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The Earth from Space
12.13.02
Science and Health
Transcript: Bill Moyers Interviews Mark Hertsgaard
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Transcript

BILL MOYERS: Why do you call your book THE EAGLE'S SHADOW?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Because everyone in the world lives under that shadow-- for better or ill. America's power is so immense. We decide everything from is there going to be war in Iraq to-- are there gonna be jobs in Brazil to what's on television tonight in Bangkok. So whether you like it or not, if you are living outside of the United States you are still living in the eagle's shadow.

BILL MOYERS: You've taken two trips around the world in a sense since I-- I met you. The first was for EARTH ODYSSEY, around the world in search of our environmental future. And then the EAGLE SHADOW-- most recently. What's changed in those five years separating the two trips?

MARK HERTSGAARD: The biggest change is how much more Americanized the world has become. You know, the media talks about globalization. It's really Americanization.

MARK HERTSGAARD: You see-- McDonald's everywhere. I remember when I first went to Prague in 1991 there was no McDonald's anywhere. There was no Starbucks anywhere. No ATM machines. When I was back there in 2001, they are all over the old town. And kids everywhere are on the internet. This is spreading the English language. All these young kids are learning English for better or worse. And it is, in a sense, kind of making them into junior quasi-Americans.

BILL MOYERS: But doesn't it have a positive response, too, in the sense that the globalization of ideas and images creates an awareness on that part of the world that it is one place and one huge global community? I mean...

MARK HERTSGAARD: Oh, sure. Absolutely. I'm, by no means totally negative on globalization. I'm very much in favor of the globalization of human rights, for example.

BILL MOYERS: All over the world, the United States is exporting all over the world, the United States is exporting market driven solutions, commodities, services. What's the reaction among people to the fact that everything we're exporting is a market driven solution?

MARK HERTSGAARD: That's, in a way, the Trojan Horse aspect of this. If you talk to bureaucrats and government officials and journalists and intellectuals and political activists there's a lot of unease about that. Because what it means is cutting of social spending. Removal of the social safety net. Putting everything out onto the market and, in particular, the environmental implications of that are very worrisome to a lot of people.

BILL MOYERS: And what are they?

MARK HERTSGAARD: I'd say the main implication is this whole idea that more consumption is always better. And that everyone on Earth should consume at the American level and in the American way. The average American consumes 53 times more goods and services than the average Chinese. Where's all that resources gonna come from? And where is all that pollution gonna go?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Two weeks ago, the Chinese government has announced that they are going to double their road network. Meanwhile, they're cutting back-- on mass transit. They are going to increase the road size for cars and they're going to specifically limit the number of bicycles that can be on-- public freeways. What's that going to mean in addition to terrible pollution in China is-- and the loss of arable land to grow food which is a big problem there. It's going to mean that much more global warming gases. And that's something we have to realize. We cannot insulate ourselves from these decisions.

BILL MOYERS: In EARTH ODYSSEY, AROUND THE WORLD IN SEARCH OF OUR ENVIRONMENTAL FUTURE, you spent a lot of time in China. And it's a very pessimistic portrait you draw there.

MARK HERTSGAARD: You know, one out of every four humans is Chinese. So right there, you realize that you can not talk about any global problem without incorporating China. And I think China and the United States are what I call the two environmental super powers. We are the two nations who are going to decide, actively or passively, whether our species survives in the 21st century. We're either going to go in the direction we're now going, which I think is catastrophic, or we're going to chart a new green course.

BILL MOYERS: Even if we were to pull back there's no stopping their appetite. No repressing their desires. These djinni have been let out of the bottle in-- in China-- everywhere.

MARK HERTSGAARD: I'm more hopeful than that despite my reporting experience because I know how powerful the American example is overseas. I think back to the-- the environment minister in-- Prague, in the Czech Republic who said-- "You Americans have to realize you're watched much more carefully than you know. And when you don't do something like that it gives everyone else the excuse not to."

