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The Current Transcript for May 11, 2017
Host: Anna Maria Tremonti
Listen to the full episode
ANDREW WEAVER: You know people across British Columbia have shown that they are ready for politics to be done differently in this province.
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: And different it will be. Andrew Weaver and his B.C. Green Party now appear to hold the balance of power in a province where a lot of people take their politics and their environment seriously. So why stop there? Before he entered, politics Andrew Weaver was recognized internationally as among the top climate change scientists working in the field. As the leaders of BC’s two main parties navigate a political world where the guy who came in third needs to be counted and courted. We're asking how Andrew Weaver and his party might change the climate change conversation beyond British Columbia? That's our first story and then…
SPEAKER: Ever wonder why you feel the way you do? Well get to know your emotions.
AMT: If your view of your emotions is in step with the animated hit “Inside Out”. You've got it upside down. Emerging science suggests our brains are not hardwired with emotion. They learn emotion and emotional response from culture and surroundings. In half an hour Lisa Feldman Barrett redefines what you thought you knew about how you feel. And…
[Sound: Drums and singing in a foreign language]
AMT: There was jubilation this week over the release of 82 of the Chibok Girls, the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria, but days later anxious parents still have little information. And other girls released earlier are still in government custody away from their families. In an hour we're asking who is helping these victims and how? I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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B.C. Green Party looks to leverage new political power
Guests: Matt Toner, Hamish Telford, Chris Hall
ANDREW WEAVER: What a historic day for British Columbia today. You know I am so excited that I went to work along with two to find people like Sonia and Adam, which will now be part of the first ever green elected caucus in North America.
B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver speaking after a breakthrough victory for his party in the provinces election Tuesday night. With three MLAs winning seats the Green Party has tripled its presence in the legislature. After a razor-thin victory the provinces left tenant governor asked Premier Christy Clark to continue to govern with her minority of seats for now. Absentee ballots are still being counted. There is a chance Premier Clark's Liberals could secure a majority if they do not, Ms. Clark will need to work with the other parties to govern including the Greens. Yesterday, Christy Clark described Green leader Andrew Weaver as collaborative and said she realizes that B.C. voters want him and his party to play a bigger role in BC's future. It may be a sign that the climate change conversation is about to shift in BC and maybe the rest of Canada for his thoughts on this I'm joined by Matt Toner, a Deputy Leader of BC’s Green Party. Matt Toner is in Vancouver. Hello.
MATT TONER: Hi, good morning.
MATT TONER: Hey, thank you very much. It's been quite a week.
AMT: Now beyond securing these three seats, your party made strong gains in the popular vote. What do you think the results say about the mood of B.C. voters?
MATT TONER: Well, you know it may be a little funny for folks back east to understand that really the province has been a in a duopoly for decades and for the past 16 years it's been B.C. Liberal rule with the NDP kind of acting like Charlie Brown to Lucy trying to kick the football. And that really is a de-motivating environment for a lot of people. It's either you go up to the B.C. Liberals or you vote for the NDP or you stay at home. And we've seen of turnouts in the province going down, down, down. Even while the severity of issues like climate change and our role as a province in that global problem go up, up, up. So I think that voters across the political spectrum in British Colombia are really delighted to have the Greens emerge as a viable third party, especially at this time.
AMT: Now your party was campaigning at a time when floods were affecting parts of B.C. as well as communities across the country. I’m wonder what you were hearing on the doorstep? How much do you think concern about climate change factored into your results?
MATT TONER: Well, you know it's unfortunate in many ways. But I think we're all going to wind up voting Green at some point in our lives. Because many of the problems like climate change aren’t going away and we're seeing them not happening just in British Columbia, but around the world and across the country. So there's a growing awareness that perhaps more needs to be done. But at the same time, I think you know certainly Canada, the Green Movement hasn't really translated into a lot of seats until recently because people didn't see how that would translate into their lives. I think that the B.C. Green Party has now emerged as a viable alternative not because necessarily of our you know case for action on climate change. That comes with the territory. But also the platform we've put together that mix that proactive approach into the fabric of people's lives into British Columbia society, our local economy and the future of our children. So I think really for the first time people looked at what we offered and didn't see us as a one trick pony. Saw Andrew as a very credible leader and said you know what it is time to do something differently. And we're really delighted in the confidence they’ve shown us.
AMT: Now your party holds the balance of power in the legislature. I know there are more votes coming in, but right now that is what you do. What are your top priorities then when it comes to wielding that power?
MATT TONER: Well, I think our top priority today is pinching ourselves a bit because I think the result is better than many expected. When it comes to what we would look for in a government that we would support or we're in a partnership that we could get our minds around. There's two things: first and foremost, we have to clean up campaign finance. There was an article recently in the New York Times calling B.C. the “Wild West of campaign finance” and the things that are possible out here in terms of donations and where the money comes from and accounting for it. Folks in Toronto would be shocked. I was surprised at just how loose the regulations are. And that has a very damaging effect on democracy and it really strains belief when you look at how things are run. So that’s got to go. We're the first party to do that. Unilaterally we declared before the election - well before the election - that we were going to stop taking corporate and union donations. And that was a bit of a risk in this province where you know the B.C. Liberals raised millions upon millions of dollars, as to the NDP going into the election. But we took the plunge, we did the right thing and the people of the province rewarded us with record donations and we ran a very good campaign. The second issue of course, this will be this will resonate with progressive homes across the country is electoral reform. It's one of the founding principles B.C Green Party. We think these are some for proportional representation and you did mention that although we got three seats we doubled our take of the popular vote and to greater than 16 per cent. So three seats is a great breakthrough for our party, but 16 per cent of the vote you know theoretically in an efficient system should translate into 14 seats I think. So clearly there’s still work to do were the wishes of much of the province still aren't being reflected.
AMT: Right, so let me ask you this. You used the phrase you know if there is a partnership we could get our minds around. What would it take for your party to form a formal coalition with Christy Clark? Is that on the table?
