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tv   Texas Book Festival  CSPAN  October 26, 2019 12:00pm-12:51pm EDT

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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> hello, everyone. welcome to this session which is called in the hands of our who breasts, human behavior in the face of climate change.
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i want to welcome you to the 24th annual texas book festival and remind you to silence your phone if you could. if you feel like tweet researching or facebooking use the hashtag texas book 1st. books are for sale all day. our authors in the signing tend, they are courtesy of book people, the largest in the bookstore in texas, we are lucky to have them. a portion of every sale supports the texas book festival's mission funding programs that bring office and books to students in low income schools in texas. we are grateful for all your purchases. my name is julie and i'm a
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science writer and i have been a longtime moderator of the book festival usually in the c-span tend talking about science related topics. i have been hoping for a panel about climate change but for years the books that would support a panel like that haven't been available for the authors couldn't come. i was glad to host this panel which may have been too long in coming but felt worth the wait. it's not just a panel on climate change but an extraordinary panel on climate change with two extraordinary authors, nathaniel rich and gilbert gaul. i'm only sitting next to one author. unfortunately, because of tropical storm and electric company in competence the power was out at the new orleans
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airport where nathaniel rich lives and he hasn't been able to get here and there is something instructive about this. i want to urge you to read his book losing earth which is a stunning account, the decade between 1979, and 1989. nathaniel rich is still trying to get here but he should arrive at 2:00. if you want to meet him we hope he can be in conversation with carrie tempest williams at 4:00 pm in the capital, 2.2026. you can find her there. however, we are fortunate to have gilbert gaul with us, he is the winner of not one but two pulitzer prizes and has been shortlisted for 5 other times.
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throughout his career he has 0 in on stories that matter, where money goes. he covered an extraordinarily broad range of topics from the coal industry and organized crime to gaming and organized crime, the business of buying and selling human blood, lack of regulation in the nonprofit world, wasted subsidies in the agricultural industry and the role of money in college sports. in this third book, "the geography of risk: epic storms, rising seas, and the cost of america's coasts," the story of what is happening on our coastlines including in texas, rebuilding rebuild, hemorrhaging money as we become more vulnerable to storms and sea level rise. the library journal said of this book, thoughtfully written, minutely researched and eminently readable, this sobering analysis seeks to make
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people start asking about the viability of building on the coast in an era of climate change. please help me welcome gilbert gaul. [applause] >> i want to start with you and where you got involved. why the coast and why does it matter to you personally? >> my background is numbers and economics but also literature so i combined writing and economic analysis and most of the things i looked at in my career. i grew up in new jersey not in a wealthy family, we always managed to go to the coast during the summer and so i became exposed to it right away and in 1962, this is the genesis of this book. when i was 11 years old, in 1962 there was a storm in the mid-atlantic all the ash
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wednesday storm in the first week of lent. it was one of 2 bookends storms that defined what happened on the mid-atlantic coast. the ash wednesday storm and hurricane sandy in 2012. it is almost the seventh anniversary of sandy and these two storms both obliterated our coast particularly new jersey. i saw that as an 11-year-old and in 57 years of going to one barrier island called long beach island, the largest, there you go. the largest and richest barrier island in the state of new jersey which is saying something because our coast which is 141 miles, over $100 billion in terms of property value, i saw this personally and watched sandy happen. what i mean is the change along
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the coast, the properties getting bigger and more valuable and the impact that had on everything from economics to the culture of these places and sandy happened in 2012. sandy was like harvey largely a flood event. you've seen a picture of the roller coaster in the ocean after sandy, 75% of the damage and hurricane sandy was in the back bays in new jersey which we have filled with 300,000 properties in the last 5 or 6 decades. i watched that and the immediate response to sandy and it can be summarized this way, build back as quickly as you possibly can so that we can be back in business by the following memorial day which was 6 or 7 months later and that is what happened.
