Climate Change: Sunrise or Sunset?
- [Announcer] Common Ground with Jane Whitney is sponsored by Clearview Energy and Glenmede. (lively music) - For some who doubted that climate crisis is real, this past summer was a wake-up call. Catastrophic fires, floods, hurricanes, and extreme heat ravaged the globe.
For the skeptical the reality of what our dangerously warming earth looks like finally hit home. If the bad news is that we're at code red to save the planet and ourselves, the good news is we can still beat the clock if we act now. Here to tell us how is an all-star intergenerational panel we are absolutely thrilled to have with us. Xiye Bast1da, founder of the Re-Earth Initiative.
Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical climate scientist. Bill McKibben, the Paul Revere of the climate crisis. And Andrew Zimmern, James Beard award-winning chef and climate advocate.
But before we get to our panel, here's what Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry had to say when I interviewed him about this issue earlier this week. Secretary Kerry, we've been hearing about climate change for so long that a lot of people have just tuned it out. But in the wake of a summer that saw apocalyptic extreme weather, suddenly alarm bells were being sounded and you're hearing President Biden talk about the fact that we're at code red or UN Secretary Attorney General Guterres is talking about the fact that we're out of time.
For people who don't know what to think at this point, can you help put those warnings in perspective? - We're in the critical decade, we have to be able to reduce emissions by a certain amount, we have to be able to lay out a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. And it's very clear that right now the world has not yet responded with the urgency necessary. I'm pleased to say the United States has joined together with Japan, with Canada, with the EU and the UK and we have all set forward reduction plans in our emissions that keep faith with holding the earth's temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The scientists tell us that if we don't do enough reduction between 2020 and 2030, then we will lose the 1.5 degrees,
we go up to 2 or much more, right now we're on a course to 2.7 degrees warming and we also lose the ability to have net zero by 2050. So that's what makes this a critical time. Everybody must step up together. We all have to be part of this solution. - We haven't taken action to meet this moment as you've just been talking about.
Now, we're mired in these weather disasters, the extreme floods and heat and hurricanes and people finally seem to be getting an understanding because now it's part of their lives. You talk about the fact that man helped create this, and that means we can help stop it. How do we stop it? - We stop it by adopting intelligent, respectful of science energy policy.
And we have to add to that nature based solutions that is protecting the Amazon, protecting the Congo Basin and protecting the ocean. It gets pretty cataclysmic, it doesn't have to, it shouldn't because the science also tells us that we still have it within our reach to be able to reduce the emissions that are creating this problem. - Wanna talk about at the April climate summit, you did manage to get people on board, some of the biggest emitters, I think it was 55% of the pollution you were looking at cracking down on, what you didn't get commitments from were the really, China, who is the largest emitter in the world, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, if they didn't get on board then, why are they suddenly gonna get on board? - Because they've seen the evidence that mother nature is providing and because their economists understand it is more expensive not to respond now than it is to respond. So we're working with every one of those countries you just named with South Africa, with Brazil, with Russia, and we're gonna have meetings with them in the next weeks, we hope there is still time before we meet and we hope that everybody will come on board with raised ambition.
The goal of Glasgow is to raise ambition across the board. And we know we're not gonna get the whole job done in Glasgow, that's just not possible. What we will do however is raise the ambition enough that we're getting on track to be able to keep the 1.5 degrees alive. And as technologies emerge, as countries raise their ambition, as we do more and learn more, the greater the odds are that we can in fact win the battle.
- Wanna come back to this country because I've heard you talk about, lament really, the number of climate deniers we have in this country owing to heavily funded campaigns that pedal disinformation, misinformation, people might acknowledge at this point that we have a problem, they may even say they know it's serious but what scares them is the word sacrifice that they're gonna have to somehow change their lives, that these sort of monumental sweeping changes are gonna mean they have to eat differently or travel differently, or it's gonna impact their jobs. So what do you say to those people to allay their fears? - This is not a choice between sacrifice now and protecting the environment or having a good economy. It's just not, that's not the choice. Taking care of the problem or having a good economy. The fact is that we have every ability to do both and the doing of one that the focusing on the climate by deploying new technologies and inventing new solutions and coming up with new fuel and do it, this is the normal process of modernization, of the maturing of our capacity. We've gone through these changes for centuries since we were founded.