MATT TONER: Well, everything's on the table as we are very clearly trying to understand what our options look like. This is historic for British Columbia. We're not ruling anything out. Obviously a coalition is more of a formal arrangement to govern, which we saw maybe most recently in the United Kingdom between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. More of the usual minority flavor of government would be where we would work collaboratively with the other parties on and issue by issue, vote by vote basis. We've seen that federally here in Canada not too long ago. So those are the two flavors and it's not just some people in social media might have it otherwise. We really are open to talking to both of the other two parties as to their visions for the province. We really don't have a preference one way or the next. We've approached the campaign based on evidence, principle and trying to be consistent. And we're going to approach these very unusual and historic decisions over the next few weeks in exactly the same way.
AMT: So what has the stream of phone calls to Mr. Weaver been like from both the NDP and the Liberals?
MATT TONER: Well, I think he's being very careful and deliberate right now. This is a this is a very new situation and as you pointed out, there's still thousands of votes that have not yet been counted. These absentee ballots and these might affect one or two races in particular. In some ridings the margin of victory was razor-thin. Nine votes in one riding. So everyone’s also being a little careful not to get ahead of themselves because when the final numbers come in and when the recounts are done it could shift just out of reach.
AMT: But you do hold the balance of power right now. That's a pretty powerful place to be right now.
MATT TOWNER: it is and it’s an exciting place to be because I look at it very kind of optimistically to tell you the truth. Because the things that we want in terms of you know economic reform and climate change action we can kind of let our partners and government get a free reset. You know we could almost do things with them now around the Site C dam for example, or the LNG industry that they might not have had the courage to do so by themselves even though they know that we're right on this matter. We might give them the political cover they need to say you know it's time to do the right thing for a change not just the politically expedient thing.
AMT: OK, well Matt Toner, we'll leave it there. But thank you for speaking with me.
MATT TONER: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
AMT: Matt Toner is a Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party. He joined us from Vancouver. Well, since that election result my next two guests have been considering just how much an impact the Green Party can have on changing the political dialogue on climate change. Hamish Telford is an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley. He joins us from his home in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Chris Hall is the CBC's National Affairs Editor and host of “The House” on CBC Radio One. He's in Ottawa. Hello gentlemen.
CHRIS HALL: Good morning.
HAMISH TELFORD: Good morning Anna Maria.
AMT: Hamish, Let's start with you. How significant is this win of three seats for the B.C. Greens when it comes to pushing their climate change agenda?
HAMISH TELFORD: Well, it's an historic breakthrough for the party and really for not just in British Columbia but for Canada. And as we heard Andrew Weaver say it’s the first green caucus elected in North America. So it’s a historic breakthrough. I'm not sure how far they're going to get with the climate change file? Andrew Weaver is, as you said, an internationally recognized climate change scientist. They had the most robust climate change action plan of all the parties in their platform, which shouldn't be surprising to anybody. But climate change did not figure in a big way in the election campaign. We just heard Matt Toner, the Deputy Leader of the party saying their top priority is to get large money out of politics. To have campaign finance reform and electoral reform. I think that Andrew Weaver probably got more traction in the election with his housing policy rather than his climate change policy and perhaps his day care policy as well. And during the election debate on television, I think what really appealed to people was how Andrew Weaver juxtapositions the Green Party as an alternative to both the Liberals and the NDP. And as the results have come in, it looks like they have taken votes from both sides of the political spectrum so it didn't seem that climate change factored in a big way in this election and I'm not sure how much traction he'll get in his negotiations with the other leaders as we move forward.
AMT: Chris, we just heard him mentioned the Site C dam very controversial and talk about there can be political cover in some of that. What do you what do you take from that?
CHRIS HALL: Well, I think it's true that the Green Party in B.C. ran on a very broad platform that wasn't totally focused on energy projects and on the climate change issue. But that being said, it is a huge part of what people voted for I think even from this vantage point here in Ottawa. And certainly it's got the attention of the federal government. Remember Justin Trudeau put together a kind of a coalition of Premiers around the idea that first of all they could do something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country and secondly they could do that while approving various pipelines. And for Christy Clark he's the preferred partner in this. She got the LNG pipeline from Kinder Morgan. She was more lukewarm about it. But when the five conditions she said that she had said were met, she also signed on. So the federal government is a very delicate balancing act in the Green Party and what they stand for particularly around climate change about their opposition to big energy projects combined with the NDP’s position and John Horrigan makes it a very volatile mix to try to navigate.
AMT: I couldn't help but notice yesterday that Chris Clark was quoted as calling Dr. Weaver “collaborative”, “smart”, “thoughtful” and “reasonable”. What do you what do you read into that Chris? Well, I think she needs the Green Party as it stands now.
CHRIS HALL: As you point out, the results may change once absentee ballots in a couple of judicial recounts are done. But she needs a Green Party. I actually think they have more in common with the federal Liberals and with her in the context of day care. They're proposing a basic income pilot project and the housing issue. There are things that they can work federally, so Christy Clarke is if anything a great retail politician and she understands that in order to consolidate some power she's got some MP or MLAs now elected who aren't necessarily traditional Liberals of a B.C. brand that she's going to have to be able to work with Andrew Weaver.
AMT: Hamish Telford, I hear what you're saying about the issues being broader. But before Andrew Weaver became leader of the Green Party, he helped design B.C.’s carbon tax policy as a consultant for the Liberal Government. He went into politics because he didn't think it was going fast enough. What does he want to see happen with carbon pricing?
HAMISH TELFORD: He wants to accelerate the plan that's been in place. You're absolutely right. He helped Gordon Campbell design North America's first carbon tax and then he became dispirited particularly after Christy Clark became premier and she did not sort of move forward on the plan that Gordon Campbell had laid down. And quite frankly she's been riding on Gordon Campbell's coattails on this particular issue. And at the same time, back when the carbon tax was first introduced, the NDP was waging a campaign across the province to axe the tax. So I think both the parties sort of lagged on this and that motivated Andrew Weaver to get into politics. As Chris just mentioned, Justin Trudeau has negotiated framework with all the premiers to raise the carbon tax up eventually to $50 a ton and in B.C. it currently sits at 30. So what's going to happen is the rest of the country has to catch up to B.C’s level. And then B.C. will move lockstep with the others up to 50. Andrew Weaver wants to accelerate that starting immediately and getting the sea level up to $70 a ton. He also wants to broaden the carbon tax to other emissions which are not currently subject to the carbon tax. So a much faster pace than where either Christie Clark or John Horgan are prepared to go.