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we even had bumper stickers on our stars -- cars saying stronger than the storm, jersey is strong, like it was a patriotic duty to rebuild the coast. i watched all this and while i was empathetic to the people who lost their houses i was interested in another question, what does this say to us? what does it signal about the climate and climate change and what we have done at the coast. to end this, that was the impetus. i wanted to go back and write a story the told the history of the modern coast from the post-world war ii era until today. i wanted to look at how we managed to put $3 trillion of property on the atlantic and gulf coast, much of it, most of it vacation homes and beach houses, why did we do that? how did that occur?
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>> one of the things that was a connection is there is such beautiful history of what happened so i wondered if you would talk about this fantastic story of the schapiro family who played an iconic role. >> nationally. i decided when i was going to write this book it wasn't enough to point out what i call the lunacy of what we have done policywise but also to tell some history of how we got to this point. i focused on long beach island because it is a place i have been going to so long as i knew it well and i knew a family by the name of the schapiros. what i wrote about in gilbert gaul -- "the geography of risk: epic storms, rising seas, and the cost of america's coasts" was the story of the schapiros. mark schapiro arrived at ellis
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island in 1899 with a few dollars in his pocket, 18 or 19 years old, he developed a shoe store in elizabeth which is a port city in new jersey. he does really well, takes his money and invests it locally in buying lots and turns around and sells for $200, a light bulb goes off in his head and he understands real estate is where he wants to go and what he wants to do. one day, in 1926, he is breaking in a new nightstand, gets on a road and drive down the coast of new jersey, goes over a bridge to long beach island which is, there is very little there time. it is a sand and gravel road, he drives to sandy road, sees a guy standing on the side of the road next to a clipboard
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building, stops and gets out and starts talking with a guy named rinaldo canyon and he asks rinaldo, do you know of any property for sale down here and rinaldo says as a matter of fact i have 53 acres from ocean to bay that i'm willing to sell you for $1000 an acre. morris tells rinaldo i need and talk with my wife jenny about this and i will be back in a week. they come back in a week. a check for $53,000 and he is off and running. the same property if he were to buy it today would cost him at least $400 million to buy it which gives an idea of the inflation at the coast of new jersey but schapiro instead of
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building large beach houses he realized, he realizes there is a market for smaller cape cods and ranchers, 600 square-foot cottages that he could sell to regular people, teachers, plumbers, electricians etc. and that is what he does, is wildly successful, creates a new market for second homes at the coast, the small relatively cheap places that it spreads up and down the coast. >> i don't know if you can call it democratizing the coasts but it is more accessible than it had been. >> before that it was all wealthy tycoons who would come from philadelphia or new york and there were a handful of large victorian hotels at a
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handful of large victorian houses and it was a blue blood community. what is interesting in my book is we go from blueblood to blue-collar and we are back to blueblood at the coast. >> we should talk about how that started to happen. one of the interesting things is there was a shining moment when we could have made better decisions and we got in our own way. i wonder if you could tell that. >> i call what happened at the coast one of the worst planning failures in american history and i don't think that is an exaggeration. we are going to be paying for it in the future. after 62, the governor of new
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jersey, richard hughes, proposed that we hit the pause button in new jersey and for 6 month don't build anything, don't rebuild, look at the coast, study at and think what do we want this to look like in the future going ahead after we have gone through this horrific storm called the ash wednesday storm, he then proposed that we create a 100 yard buffer from the sand dunes back so that would encompass if you go to a typical beach town roughly the first 2 or 3 roads of houses backward. you can imagine what the response would be. the beach town mayors went nuts. the developers went nuts, builders went nuts and people who owned undeveloped lots and properties went nuts. this proposal which was fairly sensible. we have since learned, never
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went anywhere and every other attempt in new jersey and this is true in north carolina, south carolina, texas, to do things that would lead to a slower rate of development and more sensible development have always been overwhelmed by property rights developers and beach town mayors. >> i wonder if you can talk about the huge enormous numbers you came up with in your book and i'm interested in those numbers because a lot of times he will say i did the math or calculated, does this mean those numbers aren't available? >> they are not. one of the calculations i did was i wanted to look at how the size of an average beach house changed over time. in the 60s i knew it was 600
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ft. for the little schapiro cottages but didn't know what it was in the 70s and 80s. i knew anecdotally from my own experience just looking around that things were getting bigger and as more money flowed to the coast particularly in mid-atlantic states from wall street things got enormous. i went into the property records and i literally went decade by decade to compute average size homes and i did that by mingling two data sources and the assessor's office and i found it was 600 ft. , you get to the 70s closer to 1000 ft. and still fairly modest, you get to the mid 80s and we are up to 1500 ft. . you get to the 2000s and we are up to 2000 ft. and then sandy hit and you might think people would hit the pause button after a storm like that which
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in new jersey caused $37 million worth of damage at the coast. the exact opposite. the average size of the house being built today after hurricane sandy in new jersey is 3000 ft. . that is 500 ft. larger than the size of an average house in the american suburbs so that gives you a little context. we have suburbanites the coast, filled in every square inch we possibly can. everything is getting bigger and more expensive. the economics drive you to build larger because the land, the sand under your house is more valuable than your house itself the way it it is assessed. >> i don't think we talked how federal insurance payments have driven the change in house size as well. >> a couple things go on.