Right now, we're looking at an opportunity, not a sacrifice and we need to seize the economic benefits here. Plus, the United States of America has incredible technology capacity. If we will apply our research and development to the creation of the new technologies we need to solve the problem, then we'll be able to sell those technologies, deploy those technologies all around the world just as we did with the internet itself, with telecommunications and a whole bunch of other things that we've been privileged to be able to invent. Just like the space race, it required federal investment, but that investment produced all kinds of new benefits that everybody uses in their homes today from microwave ovens to digital and run the list. Let's get about the business of embracing this moment of economic opportunity and people need to stop the scare tactics.
This is an exciting transformation. - Even though there's been bipartisan agreement that the United States is not at this point prepared to cope with what we're facing and that we're gonna need enormous amounts of money to try and prepare. The GOP is still stubbornly sticking to the talking points that President Biden's ambitious climate program is a job killer, it's a threat to national security and here's the question, why are we playing politics basically with the future of the planet? Why cannot we get past this? - Because unfortunately, we're very divided in the country at a moment where people are playing to the greatest political advantage and that's been true for some years now in our nation. We need to break the fever. We need to get beyond that because it's hurting our country. People in the rest of the world take note of the gridlock, of the inability to move forward easily, to make a narrative that suggests that we're in decline, that we're not the power we used to be and won't be in the future.
You know, I don't think this ought to be about power and just competition, I think it ought to be about the responsibility we all have to take care of our citizens and do it in a way that protects the planet for future generations. And that's something that Republicans and Democrats alike should embrace and I think more and more Republicans are in fact finding that the evidence that mother nature provided this past summer is very powerful, it affected their states, their farmers, their citizens and I think more and more people are looking for a way to try to deal with this challenge. - Last question. You've been very generous with your time and we appreciate that. You made a powerful statement when you signed the Paris climate accord on behalf of the United States. What is your sense of whether we're gonna make this deadline? What is your gut tell you? - I'm not gonna make judgments about what is gonna unfold over a period of time ahead of us, except to say that we can do this.
That's the important thing for everybody to understand. This is not something that's speculative, the science says, if we make the right choices, we can do this, but we have to do so much more than we are doing today. We lack not the capacity, but the willpower. And that's one of the reasons why we gather at a meeting like Glasgow, it is to summon all together, collectively the power of our ambition and capacity to be able to get the job done, it'll unfold over the years ahead.
And the question is, you know, how many people will step up to make sure that nobody's left behind in that race? - Secretary John Kerry, we thank you for joining us today, we thank you for what you're doing on behalf of future generations, this generation and the planet and we thank you for your lifetime of service. - Thank you very much, thank you. - So we just heard Secretary Kerry's top lines and where he thinks we are in this whole fight against climate crisis. Xiye, young people have been an enormous force in terms of actually getting things done and getting people to hear how serious things are.
You say the biggest problem isn't denial, I've heard you say that it's apathy and that people you call doomers are the worst offenders. What is it that young people get that doomers don't get? - Well, I think that as you mentioned, our biggest problem is apathy meaning we know what the problem is but we're not doing anything about it. The reason why we're not doing anything about it is because climate communication about what we can do as individuals our society is not accessible. And I think that one of the strengths of youth right now is that we are taking all of this scientific information, political information, and being able to share it and talk about it in clear terms. So I think that what youth get that other people don't is that we have a timeline and that that timeline is in our lifetime.
The IPCC tells us that we have just seven years left to half our carbon emissions to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming. And we are taking that seriously, we're taking that as a deadline and we're taking our civil responsibility of going to school and disrupting it to call attention on the fact that we are fighting for our futures. - Bill, you are the other end of the spectrum from Xiye, you've been at this for a number of years, it was I think 32 years ago that you published the first book that really got people's attention, "The End of Nature" and at the time you said that to be a dispassionate observer on this issue was fundamentally immoral. And so I just wanna ask 'cause I've wondered this about you, somebody who's been doing this for so long, did you ever think that it would be this difficult to convince people basically to save themselves? - Well, you know, we spent a long time I think thinking that we were engaged in an argument Jane. An argument about data and reason, but at a certain point it became clear that that was over and that we'd won that, you know, that it was abundantly clear what was happening but that was not leading to change. And that's when we began to realize that we were in a fight instead of an argument and it wouldn't be decided by data and reason that it was about money and power which is usually what flights are about.