AMT: Chris Hall, how is that seen in Ottawa then?
CHRIS HALL: Well, I think it's viewed positively. If Justin Trudeau could raise the tax more quickly or a price on carbon more quickly he would, but this was a compromise that was reached with the provinces as Hamish points out. Christy Clarke has said the rest of the country has to come up. When I spoke with Andrew Weaver he said no, no, leadership means being the first to do these things. He also combines, Anna Maria, the idea of a carbon price with investments in clean and green technology, which is also dear to the heart of the federal Liberals. So there is work that they can do together. Justin should I be reaching out to Andrew Weaver to find out what kinds of issues they could cooperate on no matter what he decides to do in the negotiations that are coming with both the Liberals and NDP in British Columbia.
AMT: Hamish, do you think the Kinder Morgan pipeline controversy has a lot of opposition to that of course in B.C. Do you think that could that could change a bit under this scenario where Weaver’s got the balance of power?
HAMISH TELFORD: I'm not really sure what B.C. can do about it? Christy Clarke had laid down her conditions, she was convinced that her five conditions had been met and of course, the overall matter lies in federal jurisdiction. And B.C. is divided on this. The pipeline is quite well supported in the interior, which is lacking for jobs. It is very strongly opposed in Burnaby and adjacent in Vancouver. So I'm not sure what a B.C. government can do other than to sort of not approve it in a moral sense and perhaps if Andrew Weaver is associated with either a Liberal or NDP government, they might want to ramp up the conditions that Christy Clark had laid down to give it sort of a moral approval. But even if that happens it's still not going to go over well with the people in Burnaby, who voted overwhelmingly against Kinder Morgan and supported the NDP in this past election.
AMT: And Chris, we haven't mentioned Alberta in this equation?
CHRIS HALL: No, that's absolutely true. Rachel Notley is pro-pipeline. She needs to get oil sands bitumen into the international ports so it can be shipped overseas. She'd like Justin Trudeau and would, I think, preferred to have seen Christy Clark win a clear victory here. And it's quite clear having spoken to John Horgan that he and Rachel Notely don't see eye to eye on this particular project. And frankly if you think about it the schism that exists at the federal NDP that really cost Tom Mulcair his job. The NDP in Alberta and the NDP union members, who supported pipeline's versus the Leap Manifesto supporters that will play out to British Columbia and certainly that divide exists between he and Rachel Notely. To Hamish’s point, I wanted to add remember Justin Trudeau talked a lot about social license that these projects have to have social license before they can go ahead. Whatever the province authority might be to try to revisit Kinder Morgan and to try and impose other conditions. It's clear from the vote that most people who voted in British Columbia do not support, at least in that area that Hamish was talking about around Vancouver, did not support the kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion. So there has to be some kind of discussion around that to ensure that it can go ahead and it continues to enjoy that social license that Justin Trudeau has said all these types of projects need.
AMT: Hamish, is there a political lesson for the rest of Canada with this Green Party again?
HAMISH TELFORD: That’s a very interesting question. I think that I would perhaps put it in a broader context I think there was an appetite here in British Columbia for politics to be done differently. And I think that that extends to other parts of Canada as well. There has been considerable disillusionment with politics. Not just in Canada, but in Western countries. We've just seen the election in France of course the United States. Brexit in the UK and unfortunately, doing politics differently in some other places has taken kind of an ugly and unpleasant turn. I would like to think that the Greens represent a different way of doing politics differently if I could say that. And in a healthier and more positive way. So I think British Columbians were certainly inspired by the Green Party and I think that the Canadians maybe as well.
AMT: Chris, what do you think?
CHRIS HALL: Yeah, I'm not sure. For example, Ontario has a long standing Liberal government just like British Columbia did. It's led by a female first minister, which is very similar to the situation obviously in British Columbia. But the Green Party doesn't have the same kind of foothold in Ontario. British Columbia I think is unique in terms of how it looks at the environment and who people are as British Columbians and how they identify themselves. Certainly if I were preparing for an election campaign in the not too distant future as a provincial leader or even here federally I'd have to take into account that the Green Party is now more than just a single issue party. The progressive voters are looking to it increasingly and British Columbia being the first example of that. Of a place where they can vote and see the kinds of policies that they've understood other leaders to say but not necessarily follow through on.
AMT: OK, we have to leave it there gentlemen. Thanks for your thoughts.
CHRIS HALL: Thanks very much, Anna Maria.
HAMISH TELFORD: Thank you very much.
AMT: That is Hamish Telford, associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley. He's in Abbotsford, B.C. Chris Hall is CBC's National Affairs Editor. He's the host of “The House” on CBC Radio One. Chris is in Ottawa. Let us know what you think. Do you think the climate change conversation is going to shift because of the fact that Andrew Weaver is now holding the balance of power with his green party in B.C.? Tweet us we are: @thecurrentcbc. Find us on Facebook. Go to the website: www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. The news is next. And then…
AMT: A little blast from the past. Artists use emotions to fuel their work for centuries. So far science has said feelings like anger fear grief joy are hardwired within us. Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett has a different take on how emotions are made. She's waiting in the wings to explain. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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Emotions are not hardwired but learned in our brains, says author
Guest: Lisa Feldman Barrett
AMT: Hello. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
AMT: Still to come: the world pleaded to “Bring Back Our Girls”. And now, more than half of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago are free. But that freedom is daunting and most have yet to be reunited with their families. Questions linger about how to reintroduce them to daily life? We'll talk about that. But first, if emotions could talk they would tell you we don't understand them as much as we think.
SADNESS: I’m Sadness.
JOY: Hello. I'm Joy. So can I just? Would you just? I just want to fix that.
AMT: In the movie “Inside Out”, emotions such as joy and sadness live together in baby Riley's brain. And there are a bunch of other emotions in there as well.
FEAR: Very nice. OK. Looks like you got this. Very good. Whoa, sharp turn!
