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VOICE 1: This is crazy. Never seen anything like this.
VOICE 2: Well, this appears to be either the worst or one of the worst floods Houston has ever had. We are measuring it not in inches but in feet.
VOICE 3: There's water everywhere, almost [unintelligible] no water. Almost all the cars are submerged inside.
VOICE 4: We have four pumps running. I have about 100 sandbags. No, no one's seen this for people living here it was [unintelligible] for 20-30-40 years said they've never seen this.
VOICE 5: Everybody's got a story. Everybody's struggling. We're all thinking about Tuesday morning and getting our kids back.
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Voices from Houston, Mumbai, Ile Bizard – Quebec, Windsor - Ontario. Different places, different extreme, sure, but each cruelly surprised by rushing waters, facing parallel problems when too much precipitation meets too much pavement or parched land. We know climate change is a factor in the intensity of the storm that has so devastated Texas. But did you know that flooding and fires are the most common identifiers of climate change in Canada? Increasingly those planning for the future insist we need to step up, to adjust to the realities of our changing world and arguably we have a lot of adjusting to do even beyond climate change which is why we've chosen to concentrate on adaptation, over this new season of The Current. It is one thing to be disrupted but once that happens how do we adapt to technology, to social innovation, to climate change, to political upheaval? Today we launch our new project Adaptation with the story of one city in southern Ontario, Burlington, just west of Toronto where a flash flood three years ago changed everything from the city budget to home renovation, where thousands of people realized that climate change was happening right below them and that they could do something about its effects. In half an hour we'll hear how adaptation can work across Canada and beyond. We're devoting our first and second half hour to this topic today. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.Back To Top »
Is Canada prepared for climate change? Adaptation is key, say experts
Guest: Larry Freiburger, Carol Solis, Blair Feltmate, Rick Goldring, Aimee Thomas
[Music: Adaptation Theme]
LARRY FREIBURGER: We're not going to climb up on anything. We are not can take anything apart. But I'm going to stay pretty close to your home. So we will start looking at this particular area and…
AMT: Larry fry burger is skulking around a townhouse with what looks like a taser.
LARRY FREIBURGER: Let's walk over to this window and if you take that moisture meter...
AMT: Well, okay. It's a moist your meter.
LARRY FREIBURGER: And push it against the concrete anywhere, in or around the window. Okay. So you have nothing there…
AMT: Although the only moisture around here today is on his hand.
VOICE 1: Okay, so there is a little moisture there.
LARRY FREIBURGER: Not much. Touch my hand with it. Squeeze it.
LARRY FREIBURGER: I have just moistened my hand. So that is, if there is a lot of moisture that's what you're going to hear.
CAROL SOLIS: Okay! We are good [laughs].
LARRY FREIBURGER: So you are pretty good. Yes you are good.
AMT: He is here to assess whether Carol Solaces lovely new home is vulnerable to flooding. And he's armed with gadgets and questions.
LARRY FREIBURGER: Do you have your eavestroughs cleaned on a regular basis? You know your cell type by any chance? You don't have any rain barrel, so you look at your foundation. I mean we talked about looking at it to see if there's any cracks or any problems in the foundation.
CAROL SOLIS: Well, Larry, no. [Laughs]
LARRY FREIBURGER: Thank you for being honest.
AMT: His biggest concern seems to be a storm drain on the common property, just behind your back fence.
LARRY FREIBURGER: Because if there's a lot of water from a rain event, that has only a certain capacity it normally takes your water but other units water, and if that overflows it comes up and backs in. So, not to frighten you, but something that I'd be concerned about. So, what are your concerns about your basement in terms of flooding?
CAROL SOLIS: I actually feel pretty good in this house. Yes. It's the last house that was the house of hell that we had two sewage floods.
AMT: Carol has learned the hard way. You can't be too careful.
CAROL SOLIS: So every time it rained when I was in that house my daughter and I would just look at one another with total freight on her face. We'd go run downstairs to the basement to see if everything was okay.
AMT: They moved into that last house in March of 2014. She and her daughter found a house to share with her elderly parents. Two months later the first sewage flood hit.
CAROL SOLIS: It was a living hell. It affected my entire family's health and well-being. It affected my business. We moved into this bungalow because my stepfather was not well. My parents sold their condo. I sold my house and I ended up making the basement my space. I had beautiful furniture I had Asian rugs and it turned into a living nightmare.
AMT: And then barely a week after she'd cleaned up from the first time round, an even bigger storm hit Burlington.
ANNOUNCER 1: Top story is the cleanup in Burlington after an unprecedented storm hit the city right around this time last night.
AMT: It was August 4th 2014.
ANNOUNCER 2: What a weather forecaster called it a weather bomb.
ANNOUNCER 3: The torrential rain was relentless it left a big section of the city under water and at a standstill.
ANNOUNCER 4: The aftermath, today. Parts of the city look for all the world like disaster zones.
ANNOUNCER 4: But homeowners inspecting the damage from shoulder high water in their basements.
VOICE 2: We need a new furnace. We need a new water heater. We need a washing machine, dryer. And then on top of that you've got flooring and drywall. I mean… just… I cannot even think. It's overwhelming.
AMT: Within hours, thirty five hundred homes in Burlington. Ten percent of the houses in the city were flooded. The rain fell so fast that it filled up the city's storm water and sewage system. People described sewage spewing up like a fountain from their basement drains.
CAROL SOLIS: I lost 80 percent of my whole life belongings. I had the highest claim from that sewage flint, and just in content alone, it would have reached at about $400000. So you're not talking about the repairs of the basement now, you're talking about - Also we have my daughter and I had to move out. We had to live in places. So the claim was over half a million dollars, if you put the two of them together. The loss was just astronomical. But I mean memories, pictures, childhood, toys you name it. And it took me two years to literally get my life, my head, back together to realize the loss and to let it go. Anything that is precious or memories or anything of value do not put it your basement. I can't stress on this more. Now I'm a very strong person but I also have attachments to things that meant a lot to me, and to have lost most of them was devastating. Someone out there may think oh my gosh. Listen to this. I saw a little doll that I had when I was five years old. My father gave it to me. And it was one of these little miniature dolls with long blond hair. And if you had seen the smile I had when I found it and it wasn't ruined, it was just crazy, because it flooded a beautiful memory that I had. Even sitting here talking about it, I did not think it would bring up some emotions but obviously it is [sobs].
AMT: One woman, one house. Now multiply it over the past few years. Windsor, Gatineau, Calgary, High River, Rigaud, Oka, Montreal, Toronto, Mindon Hills. The numbers of municipalities where the water gushes into homes at dizzying speeds is too long to mention here. Carol wanted out of her house when she put it on the market. She disclosed its history as the law requires. When she went to insure her new place, the townhouse where she is now, her insurance company dumped her. Again, one woman one house. Multiply it.