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on the front end let me say modern coast develops until today and when we hit 1950 what we begin to see in congress is members of congress begin to develop programs to aid coastal development. they say we didn't do it because we want to see because develop because nobody was thinking about this. they were rewarding their voting constituencies was people who began to build at the coast had expectations. of their place got knocked down they wanted help to rebuild so we created a disaster relief act in 1950, the first one in our history and adds on to it over the years, not just after the storm but before the storm, we have money, federal dollars
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for bridges to build a causeway and money for roads, money for sewers and utilities and front end subsidies that help encourage you and lower the cost along the coast at a storm hits and what do we have? federal flood insurance. we will come in and have the corps of engineers build a new wider beach for your eroding beach. we have something called public assistance, we spend $50 billion in the last decade alone, some money that will pay for everything, if you have a police car that gets flooded with saltwater during the storm to if you're building gets flooded if it is a public building to if you have a public gazebo or a boardwalk, we spent a lot of money on
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building boardwalks in new jersey after sandy but you guys helps pay for it. we -- traffic lights, stop signs, garbage cans, you name it and we will pay for it. this creates this entitlement at the coast where the federal government ends up paying for the recovery after storms. i calculated in the 1950s the federal government aid for approximately 5% of the cost of recovering at the coast after hurricane slams your beach town. today on average we pay federal taxpayers, federal government, 70% of the recovery cost so we socialized risk at the coast. >> maybe we should switch to texas on that.
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may be you saw on the news last week our president was here and he said texas made a fortune after harvey. i wanted to know what you thought about that and i will let you talk about harvey and how that plays into the story. >> we should talk about harvey and segue into it. two of my favorite subjects. i was in texas when harvey made landfall. i was interviewing people in galveston and we will get to that. you know the details of harvey. it was a hurricane that went up to the coast and slammed on the break. it caught between two fronts and squeezed. it was literally spinning at 3 mph when it slowly made its way up to houston and the way things work today with a storm
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like that, the water is warmer than it has ever been because the planet is warming and the heat gets transferred from an oversaturated atmosphere into the ocean which stores that energy. the energy becomes fuel for the hurricanes. it happens to be out in the atlantic brewing along it makes for a bigger more powerful storm. we have seen that in the last 5 years but in the case of harvey it means there's a lot more water vapor available for the storm so the storm sucked up that energy, dumped it on houston over 3 or 4 days, biblical amounts of rain, 40-60 inches, flooded 125,000 properties, wiped out 75,000 properties and then i guess that led to what you are referring to which is the money
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that flows in after the storms. i was interested in it. in a red state you had two conservative senators who had attacked similar funding in sandy after new jersey and says it was a waste and turns around and you put out your hand because there's a big part of federal money and i will leave that part of it at that. this happens all the time. not just texas blues not going there but i will. >> harvey was what it was. we do know that our senators are concerned about it. is a protocol be like dyke. >> it is not surprising they would respond to their constituents was on one level
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you want to say you should respond but there was an irony in this case. the other thing that was interesting about harvey was texas conducted a big study. it was an unusual storm that was flood prone, just extraordinary. 500 year storms, flooding forever, it was a $1 billion storm. harvey, the flood payment from the natural flood program over $9 billion so far, still coming in. we did a study in texas, the study never mentions climate change, never once. the governor says we are going to flood proof the coast.
