Ethereum’s co-founder says he’s done with crypto because it’s too risky – and only represents a small bit of what the world needs

decentral anthony 1
Anthony Di Iorio, co-founder of ethereum.

Anthony Di Iorio, a co-founder of the ethereum blockchain, is wrapping up his time in the cryptocurrency world due to personal safety concerns, and because he no longer wants to be known as the “crypto guy.”

He recently told Bloomberg he wasn’t too encouraged by the risk profile attached to the industry.

“I don’t feel necessarily safe in this space,” he said. “If I was focused on larger problems, I think I’d be safer.”

The 48-year-old Canadian has had a security team since 2017, and mostly been accompanied on his travels, Bloomberg said. He soon plans to sell his current blockchain venture Decentral to focus on philanthropy and other projects unrelated to crypto.

Decentral, founded in 2014, is a Toronto-based wallet and crypto services provider whose flagship product, Jaxx Liberty, counted about 1 million customers this year.

Di Iorio, who estimates his startup is worth “hundreds of millions,” expects to strike a deal in fiat money, or in equity, rather than in crypto. Forbes lists his own net worth as high as $1 billion.

He further told Bloomberg he wants to transition to being someone who takes on complex problems. He’s currently involved with an initiative called Project Arrow which is involved with a zero-emission concept vehicle run by a high-school friend.

Di Iorio co-founded ethereum in 2014 along with seven others in Switzerland in a rented house they called the “spaceship.” Among them, Vitalik Buterin is the only one still working on the blockchain. Ether, the network’s native token and the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, held a market value of $221 billion as of Monday, according to data from

Ether has continued to grow in popularity this year, showing a 53% increase in trading volumes quarter-on-quarter to an average of $3.25 billion a day on global exchanges, a report from Coinbase shows. Meanwhile, bitcoin has seen a 14% decline in the same period to $4.01 billion.

“I will incorporate crypto when needed, but a lot of times, it’s not,” Di Iorio said. “It’s really a small percentage of what the world needs.”

Read More: An $875 mini bitcoin-mining rig is viral on TikTok. The video’s creator told us 3 reasons why it’s an appealing alternative for crypto traders, and explained its limitations.

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The revelation of Canada’s cultural genocide against native people should shake the world into a historical reckoning that extends beyond empty apologies

A memorial for one of the 215 children found in a mass grave in Canada.
A memorial for one of the 215 children found in a mass grave in Canada.

  • 751 unmarked graves of indigenous Canadians were uncovered weeks after another mass grave was found.
  • The shocking news should jolt not just Canada, but the entire global community into reckoning with their own histories of cultural genocide.
  • From Australia to China and a number of nations in between, policy and not apologies are what marginalized communities need to heal.
  • Parisa Hashempour is a freelance journalist and International Studies lecturer living in the Netherlands.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

Weeks after a mass grave of 215 children was uncovered at the site of a residential school in British Columbia, 751 unmarked graves were found beside another residential school in Saskatchewan, home to the indigenous Cowessess First Nation.

The schools, which forcibly removed more than 150,000 indigenous children from their families in all but three Canadian territories over the course of 100 years, are responsible for the deaths of more than 3000 children and the abuse of many more. Residential schools were a horrific act of cultural genocide – the systematic destruction of the culture of a national, ethnic, or religious group – on the part of the church and the Canadian governments.

In the wake of the news, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the graves as “a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced.” His words, which have been described by indigenous activists as all talk and little action, should prompt not just Canada but a whole host of modern nation-states across the globe to reckon with their unaddressed histories of cultural genocide.

From Australia to China and a whole number of nations in between, the recent reports should signal for many in the global community that it is time to look inwards and properly reckon with both their own histories and present violations of cultural genocide.