JOY: That’s Fear, he’s really good at keeping Riley safe.
DISGUST: OK. Caution there is a dangerous smell. Hold on.
JOY: That is Disgust, she basically keeps Riley from being poisoned physically and socially.
DISGUST: That is not brightly colored or shaped like a dinosaur. Hold on guys. That's broccoli!
DAD: If you don't eat your dinner. You're not going to get any dessert.
ANGER: Wait, did he just say we couldn’t have dessert?
Joy: That's Anger, he cares very deeply about things being fair.
ANGER: So that's how you want to play it old man? No dessert! Oh sure, we’ll eat our dinner. Right after you eat this!
AMT: Well, that movie depicts a gaggle of living, breathing and talking emotions living in Riley's head from the time she is born. All of them guiding her and ready to jump into action as she grows up and navigates life. And though many of us have experienced joy, anger, sadness and disgust, new science suggests that our emotions are not as hard wired as we may have first believed. Lisa Feldman Barrett is a distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University. She's got a new book it's called “How Emotions Are Made.” And she's in Boston. Hello.
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Hi there.
AMT: So what do you think of that portrayal of emotions in “Inside Out”?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Well, I loved that movie just in the same way that I love cartoons about physics and chemistry, right? So cartoon chemistry is where colorful liquids are poured into test tubes and blow up. Cartoon physics is where Wile E. Coyote you know runs off a cliff and doesn't fall down until he looks down. You know we wouldn't expect to learn about the science of chemistry and physics from watching cartoons. And so similarly, I don't think the movie “Inside Out”, as entertaining as it is, should necessarily tell us anything about how the brain and the body work together to create emotions.
AMT: You are being polite. Essentially what you're saying though is the way we've been thinking about emotions is essentially wrong?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: The way that we think about emotions goes all the way back to ancient Greece with Plato for example. And it's a very deeply held, kind of precious story that we have about what it means to be human. But that story that we have about emotions doesn't really match what the scientific evidence tells us from many different domains of science.
AMT: So tell us what the traditional or classical way of looking at emotions has been?
LISA FELDMAN BARRET: Sure, so the traditional view which, I call the classical view of emotion. Is the idea that you are born with a set of circuits. They come kind of baked into your brain. One for each of a small handful of emotions: one for anger, one for sadness, one for fear and so on. And that when something in the world happens like perhaps a snake slithers by it will trigger your neurons for fear, let's say. And what issues forth from you is a particular facial expression that everyone in the world can make and recognize that your body takes on a very distinctive pattern. Your heart rate goes up and maybe your blood pressure changes and so on. And that you have a specific distinctive feeling that goes with that bodily state and you react in a very stereotypic way. So the idea is that there is some neural essence lurking in your brain that you share with everyone in the world and even some other animals that are not human. And that the facial expression, the bodily change and so on are like a fingerprint that you can use to uniquely identify that emotion.
AMT: And what evidence is there that this is wrong?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Well for example, there are no facial movements or bodily changes or patterns of brain activity that uniquely identify any emotion. People for example, smile when they're sad, they cry when they're angry, they scream when they're happy. You know you as a person probably across your life have trembled in fear, jumped in fear, screamed and fear, hidden in fear attacked in fear, even laughed in the face of fear.
AMT: You’ve been following me.
LISA FELDMAN BARRET: So when it comes to emotion, an emotion like fear is not a single pattern. It's actually a whole population of very unique instances that your brain is capable of making based on whatever is going to be most functional in the given situation that you're in.
AMT: What about babies who cry or laugh?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: It's one of the most unintuitive things that we've learned. Babies come with the capacity built into their brains to feel simple feelings of pleasantness or distress. To feel worked up or to feel calm, but an infant brain is not like a miniature adult brain. It's a brain that is waiting for a set of wiring instructions from the world. An infant's brain wires itself to the physical and social circumstances that it grows up in. And so infants have to learn to experience and perceive emotions in an adult-like way.
AMT: So let's explore more of that. So how are emotions made?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Emotions are made in our brains. And they’re not built in waiting to be revealed. They are made by us. The idea is that your brain contains a set of networks you can think of them like all-purpose ingredients. You know like in your kitchen for example, you have flour, you have salt, you have water and you can make many different recipes with these ingredients. You can even make non-food recipes like glue for example. And similarly you have in your brain a set of networks that are common to making emotions and making thoughts and making memories and making decisions and so on. Your brain is capable of making a lot of different recipes with these common networks.
AMT: So it depends on how we're growing up and where we're growing up and who we're growing up around that all of this comes into play?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Absolutely. So infant brains for example are not born with these networks, these networks wire themselves during development. On the surface, if we look you know in a very general way, we would see that everyone has the same networks, but the details and the micro wiring is dependent on experience.
AMT: So you say they are predictive rather than reactive?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Exactly. So this is again one of the most important discoveries in neuroscience in the last 10 years or so. Although the idea that the brain is predictive goes back really to the 19th century, the idea is the data shows us that your brain is not reacting to the world. To me, it feels as if you know there are objects in the world that cause us to see them. That sends light information into our retina, up to the brain and so that we see things similarly. You know there are air pressure changes which enter our ears and then we hear things and so on. But in fact, your brain is structured -anatomically structured - to predict not to react. Your brain is constantly guessing about what's going to happen next. And these guesses are the basis of your emotions.
AMT: How does the brain do that?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Well, think about it this way: right now you and I are talking. And to you, it probably feels as if you were listening and reacting to the things that I say. But in fact, based on the decades of experience that you have with the English language, your brain is predicting every single word that comes out of my mouth. And if I had said every single word that comes out of my nose or some other orifice of my body you would have been surprised, right? But we don't walk around being surprised all the time. Occasionally we are surprised and occasionally there are things that are novel that we haven't been able to predict. But by and large, your brain is predicting. It's using past experience to guess what's going to happen in the immediate future. And then it uses input from the world to either confirm those predictions or to modify them.