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i am thinking to myself make the coast flood proof, future proof the coast. i'm thinking to myself what does that mean? then i was thinking to myself what future are you talking about? are you talking about the future that is our past, the last decade? are you talking about sealevel rise, bigger, more powerful storms, more rain bombs, things like that? this really matters and it should matter to you because the way it works if you assign the corps of engineers to build levees or whatever you want to the coast and think that will save you you need to consider what you are really saving. the 100 year storm that has a 1% chance of happening in a
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given year, with sealevel rise, if we have an additional 3-31/2 feet of water and that is the mid-level estimate, not even an extreme estimate by the end of this century, it raises the platform of galveston bay, the ocean, what that means is all that storm surge you are planning for is coming in on top of that additional water which allows those waves and that storm surge and flood tides, whatever you want to call it to move farther in land, to reach more properties, to do more damage so what was 100 year storm may be a 10 year storm or a 3 year storm. the net effect is smaller
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storms do more damage than they had done in the past and larger storms are going to overwhelm your defenses if you build 400 years. the dutch build for 10,000 years when they defend their coasts. one last thing. 100 years is a term of art, not science. it is a term of art. it was bad almost out of thin air back when we introduce flood insurance in 1968 because we needed some kind of measure. the problem is it is not a measure of risk at the coast at all. >> the idea of what is our future feeds into the topic of the session which is hubris. how do you see our who breath
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playing into questions of kind of being unprepared for the future becomes what is and is that even the right thing? thinking about fear or shame, should we be thinking about what? >> that is a lot of questions which i will try to remember them. absolutely who breath. to not include climate change in what is a study of how you are going to defend yourselves in the future when we know what is coming down the pike, that is nothing but who breath. to put bumper stickers on your car saying stronger than the storm after hurricane sandy. in every coastal state and every beach, to this day you run into people who don't
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understand the risks, don't want to understand the risks and this just affects the public policy and leads us to make bad decisions. >> i can push a little farther. this conversation having a climate change session at the texas book festival hasn't happened in the last decade i have been moderating at the festival. why do we push this away? why don't we have these conversations we need to be having? >> money drives everything and that is not surprising. the folks who run these towns don't want to get smaller, they want to get larger, so they accrue their developments and then we have subsidies on the front end and all this money on
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the back end, 500 billion you and other federal tax dollars pay for to build beaches for folks with million-dollar houses on eroding sand dunes and floodplain, flood insurance payouts. .. we can build a gigantic gate of
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the channel and close down the other two passes and 75-mile long 17-foot levy and build a levy on the side of galveston and really haven't thought about all the stuff, have been been around the coast and watched it and looked at it, what i can tell you that most of this stuff at best is going to buy you time. it might you two decades, it might buy you 3 decades but it's not going to save you in the long run. >> if you have 3 feet of water by the end of the century, more likely center than that, most barrier islands, what that means is that those barrier islands, good portions of them are going to be under water twice a day at high tide and accessible only by
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boat. you won't be able to drive by the beach houses. if you look at the rain bombs, the rain events that we have seen in houston and you look a couple of weeks ago, pointing to unequivocally say, yeah, this is changeing as a as a result of pt warming and also scientists are in agreement on, we will see more of the rain bombs in the future. it's a pretty scary future. >> do you see as you have gone talking around the book in a few weeks, are people willing to talk and engage more than in the past? >> yes, the good news is i was in charleston a couple of weeks ago giving some talks and we had standing room only crowds at the college charleston which was really interesting because you
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generally for any book you hardly ever get that. that was fun. what i saw was a real hunger for knowledge. people we wanted to talk about this, they wanted about what they can do or should they sell their house. [laughter] >> should they retreat, maybe, questions like that, i mean, very serious, really good thoughtful questions, they clearly are playing attention and importantly in charleston at least, you have formed at least 3 or 4 local groups around just the issue of flooding, they have a huge flooding issue in warston just like houston and -- and they have gotten involved in the ongoing mayoral in charleston and forced the candidates to talk about flooding, where the money is going to come, from how much of the risk is private and how much of it is public, it's
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really good. the bad news is that i haven't seen much of that up in my home state in new jersey, after what we have gone through we are oblivious. >> really? >> yeah, and that's -- that's pretty disappointing because there's no one group or even a couple of groups leading the charge and thinking seriously about that and maybe that it's too late. >> right. >> we literally have a hundred thousand properties on the barrier islands in new jersey and another 300 on the backside. >> yeah. >> there's no open space. >> yeah, you're stuck with the infrastructure and the question is are you going to defend it and then if you say, yeah, we will defend it then the question is who is going to pay to defend it. >> so i think we are about at the point where we can take questions from the audience.