Residential schools in Canada and the US

Cultural genocide has historically been used to eradicate the identity of marginalized groups in order to eliminate their space in a place’s history. Beginning in the 1870s, authorities in Canada took away young indigenous children and placed them in residential schools, with an aim to educate and assimilate children into Euro-Canadian society. Schools forbade children from speaking their native languages, even in letters home to their parents. They were separated from siblings, prevented from practicing traditional faiths, stripped of their traditional clothes, long hair was cut off and in many cases children were given new, Christian names.

In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared, “These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.” One Kamloops school survivor, Julianna Alexander, told the commission “To recover, it took me 14 years after I left. I became an addict and an alcoholic.” The emotional, physical, and sexual abuse many suffered had devastating personal consequences, and the denigration and outright attack on cultural practices had a pernicious, long-lasting effect on the survival of those customs too.

However, these schools were not unique to Canada. “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” is a quote made famous by Captain Richard H. Pratt, the founder of the predecessor to the residential schools both north and south of the Canadian border: the US Training and Industrial school in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The federal government sent thousands of Native Americans to study at boarding schools throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and subjected children to much the same treatment as was experienced further north.

Cultural genocide on a global scale

The image evoked by the residential school graves sent shockwaves around the world and was particularly triggering for indigenous communities still reeling from their own experiences of marginalization and oppression. Aboriginal Australian Arrernte Elder, William Pengarte Tilmouth, wrote for The Guardian: “The experiences in Canada are echoed here in Australia. Until there is truth-telling in Australia about the colonisation process across the whole of the continent, the process of reconciliation remains superficial.”

As in North America, the lasting cultural implications of colonization are still being felt there today. Of more than 250 known indigenous Australian languages, only around 140 of those are still spoken, with 110 of that number critically endangered. This is credited to the theft of the ‘Lost Generation’ of Australians, children who were stolen from their aboriginal families and integrated into white Australian homes up until the 1970s. In New Zealand too, indigenous people have suffered land alienation, mass settler immigration, and cultural marginalization. However, it is not just former English colonies that have histories of cultural genocide to reckon with.

In Sweden, the indigenous Sami people are lobbying their government for a truth and reconciliation process to expose human rights violations, all while logging practices could be set to see 30% of their community destroyed. On the international stage, China hits daily headlines on accusations of genocide amidst the ongoing persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Claiming Uighurs are a terror threat, more than one million Uighurs are estimated to have been detained in camps since 2016 in a situation that is said to be characterized by forced labor, sexual and physical abuse, ‘re-education’, and intensive surveillance. Internal documents from the Kunes county justice system from 2017 and 2018, provided to the BBC, described the camp’s intentions as “washing brains, cleansing hearts, strengthening righteousness and eliminating evil” – it’s clear that the world has far from learned its lesson.

Action over words

In 2008 and 2009, Australia, Canada, and the US all delivered formal apologies. However, with Australian native languages on the way to extinction, Canada’s Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Report as relevant today as it was when it was written two years ago, and more than one in three Native American children recorded as living in poverty, words don’t go far enough. Where apologies have been made, they have often felt anticlimactic. Take Barack Obama’s 2009 statement, silently signed and pushed through with little fanfare, it declares, “Nothing in this section … authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”

This is quite different from the approach taken in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasizes the importance of keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust. Restitutions were paid and commemoration continues through monuments, art, and culture. The recent rise of the far-right in the country has sounded alarm bells for many, but despite this, a 2020 report by the DW found that more than half of all those surveyed agree with the amount of attention paid to the crimes of Germany’s past. This approach may not fit for all countries, but the key is to choose policies over performance.

In New Zealand in 1982, the Māori language was at risk of dying out, to combat this, grandparents offered to look after children in daycare centers for language immersion. By 1998 there were more than 600 of these daycare schools, showing there are tangible ways that governments can assist marginalized communities in rebuilding as they heal from the wounds of colonization. Indigenous children are overrepresented in Canada’s social care system, but changes to welfare and public health can help work to fix this.

The settler electorate in post-colonial nations should join their indigenous neighbors in demanding accountability and action from governments, the international community must place pressure on one another to address the issue of cultural genocide within their countries and implement policies that work to protect all marginalized communities, cultures, and languages.

