O’Connell spent the next 20 months documenting what happened to farmers in St. Lucia and how they recovered from the disaster. Although it was devastating, O’Connell said in the podcast that various environmental and economic processes that lacked visibility prior to the disaster were brought to the surface because of the hurricane.
“For example, farmers were farming fair trade, which brings in a high premium,” O’Connell said on the episode. “But they were still so close to the margins that they had no cash accumulating to help them rebuild after the hurricane, so it wasn’t particularly sustainable.”
Gutierrez is currently writing a novel about a city destroyed by climate change, focusing on a family trying to figure out how to survive in their altered world. In the episode, Gutierrez said he wants his readers to imagine something that they find difficult to imagine, such as a national water crisis or the abandonment of large urban cities.
The conversation of the episode then shifted to a general discussion about the threat of climate change, particularly coastal cities.
O'Connell said real estate development is currently popular in low-lying coastal areas. Eventually however, as cities begin to sink, humans will have to start thinking about moving inland.
“It doesn't look good for Florida, but there’s a lot of people still moving there,” Gutierrez said on the episode.
O’Connell said the feasibility of moving inward differs depending on individual ties to a community. For example, individuals with vacation homes in a coastal town may be less affected by the request to move than families that have lived in those towns for generations.
“You’re not just asking them to move their home,” O’Connell said on the episode. “You’re asking them to give up their way of life and the social networks that they have, the knowledge that they have, their livelihoods.”
Carly Larson, a sophomore majoring in global studies and political science, is in an international environmental politics course taught at UNC, which has helped her analyze the pros and cons surrounding international efforts regarding climate change.
“It stood out to me when they were discussing Florida, not only how it is sinking and the environmental effects of that, but also the direct and indirect ways it would affect human life,” Larson said.
Larson said she thinks increasing awareness and education of climate change and about how severe and widespread it could be may result in enacting policies to benefit the environment.
“People tend to lose sight of the issue because it seems like an abstract concept right now,” Gutierrez said. “One thing is certain, we need to keep talking about this.”