[00:00:00:06] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: From MIT'S Office of Digital Learning, this is Climate Conversations by ClimateX.
[00:00:04:25] PAT FIELD: If you think about sense of place, it's amazing how many people stay in war-torn areas. People's attachment to place and to people and to family is extraordinarily powerful in the face of death. And so I think we have to be appreciative of the power of the human emotion, and that we have to be thoughtful about how we approach those interests and values. It's true that certain things that people cling to may be bad for their greater good.
[00:00:29:23] The question is, do you cajole them? Do you nudge them? Do you force them?
[00:00:35:11] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Welcome to Climate Conversations. I'm Rajesh Kasturirangan here at MIT'S Office of Digital Learning. And I have here with me--
[00:00:43:09] CURT NEWTON: Hello, I'm Curt Newton.
[00:00:44:16] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: --also at the Office of Digital Learning. So today, we want to be talking about a very, very emotionally difficult topic.
[00:00:51:13] CURT NEWTON: Yeah. And it's really been raised for us so much in the last few weeks with the severe storms that have been happening all around the world, not just here in the United States, but in Bangladesh, Sierra Leone. There were huge mudslides. And that has to do with not just adaptation to climate change, but just saying enough is enough. We have to pull back somehow. We have to migrate.
[00:01:15:17] And there's this really interesting website, climigration.org, that I found out about a couple weeks ago. And we'll shortly be talking to Pat Field from the Consensus Building Institute, who was responsible for this climigration.org website, about some of these really difficult conversations that we might need to start having.
[00:01:36:09] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And when we say "we," it's not ClimateX who is having those conversations, but people who live in frontline communities, states and national governments that have to oversee this process. How are we going to really decide enough is enough? And that's going to be a difficult question wherever and whenever it arises.
[00:01:58:16] CURT NEWTON: Yeah. Who decides? How is it done equitably? And how do we who, say, don't have to migrate, how do we take these new communities in?
[00:02:07:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Challenges.
[00:02:08:18] CURT NEWTON: Yeah.
[00:02:09:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Well, let's listen to Pat and see what he has to say.
[00:02:14:22] We are so happy to have Pat Field, the managing director of CBI, the Consensus Building Institute, and also who is the associate director of the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program. Welcome, Pat.
[00:02:28:08] PAT FIELD: Thanks for having me.
[00:02:29:03] CURT NEWTON: Yeah. So it's been a very busy bunch of weeks along the coastal United States and in various areas around the world, confronted by really severe storms, we think made worse by climate change. And it really has raised the question for us-- it's always been there, but it's really put it in front of our minds, how, as a society, as a global community, are we to adapt to these increasing threats? And you've been doing a lot of work in this area. And so we're really happy to have you join us on the podcast and try to dive into that question a little bit.
[00:03:06:01] PAT FIELD: Great.
[00:03:07:02] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: How did you get into these questions in the first place?
[00:03:11:05] PAT FIELD: Well, it's interesting. I was-- I got interested in sort of broader sort of environmental and land use planning really as a little kid. I grew up in rural Colorado on a ranch. And kind of issues in environment and natural resources and federal lands and extractive use and tourism and newcomers and oldcomers to a relatively small but pretty active community in the mountains was kind of part-- bread and butter around the dinner table and the like. So I've always been kind of involved in these issues and the like. And clearly, if you care about the environment and natural resources and landscape over, you know, now decades, we know that climate change is an issue.
[00:03:47:05] And it's funny. When I was a kid, my parents came back from a Colorado Cattlemen's convention, and actually were talking about some speaker in the '70s who was talking about climate change and how it was going to be warm, and what a marvelous opportunity it was going to be for agriculture. So it's not like this hasn't been on our consciousness for a while.
[00:04:04:09] CURT NEWTON: Yeah, yeah. I've been reading some really interesting stuff about communities out in the West, and how people we wouldn't-- us East Coast liberals necessarily think of being environmentally engaged, but really interesting coalitions of people, and all these different interests that care deeply about this stuff.
[00:04:22:24] PAT FIELD: Well, and out west, the industry that's really leading the charge and thinking seriously about and paying for downscale models and wrestling with this is the ski industry, who is extraordinarily worried about climate change impacts on its survival. And some places are going to be OK. Some places are going to not have skiing at all. And some places are going to have a lot more snow but a lot shorter season.
[00:04:42:05] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: That's going to be a very different image of the Rockies, I guess.