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Mussels, clams, and other shellfish in Canada’s seas boiled to death in its record-breaking heat wave

A photo of rock-bound mussels are exposed at low tides. Not the ones found in Vancouver.

  • A marine biologist found thousands of dead mussels, clams, and starfish on a Vancouver beach Sunday.
  • They died as a result of the heat in the record-breaking heatwave that hit Canada in June.
  • He estimates that more than a billion seashore animals died on Canada’s Salish Sea coastline alone.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tens of thousands of clams, mussels, sea stars, and snails were found boiled to death in a Vancouver, Canada, beach during the country’s record-breaking heat wave.

Chris Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia, was alerted to the deaths when he smelled a foul stench coming from Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach on Sunday.

He told Canada’s CBC news network he was “stunned” to make the discovery.

British Columbia hit record-high temperatures three days in a row in late June, hitting 121.3 degrees Fahrenheit on June 29.

It is not clear when the shellfish died. Harley told the CBC that most intertidal animals can only bear a temperatures of up to 86 Fahrenheit; thermal imaging on June 28 showed that the temperature on the Vancouver coastline hit about 122 degrees.

A map shows the Western coast of Canada and the US. A circle shows the Salish sea.
The Salish sea, on the Western coast of Canada.

The death of these animals will temporarily affect water quality in the area as mussels and clams filter the sea, Harley said, according to CBC.

By calculating how many dead sea animals were found in a small area, Harley also estimated to CBC that more than a billion seashore animals living along the Salish Sea coastline might have died.

This is not the first time a heat wave has killed shellfish. A 2019 heat wave caused the largest die-off of mussels in Bodega Head, a bay on the California coast.

The temperatures in Canada have been so intense that wildfires have been making pyrocumulonimbus, clouds that can generate tornadoes and lightning which can cause more wildfires, Insider’s Aylin Woodward reported.

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Uber and Lyft could be avoiding $153 million in Canadian taxes every year by relying on contract workers, report says

Dara Khosrowshahi logan green
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft CEO Logan Green

  • Uber and Lyft could avoid a combined $153 million in taxes annually in Canada, a new report claims.
  • Canadians for Tax Fairness blamed lax disclosure laws and companies classifying drivers as contractors.
  • Uber and Lyft both disputed the findings, telling Insider they paid all required taxes in Canada.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber and Lyft could be avoiding a combined $153 million in taxes every year in Canada, according to a new report from the nonprofit Canadians for Tax Fairness (C4TF).

The report estimated Uber and Lyft avoid $53.9 million in corporate taxes as well as $81.3 million in unemployment insurance and benefits taxes by taking advantage of lax financial disclosure requirements around corporate taxes, in addition to classifying drivers as contractors.

While not illegal, the tactics let Uber and Lyft benefit from taxpayer-funded programs like roads, pensions, and unemployment insurance, despite paying very little into those programs, C4TF argued.

“Uber and Lyft both depend to a huge degree on publicly funded infrastructure to make their revenues, but they provide very little of the funding for that infrastructure because they pay next to nothing in taxes,” DT Cochrane, the report’s author and a policy researcher at C4TF, told Insider.

While the lack of transparency around corporate taxes makes it impossible to know exactly how much the companies paid, he added: “it’s doubtful that it approaches the level that we think that it should.”

Uber and Lyft told Insider they disputed the report’s findings, and said they have paid all taxes required by Canadian law.

“Uber contributes millions of dollars in the form of ridesharing fees, which help local and provincial governments pay for ridesharing, transit, and other initiatives,” an Uber Canada spokesperson told Insider.

“We file all of our taxes in Canada, including federal and provincial corporate income tax, payroll taxes, GST/HST, QST and applicable provincial sales tax,” a Lyft spokesperson told Insider, adding that the company “is in good standing with the Canadian tax authorities.”

