The most popular article on Straight.com isn't about real estate or sex or the Canucks or any of the other usual suspects normally at the top of the list.
No, it's about the climate crisis—namely, something called hydrological stationarity, of all things.
The reason why this article has resonated is twofold:
1. B.C. just came through a devastating period of extreme weather that ripped roadways and flooded large areas in several municipalities.
2. It offered insights into why this happened, courtesy of an articulate and renowned international water expert, Robert Sandford.
As with most newspaper articles, there wasn't sufficient space to include everything that the Canmore, Alberta–based Sandford said in his interview.
I focused most of my attention on how rising greenhouse-gas emissions are changing the dynamics of the entire planetary system. I included Sandford's comment that the recent climate impacts have made hundreds of engineering rules of thumb irrelevant.
Here's what I didn't include: Sandford stated that much of what economists have taken as gospel has also been rendered irrelevant, if not meaningless, in the face of the devastating damage to infrastructure in the province.
"So we have to be careful," Sandford told me. "Because what’s next to fall will be the conventional wisdom of politics.
"What will be undermined next is everything that we have held dear and sacred about the status quo," he continued. "We will soon, certainly I think within this decade, be facing the realization that nothing less than a radical change in human consciousness is going to get us through this dangerous bottleneck that we face in the human journey."
That's because he thinks that climate change is not only inevitable, but "unstoppable".
"Which means a change in human consciousness is not only inevitable but unstoppable," Sandford continued. "I think we, now in our generation, must be the architects of the change in our collective consciousness."
Rob Fleming has a big job
The havoc created by recent atmospheric rivers has turned what was once the sleepy B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure into one of the most important cabinet portfolios.
It's headed by Rob Fleming, an environmentally minded NDP MLA who represents Victoria–Swan Lake. He was shuffled into transportation and infrastructure after a difficult stint as education minister in the first John Horgan–led government.
The deputy minister is Kaye Matheny Krishna, who once worked for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and a real-estate consulting firm before moving to Vancouver.
The Vision Vancouver-controlled City of Vancouver government hired Krishna as the general manager of development, buildings, and licensing in 2016, where she stayed until 2019.
In 2017, then Vision Vancouver city councillor, Geoff Meggs, was appointed as Horgan's chief of staff in the premier's office. And less than two years later, Krishna was hired as the deputy minister of municipal affairs and housing.
In December 2020, Krishna became the deputy minister of transportation and infrastructure after her predecessor, long-time deputy transportation minister Grant Main, left the civil service.
Fleming and Krishna are now two of the major decision makers on how highway repairs should be rolled out in the next couple of years. And they don't have a lot of experience when it comes to road-building.
It's a monumental task, given the horrors inflicted on B.C. as a result of rising water-vapour levels in the atmosphere from a warming planet.
The recent disasters on the roads indicate that existing engineering standards are not up to snuff. Especially when a river changes direction due to heavy rainfall.
Fleming and Krishna would be wise to contact Sandford, whose work is held in high regard at the United Nations and whose books should be considered required reading for anyone serious about the climate crisis.
While Fleming and Krishna are at it, they might want to contact Sandford's friend and coauthor, former B.C. Ministry of Environment deputy minister Jon O'Riordan, who's also given a great deal of thought to how British Columbia needs to adapt to rising greenhouse-gas emissions.
This is a time when transportation officials need to go beyond the engineering fraternity and seek the counsel of those who are aware of the enormous challenges created by atmospheric rivers.
In Canada, Sandford and O'Riordan are two of the most knowledgeable in this regard.