[00:04:47:00] PAT FIELD: Yes. Very, very different.
[00:04:49:00] CURT NEWTON: What brought you from your young years on the ranch into taking this on as a professional pursuit?
[00:04:54:19] PAT FIELD: Well, I'm a professional mediator and facilitator. And it was interesting. My early career, before I went to graduate school, was really working for a state agency, and we did energy conservation projects. And since I was a little kid, I've been arguing with my father about the size of his car, how much gas it uses. I don't really know why, but I have-- I grew up in a family of staunch sort of John McCain Republicans, and I spent many years arguing with my father over resource issues.
[00:05:17:18] CURT NEWTON: Let me just say, good for you. Because we hear again and again, it's the kids that are making their parents behave better.
[00:05:23:22] PAT FIELD: I did get my father to stop smoking. I didn't get him to buy a smaller car. And I sort of got him to stop using strychnine, because I pointed out that was not biodegradable.
[00:05:31:21] But in any case, in my early career, I actually did energy conservation projects for state facilities. And I really liked it. It was interesting. It was fun to try to find money in different places to actually do this-- also through early utility programs.
[00:05:42:24] But I actually kind of found it a little too techie and a little less sort of-- there was less of a social and kind of heartfelt feeling about it. I was much more interested in kind of land and environment, and so ultimately went back to grad school and focused on that. And really, it's interesting. Climate change brings together both kind of the mitigation, energy side, as well as actually kind of the adaptation in land and environment side.
[00:06:04:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So you're a mediator. What do you do? Who calls you in? How do you-- what's your procedure for becoming a legitimate mediator? You know, how does it roll out?
[00:06:17:00] PAT FIELD: So we-- just to take a quick step back. So at CBI, we're essentially a nonprofit consulting firm. And so we both are reactive to the market and people's needs, as well as also trying to be proactive around some things that we care about, within the frame, though, that we are a nonpartisan body who's not trying to make-- we're trying to help people of all persuasions and partisanships solve specific problems.
[00:06:38:23] And so typically, we are called in most frequently by some government entity, whether it's a federal agency down to a local community, town manager or town council, who has some kind of problem and has heard about us or found out about it in some way. And then we engage with them and their stakeholders in a number of ways. We often do an assessment, which is simply talking to people to find out how they see the problem, how they would like to see it solved, and what potential processes they might or might not tolerate in terms of collaboration, or if even collaboration is possible. And then we work with the parties, often try to form a steering committee of a smaller group of stakeholders to think about process design, how you would design the collaboration itself, within all the various technical, dollar, institutional, political constraints.
[00:07:21:23] And then once we get that up and running, it's really then working with people and groups and subcommittees and public engagement to kind of move through a set of issues and wrestle with the political, the legal, the technical issues, the interest-based concerns that people have, and sometimes value-based as well, to see if people can generate options based on their interests, and from those options, think about a rubric for decision-making about criteria and priorities, and bring in the technical information experts that you need to think about these problems, and ultimately see if you can reach an agreement that not only is hopefully not just a compromise, but in the best of worlds, it's actually something better and different than people expected when they wandered in.
[00:07:55:24] CURT NEWTON: Boy, that sounds handy for climate change, doesn't it?
[00:07:58:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So if you were to imagine a mock, you know, climate change negotiation, you know, take us into that room, so to speak.
[00:08:08:27] PAT FIELD: Let me talk about, actually, a local case, which I'll be a little vague about the specificity. But essentially, in the sort of mid-Atlantic and Southeast US, there are a number of islands that sit within large water bodies or bays. And they're very low-lying. They might be a foot or two above current sea level. And generally, they've always been under threat during hurricanes or nor'easters or whatever it might be.
[00:08:31:09] And several years ago, one state essentially said, well, this thing isn't going to be here in 50 years. Why should we keep investing? Let's get these people to move out.
[00:08:38:21] And so part of their statewide planning was to essentially kind of stop investing in this community. Well, you can imagine the community was none too happy about it, and resisted strongly. And this is an island of sort of-- and I think one thing to note about island folks, because we work with a lot of islands up and down the East Coast, is that island folks are resilient, hardy, and they have built up a certain culture and skill set to be able to live in a pretty uncertain place with a lot of vagaries, in terms of weather and safety. And so they really fought back. And then we were brought in, actually, to say, can we work with the community to figure out what they do want?