The other side of this fight was the fossil fuel industry which we now knew everything there was to know about climate change back in the 1980s but just decided to lie about it in a series of coverups that have cost us 30 years of dealing with this crisis, time that we will never get back and time that's of the essence because this is a timed test. If we had done what we should have done when we realized we had a problem, then people like Xiye would be able to be looking forward to their lives now, not free of the specter of global warming, but confident that we were moving in the right direction. Instead, they have to deal with the overwhelming danger that we've waited too long and that's why it's so moving to see their work. - I guess the other thing is that you've seen people not really understand what this is about, it's sort of an abstract concept to them until we mentioned all this extreme weather that's been happening and then they can relate to that. So they don't really grasp the concept that we could be out of time and I think that was UN Secretary Attorney General Guterres who said that recently. What is your definition right now of where we are and what out of time really means? - Look, climate change is a math problem above all else.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the climate scientists who are the world's authority on all of this have told us that we have until 2030 to cut emissions in half from where they are now, that's eight years and change away, that's a huge task. We're aided in this task by the fact that engineers have dropped the cost of solar power and wind power by 90% in the last decade, it's now the cheapest power that there is on the planet. But none of it comes easy because on the other side constantly is vested interest determined to keep us from changing the business model of the fossil fuel companies even though it's now clear that that business model is going to break the planet. And that's why it's so important that we're seeing great activism and great leadership from people like Professor Hayhoe in Texas, in the heart of the hydrocarbon empire. Her new book is really, really important and very worth reading. - I call her Dr. Hayhoe, actually, Katharine I'm gonna
call you Katharine if that's okay for this particular broadcast. You personify what some people might consider an oxymoron. You are a distinguished climate scientist, you're the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, you are also a devout evangelical. You talk about how when you started to actually share your own religion with people in an effort to try and bridge the political divide you felt like you were coming out of the closet a little bit. So give us a sense of your sort of odyssey in terms of why you started speaking about your faith in terms of climate crisis? - So I'm a climate scientist because I'm a Christian. Literally. I was well on my way to finishing my undergraduate degree in astrophysics and that was what I was planning on doing when I serendipitously took a class on climate science.
And that's where I discovered that climate change is not only an environmental issue, it affects our health, the economy, national security, the safety of our homes. And most of all it disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable and marginalized people and that is profoundly unfair. So that's what made me decide to become a climate scientist because I believe if we truly take the Bible seriously, then we're supposed to be recognized by our love for others. And how loving is it to just sort of stick our fingers in our ears and cover our eyes and pretend that we don't see this huge global problem that is already causing untold suffering today. - Now it's my understanding one of your first converts was actually your husband Andrew who's also an academic, he's a professor but he's also a very influential pastor, has a great following and you actually had to convince him about climate change? - Well, I wouldn't say I converted him because it isn't about conversion at all, it's about showing people that who they already are is the perfect person to care.
Whatever is at the top of their priority list and of course, if they take the Bible seriously that's a good one to start with, but it could be the fact that they are a parent, that they enjoy a particular outdoor activity, that they are fiscally conservative, or they live in a certain place, or they have military experience. So it's really about connecting with people and getting to know who they are, understanding what their values are, and then connecting the dots between climate change and what they care about too. So with my husband it was actually a lot easier than most of us have it because we were very much on the same wavelength in terms of, you know, we both worked in academia, we both believe the same things theologically and I knew he was a really smart person. He didn't doubt climate change because he didn't understand data and statistics, he like so many had heard information from people in sources he trusted saying it wasn't real, and those scientists are just making it up and the only way to fix it is to destroy the economy.
So when we start conversations with something we agree on, and when we offer positive, constructive solutions that they can get on board with, that's often where so much of the denial just evaporate. - So what's the biggest mistake we make in terms of trying to persuade somebody else that climate change is real and in fact, taking it a step further that a great deal of it was created by us basically? - You've already heard this answer from Xiye and from Bill in two different ways which is awesome, we're all sort of singing off the same sheet but different parts. And that is we often begin by arguing over facts and data.
We think they have to agree with everything the latest IPCC report said before we can move on to talking solutions. And the reality is as I talk about in my book, often agreement on solutions eventually brings people on board with the science. We're starting the arguments and the discussions the wrong way around, we have to begin with the heart rather than the head. We have to begin by talking about positive, constructive solutions and impacts that affect us. The science can follow.
- See that's why I was excited about the show because all of you are such uniquely gifted climate communicators. I mean in doing the research for this show I'll be honest, I saw this issue in a totally different light which brings us to Andrew Zimmern, what is an Emmy Award winning James Beard Award winning influential celebrity world known chef doing talking about climate crisis? - Well, I think one of the most important ways in which stories of climate crisis touch each of us is when it comes to our food supply. I truly believe over the last 30 years many of us have been screaming at the top of our lungs and trying to find different routes in to preach the common sense that comes with everything that Bill referred to what we learned in the 80s and also quite frankly in the 70s that we're not going to be able to feed our hungry planet and in fact, our favorite foods are disappearing.
