Bruce Cain: Under Fire and Under Water in the American West
Extreme weather in the wake of climate change, causing wildfires, drought and flooding, threatens to turn the American West into a region hostile to human habitation—a “Great American Desert” as early U.S. explorers once mislabeled it. Bruce Cain suggests that the unique complex of politics, technology and logistics that once won the West must be rethought and reconfigured to win it anew in the face of these accelerating threats.
These challenges are complicated by the region’s history, the deliberate fractiousness of the American political system, and the idiosyncrasies of human behavior. Cain analyzes how, in spite of coastal flooding and spreading wildfires, people continue to move into, and even rebuild in, risky areas, how local communities are slow to take protective measures, and how individual beliefs, past adaptation practices and infrastructure, and complex governing arrangements across jurisdictions combine to flout real progress. Driving this analysis is Cain’s conviction that understanding the habits and politics that lead to procrastination and obstruction is critical to finding solutions and making necessary adaptations to the changing climate.
In his new book Under Fire and Under Water, Cain offers a detailed look at the rising stakes and urgency of the various interconnected issues. Join us in-person to hear Cain lay out the rethinking and reengineering that will allow people to live sustainably in the American West—even under the conditions caused by future global warming.
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This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.
Photo courtesy the speaker.
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Professor of Political Science, Stanford University; Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West; Author, Under Fire and Under Water: Wildfire, Flooding, and the Fight for Climate Resilience in the American West
In Conversation with George Hammond
Author, Conversations With Socrates