BLAIR FELTMATE: There is no Plan B. The plan B is you sell your house at a tremendous discount and then somebody else inherits the problem. There is no way to cheat the system. We've got to get the risk out of the system.
AMT: Blair Feltmate is on a bit of a mission on this front. He's one of the minds behind the home flood assessment that you heard Larry conducting on Carol's house. He is also the head of the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.
BLAIR FELTMATE: The frequency, duration the intensity of storms is much greater today than it was in the past. People need to understand that the weather of the past is not a good predictor of the weather of the future. The storms that are going to hit us now and going forward are going to be bigger than anything we've experienced in the past. And that is a categorical certainty.
AMT: We're far from the panic of anyone's flood here on this sunny morning with only the buzz of the cicadas in the background. But do not be lulled. How are wet basements, the canary in the coal mine, when it comes to the cost of climate change?
BLAIR FELTMATE: The number one impact in Canada, in reference to climate change extreme weather events in the expression of extreme weather events, is flooding. Too much water…
AMT: The numbers tell the story. A decade ago, total payments for catastrophic losses in Canada averaged hundred million dollars a year. Up to now it's in the billions. The biggest factor in those payouts is wet basements and flooding. And while some political leaders still want to debate whether there even is such a thing as climate change, the insurance companies long ago connected the dots and started calculating.
BLAIR FELTMATE: The insurance industry understands climate change extraordinarily well. I would say probably better than any other industry in the country by far.
AMT: We're talking about the monetary costs of this. Are there other hidden costs to this kind of upheaval?
BLAIR FELTMATE: There is a giant cost associated with this outside of financial, and that is the psychosocial or the mental health costs associated with flooding. And indeed what we're realizing now in communities where there's been, generally speaking repeat of basement flooding, not just a one off but they've had it twice now. The amount of time that people miss from work - lost time from work - They require special medications to help them cope with the stress associated with the loss, because you have to remember for most people, the vast majority of people that own a home, their home is the primary investment vehicle in their life. This is their retirement fund and they're now seeing their retirement fund go almost literally down the drain. Perhaps the water is not going down the drain fast enough. But they're seeing their retirement disappear. So the psycho-social or mental health stress associated with this is enormous. So now the life and health insurers are getting involved in the equation of also seeing it in their best interest to not see large scale flooding occur across the country.
AMT: So when you hear about the Canadian community where there is a lot of flooding, almost like flash flooding where it's a torrential rain storm there's sudden flooding, what do you think of first?
BLAIR FELTMATE: One of the things people have to realize there is no such thing as a safe community, because the actual dynamic of storms have changed now, such that we can have microburst storms with let's say 175 millimeters of rain, over a six hour period. And it's it's almost impossible to predict where those events are going to occur but it is highly predictable that they will occur. Preparedness or adaptation is effectively the gift that keeps on giving. Because once you've prepared every storm that would occur after then, that otherwise might have resulted in flooding in excess of damage, is now not having that impact. So you're far better off to prepare and get ahead of the curve than just keep waiting for these things to happen.
AMT: The mayor of Burlington, Rick Goldring, came into office already understanding the connection and the need to adapt to a new reality.
RICK GOLDRING: I used to think that when you say adaptation you're throwing up the white flag and surrendering to climate change. But the reality is that we know with where we are with regard to increases in temperature and more extreme weather events that we do have to adapt. Because temperatures, even if we reduce carbon dramatically now, the temperatures are still going to climb and we're still going to get more and more and more extreme weather events. So adaptation is as crucial as medication.
AMT: Intellectually he got it. And then it hit him in the gut. That same day in August of 2014, one hundred eighty five millimeters of rain in less than eight hours will do that.
RICK GOLDRING: The storm came out of nowhere. It was so intense. It wasn't just that total volume. It was how it fell in the concentrated area that it fell in. One term that our weather expert used was it was a weather bomb.
AMT: The water inundated his house too.
RICK GOLDRING: So, this area was flooded.
AMT: On the main floor of Mayor Goldring’s house, he points to where the water level rose above the backyard pool and in through the doors.
RICK GOLDRING: The water came in, and this was overland flooding that came in. And if you can see the bend in the ladder there in the pool the actual level of the water was above the bend. So we barricaded this area we took everything out.
AMT: A mixture of storm and sewage water was also gushing in from the basement drain.
RICK GOLDRING: And I think - I believe the water was about there.
AMT: So how high is that?
RICK GOLDRING: That's about five feet.
AMT: So I mean you wouldn't have been able to even come down. You could just look at it from the stairs. When you first saw it but what did it look like? Was the stuff floating around?
RICK GOLDRING: Yes. Stuff was floating around. That picture over there as a last picture of my dad and mom and sister, with my dad alive, before he died a couple of months later at her wedding. And that was floating on a table down here, where we were able to preserve the picture because it was floating on a table.
AMT: Three years later, Burlington is ahead of the curve, when it comes to adaptation to prevent future flooding. The city's tripled its budget for storm water management. It offers homeowners an impressive laundry list of incentives to flood proof their homes.
RICK GOLDRING: At the region of Halton, on our website, actually, the region of Halton. You can go in and plug your address in and the website will tell you what programs you're eligible for, as far as flood proofing your home. So one of the programs that we have is a program to disconnect the eavestroughs from the sanitary sewer system, and that's for older homes that were built prior to 1975. It will cover 100% up to $500, will cover 100% of the cost to disconnect the weeping tile and install a sump pump, up to $5000. We will cover 50% of a backflow valve up to $675. And we also cover 50% of the cost of putting a camera through your sanitary sewer lateral up to $2000. So, all told I believe it's eight or nine thousand dollars of funding that is available.
AMT: Burlington also works with the Province of Ontario and the Intact Center to offer a home flood assessment such as the one Carol Solis just got. Rick Goldring, like his constituents, has learned that a few basic changes in every home can change the flooding fate of an entire neighborhood.
RICK GOLDRING: Most of the impact, and minimizing flood risk, really is on the homeowners’ property. Yes the city has to have good storm water programs and so on and so forth. But the being able to take control of the issue yourself, as a homeowner, and invest in your home improving flood proofing is absolutely critical. And it's interesting our next door neighbor, on August the 4th of 2014, did not have any water in their basement one bit. The neighbors on either side across the street did, and they may have a little higher elevation but they also had a backflow valve. And it's interesting that I approved a program, as a member of Regional Council, prior to the flood. I put my hand up to support a funding program for a backflow valve, as well as some of the other programs. And I just sort of ignored it personally because we've had this hose for 20 years. We have never had water in the basement before. I didn't think there was any sense of urgency for us to do anything. So I'm a little embarrassed about that but obviously we've improved our house dramatically now.
AIMEE THOMAS: Come on down here.