With movement in weather, it's very simple, what used to grow in one place no longer grows there, where soft rains used to fall up here in Minnesota, we can no longer harvest as many apples because hard rains are coming at the end of the season and causing huge stem end cracks. In Apalachicola the most productive oyster bed in the history of America that at one point was responsible for over 10% of all the oysters harvested in North America is no longer productive, zero. There are no more wild oysters in Apalachicola Bay and it's simply because there's less rain there so the water became saltier and predators moved in from deeper waters and eliminated them. We are going to lose I believe many other foods near and dear to people, coffee and cacao. Cocoa is extremely sensitive to humidity and to temperature and we're just not gonna be able to support the production of cacao that the world wants. And I think sadly much like you can't get a caution children at play sign put on a neighborhood block until there's some perceived threat, we're going to have to get shaken by something severe in order to realize that we have a global crisis on our hands of monumental proportions that is affecting the very existence of humankind.
You know, here at home we have three different food Americas for those that are even able to eat which is becoming a shrinking population. We see here the dollar stores that don't even offer fresh food are expanding faster than supermarkets. That's happening for a reason and it's because of the tie-in between food and social justice that has been hinted at by so many of our other panelists and that's also what brought me to the climate crisis table. - I was gonna say because you know, you're known for being out on the road sort of talking about bizarre foods, you've done a lot of different television shows talking about eating fermented shark and coconut grubs, I don't even know what they are but the point is, you know, social justice and food seems to be at the heart of everything you do and yet have you found as you travel around that people are better now at making the connection that you're talking about between climate and the food source? - We can do it, we can feed everyone and we can achieve social justice and fairness when it comes to food, but we don't have the political will.
There can be no concept to social justice when it comes to food when there is hunger in America which by the way, rose dramatically during the pandemic. And I believe in America we are actually making genocidal, that is right I use that word genocidal choices by definition because here's the point, if we know that we have the ability to feed all the hungry children in America, if we have the ability to launch a national school lunch program with morning and evening options year round, and we're not doing it, we are dooming children to less successful outcomes. These problems of social justice and food encompass immigration and farm labor work, land disputes, environmental justice, it gets into every nook and corner of our world, it's why I've been calling for a cabinet level position, a secretary of food, let's pull food out of some of the other departments and let them focus on their issues. We need to have someone in charge of a national food program that allows us to feed all Americans as my late mentor Senator Paul Wellstone once said, "We all win when we all win" and right now we are not all winning. - Let's talk about why we're not winning and I'm gonna go back to Bill on this before I turn to Xiye again.
Bill, basically we have a crisis, a solution as you say, a movement and a foe and you talked about the foe a little bit earlier, which is that really they're actually the financial institutions you mentioned but you also mentioned the fact political will, the reasons why things aren't happening. And one of them is that Congress for example, has not passed any kind of environmental legislation, I find this hard to believe, since 1990. There's vested interest in the Senate and people are not making changes because they're putting their own pocketbooks and politics as I said to Secretary Kerry ahead of everything else, now, how do you break through that log jam? - Well, Congress has passed some environmental legislation, but they haven't done anything about the climate crisis in a big way. Their one other attempt in 2009, their so-called cap and trade bills failed and that was that for a decade. And we're terrified that that may be about to happen again.
We've got this remarkable bill that is built on the sort of back of the green new deal that the Sunrise Movement young people came up with is three and a half trillion dollar reconciliation bill that does a lot of climate stuff and a lot of other human infrastructure and it's hanging by the slimmest of threads. Every major corporation in America has come out against it because it raises their corporate tax rate a point or two, which is if you ask me insane, I don't know how they expect people are gonna buy iPhones on a, you know, degrading planet. The point that makes this so aggravating is that we understand technologically how to do this, basically we need to stop burning things on planet earth, coal, gas, oil, wood, because every time we do, we produce the CO2 and the methane that fuel this crisis. Instead, we need to rely on the fact that the good Lord gave us a burning orb of flame 93,000,000 miles away and we have the wits to make use of it with solar panels, with wind turbines that take us you know, or that work with the differential heating and the winds that they produce, we're ready to do this, we just have to actually do it and it appears we're gonna have to do it over the endless, endless expensive protests of people in power.