AMT: So we're talking about how our brains react or how we react through our brains. What about the way we react to emotions then? Are there universal reactions to events that would scare us or make us mad?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Yeah, it seems to us because as infants as young children our brains bootstrap into themselves the knowledge about emotion from our own cultures. It seems to us as if certain emotions must be universal. But in fact, what it emotion is, is your brain's best guess as to the causes of the sensations in your body and in the world. Your brain is basically trying to make sense of sensations so that it knows what to do about them. It's using its past experience to make sense and plan action. So really what's happening is not so much that you're reacting, but that you're predicting in ways that are traditional for your culture for making sense of what's going on inside your brain and inside your body. So what's universal is these simple feelings of affect. Everybody can feel pleasantness. Everybody can feel distress. Everybody can feel worked up or feel quiescent, but anger, sadness and so on are not universal. The way that people make sense of sensations differs by culture.
AMT: So can you give me an example of how a culture a different culture would react differently?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: Sure, so let's take the loss of a child for example. In our culture, this is associated with a set of sensations in the body that typically we create sadness with. Because you know we are social creatures and one of the things that we do is we regulate each other's nervous systems. This is something that parents do for their children. It's something that children also do for their parents. It's something, Anna Maria that you and I are doing right now actually even though we can't even see each other just by the sound of our voices and the words that we're speaking and so on. This is a really important aspect of human evolution that we pick up the burden of each other's nervous systems and we help each other regulate for good or for or for bad. So when you lose someone who's close to you, to you, it feels as if you've lost a part of yourself because you have actually. You've lost somebody who helps to regulate your nervous system. That has a particular set of bodily changes and a particular feeling that goes with it that we create sadness with. But for example in Tahitian, they don't have a concept of sadness. They have a concept which is not like sadness, but would be more like a feeling of fatigue and tiredness that you have when you're sick like when you have the flu. So you have a sort of a sickness when you lose an important loved one.
AMT: So a mother who would lose a child in that culture would have an emotion, but it wouldn't be an emotion that we could necessarily understand?
LISA FELDMAN BARRET: I would say what the scientific data tells us is that when we looked at that mother we would experience her as being sad. But she herself, would be experiencing that feeling. Now our ability to communicate with one another would be dependent on the extent to which we can synchronize our concepts for emotion. And so for example, we can make with a lot of effort an instance of her emotion because our brains have this amazing capacity to do what's called “conceptual combination”. And neuroscientists call this “generativity”. It means that your brain can take bits and pieces of past experience and combine them in brand new ways so that you can create a concept on the fly that you've never made before. But that has bits and pieces of experiences that are similar to things that you've experienced in the past. Now you know if you and I had grown up in this to Tahitian culture I could just say the word to you and that would evoke in your brain a whole set of features. But if you're from Tahiti and I'm from the U.S. and we’re trying to speak to each other, then my brain is going to have to work really hard to make an instance of that emotion. And to be able to communicate we're going to have to use lots and lots and lots of words like, just as we are now, trying to create a concept that we aren't really very practiced at.
AMT: Why is it important for us to understand this and look at emotions differently?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: I used to kind of balk at that question. I used to think well you know I'm a scientist and I'm trying to understand how things work. We don't ask physicists why does it matter whether or not we discovered the Higgs Boson? You know we're curious and we want to understand how things work. But in 2013, there was a journalist who came to me and she wanted to write a feature story on my work and her editor kept asking her why does it matter that we using the wrong theory? And so of course, she kept asking me why does it matter? Why does it matter? And I realized there are many cases of people being harmed and sometimes losing their lives because we're using the wrong theory of emotion in medicine, in the law, in the media, in government and so on. We spend money needlessly. Justice is sometimes not served. There are cases of people losing their liberty and sometimes even losing their lives. And I'll just give you one example. This is one that really grabbed me as a mother. Children who are diagnosed with autism, one of their fundamental difficulties is in emotionally connecting with other people and being able to perceive emotions in other people. So according to the classical view of emotion, if there is one facial expression for anger like scowling, one facial expression for sadness like pouting then you if you teach children who are on the spectrum to recognize scowling as anger and pouting a sadness this should help them be able to perceive emotion in others and emotionally connect to others better. So that's what scientists have done. They've treated children who are diagnosed with autism by teaching them to recognize these stereotyped facial expressions as emotional expressions. And the kids can struggle and learn to do it, but it doesn't have any impact on their social functioning. And I think to myself how would I feel if I was the parent of one of those kids? How would I feel when someone told me hey there's this awesome treatment for your kids they just have to learn to recognize these facial expressions? And I watch my kids struggle and I have all this hope that things are going to get better and then my kid finally can recognize these faces. And then I learn that it hasn't helped them at all. And then imagine learning that there's been science around all along that would indicate that this wouldn't help. For me, that was the sort of final straw and I thought well I really need to write a book and I need to bring the evidence to people and then they can make their own decisions.
AMT: Well you mentioned the law. I mean there are cases and they've been documented where the police will go to a mother. And because of her reaction to the death of her child, she'll be charged with murder when in fact it was an accident because she didn't react the way they expected her emotion to be, right?
LISA FELDMAN BARRET: Exactly. You know the law is a system of normative rules. The law has a particular theory of human nature and it tells us which conduct is acceptable and which conduct is punishable. And some of those normative rules are about emotions. They're about which emotions to feel and when. They're also assumptions that you know you have this rational part of your brain which is kind of controlling this emotional part of your brain you know so your mind is the battleground between cognition and emotion. And even more so, there's an assumption that we can just look at other people and that we know how they feel. We just detect the displays of emotional expressions and that this is something that jurors and judges do really well and it often dictates the outcomes of trials and the sentencing of people.
AMT: So before I let you go, as children are growing up and learning emotions. What should parents be doing to help them navigate?