But C4TF’s report cited several ways it says Uber and Lyft may have been able to significantly cut their tax bills.

First, C4TF estimated the companies brought in $203 million in combined profit in Canada in 2019, which should amount to $53.9 million in federal and provincial corporate taxes. Neither company discloses how much they pay in Canadian corporate taxes, but according to C4TF, using Uber’s global average effective tax rate of 1.9%, Uber and Lyft would have paid roughly $8.6 million.

Multinational corporations have come under increasing scrutiny for attempting to lower their global tax bills by routing profits through low-tax countries. An Australian research group accused Uber of using Dutch shell companies to turn $5.8 billion in global revenue into $4.8 billion in losses on paper, allegedly sidestepping millions of dollars in taxes.

Until recently, Uber’s Canada subsidiary was owned by its Dutch subsidiary, which C4TF claimed may have let it avoid Canadian taxes as well by booking Canadian revenue in the Netherlands where corporate taxes are lower (Uber claimed it had discussed plans to spin off its Canadian subsidiary as early as 2018).

In response, C4TF argued Canadian authorities should require more transparency from companies like Uber and Lyft to ensure they are paying their full tax bill.

C4TF’s report also estimated Uber and Lyft avoid $81.3 million in unemployment insurance and pension taxes by classifying drivers as contractors – a growing source of legal and political headaches for the companies in the US, the UK, Spain, and other countries. In a ruling last year, Canada’s Supreme Court opened the door for a class-action lawsuit that could chip away at the companies’ ability to classify drivers there as contractors.

Lyft’s spokesperson told Insider the Canadian government “recognizes drivers on Lyft as independent contractors and assigns taxes accordingly.”

One such tax includes Canada’s sales taxes. Because Canadian law requires individual contractors to collect and pay sales tax (except in Quebec, where the contracting company is responsible), C4TF argued Uber and Lyft drivers are unfairly shouldering those costs.

C4TF also claimed that because Uber and Lyft don’t withhold those sales taxes – an estimated $217 million per year – from drivers’ earnings upfront, they’re overstating how much drivers are really making.

Cochrane told Insider the report was also a critique of Canadian authorities that do not hold companies accountable for paying their fair share.

“We don’t know exactly what [Uber and Lyft’s] bookings are, what their revenue is, what their take rate is, what their profit margin might be, what their taxes paid are simply because the Canadian government is falling behind on requiring greater corporate transparency,” he said.

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Gold miners make ‘super-exciting’ discovery of 3 giant woolly mammoth skeletons in Yukon

Woolly mammoth in snowy landscape
Woolly mammoths roamed North America and Eurasia during the Ice Age

  • Gold miners have discovered several partial woolly mammoths skeletons at Little Flake Mine near Dawson City in Yukon, Canada.
  • Woolly mammoths roamed North America and Eurasia during the Ice Age and mostly went extinct around 10,000 years ago.
  • The head paleontologist for the Yukon government told local newspaper The Whitehorse Star that it is a “super-exciting” discovery that sparked many questions.

A crew of gold miners in Yukon, Canada, have uncovered the partial skeletons of several woolly mammoths, according to local newspaper The Whitehorse Star.

Grant Zazula, the head paleontologist for the Yukon government, told the paper that it was a “super-exciting” discovery that sparked many questions.

He explained that while miners often come across individual bones, it’s rare to find partial skeletons intact and even more rare to find multiple skeletons in the same location. He told the paper that the bones could belong to as many as 4 or 5 woolly mammoths.

In an email to Live Science, Zazula explained that the way the bones were found suggests that mammoths were part of the same family or herd.

They probably died around 29,000 years ago, Zazula told Live Science, judging by the volcanic tephra they were found near.

“We have all this material now, and now it is basically a detective story to determine what was going on,” Zazula said to The Whitehorse Star. Part of the mystery will be uncovering whether the mammoths were related and how they died.

The team of gold miners discovered the bones at Little Flake Mine near Dawson City, which is where the reality TV show “Gold Rush” is filmed. Parker Schnabel, who stars in the show, owns the mine..

