Four finalists for the inaugural Writers' Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy were announced Wednesday — and among them is CBC's On the Island host Gregor Craigie, for his book On Borrowed Time: North American's Next Big Quake.
The award recognizes non-fiction books that advance public policy discussions about social, political, economic and cultural topics that are relevant to Canadians and engaging to policymakers. The finalists were selected from 69 titles, submitted by 34 publishers.
Craigie says his book dives into how British Columbia can better prepare for the next big earthquake — whose occurence, geologists say, isn't a matter of if, but when.
"I couldn't help it. I became obsessed with it as a journalist and really in my own personal life as a young parent, starting to worry about all these buildings around me that I would go to in Victoria," he said.
Craigie spoke to emergency officials, seismologists, geologists and earthquake survivors from around the world.
"Often the building owners or residents or employees don't know that the buildings are at risk, and there are literally thousands of buildings across Vancouver and Metro Vancouver that are at risk and there's no immediate plan to fix them," he said.
Craigie's book also features stories from survivors, including a lecturer in New Zealand who was pinned beneath a rubble after the bus she was on was crushed by a collapsing building during an earthquake.
"Every single person in that bus, except for her, were killed ... and she said, very powerfully, to think that a simple mandate by a municipal government could have saved the lives of all the people in the bus."
He also looks at what makes it impossible for scientists to predict when the next earthquake will happen in B.C.
"Scientists can't predict it," Craigie said. "In fact, every scientist I talked to said we just need to focus on mitigating and getting ready, not trying to predict earthquakes."
The Balsillie Prize winner will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 24 and will be awarded $60,000.