apocalyptic a place has ever felt.”
Others saw the hazy skies as a sign of things to come.
“Due to hundreds of uncontrolled wildfires across Canada, New York City looks like a post-apocalyptic hellscape,” another person added. “If you want a prelude of what the world is going to look like if we do not address man-made climate change — this is it.”
Due to hundreds of uncontrolled wildfires across Canada, New York City looks like a post-apocalyptic hellscape.— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) June 7, 2023
If you want a prelude of what the world is going to look like if we do not address man-made climate change — this is it. #ActOnClimate pic.twitter.com/cimHQkDwkZ
The air quality in New York City was at its worst ever recorded, with apocalyptic scenes being observed. This is not a simulation or a scene from a movie; this is the current climate reality. Time for the masses to realize the severity of this crisis. pic.twitter.com/0cHWh9aFDC— Peter Dynes (@PGDynes) June 8, 2023
🚨#WATCH: Apocalyptic before and after scenes from the wildfire smoke consuming the New York City skylines ⁰⁰📌#Manhattan | #NewYork— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) June 8, 2023
Watch breathtaking yet unsettling sight of apocalyptic scenes as the smoke from the Canadian wildfires engulfs the magnificent New York City… pic.twitter.com/e9ppS7ga44
Dire climate change warnings
Climate experts and concerned citizens alike sounded the alarm as haze descended on New York City.
“With global temperatures on the rise, the need to urgently reduce wildfire risk is critical. We must make peace with nature. We cannot give up,” tweeted António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations.
A window into the future? This is the view outside the @UNEP NYO office, as smoke from the #CanadaWildfires causes air quality levels in #NewYork to plummet. Yet the majority of the world’s population has to breathe such unhealthy air every day. Learn more:https://t.co/Fbu7WgLvJu pic.twitter.com/8sjcx4TUoI— UN Environment Programme New York (@UNEP_NYO) June 7, 2023
At our @UN Headquarters in New York, we can feel the deteriorating air quality as smoke from the wildfires in Canada moves south.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) June 7, 2023
With global temperatures on the rise, the need to urgently reduce wildfire risk is critical.
We must make peace with nature. We cannot give up. pic.twitter.com/pm8HkNBwRN
Dramatic comparisons of New York City
Many drew attention to the situation in New York City by posting a photo of the city on a normal day directly beside one on Wednesday, with the sky cast in orange and much of the iconic skyline hidden from view. The air quality was rated as very unhealthy.
“Typically this is a clear view of the Manhattan skyline. Today you can’t see beyond the buildings in the foreground of #Brooklyn,” tweeted one person, who said the “air smells like campfire.”
Briefly went out to see the view from my rooftop in #Greenpoint due to #CanadaFires. The air smells like campfire. Typically this is a clear view of the Manhattan skyline. Today you can’t see beyond the buildings in the foreground of #Brooklyn. See the comparison. #ClimateCrisis pic.twitter.com/Q9Fxus9wu9— Alex Ustach (@AlexUstach) June 7, 2023
Reactions of shock and fear
For many in New York and the surrounding areas, the otherworldly haze and burning smoke left them unsettled.
“New York has been such a scary place in the last 24 hours,” one person tweeted.
Parallels with ‘Blade Runner 2049′
Scenes from one movie were widely shared on social media Wednesday: the dystopian science fiction film “Blade Runner 2049,” which many said echoed what New York City looked and felt like.
“It is LITERALLY Blade Runner 2049 in New York City right now,” one person tweeted.
Other movies and television shows like “Breaking Bad” were also referenced.
Grim memes galore
The Internet reacts to any form of chaos or disruption by creating memes — a way to lighten the mood while also highlighting the grim reality of the situation at hand. That was the case Wednesday, as some focused on the climate crisis and others the sense of alarm among New Yorkers.
“The Canada fires and hazardous smoke in the Northeast are more examples that we’re likely past the point of no return with climate change, to be honest,” tweeted one person with a “The Simpsons Movie” meme.