Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
The future is now on climate change. One potential presidential candidate says we are at the 11th hour and he wants to be the 2020 climate guy. I
speak to Washington Governor, Jay Inslee.
Students around the world on strike from school to demand progress on the issues. I speak to Anna Taylor, a leader of the youth movement here in
And what does climate change look like in real time? Photographer James Balog documents the people and the places impacted by cataclysmic change.
Also, high flying bird turns its unconventional lens on the business of sport. It is a breakthrough film shot entirely but iPhone.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in the Washington.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign, raising money, beefing up his staff and visiting
early voting states. But unlike the other does it also candidates already in the 2020 race, Inslee promises a laser like focus on climate change,
which he calls the existential threat of our time, and he’s speaking from experience because in the past year alone he’s declared a wildfire a state
of emergency in July and a snow fall state of emergency just days ago.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are lining up behind a Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to simultaneously tackle climate change, create new jobs and
fight economic inequality.
Republicans think the plan is a political loser. President Trump sarcastically calls it a brilliant idea, tweeting, “It would be great for
the so-called carbon footprint to permanently eliminate all planes, cars, cows, oil, gas and the military.” Governor Jay Inslee joins me now from
Welcome to the program, Governor.
JAY INSLEE, WASHINGTON GOVERNOR: Thank you for talking about this. I appreciate it.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you because we just set up the fact that you’re exploring the possibility of a candidacy for 2020, obviously using this as
the major issue. Are you going to jump in? I mean, this is really, really important. Why not?
INSLEE: Well, here’s what we know. We know we have to have a candidate who will make climate change and building a clean energy economy a central
focus, an organizing principle for the American people and we need a president who will do the same. And the reason is, is we understand that
the basic nature of the American people of what we invent, we create, we build, this is our moment.
You mention it’s the 11th hour, it is the 11th hour but it is our time to shine, it is our moment because this is really just made for my state, in
my nation to lead and join the world in developing a clean energy economy. We know we can create jobs by the thousands and millions, building the
electric cars and solar panels and wind turbines and efficiency in our buildings.
This is the greatest, not only peril of our time, but I believe promise of our time for economic growth and we’re experiencing that now in Washington
So, yes, I am exploring this. I will have a decision here in weeks, not months. And I’m excited about this because as I’ve traveled the country, I
hear people waiting for that bugle call from the White House. We heard it from Kennedy when he said we’re going to go to the moon, we need a similar
bugle call of the American people on this and when they receive that, I believe they will rally to this cause.
AMANPOUR: Well, you talk about the White House, you obviously had what — how we describe what the president said, you know, “Good luck with that
carbon footprint. Let’s eliminate everything. even the military.” I guess the question is, how do you speak to people like President Trump and people
in the United States who do feel that they still need convincing, if they’re ever going to be convinced, that this will be a drain on the
economy, that this fall and the way of life as they know it? You know, how do you convince them?
INSLEE: Well, I am much more interested in the beliefs and value systems of the American people than the narcissistic person who wants to remain
willfully ignorant in the White House. I’m interested in the American people. And what they are telling me, and I’ve been in New Hampshire,
Nevada and I were recently, is that they are ready to grow their economy around a clean energy future.
Look, I’ve got people, the largest manufacturer of carbon fiber that goes in electric cars in the Western Hemisphere, it’s in my state in Moses Lake,
we’re building batteries like crazy for electric cars in Nevada. In Iowa, they’ve built a multimillion-dollar wind turban industry amongst the
soybeans and corn fields. I am hearing from Americans that they are ready to jump start this clean energy economy and it’s very heartening to me.
Look, this is a moment of great excitement when you can create a new or a new horizon. Donald Trump, fundamentally, is just fearful and pessimistic.
He doesn’t think we’re smart enough to do this. Well, he’s just wrong about the American people. We are capable of building these new solar
powered projects, we are capable.
I met a guy, a young man, he’s in high school., the other day, he said, “What am I doing with my life? and he said, “Well, obviously, climate
change is the greatest threat to humans. I’m going to go out build a new battery,” and by gum, he’s come up with a new lithium ion membrane that has
really great commercial potential.
So, if you are optimistic about our nation and our planet, if you believe you can build a new generation of technology, then you realize this is a
great opportunity, and I believe Americans are that basic character. And that’s why I think, and how I talk about this is, is I talk about this from
an issue of character and values of who we are as a people rather than just talking about parts per million, and people are seeing this with their
I was in Paradise California, it looked like Dresden after World War II. A town of 25,000. In Miami Beach, where they’ve had to raise their roads a
foot and a half. Now, when you walk in Miami Beach, you look down on the shops, a rather than the eye level. In Iowa, where farmers could not get
out and harvests their crops because of the massive precipitation events.
So, the hour is late but it is our hour and I believe we can move. We just need that spark of inspiration from the White House and I’ve got an idea
who might be able to do that.