- Katharine, another obstacle in this conversation is, again, to me it comes down to so much communication and you have an aversion to calling people deniers because very often it does more harm than good. For example, if a true believer, an evangelical Christian comes up to you and says, "This is not in the Bible, this is not something that God is saying is going to happen." What is your response to that person? - If somebody comes with "science-y" sounding arguments, we need to give them a short science response I should say which is no, it's not natural causes, now, let me tell you about the amazing advances that wind energy is making in Texas.
When they come with religious sounding arguments, we need to reply with a religious answer. God gave humans responsibility over every living thing in this planet, it's right there in Genesis chapter one and have I told you about these incredible churches and how they are helping out with the climate crisis? What could your church do as well? We need to respond to the smoke screens that people raise, which are mostly "science-y" but also a good part of those are "religious-y" too but we have to understand what is underneath. And what is underneath has nothing to do with the science. And it has nothing to do with true religion. It has everything to do with solution aversion. And that's why talking about why climate change matters to things that are already so important to us which could include our faith in our church but could also include food.
In fact, I was kind of laughing because in my book I have a whole list of the food and I was going through my mind ticking off yeah I talk about bananas and coffee and beer yeah and oysters too. Food is affected, our children are affected, our health is affected, climate change is also a justice issue, a humanitarian crisis, and a poverty issue. Start with something we agree on, connect the dots to how climate change affects it, and then always offer positive constructive solutions which could range from something you're doing yourself to something that you know an organization you're involved with is doing to something that you've heard of other people doing or doing and you think, well, why can't we do that too? That's how we change minds. - Andrew at this point, turn to you, about something that you have talked about extensively, farm workers, and the danger that they face and, many of them are children and some of them are the elderly, but heat related deaths are the most critical at this point in terms of weather-related deaths there's some 8,500 people a year who die from extreme heat. You talked about something again, very relatable, the cherry season, and just give us a bird's eye view into how that impacted those workers and actually that there's been some movement in terms of framing laws and putting laws on the books to protect them. - You know, if we're just talking about farm workers rights, we end up losing a lot of other people to sort of help us in the argument so I try to frame it in terms of workers' rights, right? Because we're having problems with workers all around the country not just with climate change.
So if we can drag some of those solutions along to help with other rights, you know, if the coal miners in West Virginia who are desperately in need of good consistent jobs, understand that we all benefit by protecting farm workers in states as diverse as Michigan, Wisconsin, and California, then we are gonna make some progress. You know, workers' conditions worsen as climate changes, right? But what is shocking to me right now is that the number one work-related cause of death amongst farm workers used to be tractor and equipment injuries, they got looped into, you know, driving problems when it was really just working around some very dangerous mechanical equipment. The number one cause of death amongst farm workers over the last couple of years is heat stroke. We are putting people at tremendous risk and if there's a silver lining to the pandemic it was the education of so many people about the conditions in meat plants, all across the country, people working under horrific conditions and in our farms and fields, the impact of climate on the average worker in the food system has been nothing short of severe. - And there have been moves made and the Biden administration has launched a campaign to try and help with cracking down on extreme heat conditions, I think states have started to implement some, Oregon, implemented some new laws to try and protect workers. I mean, we should be now starting to talk about some of the positive things that are happening.
Andrew, I mean isn't that a sign that somebody is finally paying attention? - It is, but going state by state doesn't solve the clock that's ticking. I mean, look, the problems that we have when you look systemically at the entire world and how we feed ourselves is that we're having more and more events of what are called multiple bread basket failures, you know, double droughts, triple droughts in different parts of the world so it's no longer like, you know, if one country doesn't have wheat for a couple of years other countries can sort of fill in. If you take away someone's, you know, math or music, you know, their boombox or their quadratic equations, you might get a punch in the nose, maybe not, but you start to take away rice and bread and this is the stuff that revolution is made of. Corn, potatoes and rice are increasingly being effected as well as wheat all around the country and so as we see less and less of this food production being available to people we're gonna see more and more civil unrest. The solutions have to be bigger.
It is fantastic, you know, Oregon and Washington as well as California, have been leading the nation on so many laws to help protect farm workers, but we need national farm worker reform. We need to be supporting the UFW blue card policies, we need to be enacting laws on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C. as other people have said, if we wanna avert the disasters of the highest proportions, we are in desperate need of quick and fast national leadership on this issue, or I'm afraid we may be running out of time.