[00:09:11:00] And it's a community that really decided-- there was a range of views on whether they believed, quote, unquote, in climate change. But they all did agree that their way of life and the places they lived, they wanted to do the best they can to protect in advances-- in the time frame that they could imagine, 25 to 30 years, which is-- will probably still be here in 25 to 30 years. In what state, not entirely clear, in terms of sea level rise.
[00:09:31:20] And so really, there was a planning process and ways to think about investment in that place and around that horizon to really maintain their way of life, and to stay, which, from a technical standpoint or rationale, it might not be fully sensible. But on the other hand, from an historic and commitment to place and landscape and people, it was what's important to them.
[00:09:50:05] And so that's an example where, sometimes when we think about sort of adaptation planning, we have to recognize people are going to make a range of choices, some of those to stay, some of those to go. Talking recently to someone who's been working with a group of Pacific Islanders, states, as well as other island states around the world, and wrestling with climate change in a big way, you know, some of those island states are choosing to really encourage their people to stay, and some are really encouraging their people to go. And I think we have to recognize, in adaptation choices, people are going to-- depending on a complicated set of factors, are going to make very different choices.
[00:10:19:27] CURT NEWTON: Yeah, it really seems to get right down into this time frame issue, that I think most of us make decisions in our lives five, 10, 15, 20, 30 years at the outside. But the kinds of bigger infrastructure questions that really come up around these adaptation challenges require a much longer time scale, right? You're forced to confront the, what's going to be happening in 100 years? And is it worth to make these investments?
[00:10:46:10] PAT FIELD: Right, and as you all know, I mean, really, you think about state highway departments, most infrastructure planning, people, much beyond 25 years, it's extraordinarily hard to plan, because there's just too many vagaries and uncertainties and our models don't particularly-- not even climate change models. Generally, our models for planning don't-- they kind of get extremely fuzzy that far out. And so we start just winging it after a certain time frame, even though we know, conceptually and broadly, there's going to be significant change and impact 30, 40, 50 years.
[00:11:16:17] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: It's that famous-- I think it's a Yogi Berra thing, right, that it's very hard to predict, especially the future?
[00:11:22:26] PAT FIELD: Yeah. Because I think one of the things that we think about and have thought about this in working with communities is that again, I think private property in the United States, the kind of complicated property regime we have, is a complicated question we could talk about. But I think, in terms of public investment, we really do make some long-term public investments for, say, roads or highways or wastewater infrastructure or drinking water that we know we are really planning out for 30, 40 years. And we assume that those systems typically have that life from an enduring perspective.
[00:11:52:19] And there is where we-- that's where there's public investment and we can think about wise uses of taxpayer dollars. People can start to make some reasonable decisions, and hopefully, within the planning horizon-- their investment horizon, make sure you're thinking about climate change. So if it's a 10-year investment, maybe you really don't need to think about it. If it's a 40-year investment, where it says it's a 25-year useful life, but you know it's going to stick around for 40 years, you really need to think.
[00:12:16:03] And you know, it's interesting. We did a process on Cape Cod here in Massachusetts, and climate change ended up coming up in an interesting way. So the bays and embayments and the estuaries of the Cape have been really threatened by nutrients really coming from septic. It turns out most of the Cape was never sort of piped in terms of centralized septic systems, for whatever reasons, except in some isolated cases. And so there's a lot of septage from private wells and small systems going into the water, going into the bays, nutrients causing algal blooms, water quality issues, and that, obviously, the Cape is-- tourism is everything, not to mention the ecosystem of which it sort of-- it lives on and needs to depend on.
[00:12:52:29] And so each community was saying no in town vote, because you can say, well, you know, some people love town votes. Some people don't. But in any case, taxpayers would say, I don't want to pay that kind of money. No. And they were clearly coming out of compliance with total maximum daily load requirements that the EPA was imposing on the Cape. So they had to move to kind of a regional process through a lawsuit that was filed for Conservation Law Foundation.
[00:13:12:16] And what was really interesting about the conversation is I think the technocrats thought, well, we should just centralize everything. Come on. We've got to build these big, centralized septic treatment plants, and how do we pipe everybody?
[00:13:21:01] And the communities were saying, well, we don't want to pay for all that. Secondly, the world is moving to a much more decentralized, distributed world with new technologies. How can we use oyster beds to provide some clean water and reinstate some of our oyster industry and use more natural systems? How can we have smaller systems? How can we make sure local septic?