AMANPOUR: Well, you keep you keep hinting, you keep increasing the hint. So, that’s pretty good. Let me just pick up on a couple of things because
later in the program we’re going to be seeing actual photographic evidence of what you’re talking, you know, raised houses, raised vantage points to
cope with the rising waters and various other issues.
You talked about young people, and we’re going to be talking to a young schoolgirl here who’s inspired, like many schoolchildren, around the world
to have schools strike Fridays. They’re going to stand in front of their Parliaments and demand that governments change.
So, I guess my question also is, I mean, if you are looking to the future, the kids are sort of — they’re demanding change, there’s a new movement,
really, by the young and you’ve got to keep up with it, including the young in Congress with this Green New Deal.
INSLEE: Yes. Very inspiring and we ought to be heartened by the next generation, which is the smartest and understands, they will be living with
this the longest. And this has been a profound thing in young people’s lives. I was asked to speak on climate change at Dartmouth in New
Hampshire a few weeks ago and a young woman told me that she had two friends who are honestly discussing whether they felt comfortable bringing
a child into a world that could become so degraded if we don’t tame this beast.
Now, when people understand the consequence like this in their personal lives that means it’s time to act. And the information, just in the last
week, we’ve received with polar bears invading a town in Russia who are starving, looking for food, the potential collapse, the catastrophic
collapse of the insect populations of a report that was just stunning in what it creates of concern of our ability to remain, you know, having a
harvest in the next century.
So, they understand the consequences of this. But there’s another thing about young people they understand, they understand their own potential and
the ability to build a whole new universe.
Look, you know, I’ve seen a transition from rotary farms to cell phones, they get that big time. So, they’re the ultimate ought to miss and that’s
why we love. And I’m glad, in Congress, we’ve got this Green New Deal idea that is raising people’s ambitions, it is making the — what might seem
impossible within the realm of the possible and that’s how we need to think right now. We need to think big and bold just as we did in the Apollo
But we also have to understand and respond to the threats. I think the —
AMANPOUR: Well, the — given that, Governor — sorry. The threats you’re talking about came from the from the administration itself, the director of
National Intelligence in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment says, “Global, environmental and ecological degradation as well as climate change
are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”
So, I mean, he’s laying it out very, very clearly and the American military has a very similar outlook as well on a national security platform there.
But I want to ask you just to be devil’s advocate, how do you respond to others who are getting into the race like Howard Schultz, for instance, who
answered a question about this Green New Deal and didn’t seem as optimistic about being able to achieve it? Let’s just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD SCHULTZ, POSSIBLE U.S. INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This would be a top priority but we have to be sensible about it. When I read
the proposed bill in terms of the Green New Deal and I read that in by 2030 they’re suggesting that every building in America becomes clean energy,
conforms to clean energy. Just to put it in perspective because it’s not realistic.
That would mean that between two and 3,000 buildings a day would have to be reconstructed to conform to what they’re saying. And so, let’s be sensible
about what we’re suggesting. Let’s not just throw stuff against a wall because it’s a good slogan or we’re going to press release, let’s be
truthful. It’s immoral to suggest that we can tally up $20, $30, $40, $50 trillion of debt to solve a problem that could be solved in a different way
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, is he right? Can this be solved in a different way?
INSLEE: Well, Howard needs to pay attention to what’s going on in his own state. And look what we’re doing in Washington State, we now have
developed a multibillion-dollar wind turbine industry because we passed a renewable portfolio standard, we have the first or second highest usage of
electric cars and we’re the capital for electric drive buses in the Western Hemisphere because we have adopted policies.
We’re doing great research at our facilities, developing whole new technologies. We developed charging stations for electric cars. We’re
moving the needle right here in Washington State. And soon, I believe, we will have a commitment to 100 percent clean electricity in our state and
acute clean fuel standard.
Howard frankly doesn’t pay attention to these things, he hasn’t even voted less than half the time. He needs to pay attention to what’s going on.
And if he was so pessimistic when he bought his first coffee stand, you know, 25 years ago or so, he’d still only have one coffee stand.
This is a moment to raise our sights and ambitions. It is not a moment for passivity and timidity. And that’s why we need a president who understands
the character of the American people that when we set ambitions, we meet them and we’re willing to rise up and unify this mission statement. And
when we do that, we are capable of amazing things.
So, look, these are ambitious goals. The goal setting is what works.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you know, you’ve already said that being part of the founding members of the Governess Alliance, the U.S. Climate Alliance,
you have 21 states on board that represents about a quarter of the U.S. economy, so that’s a big deal.
AMANPOUR: Can I move to one other very, very important issue, because there’s also a grassroots young people’s issue and that is gun control. As
you know, tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the terrible massacre in Portland, Florida. And you have had, you know, some high-profile
interactions, including with the president, when he wanted to decide to sort of potentially arm teachers.
You know, again, kids, adolescents are moving this all along and leaving politicians in the dust. Well, what do you say about where we stand on
that issue now?
INSLEE: Where I see is that we have to be grateful for the tremendous inspiration of these young people, they have moved the national
conversation and you have a thousand, you know, tons of inspiration from them and zero out of the White House.