- I can't believe the time is gone but we're going into the solutions part of the broadcast and we're gonna kick it off with another video question and I'd like all of you to take a crack at it, but we are gonna start with Bill so let's take a look at it, here it is. - Hi, I'm Brett from Illinois. With the catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis upon us, how do you think politicians and climate leaders can change their messaging to better spur collective action? - Yeah, I think Brett's use of the word collective was really important. Look, as everybody's been kind of intimating because we've delayed so long Jane we're past the point where we can make the math of climate square one Tesla at a time, one vegan dinner at a time, those things are useful and good for you but the most important thing an individual can do is be less of an individual and join together with others in movements large enough to make things happen.
We've got the Sunrise Movement and 350.Oregon and the FridaysForFuture, we're starting for older people Third Act, there's a lot of work going on but it requires us working together 'cause we've somehow got a counterbalance enormous power of vested interest. - But you know Bill that people think they can't make a difference, I'm one person, what can I do? This is a monumental job we're looking at. - That's always been the problem with climate change. It's very big and we're small next to it.
But in fact, we're demonstrating now that we can win these fights when we fight. We've stopped the Keystone pipeline, the divestment campaign is now at $15,000,000,000,000 in endowments in portfolios that have gotten out of fossil fuel. The pressure is seriously on and you can tell that at a time because Joe Biden ran for president on a climate ticket, his last debate he said, we have to transition away from the oil industry. Why do you think they're pushing back so hard? It is a fight now and we need people, as Xiye said, what we need is people off the sidelines.
The planet is miles outside its comfort zone so we need people who care to be outside their comfort zone. You don't all have to go to jail, though that's sometimes a useful thing to do, but you do have to do more than you're doing now because demonstrably we're losing. - All right. I wanna be really clear on this point Bill. So we had Barbara Talbot and Jean Marsh wrote in that they wanted to know whether we should just put our faith in the fact that our leaders and the government will take care of this or specifically, what can individuals do? That's the question. They don't have to go to jail, I get that, but if you had to just throw out a couple of things that the average person could do right now, what would they be? - We need people to organize.
The answer- job one is organizing, job two is organizing and so is job three. We can't get this done ourselves, screw in a new light bulb if you've got the time and inclination but screw in a new system, screw in a new Senator. - Too bad that doesn't fit on a hat. Okay, Xiye the toughest case to try and get to the messaging, messaging is so critical to try and reach people what do you do? What is your go-to solution on this? - Well, you know, you just said messaging is important and part of that is language. Language is very important and the words that we use matter, and that's why we have done things like push away from using climate change to using climate crisis and climate emergency. And those types of things actually changed the way in which we perceive certain things.
And I think that as youth we have this job of being communicators with our policy makers and our politicians about the urgency that we see in addressing the climate crisis and in some years, a lot of us are gonna be running for office and we're gonna be running on climate platforms. And what we want them to know right now is that a lot of the times, you know, even if I care and I have been a climate activist for three years organizing strikes. I organized a 300,000 person strike in New York, but I can't run for office, I can't vote and that's why we have to be effective in our messaging to policymakers saying, we are the generation that votes next, we will not vote for you if you don't run on a climate platform, we deserve a future, we deserve a present. In New York City which is where I am right now, there is a lot of air pollution, there is talks about sea level rise and talks about only protecting Lower Manhattan and the financial district and not caring about communities like Coney Island. So we have to be precise in what our demands are and our demands is to leave fossil fuels behind.
I think we had an era of fossil fuels and we as humanity have, you know, done a lot with that and now it's time to transition out of that era. And I think we can do it, we have the technology to do it. If we employed all of our existing climate science right now, by 2040 we will be in the world that we want to be in. So I think that it is really important to recognize that and recognize that as Bill said, as Katharine said, language is important, organizing is important and intergenerational work is important. - Do you ever get angry Xiye? I mean, all of you actually seem so incredibly measured and even tempered.
Xiye do you ever get frustrated that things aren't moving more quickly? - Yes and I think that, you know, for the first part of the climate strike movement, we talked about adults stealing our future and in some part that is true but I think that we also have to realize that fighting and calling out is important, but not enough if we don't go past that and if we don't talk about solutions and implementing solutions. So I actually consider myself a climate optimist because I know that we have what it takes to change the world, I know that every single sector will be hit by the climate crisis which means that every single sector has a responsibility and the ability to be part of the solution. The message here is that you don't have to change what your interests are, you can pick your interest and do that work through a climate lens and that is how we get systems to change. Because as we said before, individual change can seem, you know, non impactful and the way in which we get the climate crisis issue solved is with system change. - Katharine, I know you're not a fan of using fear as a great motivator so I guess messaging would not be to scare people, but you believe in trying to purvey something called rational hope.