[00:13:38:09] And as they push for more innovative technologies and a broader range of choices, as they thought about it, partly driven by cost, but partly driven, I think, by the realization that, look, we are going to be threatened with sea level rise. And why would we invest billions of dollars in these huge centralized systems that will not be servicing certain areas at some point, when we can have distributed systems that are more resilient? The cost impacts, if we make bad choices, are going to be more limited. And I think the outcome was a really broader-based thinking about this issue on a variety of fronts, including climate change.
[00:14:08:12] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So I want to go back to something that you said earlier about island people and the attachment to space and place. Now, talking about inland versions of that, in, say, coal country, or where people have been engaged in certain livelihoods for a while, but where you could argue that their cultures are precisely what might be threatening the future of the planet. So what kind of conflicts do you see? And how might you mediate those kinds of issues?
[00:14:40:01] PAT FIELD: I think, you know, what's really striking, being a land use planner-- and I'll broaden this globally to your question-- is that people are enormously attached to place. And they're enormously attached to that place often as it is or was, not as it could be. And it is very hard to get people to be able to measure their future benefits against current costs. And it's kind of classic risk aversion cognitive bias that Tversky and Kahneman have talked about and many others have for a long time.
[00:15:06:27] CURT NEWTON: So I think that's true of land use in general, and then I think you think about sense of place and you think about people who, even though we're faced with a giant refugee crisis in a number of fronts around the globe, it's amazing how many people stay in war-torn areas. People's attachment to place and to people and to family is extraordinarily powerful in the face of death, essentially. And so I think we have to be appreciative of the power of the human emotion to that, and that we have to be thoughtful about how we approach those interests and values. And it's true that certain things that people cling to may be bad for their greater good.
[00:15:43:18] And so the question is, do you cajole them? Do you nudge them? Do you force them? Or you do find ways that I would argue, more from a market-based perspective, to try to avoid subsidizing bad choices, but let people make the bad choices they might make, as long as you're not subsidizing your sort of-- you know, sort of paying them to do things that probably aren't for the best, for the better good.
[00:16:03:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Interesting. That's another huge issue which we have struggled with, which is, what do market-based incentives have? So in these kinds of very emotionally fraught situations where mediation is important, what role does the market have?
[00:16:21:22] PAT FIELD: You know, there is clearly, I think, a market-based set of signals one could imagine-- then I'm going to talk about why this is hard to do-- around this. So we clearly know that, look, a lot of the money that FEMA spends in essentially paying for people to rebuild or restore often goes to a relatively small number of properties who have been rebuilt over and over and over. So clearly there is something wrong in either the system of disaster relief money, and/or in the market signals that we're putting good money after bad, so to speak.
[00:16:53:27] So from a rational perspective, you create a flood insurance program, and you charge those fees based on risk and cost over time. And eventually, those flood insurance fees will be so high for many properties, people will no longer choose to either insure their own, and they will be left on their own to rebuild if they want to, with their own money, or to move, or whatever. Now that's-- there's clearly a market-based solution to this problem that's actually pretty simple, in a lot of ways. But politically, it's almost impossible.
[00:17:19:20] So the flood insurance program was reformed several years ago in Congress. Some much more minor storm than recently hit. People freaked out. And Congress rescinded the very sort of more rationalized system they tried to put in in the flood insurance program.
[00:17:30:11] So I do think there's hope for market-based solutions. But in the face of disaster, when people have lost their homes and their family and they often-- right after post-disaster, people so desperately want back to the status quo. It's very hard to get them to think about a better future that might be different. It's very hard for policymakers, legislators, politicians, neighbors to actually not help people rebuild where they shouldn't.
[00:17:54:05] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And then there's probably the issue of, whose insurance prices are going to be raised, right? I mean, so there's a justice issue here too, which is, if you're poor, you definitely cannot afford those higher insurance premiums. And so what is the differential impact of some of these market signals?
[00:18:13:26] PAT FIELD: So, and I think that's very important. There was an interesting conversation about Houston recently, where one of the things they were saying is, everyone in Houston, or at least in many neighborhoods, should probably just be required to have flood insurance, right? There's a ton of people in Houston who didn't have any. So we're all going to pay for that.
[00:18:26:24] Now, the problem, though, is that when everybody is required to have flood insurance, that means it costs more to pay for your house, which means property values go up, or payments go up. And so for people who have extraordinarily limited incomes, this is particularly difficult on them. And so these-- you know, there are plenty of market signals. The question is, what does it do to people who really can't respond to market signals because they have no money, or very little money?