Contrary-wise, if we were to lead-- both at home and abroad, if we were to embrace genuinely environmental solutions, sustainable development, hydrogen cars, drip irrigation for our agriculture systems, solar energy. Believe me, the rest of the world would come running.

And, indeed, in some respects, the Japanese and the Germans are already out ahead of us with these technologies. So, there's that aspect, too. We're gonna lose some of these overseas markets for, say, hydrogen cars and hybrid cars. The Japanese have already captured them.

BILL MOYERS: Why don't you think they get it in Washington?

MARK HERTSGAARD: I think-- two reasons. And I would expand it. It's not just the Bush administration that doesn't get it.

BILL MOYERS: Oh, no.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Also, the-- the Democrats have been very weak of this including Mr. Clinton who talked a good game on the environment and didn't produce very much. I think with Bush it is really pretty straightforward. All those guys-- came out of the fossil fuel industry. Mr. Bush, himself-- and his father spent all of their adult lives-- until they went into government in the oil business.

Well, in the oil business, it's a matter of faith that global warming does not exist, never will exist no matter what. So, in a sense, that's simple. But more interesting, I think, is why is it that the Democrats haven't done more? Why is it that someone like Al Gore who wrote quite a good book about the environment in 1992. And then went into office and acted like he'd forgotten it all. Why is that?

And I think that gets to something that I know you've talked about a lot. Is the power of money and politics. It's the power that all of those-- companies and corporations in the fossil fuel area are able to bring to bear on any-- Congressman or Senator. Even people who know better-- on global warming, let's say, know that if they vote that way and, in particular, if they lead the fight for meaningful-- global warming regulation that they are going to get hammered-- when it comes to financing their campaigns. I mean, it's pretty straightforward.

BILL MOYERS: You write on page 211 of the EAGLE SHADOW that perhaps the greatest lie told to the American people in the aftermath of September 11th is that the terrorist attacks were evidence that, "they," in quotes, hate us. Why is that a lie?

MARK HERTSGAARD: The world doesn't hate us. The American people. It is our government that is disliked. It is our military that is feared. Even as our culture and our ideals are embraced.

BILL MOYERS: But the American government, the American military, American corporations - these are not run by robots. These are run by American people, by American men and women.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Sure. Sure. But I-

BILL MOYERS: How do you make a distinction between the two?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, I think there's a real distinction between the elites who-- make the decisions that-- that-- direct policy and the ordinary citizens. And it's striking to me that outsiders are able to grasp that in some ways better than we can. And it's exactly why after September 11th people felt like it was somehow unpatriotic to question the government. What more American value is there than the-- than the right to dissent?

BILL MOYERS: I think, in fact, patriotism is all the more necessary when you don't like the government. Because patriotism is love of country. It's not love of government.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Right, exactly.

BILL MOYERS: Governments can be despotic. They can be erratic. They can be destructive.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Quite so. There was an enormous wave of affection for the United States and for Americans right after September 11th. Which is why it's so tragic that our government since that time has apparently done all it can to dissipate that.

BILL MOYERS: In what sense?

MARK HERTSGAARD: It started really just ten days after the attacks. Mr. Bush went to the UN. And he announced that in this coming war, he said to foreign nations, you are either with us or you are with the terrorists. That's now been recycled a year later. Mr. Bush on September 12th, 2002, went to the UN and said either you-- you have to make a choice. Either you back our plans for preemptive strike against Iraq or be what he called, quote, irrelevant. In other words, the rest of you get a vote if you agree with us. If you don't agree with us, you're irrelevant.

BILL MOYERS: But do you think they thought he was talking just about the United States? Wasn't he talking about all of us who are threatened by terrorism?

MARK HERTSGAARD: I don't think so. In the days that followed, many people said, you know, we-- we like you guys. But boy, why are you being so arrogant? We have dealt with terrorism in our streets. Don't tell us that you're the only people who know how to deal with terrorism.

BILL MOYERS: The rest of the world speaks with so many voices. How do you single out which voices to hear?