AMT: A few kilometers from the mayor's house, I'm heading into another suburban basement. This one with Aimee Thomas.
AIMEE THOMAS: Here is the mess. So this was a fully finished basement. And it had a room here – [Sound: Cat mews] Excuse my cat he is not well.
AMT: That's Molly a fluffy fat cat with her own flood experience.
AIMEE THOMAS: She was in the basement. Both my cats were in the basement and they climbed up high. We had shelving units and everything. It was really nice down here and she climbed up high to get away. So, my husband had to swim in and get them.
AMT: The basement of her bungalow is split into two levels. Both were underwater in a matter of hours.
AIMEE THOMAS: It was like a geyser. It was like you know you go to the kids’ water parks and the water comes out. As it rose, our stuff started to float. Like our fridge float. Like it unplugged itself and then went across the basement was floating. Our freezer, we had a freezer too and it did the same thing.
AMT: It left as quickly as it came. But the damage was done. [To Aimee] But this was sewer water what kind of mess did you come back to?
AIMEE THOMAS: Well we came back to a lot of like feces, as well as other things that can be flushed down toilets, that probably shouldn't be flushed down toilets. And yet it was on everything. It was everywhere. And the smell was so putrid that you… you - It was awful.
AMT: They thought they had planned ahead. They had a rider on the insurance specifically to cover sewage backup, only to discover the fine print left them without replacement costs. They found themselves forced to do their own renos. Her home daycare business was shut down. The Thomas’s, with three kids under six, were out of their house for a month. [To Aimee] So what have you done now? What has changed in your house?
AIMEE THOMAS: Oh my goodness. What haven't we done? We've put in a backflow valve. We put in a sump pump, and we've put all new plumbing under our house. We had a scope put through with the front, and now we're just making sure that our backyard is graded so that the water isn't coming towards my house. It's going away from my house. So we've also had someone come in and put all new eavestroughing in, a larger eavestrough, and having it point away from our house and we've put double in, so that the water is being drained away.
AMT: How do you feel when there's a torrential rain now?
AIMEE THOMAS: Not going to lie. You know, you do have that pit of your stomach feel, and right after it happened we would go down and we'd look at the hole continually. Even in the middle of the night, if you heard it you would go down and just take a look. And we had to really, really stop doing that because it was starting to affect, obviously, our children as well because they were like “oh is it going to flood?” And so we had to be positive and tell them that we're good now and we are good. And as time goes by it's much better. We're much better now. But we've made sure that we've done everything we can do so that it doesn't happen again. You know, people need to start putting their money in their house in the proper places. Like I would love to have a granite countertop and all new, you know, a whole new kitchen, but that's just not the best place for the money. The best place for that money is to make sure that you have a sub pump and a backflow valve. Make sure that you have a good roof on your house because you don't want to have issues coming in that way. Sure, yes it costs more money to do that but that's really where your money should be going.
AMT: Well let's face it; a backflow valve isn't as sexy as a marble backsplash. But those people in Burlington will tell you that infrastructure has never been more interesting or important. Thanks to producer Kristin Nelson for what you just heard. Adaptation continues we'll have more from Blair Feltmate. Stay with us. Is Canada doing enough to adapt? This is The Current.
[Sound: Wind blowing]
VOICE 1: Went out on my patio and the fire was on the mountainside right behind my house, and we just kind of watched it come down the mountain.
VOICE 2: It's pretty stressful and depressing. And scary at the same time, trying to get the kids out to try to get them safe and, I don’t know, very stressful.
[Sounds: Water splashing]
VOICE 3: When I opened the door, more water rushed in. And all of my stuff flew out. IT just like, kept coming in.
VOICE 4: You know that water is strong but never really, realy know how strong it is until you see what it does, the damage that it can do.
[Music: Adaptation theme]
AMT: Well before the news we heard how the city in Burlington is adapting to flood risk. And if you miss that you will find it and photos on our website cbc.ca/thecurrent or on the CBC Radio app. One of the people who was with me in Burlington was Blair Feltmate. He is the head of the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo and an associate professor in the University's Faculty of Environment. Blair Feltmate works with insurance companies, banks and governments to try to mitigate the risks involved with climate change. Just last week, the Federal Government announced Blair Feltmate will head up a new expert panel on climate change adaptation and resilience and Blair is with me in our Toronto studio. Hi. Hello again.
BLAIR FELTMATE: Good morning.
AMT: Let's start by talking about Houston. They are just beginning to add up the costs there. Are there lessons to be learned in the wake of Hurricane Harvey?
BLAIR FELTMATE: I think so. One of the points that Canadians should be sensitive to is that the magnitude of the flood that they have realized in Houston, and is still experiencing, it's not like something like that could not happen in Canada, maybe not to that full extent but certainly on that level of magnitude. So somewhere between the floods that we had in Calgary in 2013, or Toronto, and Houston those types of events are certainly coming at Canada and we should be prepared.
AMT: And what is it about our cities then that you can draw these parallels?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Well we know that, pretty much anywhere in the country, it's unpredictable as to where the very large storms are going to hit over, generally speaking relatively short periods of time. So it may not have that long drawn out period of sea with a hurricane but we can have anywhere from 150 to maybe 250 millimeters of rain come down over something like six or eight hour period, as was experienced in Burlington. And in terms of infrastructure preparedness for cities, we have to look at well what can we do when those events occur. We can develop floodplain maps, for example, to predict well where is the water going to go and when those events are occurring and in anticipation that we can develop diversion channels of berms, cisterns, bio swales. We can put facilities within cities to get water a place to go when the big storms hit, so it doesn't all end up for example in someone's basement.
AMT: Flood plain maps are not up to date in this country, are they?
BLAIR FELTMATE: No they are not. Pretty much without exception, the odd exception here and there, but pretty much without exception the flood plain maps for Canada are out of date in reference to where is the water going to go when the big storms hit today. But also, we need to know given the fact that climate change is going to continue to occur, we need forward looking maps that give us a prediction as to where the water will go when the bigger storms hit 25 or 50 years down the road. Because when you're building infrastructure today, you want to make sure that not only is it out of harm's way, relative to a big storm today, and not in a flood plain. But you want to make sure that it's not perhaps going to be in a flood plain twenty five years from now. So, right at the top of the list of priorities for Canada is updating the flood plain maps and making that information broadly available.
AMT: As we talk the news in the United States is that hurricane Irma is strengthening and Florida is already bracing.
BLAIR FELTMATE: Yes. And by the way, these hurricanes hitting are perfectly in line with what we would predict relative to climate change, or what we have predicted. The general prediction is that the frequency of hurricanes will be less but the magnitude of the hurricanes will be greater. And in this case, we're seeing back to back hurricanes but certainly the magnitude is there with hurricane Harvey.