[00:18:48:28] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So what do we do about market signals for people who don't have money?
[00:18:53:10] PAT FIELD: So you know, we've been thinking, and hope to think with other people. There's a complicated problem around this issue. So a few things, caution, and then maybe some hope.
[00:19:01:21] You know, look. So I think about-- let's just take Boston, for an example. So I like to call the seaport district the inundation district. It's a lovely place we're building right, you know, on the south shore of-- south side of Boston. Huge, huge real estate investment.
[00:19:19:22] And it is completely exposed to the worst of storm surges, hurricanes, et cetera. It's a foolish place, probably, to build. We'll regret it, maybe, in 20, 30 years.
[00:19:29:11] However, as we were doing a conversation with a bunch of stakeholders, including private entities and public entities around the seaport, and thinking about more kind of whether they wanted to create a sustainability district broadly, I talked to one public official whose name will go unmentioned, who, in very colorful language, said, why do you not think that we're not going to build a giant seawall? Think of all the value of this real estate. I'm not worried at all.
[00:19:51:29] And he's right. We're going to build, at some point, some kind of gates or seawall, because Boston Harbor physically will allow it, because there's enough real estate capital and political will to do it. And the fact is, Boston is going to be protected. It will cost a lot of money. It will irritate a lot of people, and will complain a lot, and it'll have environmental and economic impacts, but we're going to do it.
[00:20:10:13] I wish I could say differently, but whatever. And the city is moving to some good green infrastructure and stuff in the meantime as well. But that's not going to solve the big problem.
[00:20:18:06] So the fact is, that seawall is going to protect poor communities too, so insomuch as Boston-- even though it's-- we're not even sure what's happening in Boston with huge real estate development. But you know, poor communities are going to be protected by that seawall as well as rich communities, within the scope of that. But all of those communities without the infrastructure, the political will, the capital, who sit outside Boston Harbor, don't have maybe the physical location to be protected, technically. What is going to happen to them? And I think that's a much harder question.
[00:20:41:16] Now, granted, many of our coastal communities in the US are actually wealthy. And often, it's poor people, actually, who aren't necessarily where they once located on the coast, which no one used to want to live on, because they knew it was dangerous and threatening and difficult. You know, that's another interesting problem.
[00:20:54:19] So anyway, so I think I would say yes, the rich are going to be able to protect themselves. And the poor may or may not be able to come along for the ride. The positive note, I would say-- and I think there has been a study that I think you all mentioned in our conversation leading up to this, that in the South, people-- predominately people of color and poor people-- are going to be traumatically adversely affected by climate change. So climate change is going to tear right into the social injustices and problems we currently have and probably exacerbate them.
[00:21:18:11] But the hope is that when we go to do adaptation, or when you think about resilience planning, there's a chance to think about that not as kind of a defensive action, but actually as an offensive action in which we can think about economic development, better jobs for more people, adjusting or trying to fix or address various kinds of inequities. So there is a chance, if we have the will and desire, and to have partly a justice lens in these processes, that we can think differently about how we can actually help people who otherwise would be harmed.
[00:21:48:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So you mentioned briefly that people of color and poor people in general in the South might be disproportionately affected. So what might climigration look like with that racial, class lens on it?
[00:22:05:03] PAT FIELD: You know, and I don't know the statistics pre and post-Katrina for New Orleans. But I will say, generally what I understand is that the hurricane decimated the city. I forgot how many hundreds of lives were lost till I read recently about them, which just seems shocking.
[00:22:19:19] And it utterly transformed the city, where many poor neighborhoods, people never came back. They were devastated, taking years to repair. And the city is a very different city, in terms of socioeconomic mix and the like, than it was before Katrina.
[00:22:35:26] Now, the interesting question, which I don't know, is, where did those people go? And are their lives better? Are they worse? How dispersed are they? How much post-traumatic stress syndrome do they and their families experience?
[00:22:44:19] I don't know. This is where there's going to be a market failure, that clearly, again, for people who respond to price signals, it's one thing. But people who can't or don't, it's another. And so that's where government processes and planning and thinking and having the right kinds of lenses around our planning is going to be really important. And that, really, is a policy decision at the local, state, and federal level, and can be very, very challenging to figure out how to do.