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if you want to form a line behind the microphone right there, it'll be great and we will see how far we can get. go ahead. [laughter] [inaudible] >> what we might learn from them and is that going to work? >> thank you. [laughter] >> thank you. >> that was a planet question. [laughter] >> it's actually kind of funny in a way, the dutches have been dealt with this forever, in front of the port, they have built thousands of thousands of miles of levies to hold water, they are now interestingly making more open space at the coast so that they can store
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storm water during these atlantic events and they are good at what they do and what i saw when i was beginning to work, they tend to appear in the u.s. and -- and actually sort of selling their services as consultants and there are many places along the coast where the dutch are involved in -- in the discussions about what we can do here in our country. what i tell people is that it's not a great analog between netherlands and the united states for a variety of reasons, netherlands is this big, we are this big, right. i think texas alone -- the coast is 16 times the size of
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netherlands, that's one issue. for them it's an existential threat. they have no where to go, they have no higher ground to go to, we can all move to wyoming and north dakota, i suppose. the other thing is everybody pays $125 per head in netherlands, used entirely for thinking about ways to defend the coast, we have nothing like this. you look at washington, there's no planning going on there. our current president doesn't believe in any of this so there's certainly no discussion, in fact, many things that he's done are only going to make it worse going forward. there's very little planning going on, we saw conferences, we talked about stuff, it's not
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nearly at the level that the dutch do. the issue with building, you can't build a surge gate in shipping channel in the united states, i mean, that's going to cost, i don't know a couple trillion dollars, we don't have that money. >> next, yeah, so i grew up in miami beach and, for instance n miami beach, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, it's a barrier island. they're spending money to raise the streets, they are spending noun raise buildings, to me it's all crazy, they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars. >> the water tables will get contaminated and i don't know how anybody can buy property.
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we are running trillion dollar deficits while the economy is doing great right now. we won't be able to pay it back. we are not going to have the funds to do it. >> thank you. yeah. >> that's one of the key questions. it's not really viewed as a a national issue at the moment although it clearly it should be because there's so much property at the coast and the amount of damage is accelerating, we've experienced $725 billion worth of damage from hurricanes just since the 2000, most expensive hurricanes in history have been since 2000, this is not an accident.
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if we build the heck out of the coast and you have storms maybe they are bigger and maybe they are stronger, if you have rising water, the platform for attack is higher, it's not really that surpriseing. that's what we've done. now what do we do. how do get out of that corner, i'm not sure that we get out of the corner. miami -- my friend -- one of my friends the geologist says miami is doomed. we can't afford to bill the wall around the florida peninsula and even if we could it wouldn't work.
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[inaudible] >> we are going run out some places in some florida towns have begun importing sand to put on our beach. that does create a damming effect. if you're on the either side of the crown, you're flooded. you can sell bonds and you can -- [inaudible] >> some of that infrastructure. that will help a little bit. that's not going buy you time. we are not talking about hurricane. miami was hit with a horrific hurricane in 1926, $100 million.
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a billion to $200 billion. >> maybe more than that. >> i'm retired scientist with the gee logical survey and one of the things that we have is amazing political telling and that's a problem for a lot of us who argue the point. [laughter] >> my brother-in-law -- so you could do us all a big favor for the holidays. irrebuttable single statement.