AMT: And of course we see massive flooding in South Asia, more than 40 million people affected in India, Bangladesh, Nepal. What are you thinking as you watch that?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Well there is large scale dislocation of people. And this is going to happen all over the world. People that find themselves in uninhabitable places due to the change in climate. And those people are going to be effectively eco refugees and they are now. And by the way that has direct ramifications for Canada. Because when you think about Canada, we've got this very large country geographically, second to Russia. It's got 36 million people in it with all these resources. It's largely an empty country. There are going to be people coming to Canada from all over the world, as eco refugees. So, we need to start thinking about what are those numbers? Who's coming here from where? What are the determinants of who you let into the country under what conditions? And then when they do enter into the country, how should we be planning from the perspective of education, social systems, finance, etc?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Agricultural development, etc. We really need to think through that equation.
AMT: Let's go back to what we heard from residents and city officials in Burlington where they're making changes. Why is Burlington an important case study?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Because Burlington when it got hit so hard with a microburst rain, they really learnt from the event. And indeed the local MP there Eleanor McMahon, she was certainly instrumental also in bringing Burlington up to speed in reference to preparedness for extreme weather, along with the mayor. And they have fully embraced adaptation initiatives at the level of that which the city can do. And then at the level of without which individual homeowners can do, to mitigate the effects of extreme weather or flooding. But everything that's being learnt and applied in Burlington has pretty much equal applicability as a rollout program, in terms of home flood protection, for cities across Canada. So it's a demonstration city, if you will, in terms of learning processes how we can best prepare for flood events that those lessons can roll over to the rest of Canada.
AMT: What are the risks if a particular community continues to be hit with storms and flooding and it just becomes too expensive to insure it?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Well, we are seeing elements of that now, where you see repeated basement flooding. And to some extent insurers simply can't charge a premium associated with the risk that would be affordable to homeowners. So, the idea that a community can get away with not adopting is simply not an option. You cannot cheat the system. And the degree to which you try to cheat it will make it such that - Amongst other points, we will see an uninsurable housing market potentially develop on a more widely spread, which means houses are then effectively ticking time bombs, because it's just a matter of till the next big storm hits that people get wiped out, in the sense that they don't have money to cover the costs of flooding. The average cost of a flooded basement in urban center in Canada right now is about $42000 per basement. But if you look at it go to the Canadian payroll Association the average Canadian has about one month of disposable income, if even that, in reference to attending for unforeseen attending to unforeseen costs. So if you've got a $45000 basement flood let's say - And by the way very often this is sewer water, like this is really nasty stuff in your basement. You've got to solve that problem instantly and if you don't have the cash to do it means you're out of the house, and you may end up actually defaulting on your mortgage, because you simply don't have money to cover the loss.
AMT: Are banks are already tracking this?
BLAIR FELTMATE: The banks are in the early stages of tracking this, now. I would say the major banks. It's only in about the last six months they've started to realize the vulnerability to their mortgage business. And indeed for the federal government, this is entering onto their radar screen now, climate change with the of finance because he's realizing that here's a real threat to the housing market, as people potentially defaulting on mortgages due to flooding basements that people can't cover. So in Canada, when we talk about the housing market and the threat of let's say a 25 basis point rise in interest rates and what that may mean to the housing market, we should equally be paying attention to the flood vulnerability of basements.
AMT: And again these are major financial institutions that are connecting the dots between what they see happening to individual homeowners and climate change.
BLAIR FELTMATE: That's right. And it started with the property and casualty insurance sector. Now the banks are coming on board and even the life insurers are realizing there's ramifications for flooding and flooding basements to do their business.
AMT: It's so interesting because as little as 10 years ago we still had politicians saying climate change didn't exist, wasn't a factor Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax created in China.
BLAIR FELTMATE: And by the way, people who live in the world of climate change and deal with these problems directly, it's sort of like we all get it. But it's simply not the case I'm in front of lots and lots of audiences in this country where people will say they are still not convinced at all that climate change is real, never mind human induced. They're not even convinced it's real. So we really have a substantial educational challenge before us is to make it real to people in tangible terms that, by the way, climate change has happened is happening and will continue to happen, period.
AMT: In our history in Burlington we heard at the end there, Aimee Thomas talking about the changes she made to her home. It's not cheap. What about people or communities that lack the resources or, as we're just talking about, the political will to actually adapt?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Well, again, it's an educational enterprise. We've got to say to maintain the economic and social and environmental integrity of cities we have to prepare for climate change. And not doing so not only does it imperil the homeowner, it imperils businesses. Businesses are not going to be apt to want to go out and set up a new business enterprise in a city that has a reputation for repeat a basement flooding, for example. So their home valuations will be such that: “Your home will de-value if you are perceived to be in an area or in an area that has a history now of repeated basement flooding.” So it is in the financial best interest of any city to get ahead of the curve on this file. And not pretend that it doesn't exist, or they need to realize that it certainly does exist. And also just from the social perspective of addressing psycho social or mental health impacts associated with people live in such cities, we want to get ahead of that curve as well.
AMT: We've talked about flooding. What are some other extreme weather events that Canadians are going to have to get used to?
BLAIR FELTMATE: So we talked about flooding quite a bit. It's right at the top of the list of challenges for the country. But that's not to say that in certain other locations the drought isn't problematic. Certainly fire is problematic. Hailstorms are on the increase, particularly in a band of area Calgary in Alberta or Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta. Wind shear, snow loading, coastal erosion impacts, there's a whole panoply of climate change manifestations that are impacting us negatively, all of which need to be addressed. But I would say at the very top of the list we need to address: Flooding and fire are that are the two that are the most costly right now.
AMT: And of course we've seen this summer the fires in so many parts of Canada, especially Western Canada are still under way, people still out of their homes right now. And you're saying that's again that the intensity of those fires is related to climate change?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Intensity and frequency of those fires. Now, periodically, people will say to me well you can't take this particular event this fire or this flood or whatever it might be and say that this is due to climate change. But it's the equivalent of saying that you've had a baseball player go on steroids and all of a sudden he or she shortly thereafter starts to hit five times as many home runs. You can't say that any single homerun is due to the steroids. But you can certainly say that hitting five times as many home runs all of a sudden is probably due to the steroids. And it's a little bit like that on the climate file. Any single event it's difficult to attribute that single event to climate change but the collective of the extreme weather events that we're realizing now in the elevator frequency, that is certainly due to - There is no other factor that explains that other than climate change.
AMT: So from where you sit, are we doing enough as a country to adapt and prepare for what's coming?