Trey Charlie, a miner who discovered the bones, told CBC News it was “probably one of the best days I’ve had working. It’s so much fun to discover these things.”

“Throughout the day, I was picking bones. Ribs, teeth, all kinds of things.”

A post shared by Trey Charlie (@treycharlie14)

Woolly mammoths roamed North America and Eurasia during the Ice Age and mostly went extinct around 10,000 years ago. Scientists are not certain what led to their extinction, but many believe climate changes and a rise in human hunters were the cause.

Their closest living relatives are the modern Asian elephant, with the main difference being that mammoths had thick, shaggy coats to help them survive in freezing temperatures.

Gold miners in Yukon have been uncovering mammoth bones and tusks since the Klondike Gold Rush over a century ago.

“Miners need to remove all this frozen silt to get to the gold-filled gravel in the valley bottoms, and when they do that, they often uncover the remains of ice age animals,” Zazula explained to Live Science.

Yukon’s cold but dry climate meant that glaciers didn’t form there during the Ice Age, making it an attractive habitat for grazing mammals.

Zazula added that the miners will resume mining at the site in a few weeks and that more mammoth skeletons could be found.

The miners have handed the skeletons over to the Yukon government for further research.

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The S&P 500 is not well positioned for the economic recovery and investors should look to Canadian stocks instead, BofA says

canadian flag
  • The S&P 500 is expensive and investors looking to position for the recovery should look to Canada, BofA analysts wrote.
  • Relative to the S&P 500, Canadian stocks enjoy greater exposure to commodities, boosted by oil and gold prices.
  • But further hawkishness from the Fed could push up the dollar and hurt Canadian exporters.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

The S&P 500 is too richly valued to benefit much from the post-pandemic recovery and investors looking to ride the economic upcycle should add Canadian stocks, Bank of America strategists wrote in a note this week.

The S&P 500 is trading at a multiple of forward earnings not seen since the dot-com bubble, according to the BofA note. Meanwhile, Canada’s main equity benchmark, the TSX, trades at a steep discount to the S&P 500 – a historical leading indicator of Canadian overperformance.

Other factors bode well for the TSX, including a stronger Canadian dollar and a boom in commodities prices. Relative to the S&P 500, Canadian stocks enjoy greater exposure to commodities, and have gained from surging oil and gold prices.

Earlier this week, BofA analysts projected oil would break $100 per barrel by mid-2022.

But these positive portents could easily sour, the strategists warned. Further hawkishness from the Fed could push up the dollar and hurt Canadian exporters. And China’s bid to suppress commodity prices by unleashing its stockpiles onto the market could prove painful for Canada’s big materials and energy sectors.

Commodity-exposed sectors make up 26% of the TSX, versus 6% of the S&P 500.

The economies of Canada and the US have both begun to rebound from the pandemic, with annualized GDP growth for the first quarter coming in at 5.6% and 6.5%, respectively. However, Canada’s air travel and restaurant activity have remained sluggish, whereas the US is nearing pre-pandemic levels.

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Developer of Keystone XL oil project abandons pipeline

workers keystone xl pipeline
UA Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

  • TC Energy Corp announced they would cancel the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday.
  • The move comes months after President Joe Biden revoked a key permit for the pipeline.
  • The move is a win for environmentalists who have opposed the project for a decade.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Environmentalists secured a win on Wednesday when Canada’s TC Energy Corp and the Albertan provincial government announced they would cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, more than a decade after it was first proposed.

The 1,200-mile line was an effort to carry more Canadian crude through the US, including Montana, South Dakota, to Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline would have moved 35 million gallons of crude each day, connecting to other pipelines that feed refineries along the Gulf Coast, according to The Associated Press.

The project has been a point of contention among environmental activists and community groups for years.

The decision to abandon the project was expected after President Joe Biden revoked the pipeline’s permit to cross into the US’s northern border in January. Construction on the pipeline shut down that same day.