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: One thing to realize is that every word that you speak to your child is helping to wire that child's brain. So if you want your child to have what we would say we would call “emotional granularity”, the ability to make a lot of nuanced emotions. To have a big vocabulary of experiences that that their brains can make. If you want an emotionally intelligent child and this is important because you know emotional intelligence predicts not just social behavior, but it also predicts academic performance. Then what you should do is when they're very young start speaking to them about emotions and start using emotion words. Even as young as 3 months old babies can use words, even though they don't understand what a word means in a conventional sense, they can use words to start to understand what's going on in the world around them. I think a second thing that you can do as they get a little older is to have conversations with them not just about what they're feeling, but also why they're feeling it and what the situation is that's occurring around them? You can talk to your children about your own feelings. I think another thing that you can do is sometimes not creating an emotion is the right thing to do. So if you have an ache in your stomach sometimes you might create it a feeling of disgust. Sometimes you might create a feeling of anxiety. But you also might be just tired. You might be hungry. You might be coming down with the flu. Not every sensation from your body is an emotion. I think you know we regulate each other's nervous system so you can help them to keep their nervous systems in balance by making sure they get enough sleep, that they eat properly, that they're getting enough exercise and rest that, they don't stay on social media too much. All of these things are really important because those simple feelings of feeling pleasant, feeling unpleasant, feeling worked up and calm and so on come from the sensations in your body. If they're feeling distress it's much easier to create a lot of negative emotion and you could avoid that.
AMT: Lisa Feldman Barrett, your work is fascinating. Thank you.
LISA FELDMAN BARRETT: My pleasure.
AMT: Lisa Feldman Barrett, she is a distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University. Her new book is called “How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.” She joined us from Boston. Lots to think about there in terms of how emotions are developed if you want to weigh in on your own thoughts as you listen to her. Tweet us we're: @thecurrentcbc. Find us on Facebook. Go to our website: www.cbc.ca/thecurrent.
AMT: And we do read your tweets and your emails and your Facebook posts. Earlier this week, we were talking about new LED streetlights in Halifax that have some residents seeing red and losing sleep. Halifax is one of the many cities across North America that’s installing energy efficient bulbs called LEDs, but people are complaining that they are too bright. So after we aired that story our Twitter feed lit up. Here are some of your tweets voiced by our team here at the current.
SPEAKER: @HBStrawberry's: This is such garbage. Our entire neighborhood in WHZ Halifax has the new bulbs and the ambient light is much less. They're great.
SPEAKER: @therealElisChuck: Just had an LCD streetlight installed in front of my YYZ Calgary house. and it shines less into my yard and windows than the old bulb.
SPEAKER: @livesayDebbie: I agree, they do not illuminate. Safety hazard!
SPEAKER:@PamBArmstrong: We moved from #Toronto to #HoweIsland and something that has become very important to me since the move is that dark and quiet.
SPEAKER: @Momforchoice: What would this woman do if she lived north of 60 from May to September? Tempest in a teapot, in my opinion.
SPEAKER: First world problems folks. Move along now.
SPEAKER: Thanks for the city lighting segment. Deux Montagnes, Quebec installed them. Yes the zombie lights disaster for wildlife.
SPEAKER: We live in the country. We enjoy our light-free zone. Nature is better this way.
SPEAKER: @Picard102: My wife needs total darkness at night. There are plenty of solutions we found that block the light. It doesn't sound like they've tried very hard to solve the problem before complaining.
AMT: Well, who said there weren’t varied opinions out there? As always we want to hear from you. Tweet us: @thecurrentcbc. Post your comments on our Facebook page. Email us by clicking on “contact” at: www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. And if you missed that LED story, you can stream or download it at: www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. You can do that on your CBC Radio app as well, which is free from Google Play or the App Store. Coming up in our next half hour the world pleaded and tweeted “Bring Back Our Girls” when hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Last weekend, 82 of them were released. The celebration has been dampened. Some girls have yet to be reunited with their families. There are big questions about how best to reintegrate them after what they have endured. Coming up, I'll speak with a man whose relatives are among the kidnapped girls about the challenges ahead. I'm Anna Maria. This is The Current.
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Former Boko Haram captives need help with reintegration, says advocate
Guess: Manasseh Allen, Reginald Braggs, Bukky Shonibare
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
SPEAKER: After more than three years in captivity, it is the news that people around the world, not to mention the families, have been waiting for them. Eighty-two of the missing schoolgirls have finally been released from Boko Haram captivity. According to tweets put out by the Nigerian Pesident Muhammadu Buhari, this release came about as a result of lengthy negotiation and that was a swap of Boko Haram suspects. These girls have been so much in their three years in captivity and the road to recovery will be a long and a difficult one. But on this day, we celebrate the fact that they are finally free and they will shortly be reunited with their loved ones.
AMT: That's CNN announcing news this past weekend that eighty-two Nigerian girls. Many of them now young women kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram had been released. The abduction of two-hundred-seventy-six female secondary school students from the town of Chibok in April 2014 became an international cause with the then U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama even adding her voice to the hashtag plea to “Bring Back Our Girls”. Some girls escaped on their own during the abduction. Another twenty-one were released last October. One-hundred-thirteen still remain in the hands of the terrorist organization. But for the families of the Chibok girls there are a lot of questions that remain even about the girls who were just freed. Manasseh Allen is originally from Chibok and is a strategic team member of the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group. He joins us from Abuja, Nigeria. Hello.
MANASSEH ALLEN: Hello. Good morning.
AMT: You have a niece who was among the abducted girls. Do you know if she is among the ones who were released?
MANASSEH ALLEN: Yes my niece is among them. My cousin is also among them and then I about three other nieces who are among the eighty-two rescued a few days ago.
AMT: And this eighty-two that were rescued two days ago. We heard in this report that the newly released girls would be reunited with their families. Has that happened?
MANASSEH ALLEN: Yeah, it's not happened yet. We are still waiting for the government to call the parents to come over for the reunion service. But the government is trying to arrange a meeting between the initially released twenty-one from last October with the newly released eighty-two. And that plan is ongoing. But as for the parents, we are still waiting for the government to move them from Chibok down to this place. The process of their release is ongoing because some of the parents are in locations where there is no television reception or phone network where they can be easily reached. So some people had to be dispatched and for them to verify the names from the list released by the government and the pictures of the girls. So that process is ongoing.
AMT: So how are the relatives taking the release? It doesn't sound like they know a lot yet?
MANAESSEH ALLEN: Yes, the flow information from the government sources is not very encouraging because they have not used the template for the verification designed by the Bring Back Our Girls movement. That would have simplified the process of identifying the girls.
AMT: So as it as that identification process goes on this week, what do you know about what is happening with these girls who were just released?