BLAIR FELTMATE: I would say we're on the path to do enough. Particularly with the pan Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, an initiative of the Federal Government of Canada and under the direction of Environment Canada. That's a very good step forward and we're looking at measuring the degree of preparedness that we have on the adaptation file, and areas of weakness that need to be improved upon through this framework. And we have five areas of focus of preparedness. We're looking from a scientific perspective of understanding of the problems. Do we understand the science? And are we making the science available to decision makers? From an infrastructure perspective, what are potential vulnerabilities? Where are the more vulnerable communities in the country relative to extreme weather? What are the health implications of extreme weather? How do we attend to that? And certainly, last but not least, we need to up to date bring up to date the floodplain maps.
AMT: Okay. Let's talk about some strategies for adapting. The CBC's David Thurton went on a drive with Dennis Warr, who is the rebuild supervisor on wood Buffalo recovery task force, with Buffalo of course being the district where Fort McMurray is, and that task force is working on Fort McMurray is adaptation after last year's brutal fires. Let's listen to that.
[Sound: Car engine starting]
DENNIS WARR: Right now we're going to head up to the Grégoire Industrial Park. We're going to go look at some of the fire gaurd that was put in place. This is a good example here of a fire break when the fire was coming into the community, of course, we sent in dozers in areas like here and we created these fire guards. This was all treat area one time, so they knocked out all the trees to prevent the spread of the fire. So we have approximately a 30 to 40 meter area that's got very little vegetation. If a wildfire were to occur, we're very well protected, better protected now that we've got these fire guards around the community. That's part of our goal, of course, is to ensure that we are protected and to mitigate any further loss. So we're applying some of the fires smart principles throughout the community. That's an ongoing project and it'll be a project that we'll be working on for some years to come. We will get there if we all contribute and we all want to take it upon ourselves to learn and understand about forest fires, what we put around our homes for example. You know, the different types of trees, different species of trees that made me less susceptible to fire, different landscaping materials that we use. Events like in May of 2016, it changes everything around you. I think the more we educate ourselves, the better it will be.
AMT: Okay. Well again, that is David Thurton who had the mike in front of Dennis Warr there, the rebuild supervisor on the Wood Buffalo Recovery Task Force. He made an interesting point what we put around our homes. We really can do individual things.
BLAIR FELTMATE: Absolutely, so the reference in the clip was to the fire smart program. So in addition to the points that were made, i.e. building fire breaks around towns in northern communities particularly in the Boreal, at the level of the individual home some additional things you can do. We can put shingles on homes that are fireproof they won't burn. We can put cladding on homes that is fireproof that won't burn. We can build decks that simply won't burn in a fire. We want to make sure that we keep wood storage and shrubbery around the homes away from the walls of the house to hold that heat back. So there's a lot of proactive initiatives that you can take, that can very much lower the probability, in this case, of having your home burn. The cost of implementing these factors upfront is minimal. One of the big misunderstandings in Canada, in reference to adaptation, is that it's expensive. An, However, when you're building new, or you have a schedule retrofit, the cost of building something right under the umbrella of adaptation is effectively the same as the cost of building it wrong but if you build it wrong, and then have to retrofit tear the whole system up to accommodate for an extreme weather event - We've been talking about flooding - It's enormously expensive. So we're far better off to build it right in the first place than to build it wrong and then hope for the best. And so for example, if you're building a new subdivision somewhere, it costs almost the same amount of money to put a 30 centimeter diameter pipe in the ground to discharge water as a 15 centimeter diameter pipe, when you've done all the other preparatory work. But the 30 centimeter diameter pipe will handle twice the discharge capacity as the 15 centimeter diameter pipe, therefore why not do it right in the first place.
AMT: How many people get this?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Increasingly so people are catching on. We're starting to learn that “by the way this stuff is not going to go away”. And matter of fact, I spent a fair bit of time now with builders and developers and they're certainly starting to understand that building right is good just not [unintelligible] flooding. But you can also then advertise that point with a house and sell it at a premium versus not.
AMT: You mentioned coastlines. Let's talk about the coastline in Atlantic Canada. What do coastal communities in Atlantic Canada have to think about in adaptation?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Well increasingly so, what we're looking at in shoreline communities is to leave natural infrastructure in place to a much greater extent than what have happened in the past and by leaving natural shrubbery. There's this there's a succession of plant material that you go from a shoreline up to further on land that starts with grasses, shrubs, trees and so forth. By leaving natural infrastructure in place, versus removing it so everybody kind of a nice view of the ocean, that functions very much with the natural landscape in place to attenuate the onslaught of major wave damage or storm surge tidal during king tides, water coming on land leaving the natural infrastructure in place is a very effective form of adaptation.
AMT: What about the northern coast?
BLAIR FELTMATE: It's the same thing. Right now what we're trying to identify is in areas particularly in coastal regions, where permafrost is coming out of the ground and land is collapsing. Where are those areas? What's the vulnerability of the housing in the area? And what can we do we actually have to move the houses? Or what are the actions to be taken in place so that people don't suffer those negative impacts?
AMT: And I'm wondering too, look at the West again here, if there's a major storm that would shut down the port of Vancouver and Houston's huge port; do scenarios like that have a big port being shut down that keep you awake at night?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Yes. Maybe a year and a half ago now, I happened to interview the presidents and the CEOs of the largest, more or less, 15 insurance property casualty insurance companies in Canada. And I asked them a variety of questions one of which more or less culminated in “What keeps you awake at night?” And they said it wasn't so much though the 1.8 billion or 1.9 billion dollar insurable loss that Calgary realized in 2013 or the billion dollar loss in Toronto. They said “What are we going to do when the 15 to 25 billion dollar flood hits that wipes out the port of Vancouver or takes the city of Kingston off the map or whatever it might be? So, one of the lessons that we started out earlier, with all the other points we discussed, was what can we learn from Houston? One of the things we have to learn from Houston is that these major events are certainly coming at Canada. You can't predict exactly when they're going to come but you can certainly predict that they are going to come. And we need to prepare accordingly. And by the way, if you went to Houston three weeks ago and said to people this this could potentially happen in your region, with a hurricane, they would have all said: “Not a chance.” So the time that we realize that something can happen is when it's happening.
AMT: It's interesting because they had the double whammy of not only a powerful hurricane but then one that downgrades and then just sits there and dumps everything it had in those clouds on one place.
BLAIR FELTMATE: Yes. The problem there now is they've got that contaminated water there, sitting there for an extended period of time it's not flowing away. So you've got one out of six homeowners in that region that had any insurance at all, and even that would be minimal. So a vast vast number of those people are going to lose their homes because the infiltration of the contaminated water will make those houses unfixable.
AMT: Do you have kids?
BLAIR FELTMATE: Yes.
AMT: Do you get discouraged when you think about their future?
BLAIR FELTMATE: No. The only thing I think about in reference to the form inability of the challenge in front of us, is I see it as a call to arms and not adapting has not been an option. And one of the points - one of the takeaway points we have to realize, in reference to the whole climate file, is we do not have the luxury of time. You don't have the time. We don't have the luxury to be discouraged. We've got to get on with adaptation right now.