MARK HERTSGAARD: I don't think you should single out any voices. I think you should pay attention to the rest of the world, which if we're honest, before September 11th, many Americans barely knew the rest of the world was even out there. And our government in particular has long had. I mean, Mr. Bush is the most extreme in his unilateralism. But you know, let's-- the Clinton administration. This is a long bipartisan tradition. Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State for President Clinton, once said, look, we're America. We see farther. We stand taller. We can't listen to other people. We know best. That's why in the book, I call us the last super power. And I mean last in two ways.

BILL MOYERS: We're the only super power.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Right.

BILL MOYERS: Is that what you mean?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, that's one of the two ways. And the other way is that I think that super powers are obsolete. They're a 20th century concept. And in the 21st century, the big problems, terrorism, environmental degradation, immigration, disease, all of these international problems, you can no longer solve them with a super power model of one nation, one big whatever it is. Rome, British empire, American empire. You can no longer dictate.

BILL MOYERS: You write in THE EAGLE'S SHADOW, "Some of the tartest criticisms of the Bush administration's withdrawal from both the Kyoto protocol on global warming, and the anti ballistic missile treaty and of the refusal of the United States to join the international criminal court were coming from the very leaders who stood shoulder to shoulder with America against terrorism."

MARK HERTSGAARD: Yeah. That was before September 11th. Tony Blair of Britain, Mr. Chirac of France, Mr. Schroeder of Germany, very tough criticisms of the Bush administration on those grounds. And it was interesting to me. Because it-- it makes us realize that yes, September 11th was a huge cataclysmic event. But on September 10th, already, there was a lot of things that the United States was doing around the world that even our friends did not appreciate.

And Kyoto in particular and the environment in general, American opinion and especially the media I think has failed to understand just how much anger and resentment our environmental foot dragging has generated overseas. The rest of the world says, look, America, you're the richest. You use-- you're five percent of the population. You use 25 percent of the resources. Create at least 25 percent of the pollution. How dare you then say we're not going to do anything about it. All the rest of us have to live with that.

Our, you know, this past summer, we saw in central Europe the floods that are an early warning sign of global warming. Same in south Asia. Terrible floods. And in our own country, terrible droughts in the Midwest. Global warming is coming. And when the United States government puts its head in the sand and says we're not going to do anything about it because we think it's going to hurt our economy, when the whole rest of the world is ready to step up to the plate on this, boy, does that make people irritated.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think they'd like us to do?

MARK HERTSGAARD: They'd like us to show some-- some leadership. They know that we have the technology and we have the money. And if we wanted to, we could very easily lead a green revolution around the world.

BILL MOYERS: A green revolution being?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, moving towards solar energy. Moving towards mass transit. Moving towards hydrogen fueled cars. In China, for example, stopping the use of coal which now we're promoting through the World Bank and other U.S. proxies. And encouraging energy efficiency. It would be good for our companies. It would be good for our workers. We sell a lot of energy efficiency technology. It would be good for China. And it would be good for the entire planet. Because if China industrializes the way it plans to with coal and with oil, which is exactly what Exxon and the Bush administration are advocating, there's no way that we are going to avoid catastrophic global warming.

BILL MOYERS: You end the book with an image and metaphor of one volcano in Hawaii. There's another volcano in your book that plays very heavily in your mind, Vesuvius.

MARK HERTSGAARD: That was the volcano down in-- Southern Italy that-- Pompeii-- that-- that when it erupted during the height of the Roman Empire-- it buried the entire town of Pompeii. Pompeii was-- was about as luxurious an existence as you could have back in those days. You know, they had running water. They had these wonderful shaded gardens. And-- they were wealthy beyond belief. And it all ended like that. And I guess I use that because I wanted us to, as Americans, to see just how fragile our privilege and luxury is. And we got a bit of a reminder of that. You know, September 11th was our own-- Vesuvius, I think.

BILL MOYERS: Mark Hertsgaard, THE EAGLE'S SHADOW: WHY AMERICA FASCINATES AND INFURIATES THE WORLD. Thank you for being with us.

MARK HERTSGAARD: Thank you, Bill.


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