MANASSEH ALLEN: The leadership of the parents of the abducted girls were called upon by the government. I was informed that the names and the pictures of the girls were given to take to Chibok so that the parents can identify the pictures. They will be notified in due course as to when the reunion will take place.
AMT: What about the twenty-one who were released in October? Where are they now?
MANASSEH ALLEN: The twenty-one are still kept in custody of the government by the Ministry of Women and Kids. They are kept in an undisclosed location, but sources are telling me that they are kept in a woman’s centre here in Abuja. Where they are being given some lessons. But that is not what we in the community are comfortable with. We would like them taken to a better school where they can live openly with their peer groups and that will lead to social support and even in rejuvenating their educational dreams. So that they can flow together and aspire to live a normal life. They’ve been kept together for three years and it’s not helpful. So we are advocating that government open them up to more formal school where they can react freely with their peers.
AMT: Why is the government keeping them separate like that? What has the government said?
MANASSEH ALLEN: That is what we really don't know because initially they said they were keeping the girls away from media and they are still trying to get them properly. The girls came back in their normal state. There rehabilitation was easy to go on because none of them had been radicalized beyond the level that they can’t easily be rehabilitated back into society. Therefore we not comfortable with the government keeping them away from their families and keeping them away from normal schools. You know the government has not come out with a better explanation to the Nigerian public and the family as to the reason they are keeping the girls away and by themselves. So if this is what's happened with the twenty-one who were released in October. What are your concerns about when the families of these next eighty-two will actually get to be with them?
MANASSEH ALLAN: Yeah, myself and some of the parents that know what is best for these girls and given the community and especially members of the Bring Back Our Girls movement are so concerned about the twenty-one and that has added to the concerns we have for the eighty-two because if the eighty-two will it will be rehabilitated the same way change is something we encourage to happen. We will be advising the government and the person dealing with this issues to really open up the process to our professionals even in the government that I ready to help. These girls will get better from you know getting any assistance in the rehabilitation process. Because keeping them away or in a locked facility where education is given to them is not something we encourage. There are several organizations open and looking at track records with the capability and credibility to help in the rehabilitation of these girls. So we are asking the government to actually open up the process of rehabilitation to the general public. So that all those organizations can help rehabilitate these girls in a manner that’s globally accepted.
AMT: Mr. Allen, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
MANASSEH ALLAN: You’re welcome. Thank you very much for the voice.
AMT: Manasseh Allen, he's originally from Chibok. He is now a strategic team member of the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group and he joined us from Abuja, Nigeria. Now there's a secondary school in Chibok from which the girls were abducted in 2014. It's still closed. That's made it hard for more than the fifty girls who escaped the night of the kidnapping to continue their education. So the American University of Nigeria, also in the northeast of the country, has stepped in to help by offering scholarships and an educational program specifically for twenty-four of the young women who escaped Boko Haram. Reginald Braggs is the assistant vice president of community engagement and the assistant dean of student affairs at American University of Nigeria and he's in Yola, Nigeria. Hello.
REGINALD BRAGGS: Hi Anna Maria. Good morning.
AMT: So the women who you have been helping they were the ones who escaped right away when that of that massive abduction happened, is that right?
REGINALD BRAGGS: Very true. That was a very traumatic experience for them when all of the Boko Haram people rushed in to the school and they're burning down things and snatching ladies and throwing them on trolleys. And these trucks were rushing into the forest. Fifty-eight of those young women actually had the courage to jump off those trucks during that time and run into the bush. They were being chased by Boko Haram, who tried to put them back on those trucks. So we have twenty-four of the fifty-eight that actually jumped that night.
AMT: and how are they doing?
REGINALD BRAGGS: Well Anna Maria, they’re doing fantastic. You know that happened on the 14th of April 2014, and they actually came to the American University of Nigeria on the 30th of August of 2014 based primarily on the fact that the president of our university Dr. Margee Ensign found out that one of our employee’s sister was one of those folks who jumped from the truck that night. And this employee went to the president asked are my sister has jumped from this truck And AUN is a development University. Is there anything you can do to help her? And so our president sent an investigation team up Chibok and found out that there were eleven of the girls that were still up in Chibok who had escaped. And so she made a decision that she was going to offer scholarships to these students. And they came down and all their parents on the 30th of April 2014 and we began this process of renewing their goals of getting an education.
AMT: And so what was that like? What kind of programs did you offer them and what kind of challenges did you find?
REGINALD BRAGGS: Wow! There were amazing challenges because first of all, I have to remember that they went through this very traumatic experience. And so we want to make sure first of all that they know that come into the American University of Nigeria that they're going to be safe and that they were going to be secure. We wanted to ensure that the parents knew that they were going to be safe and secure. And so our next thing was to make sure that we had some type of academic program to put them in so they could move forward in their educational goals. So one of the things we had to do was assess their English and mathematics proficiency, so we gave them all an assessment test to find out what the levels were. So once we did that, we found out that even though these students were preparing for their university testing at our standards with American University Nigeria they really were not on level to move into the American University of Nigeria. So we had to put together a foundation program to build up their mathematic general knowledge and English proficiency to prepare them for the university.
AMT: And since that time, have there been girls who have managed to progress through the system and apply for university?
REGINALD BRAGGS: We've had two of them right now that joined the university a year ago. One of them is a computer science major the other one is a journalism major. and we have eighteen of them that are still on track to moving toward the academic goal of moving to the university in the fall of this year.
AMT: Now these were young women who managed to escape at the very beginning. They would know what has been happening over the last three years with their classmates who did not. How have they been able to sort of process that in the setting that you have? How difficult has it been for them to be the ones who got away?
REGINALD BRGAGGS: Absolutely. That’s a very good question and that's something we had to contend with when they first got here. And fortunately we have a we have a trauma psychologist on our staff and we were very keen on making sure that we were monitoring them and being very closely connected to them concerning how they were doing emotionally and psychologically. And so that first year in August of 2015, this is when the first recognition that we had a celebration, I shouldn’t call it a celebration, it was more of a remembrance of what happened on that night. And we had a sit down with all the girls and we had to talk to them and really make them feel like they should not feel guilty about getting away. And they really were speaking and believing that their friends would eventually get released. In the second year we went through the same thing. And just recently, this is the third year, we went to the same type of process on April 14th. But this year was much more different, Anna. They were much more mature and were able to really speak about the situation and about their happy that the twenty-one got released. And they're looking forward to those twenty-one actually joining them in the university. And they want to be mentors to the twenty-one that actually got released back in October of last year.