AMT: Okay. Blair Feltmate, just before I let you go then, what do you hope will come out of the work you're doing with the government, this Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation Resilience?
BLAIR FELTMATE: I believe the government is firmly committed now to the adaptation file and moving forward aggressively. And the recommendations that come out of this, more or less 25 member panel framework, will very much be taken up I think by the federal government taken seriously, in reference to operationalizing adaptation for the country.
AMT: Lots to think about and what you had to say, thanks for coming in.
BLAIR FELTMATE: Thank you very much.
AMT: Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. Also, just appointed to lead the federal government Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation And Resilience. He's in our Toronto studio with me. If you're listening and you're thinking about ways you or your community are adapting or can adapt, let us know. Send us an email from our website cbc.ca/thecurrent, click on Contact. Find us on Facebook or tweet us. We are @TheCurrentCBC.Back To Top »
'A step backwards': Immigration protection for 'Dreamers' rescinded by Trump
Guest: Irene Bloemraad, Nanci Palacios
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and this is The Current.
The Department of Justice has advised the president that the Department of Homeland Security should begin an orderly lawful one down including the cancellation of the memo that authorizes this program. We firmly believe this is the responsible path.
AMT: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just in the last hour announcing the end of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It is the program that has allowed of some 800,000 young men and women living in America, who arrived in the country, illegally, undocumented as kids, to live and work legally as young adults. It was created by the former US President Barack Obama. And as a group this group has been dubbed The Dreamers. President Trump has sent mixed signals about their future. Today his message is clear. Despite the fact this program has widespread support across the country it does remain anathema to a large part of President Trump's Republican base. Mr. Trump has now told Congress it has six months to look for a legislative solution for The Dreamers. There are people who think Canada should welcome those dreamers who will be deported. There are others trying to make sense of all of this. So first, we're going to go to Irene Bloemraad. She is a professor of sociology, the Thomas garden Barnes chair of Canadian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She's in El Cerrito, California hello.
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: Hi there, Anna Maria.
AMT: First of all, Irene you do have people who are DACA recipients, or students. What is everybody thinking right now?
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: Well I think everyone is just trying to take stock. To be honest, I think the first thing we're doing is giving emotional support to our students. I literally, three minutes ago, got a e-mail message from the chancellor the University of California, Berkeley, standing with all of our students our current students, and also our former students, who have graduated from UC Berkeley and are now facing the prospect of losing their work authorization and being thrust back into the black market and working under the table. So I think in the next little while people are first going to try to offer emotional support and then really think about how to move forward to press Congress to pass legislation.
AMT: And so help us understand, the DACA of recipients who are they? What are they like?
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: There's a wide variety of stories. So some people were brought into the United States as young children without inspection. Over half of DACA recipients are from Mexico. But there are many people from all over the world, from China, from Korea, from Europe. And these young people were often brought to the United States on some kind of legal visa or a tourist visa, or they might have come because a parent had some kind of legal visa, and then the visa ends and they remain in the United States. So they fall out of status. Generally, these are young people who have gone to American schools they've gone to elementary school, in many cases. They've definitely gone to high school. And as they approach the age of 18, if they do not have legal status they face the prospect of not being able to go to university, or having to pay extremely high fees, not being able to work, in many states not getting a driver's license which just affects every single part of your life.
AMT: And so those who are recipients they've been approved I mean they go through a long process, do they not?
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: Indeed. So when President Obama announced the program in 2012 people had to apply. It was an incredibly rigorous process. There was all kinds of criminal background checks. In addition people had to show that they had been in the United States a sufficient amount of time that they had gone to high school graduated or got a GED or had even served in the U.S. military. They had to prove all kinds of different things about their life in the United States. This is a group that has been really vetted and this is one of the reasons that I think that Canada should maybe step up and offer a pathway for at least some of these young people to go and help Canadian society and the Canadian economy.
AMT: Well tell me more about that because you're arguing that this is going to be a loss for the U.S. and that Canada could actually benefit. What do you want to see happen?
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: I really do think this is a loss for the United States. And when we think about Canadian immigration Canadian immigration is based on economic criteria, economic selection, bringing in the best and the brightest, humanitarian concerns with the Syrian refugee crisis, or family reunification allowing family members to join a family who are living in Canada. On all three of those streams, the young people who are currently documented or those who might be eligible, would be a net gain to Canada. There are students here that I know who have graduated who have family members in Canada in Calgary and Toronto in the two cases that I know of. This is a humanitarian issue, clearly, as these young people are going to be potentially subject to deportation. And then economically it just really makes sense. These people speak English. They often speak multiple other languages; Spanish Chinese, etc. It would be great for Canadian businesses. They have U.S. education. They've often worked in businesses that have branches or offices in Canada. I just don't see how Canada couldn't benefit from bringing some of these young people within Canadian Immigration.
AMT: Have you shared this idea with anyone in Canada?
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: I have. So back in February, actually, I don't know if I was clairvoyant or something but I and Senator Omidvar, wrote an op-ed in The Globe and Mail sort of alerting policy makers and decision makers in Ottawa and in the general public that this might be an issue going forward. And I have written to the minister of immigration refugees and citizenship as well as members of the opposition who do the immigration portfolio. But really I have heard nothing from anybody in Ottawa. I think maybe politicians in Ottawa are a little bit afraid given after renegotiations. But you know nothing about economics and this is about economics. I don't see how this could not be a positive for Canada. In a way it would help us deal with something that's going to be frankly a public relations disaster.
AMT: And I am and I'm guessing you're going to renew that push then with the people you've written to Canada, no?
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: Yes. I was already contacted in this last Labor Day weekend and I have been in email contact with the Senator this morning so I'm hoping that we might be able to offer some Canadian dreams to these young people.
AMT: Okay, well Irene Bloemraad. We'll stay in touch with you. We have someone who is a DACA recipient waiting to tell us a little bit more about her reaction to all of this, but thank you for speaking with me today.
IRENE BLOEMRAAD: Thank you for the invitation to talk.
AMT: That's Irene Bloemraad, professor of sociology and the Thomas garden Burns chair of Canadian Studies at the University of California Berkeley. She's in El Cerrito, California. And we have on the line right now Nanci Palacios. She is one of those 800,000 people who is part of the DACA program. She's in Tampa Bay, Florida. Hello Nancy. Hello Nancy.
NANCI PALACIOS: Yes.
AMT: Okay. I should just tell our listeners we talked to you earlier in another time zone as we move to besee though the decision has been made. First of all what is your understanding of this decision with Mr. Trump? What does it mean?
NANCI PALACIOS: It means that you know we will have a very short timeline on being able to pass legislation that will protect those who have DACA. You know they're giving us a six month timeline really before anyone becomes completely undocumented again. And so it's definitely starting from today to make sure that we move on that.