What is rational hope? - Fear is the wellspring of action. It helps us understand why there's a problem, but if we don't know what to do about it we will be paralyzed and frozen. So in my book "Saving Us," which is all about how individuals have a role to play in changing the system that Bill and Xiye had talked about, I have a whole chapter on how fear does get our attention, but we have to know what to do with it because if we don't, we'll just be paralyzed. So that's why a successful climate conversation has two parts. Part number one, why does it matter to me? How is it affecting us? Number two, what can we do about it? We must know that action because to quote Joan Baez, "Action is the antidote to despair." And if we are overwhelmed with despair, if we are discouraged, if we sink into doomerism, it is all over.
But if we realize that there is a chance, the possibility however small of a better future, then we act. - We've already talked about the fact that the vast majority of Americans do think we have a problem and they understand that it's gonna hurt plant life and animals and us and it's going to inflict a lot of harm down the line. Katharine, you actually have a very simple kind of solution for something that could be very effective. You advise people to just talk about climate crisis.
It opens doors but does it get people to be more active? - Well, here's the thing. We're not. Only 14% of people in the whole United States are talking about climate change. And if we don't talk about it, why would we act? And if we don't, you know, if we don't talk about it why would we care? So talking about it is like the entryway to Bill's organize because when we organize, what are we doing? We're using our voices to advocate for change. So when I say talk, I mean have that conversation, but not about all the science, have a conversation about why it matters, what we can do to fix it and how we could get involved.
Use your voice to advocate for change at every table that you sit at. It's not just your kitchen table so to speak, you might attend a school, you might work somewhere, you might be part of a neighborhood, a church, an organization, or more. Use your voice to say, what can we be doing together? And honestly, I think it's just a different way of saying what Bill said, organize. The only way the world has ever changed before, let this sink in.
- Right. - Is not when a president or a CEO or somebody big and wealthy and famous decided it had to. The world has changed in profound ways in the past. Slavery, women's rights, civil rights and more. And it changed when ordinary people, very ordinary people of no particular wealth, power or fame decided the world could and should be different.
They used their voices to share that vision, that conviction, that passion with others. They got together with others and together they organized, they petitioned and you know what? They eventually changed the world. So, we ordinary people, we're the only ones who have changed the world in the past like that before and we are the very ones who must and can change it again.
- Andrew, I don't know maybe we should nominate her for that food secretary job, what do you think? - I'm ready. I'll tell you I'm of the same mind that everyone else is but let me just go one little bit simpler because I get this question all the time out on the road, everywhere that I show up and begin to talk about any of my social justice passions, it's what can I do? And the easiest way to organize, the simplest way to do that is to just open up your email, you know, system, whatever you have on your computer, or phone, hit all and email everyone in your tribe, in your community, in your world, and give them a link to this show. You know, grab an idea from one people, grab one of the, you know, the books that written by this folks, you know, put a link to Xiye's organization in that email and just say, "Hey, here's something I learned that was fascinating and I'm going to be taking some action on this."
You know, a guru of mine once told me long ago, you can't think your way into right acting, but you can act your way into right thinking. And so by sharing that passion, by putting it out there, by evangelizing and advocating, we can get more people involved in what I do agree with the Dr. is going to be a necessary groundswell of humankind insisting on change. The other way that we do that in America is at the voting booth. Sadly, with gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics, we find that it's increasingly harder for people who care about this issue to get out there to the polls so we need to be fighting that as well.
The most important thing that we can do, you were referencing everybody running for office is to be supporting candidates not just the federal level, but the city, state, and federal level who share our passion for a clean and green future. That is absolutely vital. We can do this, it is within our frame of reference and it is within our grasp to do this, we just have to remember there is a clock ticking against which we must be operating. - Since I'm with you at this point Andrew, we're up to final questions so I have one more question for each one of you and I'm gonna start with you Andrew. I watched a segment you did, you made a meal with I'll call them endangered foods. It wasn't fermented shark, it was wild Alaskan salmon and green beans and sweet corn and chocolate chip cookies and you made the point that who knows how long these ingredients were going to be around.
You have a teenage son, Noah, I think, and my question to you is how much hope do you have that by the time Noah has children, grandchildren, that those ingredients will be around? - Well, it's a tough question, it's very emotional for me, I'm 60 years old, I've spent my life in food. I never thought that I would be talking about seeing our favorite foods disappear but they are actually disappearing. There really is essentially very few, if any, fisheries for wild salmon, chocolate is endangered, wine is endangered, certain beans and vegetables are endangered, I mean, the list of foods that are endangered run into the hundreds and hundreds and when you look back at history, so many of foods, you know, we have almost literally eaten to extinction.