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[laughter] [applause] >> just give them a copy of my book. i sign it. >> the brother don't read. >> i'm sure it comes on audio book as well. [laughter] >> they don't listen very well either. [laughter] >> we need -- single irrebuttable statement warning of climate change and its affect of life on the planet? >> i agree. [laughter] >> hi. i have a question, what do you think our federal government first priority should be regarding climate change.
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now this is disregarding the current people. [laughter] >> i don't know. the first thing because i'm focused on the coastally tell you something to do with the coast. i mean, we need to start having a conversation about this and we need -- we need to have some way of having both combination and local leadership and some state leadership which just doesn't exist that i can see. i'm not real hopefuls on the feds of this. if you left it to the scientists and regulators, yeah, i mean, i think they've done some terrific work over the years and a lot of it is mentioned in the book like mine. but the politics just don't work. >> we need to put a price on carbon pollution. >> the other thing that i would say is this is slightly but not exactly is so i'm a big believer
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in the title of mud book, the notion of what's risk, how much of this risk, if you build a beach house for a million dollars on any shoreline, what should you realistically, you know, expect to happen. i mean, you know, you're going fall over. at some point your place is going to go over because that's what the way nature works and that's the way barrier islands, they erode. barrier island either drowns or attacks to a mainland. so what i believe in doing and, you know, some of you may think i'm a socialist or something, i'm not, i'm a capitalist, i believe people taking responsibility for the risk and i believe and the way you get to that point is through, you know, through a series of what i call financial nudges, you know, you
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stop paying for sand, widened beaches at the coast, if somebody wants to -- to widen their beach, you know that town can pay for itself and can't afford to pay it, well, then force today think about what else should they do. you know, 30-year mortgages are going to become 15-year mortgages at the coast at the decade because no one will ride the risk, i would raise premiums for flood insurance, is to be subsidies, get them to a level where they reflect risk. if someone solderly and living in the coast i would create a government voucher or system means tested to help them. and then i would eliminate all the other subsidies i talked about earlier. >> i'm so sorry, we reached the end of our time but i want to thank gilbert gaul so much, please buy lots of presents for
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the holidays. [inaudible conversations] >> in a few minutes the texas book festival will continue with the discussion on the trump administration's immigration policies and later today you'll hear from obama administration official samantha power on her time as u.s. ambassador to the united nations and after that, the political influence of big tech, we are live at the texas book festival all weekend. in the meantime here is a look at recent author interview program after words with
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michelle. >> you have a middle class in méxico and nafta, our goal and objective as a society to have encouraged economic growth without hemisphere, méxico, the northern triangle, we want to depressure for people coming here, isn't part of that the economic situation and making sure we stand up and stand up for free trade. blocking the president's goal of getting usmca done because she doesn't want to give him a victory, why don't we remembering nice that in order to stop the magnet to stop from coming, for us to have a secured border, everybody know what is the rules r they are welcome to come here through the open doors and that would result in better lives for the people in the other countries. >> i agree with you, the formulation is that interior enforce rent and enforcement of
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our own borders is empowering to the people in these home countries to create more wealth in their own countries and to convince them to take more accountability for their own homes. but no, we are just racist for believing that the best way for people to improve their lives and prosperity is to not have to risk, you know, their own kids' lives and enrich drug cartels and all of the ngo's and here again the financial imperative comes into play. i have a section in chapter one, i talk specifically about all of the financial institutions from wells fargo, bank of america, bank of illegal aliens in america, i suppose, all the apps and paypal, silicon valleys to be able to more seamlessly send back home, we have president trump who has vowed and promised and signaled and telegraphed
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that he's going to start taxing the billions of remitions and you know this, people who have all of the issues know the federal reserve itself runs a remittance program called directo a méxico, recruiting illegal customers in america by throwing festivals and having carnival to fine them up so they can get a cut too. >> well, one of the things that i think grabbed my attention to your book is a little bit about talking about the media and i think you refer today what some of the media personalities have done to create a climate of hate, kind of extending what we have before talking about there, can you talk a little bit about that and how that's impacting the whole conversation right now with respect to how we actually solve the problems in rational and sane way and believing in sovereignty and believing in free trade, thet

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