AMT: So in other words you have to convince Congress to create both houses, I guess, to create a piece of legislation that would allow you to stay.
NANCI PALACIOS: That is correct. This is a program that has proven to work, that has proven that people can be accepted into a country that we contribute financially at a great, great magnitude. So now we have to work to convince members of Congress, both in the House and in the Senate to be able to support legislation that will protect us that will hopefully give us a permanent solution that will no longer leave us in limbo, that can give us permanent residents, hopefully citizenship. And that's what we'll be working towards.
AMT: Now, how Herculean a task is that right now with that Congress?
NANCI PALACIOS: I mean we have had folks, who normally have not supported in the past, come out in support of us dreamers. So we're hoping that it's an easier task than it had been in the past. I think that also because they have seen the results of a program that has worked. They too have come out. And so it's not going to be easy. But I also think that we have very powerful community that has organized in the past that got DACA to happen and that we will be able to push until we win a victory for our community.
AMT: Now you sound pretty optimistic and I should tell our listeners that you are actually an organizer with Faith in Florida, which is part of a Faith based organization that works with undocumented individuals. But what's the reaction around you? Are people disappointed? What are people saying?
NANCI PALACIOS: Yes. I mean I personally have DATA as well, too. So of course I'm disappointed and people around me are very disappointed. They're scared. They don't know what's going to happen to them. I think that the reason why I am so optimistic is because I believe in my community. You know I can trust the work that we can do together. And I have done it with them before. And we're going to have another victory again. I don't think that, for me at least, to go back into the shadows and hide and be fearful is going to really get us anywhere. I think that right now we have to really figure out a way to have a strategy that will make sure that we have a success a success at the end, because there is a lot of fear because there is a lot of uncertainty in our communities. And so we can only empower them to be able to find a solution, because if we don't do anything then we will be without a program at all. And so we can only push for something that's permanent.
AMT: If you don't if get this you'll be more than without a program you'll be without a country.
NANCI PALACIOS: Will be without a country, will be at risk of deportation, will be without jobs. You have professionals. You have doctors, teachers who in six months might not have a job, who in six months these kids might show up to school and not have a teacher. And so you know this is a reality that we currently have in this country and really to be able to take a program away like that does a lot more than just than just take away a piece of paper it takes away people's dreams, the future that they were trying to build and everything that they have built up to now. Let's remember that these are folks who have bought houses cars have built businesses and all of that could come down in just a couple of months, if we don't find a solution.
AMT: How long have you been in the U.S., Nancy?
NANCI PALACIOS: I've been in the U.S. since 1985, so 22 years in July. You know in 22 years it's embarrassing to say that I still don't have a permanent residency or a pathway to citizenship.
AMT: How old were you when you came?
NANCI PALACIOS: I was only six years old.
AMT: And so you have the DACA registration. It doesn't lead to permanent residency it doesn't lead to any of that?
NANCI PALACIOS: No. DACA as it stands only gives you a work permit, and in the state that you live in gives you a driver's license, gives you the ability to be able to work, pay taxes and not have to fear deportation during the time that you have it. It's a very hard process to even have. You have to prove that you've been here since June 15, 2007 until now, have no criminal record, be in school, or graduated from school, and have a background check that actually is positive. And so I always say that we're one of the safest groups that currently live in the country because we get background checks every two years.
AMT: Yes. And they've got your biometrics on file. They've got everything on file, then?
NANCI PALACIOS: They have everything on file. They have fee that they've collected from my applications close to $500 every few years. So yeah they have everything.
AMT: So you know it's interesting because this is what's confusing for me. Mr. Trump has also made a statement he says DACA recipients are not priorities for immigration law enforcement unless they are criminals. But you’ve all got criminal checks. None of you are criminals.
NANCI PALACIOS: No, none of us are criminals. And so that's the thing whenever they say that they will only be focusing on deportation. You know it's hard to believe that because I have firsthand seen deportations happen with families who are not criminal. And so you know they can say whatever they want to say but the reality is it's different.
AMT: And so they've got all of this stuff on file even if you do nothing wrong. They know where you are. They can chase you down.
NANCI PALACIOS: Yes. I mean today they said that tomorrow they can change that. They can have a different memo saying that they're going to round up all DACA recipients and so. Unfortunately, with the administration that we currently have, it's been bad since the beginning, just a lot of uncertainty, mixed messages. You have the president who has said that you know he was going to deported us, and he went back at that but he has heart, that he is not going to deport us. And so you know because there is a message that says that they're only going to be supporting criminals. I don't know. Tomorrow they're going to say: “You know what? We're going to round up everyone with DACA”. So, it a fear that you definitely have to live with and try to figure out plans. Right. Like the next step, to figure out how you're going to protect yourself. I'm sure a lot of folks are going to be moving houses. I mean it just causes a lot of terror.
AMT: And I'm wondering then how you respond to those legislators who say “you're illegal. You're still illegal.” There is there is one man, one congressional leader who actually said: “Well you arrived in the shadows. You want to stay in the shadows, just stay in the shadows”. What do you say to people who say things like that?
NANCI PALACIOS: I think that everyone here has arrived one way or another. Maybe their ancestors came here before them. And yes, they say you know they came here the right way. Well laws have changed and immigration has changed and this country have done a lot of things that have caused a lot of people to be displaced from their jobs and have to flee and come to a country that promises them liberty, promises them to be able to be welcoming. And we come here and it's not that. And so people have to migrate to be able to escape violence, to be able to escape the fear that they might be without food or without jobs in their home countries. A lot of this violence that was created by America. And so you know I would say that people migrate for necessity. And I know my parents did. And the only thing that we did was not come here legally because we couldn't have a visa to come here because it's not that easy to get a visa to come here. But since we've been here we have done no criminal – nothing, like no criminal offense and that's proven through our biometrics. That is proven through our fingerprints that have been taken. And that just shows that we're good citizens without documentation.
AMT: Your parents came from Mexico, did they?
NANCI PALACIOS: Yes they did.
AMT: Yes. I'm wondering as well, we know these stories and in the Houston area where there were reports that people were afraid to show up at shelters for fear that if they were undocumented something could happen to them. You've got a hurricane barreling toward Florida right now, that confluence of events, how much is that also playing into the uncertainty right now?
NANCI PALACIOS: Yes. So what we were actually just talking about that with some friends earlier because you know we just had a tragedy. We just had a tragedy. And like we clearly now have folks who are having to face a second tragedy and not knowing what they're going do, what's happened to them and here in Florida just I mean we have a category 5 hurricane coming at us. On top of that having to deal with like a deadline of a month, of people who can still renew their work permits up until October 5th. And then, having to tell people that if there is a hurricane that you can go to a shelter because they might be scared that they might ask them for their status. And so these are also many things that are emotionally taking a toll on people and that honestly can cause a lot of people to end up hurting themselves, because of the fear of everything that's coming at them.