You know, the climate crisis is going to hurry that process tremendously, but I'm extremely hopeful because my son makes better food decisions about what to eat than I do. I listened to Xiye and I am reminded that it is her generation of people here in this country that are going to drive that change. I'm 60, my generation we, had the ball, we dribbled down the court and we lost it out of bounds. I believe in the next generation, I support the young people in some of their more radical ideas about change. I am a positive person, I don't believe the glass is half empty or half full I believe the glass is refillable and we can solve this problem if we get into action which is why enrolling other people into this cause is of such vital importance.
If we do that, my son will be eating chocolate chip cookies made with real chocolate when he is my age if not, sadly cacao will be gone. - Bill, in a variation on what Dr. Martin Luther King said, the quote about the arc of the moral universe. I think you did the variation to say that the arc of the physical universe is short and it bends towards heat.
And following that basically, if we don't win this, there's no other option at this point. I know you don't make predictions, I've watched enough interviews with you to know that, you have a wonderful daughter Sophie, who's out on her own at this point but again, that's gotta be a concern of yours as to what the world is going to be for her future. How do you think this is going Bill? - I think it's up to us to make it go or not go and I'll just give you an example. Andrew talked about being 60 and giving the fight over to younger people, I understand what he's saying, but they need our backup, that's why we've started this group Third Act and on the end of October, we're gonna be following the young people who are taking on the big banks that are funding fossil fuel.
It'll be great to have them surrounding Chase Bank and Citibank 'cause these guys have lent hundreds of trillions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry but those banks will also pay attention if some of us who are of the age to have retirement accounts in their vaults are backing them up. This is gonna take everybody and it's gonna take everybody doing more than they're doing now and we'll do our best to bend the curve, we don't know at this point because there's a lot of physical momentum in this system, it's not a good sign that the Arctic has melted, but it is a good sign that people are coming together to put on the heat themselves. - Katharine, I know that one of the questions you get asked most often, you speak to hundreds of groups is what gives you hope? And your son Gavin, who's also young, is going to inherit a planet of sort of unclear, I guess, indeterminate what the future is of the planet.
So I will ask you that question, what gives you hope? - Well, a climate scientist I think is the perfect person to ask because we're the ones who see what's happening to our planet and how bad it is. But when we look at what's happening in the world around us we do see hope. The giant boulder of climate action is not sitting at the bottom of an impossibly steep cliff with only our five hands on it, it is already at the top of the cliff, it is already rolling down the hill in the right direction, it already has millions of hands on it, it just needs more. So sharing that news, sharing that information and fighting for that future as embodied in our own children and those of others that is what gives us rational hope, the recognition that it's bad, it could even get worse. A positive outcome is not guaranteed, but there's a chance of it and as long as there's a chance of it I will fight for that.
I am gonna do everything that I can so that people know that there is the chance of fixing this and you know why we're doing it? We are doing it out of love for everyone and everything that we love. - Definitely food secretary. Xiye, I'm gonna give you the last word here, this is the final question of the broadcast.
On an interview you did with NPR I heard you talking about the fact that you wonder whether your children will ever be able to sit on a beach or be on an island, it was very wistful. It was I think very sort of a window into why you do this perhaps, you say that despair is not an option. And you say we should believe in something called stubborn optimism. Can you explain, this is the last thing people are gonna take away from this show, what do you want that to be? - Well, I have one quote which is "No movement has ever succeeded by thinking it was gonna fail." That inspires me because it shows me that when we work, when we organize, when we come together and we have a mindset of stubborn optimism, we will get things done.
I will fight for my kids to be in a beach, I will fight for my kids to see beautiful landscapes and eat beautiful food. And I think that we have to remember in order to be part of this solution, part of this movement, all you need is to put your heart into it and recognize the things that we love as Katharine said so that is my last message, "No movement ever succeeded by thinking it was going to fail" and we need everyone to be part of this movement. - Again, rarely speechless and just so grateful to all of you for being so generous, for donating your time and your talent and your knowledge today, but most of all really for your inspiration and I think making people care about this issue. Thanks for joining us here today in the other Washington, Washington, Connecticut, until we see you back here next time for Common Ground, I'm Jane Whitney take care. (lively music) - [Announcer] Common Ground with Jane Whitney is sponsored by Clearview Energy and Glenmede.