AMT: So you know our last guest expressed concerns of the families over the fact that the twenty-one released in October are still in some kind of government custody. That it's not clear what will happen to this bigger group that was just released. Do you think there's a role for those in your organization who have been working with those initial escapees to play with these newly released young women?
REGINALD BRAGGS: When we first heard about this at AUN, we made an overture that we would be very happy to bring them to bring them to AUN and to help them acclimate back into their educational goals and things like that and socialization etc. because our students here know the twenty-one and the eighty-two. They know all of them, so I can think of no better place for these twenty-one students to come.
AMT: Reginald Braggs, thank you for your perspective on this.
REGINALD BRAGGS: You're very welcome Anna and thank you for this opportunity.
AMT: Reginald Braggs, assistant vice president of community engagement and assistant dean of student affairs at the American University of Nigeria. He's in Yola, Nigeria. The female students from Chibok may have received the most media attention, but thousands of people in Nigeria have been abducted by Boko Haram. And nearly two million people have been displaced by the insurgency that has been run by Boko Haram. Bukky Shonibare works with internally displaced people in Nigeria as well as those who have been abducted. She's the coordinator of the Adopt-A-Camp program at the Light Foundation. She's also a founder of Girl Child Africa and she is in Abuja, Nigeria. Hello.
BUKKY SHONIBARE: Hello. Good morning.
AMT: So can you give us an idea of how other women and girls who have been abducted by Boko Haram are able to cope after they get away?
BUKKY SHONIBARE: So first they have to cope with a lot of trauma. Trauma that is owing to experiences they had to go through right from their abduction to being sexually molested. To being used as sex slaves. To being used as war shields. Some of them are sold off to neighbouring countries of Chadand Cameroon. And it becomes difficult for them to come back. It is difficult for them to escape from those that they are being sold off to. We have some of them come back with very serious bodily injuries. We have some of them come back with pregnancies. Some of them come back with sexually transmitted diseases. And then the psychological torture that comes with being abducted and having to get used to bomb blasts, watching people killed in front of you and people being shot in front of you makes it quite difficult for these girls and women to become adjusted to the society. But the most difficult part of it for me, based on my work, is the fact that this stigmatization begets from the people that are supposed to provide love, care, attention and empathy for them. They also experience it in the IDP camps and in the community. So sometimes some of them will even feel safer with their abductors. You know they're coming back home and having to face that stigmatization. So when you look at all of these challenges that they face it makes it difficult for them to get reintegrated and socialize back into the society.
AMT: You know you talk about the stigma and I guess there's also the stigma of suspicion, right? If they've been with them for three years there's a fear that they have been brainwashed and that they can't be trusted.
BUKKY SHONIBARE: Exactly. You know we had a very sad experience of a particular young girl who came back and the girl was burned alive by her own relatives because they believed that she now carries the blood of Boko Haram in her. And so she is a common menace to them and the society. When you look at the modus operandi of Boko Haram where they radicalize young girls and women and use them as suicide bombers. There is this fear that anyone that has been abducted by Boko Haram before means that they can come back home and bomb their families. We’ve seen some of them come back and actually kill their family members. So it becomes difficult for their families, for the communities and the society to embrace fully these people because of not just notion of what they could have been, but the examples of some of them that have actually come out.
AMT: So what do you do to help sensitize people to what they have been through and also to help them reintegrate?
BUKKY SHONIBARE: I would bring the angle of the Chibok girls as well. We have people in Nigeria for instance think that we at the Bring Back Our Girls movement should just stop advocating for the girls because when they come back they become dangerous to the society. And that brings me to the answer to the question that you have asked that we started looking at a system of them bouncing back into a life that is not just normal, but a better quality of life. And we are looking at rehabilitation, reintegration and socialization. Based on my work in Adopt-A-Camp, we go into the camp, identify the needs and plan programs or interventions. We realize that we cannot do everything, so we try to limit ourselves within the scope of our capacity and funding. So first we do a lot around health care. But most importantly we have realized that education has become a very important tool in helping these people. Not just in preventing them from being radicalized, but also helping them get back into the society. But still there is the big walk of reintegration and socialization. That is a skill that should be done by the federal government of Nigeria. So we do the best that we can do. We advocate for the bigger work that needs to be done.
AMT: And you're doing that with people who have been victims of Boko Haram. What do you think of the fact that the families don't seem to know much about the twenty-one released in October and the new group now that's been released. Do you think they should be part of programs of the kind that you're running?
BUKKY SHONIBARE: You know one of the very key actors you know that's we have in this whole process of rehabilitation, reintegration and socialization are the parents and family members. This kind of process you know becomes easier. The result is faster and more effective when you have the parents also become part of that process of rehabilitating them. So for the twenty-one girls that have come back, I have met some parents that complain that they don't have access to the girls and some family members are also you know surprised that they had to wait for so long for the children to come back. Now that they have come back we don't have access them. One particular family member told me that he has only seen his sister once. The process of rehabilitation actually has to be done alongside their parents. You know one of the facts of the government of Nigeria when we asked them this thing is that they say all because of security concerns they don't know who is who. I mean simply just do your due diligence, verify who they are, do the security briefing and give them you know unrestricted access to their children. Because it helps them bounce back into the society.
AMT: It's really important to hear what you've seen and how you're trying to help them. Thank you for talking to me today.
BUKKY SHONIBARE: Thank you.
AMT: Bukky Shonibare works with internally displaced people in Nigeria as well as with those who have been abducted. She's the coordinator of the Adopt-A-Camp program at the Light Foundation. As well as the founder of Girl Child Africa and she joined us from Abuja, Nigeria. We did contact the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa to ask for a comment on what's happening with the released girls from Chibok? We didn't hear back.
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