[00:23:09:00] I mean, I think probably a controversial comment, which I'm not necessarily ascribing to, but may be somewhat true, is that during some of these disasters, and the climigration, actually, people sort of locked in a cycle of poverty and a community that actually is not healthy, maybe it will actually provide some strange opportunity for some people to break out of that, but at pretty high cost. That's probably a controversial view, but worth noting.
[00:23:31:01] But I think the problem of climate change, as we begin to respond, that one response is really for the rich to protect themselves and to exacerbate inequality and essentially injustice. And how do we think about planning for and organizing our planning processes and policies so that we really work hard to mitigate against that? And I think that's challenged the climate adaptation planning, and it's a bigger challenge to kind of the institutional racism and kind of inequities built into the system that kind of permeates everything that we do, and turns out, is extraordinarily hard to change. I think we've made good progress. But it's obvious that racism is able to recreate itself in this country in remarkable ways, and it will do so in climate as well.
[00:24:12:00] CURT NEWTON: True, true. I'm curious. I think you've defined the problem really well-- succinctly, eloquently. Wondering if you can point to any adaptation negotiation processes-- and maybe they're small, maybe they're fairly bounded, maybe they're not even climate-focused-- where people seem to have done a good job of thinking about the justice issue, that we can look to as an example, as a path forward.
[00:24:38:16] PAT FIELD: I mean, I think-- I don't have great examples. I think, you know, the classic example that's cited actually about climate retreat is Staten Island in New York, where after Sandy, there were not thousands but hundreds of homeowners, some of them of, you know, I wouldn't-- Staten Island is not necessarily the richest borough by any stretch in New York, who said, enough. We actually, we-- don't tell us, but we have decided we actually want to move and be bought out.
[00:25:03:02] And we want to make sure-- what's interesting about folks when they did this is they said, we want to make sure two things. No one gets to move back, because that's the whole point of moving, is we should-- no one should live here. Developers don't get to make a lot of money. And we ought to have some public amenities, so that our land that-- now that we are letting go of and being paid for by just compensation, actually goes to some ecological benefit or sort of shoreline protection or whatever.
[00:25:27:23] So it's really interesting. I think people-- not necessarily rich people, but people not poor either-- but really making the choice themselves, through facing some difficult situations, and also the criteria they expected in order to make that choice was, I think, really intriguing. So I think it's-- one of the things always is respecting that people who are poor and have limited means, one is they might very well be very intelligent. They might have real interests and values to meet. And they have to be listened to and paid attention to and given voice in the conversation, not just other people making choices for them. And that's challenging in any situation, but I think important.
[00:26:02:19] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Now, I was just thinking, you know, as you were mentioning, that keeping people's dignity sort of intact I think is probably a very important thing. Right, that they might be relocating, they might be changing careers, all of those, but there has to be a way to do it without destroying their sense of self-worth and who they are and what value they bring to their communities.
[00:26:26:28] PAT FIELD: You know, and it's interesting about these relocation questions. We actually have a lot of experience with this. You know, China has relocated millions of people because of building giant dams.
[00:26:35:13] And you know, we wrestled with this question over in the '50s and '60s in the community I grew up in in Colorado. We built a big dam and we flooded ranches in a valley that people loved to trout-fish in, and we moved them. You know, so it's not like we haven't relocated people before. And so it's just going to be at the scale that we do it that's going to be really interesting.
[00:26:54:05] And I think urban planning, which is the field I come from, you know, has really-- you know, look. In the '50s and '60s, Jane Jacobs looked at the west end of Boston, a poor but thriving, at least from a social aspect, community. Urban renewal said these are poor people. Let's help them by clearing them out and rebuilding those charming apartments that aren't so charming.
[00:27:12:06] And you know, clearly, sort of the tradition of urban planning learned from the '50s and '60s, the Robert Moses way of clearing everybody out and building big stuff wasn't necessary respectful or sensible, and that wasn't actually really good for cities, and it had all sorts of downsides. So one of the, I think, traditions that came out of that was to really respect and look and think about local voice. But as pointed out by local voice of some folks who, say, are coal miners who want to keep doing coal and having coal jobs and being paid $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a year, totally fair enough, that also imposes costs on other people. So how do you manage local choice versus kind of national implication?
[00:27:44:02] But I think, again, our view as planners is you have to give everyone voice, be respectful and the like, and recognize that there are power solutions actually in those folks who are local. And it's providing them the access and the means and the resources and the connectivity to actually help make those choices with them, not for them.