“We value the strong relationships we’ve built through the development of this Project and the experience we’ve gained,” TC Energy President and CEO François Poirier said in a statement.

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The US State Department just relaxed COVID-19 travel advisories on Canada and Mexico

Travelers are seen at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport
Travelers are seen at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport ahead of Memorial day weekend on May 28, 2021 in New York City.

  • The US State Department revised travel advisories about Canada and Mexico.
  • Previously, it warned against all travel to both countries due to COVID-19 risk.
  • Now, it asks that people with plans to travel to Canada or Mexico to just “reconsider.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of State on Tuesday relaxed its COVID-19 travel advisories for people planning trips to Canada and Mexico.

The State Department now recommends people in the US with plans to travel to either Canada or Mexico “reconsider” their plans due to the risk of COVID-19, a Level 3 advisory from the department.

Previously, the State Department had urged Americans against all travel to Canada or Mexico under its most serious Level 4 “Do Not Travel” designation.

More than 51% of the US population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the vaccination rate has increased, so has air travel. At the end of May, the Transportation Security Administration said it had screened nearly 2 million air travelers – the highest number since the pandemic began.

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Tilray and Sundial embark on 2-day rally after Amazon says it stands behind federal marijuana legalization

Tilray marijuana
A Tilray worker tends to cannabis plants.

  • Tilray and Sundial are rallying for a second day after Amazon endorsed a federal marijuana legalization bill earlier this week.
  • The two Canadian cannabis stocks are beloved by retail traders on Reddit investing threads.
  • Tilray and Sundial were part of the meme stock rally earlier this year amid the GameStop frenzy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Canadian cannabis companies Tilray and Sundial are on a two-day rally after Amazon announced it would support a federal bill to legalize marijuana – and retail traders are celebrating.

Shares of Tilray jumped 12% to $19 Wednesday and rose 9% in early morning trading Thursday. Last month, Tilray completed its acquisition of Aphria, making the combined business the largest cannabis company in the world by revenue.

As for Sundial, the stock closed 13% higher at $1.13 Wednesday and jumped another 17% Thursday morning.

Earlier this week, Amazon said its public policy team will back the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, also called the MORE act, which would end criminal penalties for anyone who sells cannabis in states where its legal, decriminalize the use of cannabis in the US, and allow states to establish commercial marijuana sales.

Retail traders bullish on cannabis stocks have been hyping up the companies on Reddit’s top investing threads, and the sentiment is very positive. According to HypeEquity data, they were two of the top talked-about companies Wednesday among a group of 18 meme stocks, including AMC, Bed Bath & Beyond, and GameStop.

The stocks have seen a “significant pickup” of retail flows in recent days – the most since the meme stock frenzy began earlier this year, Vanda Research said in a recent report, noting the MORE Act as a catalyst for the uptick. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives in December, has “low chances” of being passed in the Senate, Vanda Research analysts said, but “increasing media coverage is likely to attract the attention of the average retail investor.”

In January, an army of retail traders poured into GameStop, starting a new trend of meme stocks. Amid a broad rally in meme stocks, Tilray and Sundial also surged but declined in the following months. Meme stocks have picked up again in recent weeks, though, led by an unprecedented rally in movie theater chain AMC Entertainment.

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‘Zombie fires’ smolder under the snow during the winter then rise from the dead come spring. They may get far more common.

zombie fire
The 25,000-acre Bogus Creek Fire in Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, June 7, 2015.

Forest fires don’t typically survive cold, wet winters. But “zombie fires” buck the mold.

In boreal forests just below the Arctic Circle, these rare blazes travel and persist underground, deep beneath the winter snow cover. They bide their time until the snow melts and spring begins, then reignite on the surface and begin to wreak havoc again, starting right where they left off.

Zombie fires can be devastating: In 2008, one such fire was responsible for 38% of the burned land in Alaska alone, scorching an area the size of San Francisco, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. That research predicts these fires will become more common as the Earth continues to warm.