AMT: Hmm. You have spent a lot of time fighting for the legislation that became DACA. Now you have to fight again. I'm wondering what's that like for you. You know, do you feel like you're bid on like a circular path here?
NANCI PALACIOS: Yes. So it has definitely been. I think that this decision today has been, as an organizer because we were a part of - I was a part of the passing of DACA, the pushing for DACA to even become a reality. It's a step backwards. It's a step in the wrong direction. And you know without really any need, nobody benefits from DACA being taken away. Absolutely nobody. We're going to see a lot of jobs being displaced because of it and a lot of the economy going down. And so I think that as organizers, we have to figure out a way to move people forward and engage them in a way that is informative and powerful that empowers them so that they can come out of the shadows, they can share a story, that we can put a face to the actual issues that are happening. And that is what we've done in the past. And that's what's going to happen now again. So for me it is a bit different because I as I am directly impacted, I have to deal with my own trauma of having this decision. But then I also have to figure out a way to comfort others who are also in this situation right now.
AMT: Right. We will maybe stay in touch with you as this process goes on. Thank you for your time today, Nanci.
NANCI PALACIOS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
AMT: Nanci Palacios is an organizer with Faith in Florida, part of the U.S. national Faith based organization for undocumented immigrants. She is actually a DACA recipient as well. She's in Tampa Bay, Florida.
AMT: Well as you heard earlier this season our ongoing journalism project is called Adaptation and we have focus today on adapting to extreme weather brought about by climate change. In the days, weeks, and months ahead we'll have a wide variety of stories about adaptation and a wide variety of guests. Got a small sample of some of the adaptations stories we'll be bringing you, including my interview with author and podcast host Malcolm Gladwell. I asked him what he thinks about our ability as a species to adapt.
MALCOLM GLADWELL: Well, really good. [Chuckles] I mean think about my when my father retired from the University of Waterloo. He wrote this really lovely essay about all of the things, the changes he had seen in his lifetime, in his career lifetime when he started work and he sort of went down the list. And he was talking about everything, really prosaic things like, you know, computers coming out of nowhere and you know telephone and all that kind of stuff, but also more complicated things about his work and such. And you know he was a productive - very productive - academic at 20, or 22 whenever he started I forget, qnd a very productive academic when he retired even after his retiring. So here is someone who spanned one of the greatest periods of transformation in the history of the world and yet was as productive when he began his – well, remain productive over the course of that. He managed to adapt within a very complicated field. He's not alone. Tons of people have seen the same trajectory and have remained incredibly useful contributors to society. That blows me away you know. So I think you know we're amazing at it. It so happens that there were moments when the pace of change outruns. Even our impressive ability to adapt but we tend to catch up. We do really well. You know my mother, who's almost undoubtedly listening, my mother who is – I am - give her name on the air. She you know she downloads stuff on Netflix. This is you know a woman who grew up in a house without electricity. It is pretty - that's pretty good. Like, I was so pleased. I was so proud of her that I tweeted a picture of my mother being given a Netflix tutorial by my nephew.[Laughs] It is hilarious. But I don't know I think that's a little example but we are amazing.
AMT: It is a good one.
MALCOLM GLADWELL: We are amazing at it.
AMT: Malcolm Gladwell the bestselling author, a New Yorker writer, host of the podcast Revisionist History. You can hear my full conversation with Malcolm Gladwell in the coming days. And as we continue to explore the theme of adaptation we'll be doing a deep dive into the process of evolution, and a new discovery that evolution happens much faster than we have previously thought. My guests will include Jonathan Losos. He's an evolutionary biologist at Harvard.
JONATHAN LOSOS: When you look at the plant and animal species around us, are they the inevitable outcome of the evolutionary process? Or, if events had been different in Earth's history might we see a very different world something unlike what we see today? Would we humans or anything like us be here? And so this debate has gone on for decades. But the debate has usually been at a theory or realm in terms of philosophy, of theory, basically speculation to a large extent because we had no actual data. But in recent years that all has changed. Scientists have figured out several ways to actually collect data to ask this question about the predictability or repeatability of evolution. I think it's more predictable than many people used to believe, that it turns out that when you put species in similar circumstances particularly when they're closely related species they often evolve in more or less the same way.
AMT: Why is it important to understand how evolution happens?
JONATHAN LOSOS: Well there are a number of reasons. I think at the grandest level, we'd like to know how the world has come to be as it is and of course our place in the world. Why are we here? How did evolution produce us? Were we the inevitable outcome of an evolutionary process? But there are also practical applications as well. We now know, as you mentioned a few minutes ago, that evolution is going on all around us all the time. And of course we see that in the many species that are adapting to our presence and adapting in ways often that are not good for us. Pests evolving to be resistant to pesticides, of course bacteria evolving resistance to our antibiotics. So evolution is occurring around us. And if we understand how it works and particularly how predictable it is, it will help us counter these evolutionary trends.
AMT: And dogs adapt, have adapted to our presence as well. We're going to have a whole discussion on whether we should be keeping dogs and cats as pets. That was evolutionary biologist Jonathan Losos more from him in the coming days as part of our new project Adaptation. That's our program for today. Stay with Radio 1 for Q. Tom Power speaks with Jazz legend Sonny Rollins. Remember there is more than one way to take The Current to go on your smartphone or your tablet. The CBC Radio app is free from the App Store or Google Play. It's a great way to search for stories you missed or you want to hear again. Check out the radio player Canada app to stream CBC Radio Live. That's also a free download. We're going to leave you with one more thought on adaptation today and it comes from Alice Bow's Larkin, a climate researcher at the University of Manchester in the UK. She's done a TED talk entitled Climate Change is Happening: Here's How we Adapt. Here she is. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thanks for listening to The Current.
Over our lifetimes we've all contributed to climate change. Actions, choices and the behaviors will have led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And I think that that's quite a powerful thought but it does have the potential to make us feel guilty. When we think about decisions we might have made around where to travel to, how often, and how, about the energy that we choose to use in our homes or in our workplaces, or quite simply the lifestyles that we lead and enjoy. But we can also turn that thought on its head and think that if we've had such a profound, but a negative impact on our climate already, then we have an opportunity to influence the amount of future climate change that we will need to adapt to. So we have a choice. We can either choose to start to take climate change seriously and significantly cut and mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions. And then we will have to adapt to less of the climate change impacts in future. Alternatively, we can continue to really ignore the climate change problem. But if we do that we are also choosing to adapt to very much more powerful climate impacts in future. And not only that, as people who live in countries with high per capita emissions, we're making that choice on behalf of others as well. But the choice that we don't have is a no climate change future.
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