[00:28:00:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So, fantastic conversation. Lots of important issues. But time's up. And so we need to do our last finale, which is the magic wand question. So if you could wave a magic wand and solve a problem that is absolutely essential to your work on climate, what is it that you would do?
[00:28:22:24] PAT FIELD: So my magic wand is this. So this is probably my MIT bias. My greatest hope is that actually, human creativity and innovation and entrepreneurship will actually create massive disruption, and that within 10 to 20 years, the great work at institutions like this with very smart people will cause fossil fuels and the combustion engine to be the buggy whip.
[00:28:45:06] That's my hope. And I'm somewhat hopeful that that's the case. But I don't think we can fully depend on that to happen. It's highly unpredictable, and sometimes technological barriers are greater than we imagine.
[00:28:53:28] That being said, I think-- I am actually strangely hopeful that certain things may come together. There's kind of what I call the liberal crouching of fear in the face of the age of Trump. And I think it's a mistake. I think the one thing that President Trump's campaign and presidency has done is be deeply disruptive, in many troubling, troubling ways, but also should open our eyes to the fact that all sorts of things are possible we didn't think were. So let's run through that window of opportunity and create a better world than we imagined, perhaps, that president creating.
[00:29:24:13] And there are many opportunities here. So I can imagine, if we continue to have increased storms at enormous expense like we're likely to have this year, there are going to be many fiscal conservatives who are going to say, enough. We can't keep doing this. We cannot, with our giant deficit-- and really saying enough is enough. We've got to do something different about this.
[00:29:44:00] And at the same time, because very little to nothing is happening at the national level on climate, I think those who care deeply about it are really thinking about regional, state, and local activity and action. And we're going to try more. We're going to build new alliances. We're going to try new things. We're going to make great connections. We're going to have successes.
[00:29:59:07] So from the federal level, the conservative realization we can't afford to keep doing this. And from the local to regional level, having-- sort of having 1,000 flowers bloom in the notion of states and locals do interesting things over, I think, the next 10 years, that may come together. And we may see federalism at its best work in the opposite way we imagined, which is from the top, the conservatives say, enough. From the bottom, the liberals say, look how much we've done. And together, we actually find a way and a partnership, an alliance forward, to actually begin to solve real problems.
[00:30:24:25] Is it going to be soon enough? Probably not. Do we wish it would happen better and less painfully? Yes. But I'm hopeful.
[00:30:30:22] CURT NEWTON: That's-- I can get with that. That sounds really good.
[00:30:34:10] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So in the meantime, where can we find you?
[00:30:37:00] PAT FIELD: The Consensus Building Institute can be found at www.cbuilding.org. We're have our main offices here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but also has offices in Washington DC, Denver, Colorado, staff in Colorado and also New York City and Santiago, Chile.
[00:30:54:04] CURT NEWTON: And you have a really interesting site on climigration as well.
[00:30:57:22] PAT FIELD: We do. At www.climigration.org is a new site that we've just started, that people can take a look at, that really wrestles with many of these questions about managed retreat and how we think about this very hard question of retreat as part of the story of climate adaptation.
[00:31:13:14] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you so much, Pat, for sharing all your ideas and hopefulness. We hope to see both you and some of your other colleagues at CBI back in the studio.
[00:31:25:09] PAT FIELD: All right. Thank you.
[00:31:26:11] CURT NEWTON: Yeah, thanks for being here.
[00:31:28:27] So based on this conversation we just had with Pat, I'd like to ask our community to start thinking, what would it be like for you if you lived in, say, one of these at-risk coastal communities?
[00:31:40:28] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Imagine yourself in the situation of a person who has to make a very difficult decision. They have to uproot themselves from wherever they are, with their families, moving away from their friends. What kind of support do you think that they most need? And can you offer that to them? And if you can't individually, is that something that you would like your communities or your governments to do?
[00:32:04:14] CURT NEWTON: And if so, how could we make that happen? We'd like to hear your thoughts.
[00:32:08:17] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: We welcome you to listen to this podcast and comment and send us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:32:16:18] CURT NEWTON: Follow us on social media. We're on Twitter and on Facebook. And if you're getting this podcast from iTunes or Stitcher, please do rate us. It helps us a lot to spread the word. And then tell your friends about us.
[00:32:28:28] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Yeah. You know, if you want homework, just forward a link to this podcast to five of your friends.
[00:32:34:00] CURT NEWTON: And with that, Rajesh, thank you for being with us.
[00:32:36:28] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you, Curt. Goodbye.
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