“It is possible that we may see more zombie fires in the future,” Rebecca Scholten, a climate researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who co-authored the study, told Insider. “We do see an upward trend in summer temperatures in boreal regions, and this goes in line with increases in annual burned area.”

Scholten’s team found that zombie fires were, unsurprisingly, more frequent after hotter summers in which large fires burned across wide areas. The higher summer temperatures climb, the drier the subterranean vegetation and soil become – and that’s what zombie fires consume as they hibernate. The bigger the fire, the deeper its flames can penetrate underground in the summer. That makes them more likely to survive the winter.

Burn. Sleep. Repeat.

This satellite image provided by Roscosmos Space Agency, taken on Sunday, July 21, 2019, shows forest fires in Krasnoyarsk region, Eastern Siberia, Russia. President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia's military to join efforts to fight forest fires that have engulfed nearly 30,000 square kilometers of territory in Siberia and the Russian Far East. (Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)
A satellite image from Russia’s Roscosmos Space Agency shows forest fires in Eastern Siberia, July 21, 2019.

Scholten’s team looked at reports from local fire managers and firefighters, as well as satellite imagery of Alaska and Canada’s Northwestern Territories captured between 2002 and 2018. They found 74 zombie fires in those 16 years.

“We can identify zombie fires from satellites because they appear close to an old fire scar,” Scholten said.

In Canada, they found that fires pulled through the winter following the six hottest summers in the study’s time frame. The analysis suggested that zombie flames can spread up to 650 feet (200 meters) underground. But no zombie fires survived the winter after the seven coolest summers.

The scientific term for zombie fires is “overwintering,” since the blazes hibernate underground for up to eight months like bears, then awaken four weeks after the snow starts melting. But Scholten said the colloquial moniker works.

“I like the term – it’s a really visual and engaging description,” she said.

Overwintering fires require a specific habitat. They happen in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America and Siberia because the deepest soil layers there, called peat, are rich with organic matter. The smoldering flames can devour that matter, thereby staying alive even when the surrounding temperatures drop to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overall, zombie fires are still rare: The new research suggests they accounted for just 0.8% of the total burned area in Alaska and the Northwestern Territories during the 16 years studied. But because climate change makes both hot summers and large, intense wildfires more likely, zombie blazes may become more common, too.

Atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations hit a record high last year, and the last seven years have been the seven warmest ever recorded, according to NASA. The Arctic, in particular, is warming faster than the rest of the Earth.

A vicious cycle

zombie fire
Smoke rises from a hot spot in the Swan Lake Fire scar at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, June 16, 2020.

Perhaps the worst part of the zombie fire phenomenon is its self-perpetuating nature. When a fire burns through trees and vegetation, that emits carbon dioxide, exacerbating the climate problem.

A zombie fire is double trouble: It burns through flora in the summer before its hibernation and during the spring after. In between, the peat it burns underground emits methane, a greenhouse gas with 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

“What’s special about fires in arctic and boreal regions is that the largest part of carbon emissions comes from the soils,” Scholten said.

Her group found that large overwintering fires in Alaska and the Northwest Territories emitted 3.5 million metric tons of carbon between 2002 and 2018.

More emissions means more warming, which increases the likelihood of more zombie fires, which in turn create more emissions, and so on.

It’s possible to hunt down zombie fires

Most fires are caused by people or lightning strikes. In Alaska and Canada, lightning season begins in June, which kicks off fire season.

But zombie fires don’t follow that schedule. They start “as soon as the snow melts and dry fuel is available,” Scholten said.

Mouth fire
The Mouth fire, which started in 2004, overwintered in the Yukon Flats area of Alaska then reignited in the spring of 2005.

So the new study suggests that by keeping tracking of summer temperatures and recording where the largest fires were each summer, firefighters might be able to predict and suppress zombie fires before they fully reignite.

Doing so would be cheaper than fighting a full-blown fire, the study authors wrote, and would also limit the blaze’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

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