You know, when I went to the White House, the president still wanted to give Glock pistols to first grade teachers and I told him he needed to stop
tweeting and start listening to educators, listening to the young people. And we have done so much on gun safety in our state of closing the gun show
loophole and adopting an Extreme Risk Protection Act and raising the age of getting assault weapons and now having a liability for gun owners if
they’re not responsible for their guns. We have been so successful in Washington State.
We need to replicate that success nationally. To do that, we need leaders who will walk in and take on the NRA, and I’m happy to do that. I’ve done
it successfully and we will continue to do that. But thank goodness for these young people, they’re are heroes right now and I’ve got to know him.
They’re my heroes.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And, Governor, thank you so very much for being with us and tomorrow we will dig down even —
INSLEE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: — deeper and we will talk to some of the survivors of that terrible massacre and the activists who are moving this ball along. So,
thank you so much. Tomorrow, Valentine’s Day marks the first anniversary.
INSLEE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, let’s get back again to this grassroots activism on climate change. The worst consequences of climate devastation will be felt by our
children and by their children. That’s why young people are taking matters into their own hands and they’re mobilizing around the world, forcing their
leaders to take action now.
Recently, I spoke with Greta Thunberg, she’s the 15-year-old Swedish activist who’s inspiring this global movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: I think that we children we understand this in a way that adults don’t. I mean, my experience is that most people
are not fully aware of this crisis but I think that many children sort of understand this and they understand.
If they would get all the information needed, that they will — they would do what was required from them and they would stand up and make their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It’s a very, very logical train of thought. And in Britain, Anna Taylor, answered call. She’s the leader of youth strike for climate
and she’s here with me now.
Welcome to the program.
So, you have decided to take on what Greta has inspired. You’ve seen it happen in Australia and, you know, in Europe and all the rest of it. What
was the point when you decided to jump in?
ANNA TAYLOR, ENVIRONMENTAL YOUTH ACTIVIST: It was the point in December 2018 when I was talking about the Australian students actually and talking
about those tens of thousands of students across the world, it really made me think about the fact that wasn’t happening in the U.K. and if they were
— if this is global movement, it’s something that U.K. should be involved in as well and that inspired me to start this up.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it’s pretty ambitious what you’re trying to do. Although, you know, you have so much support from people your age around
the world. But what of your particular teachers, your head teacher at your school, what have they said to you? Because I think you plan to walk out
TAYLOR: Yes, this Friday, we do plan to walk out. I spoke to my teacher’s last week and they we–ren’t that supportive, they said they would have to
think about punishments. But then —
AMANPOUR: Punishments? Seriously?
TAYLOR: Yes. In terms of detention, unauthorized absences. When I spoke to my head teacher yesterday and she changed her mind, she was very
supportive and she said that actually, after thinking about it, she does think this cause is really relevant to my generation and she said she
supports what I’m doing.
AMANPOUR: OK. That’s brilliant. That is a victory.
TAYLOR: Yes. Definitely.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you say, I don’t know whether you heard the governor of Washington State but he may run for president of the United States, on a
climate change platform, on understanding that this is the existential threat of our time? As a 17-year-old, what have you been feeling, thinking
as you look at what the politicians are doing or not doing, your parents’ or grandparents’ generation?
TAYLOR: So, far, I felt let down, I felt betrayed by the government, past governments and the present government. I feel like they haven’t
recognized the severity of the crisis enough. And I think a lot of young people my age are starting to get angry about that.
We don’t want to cause disruption, we don’t want to just walk out of school because we’re paying too and we feel like this is the only way to make our
voices heard and I would really like to see a future where the government do you listen to us.
AMANPOUR: What are your immediate demands? Are there any? Do you have a platform? Are you going to Parliament to ask for a list of things or is it
just to show presence?
TAYLOR: Yes. We’ve created four demands. So, the first one is for the government to declare a state of climate emergency and take active steps
towards achieving climate justice. The second one is to reform the national curriculum, so that’s to accurately portray the severity of the
crisis. The third one is to honestly communicate to the general public the severity of the crisis. And the fourth one is to incorporate youth views
into policy making and bring the voting age down to 16.
AMANPOUR: And 16 because?
TAYLOR: 16 because we feel like by the age of 16, we are able to make an informed decision. And at the moment, I think 18 is too old considering
that this is our future. And the reason we’re having to strike is because we have no other way of expressing our opinions.
AMANPOUR: So, you talked about how it needs to be taught truthfully in school and in the public domain. Where does that come from? In other
words, how have you sort of noticed the debate so far?
TAYLOR: I’m an A-level (INAUDIBLE) student. So, I’ve noticed in my textbook that the limited amount of text on climate change is completely
minimized compared to the severity of the crisis as expressed in the IPCC reports and other reports.
AMANPOUR: Those are the U.N. reports?
TAYLOR: Yes, the U.N. reports. And also talking to students in Germany and Scandinavia, I’ve noticed that their education systems are very
different to us and they’re much more aware in those countries. Where as in the U.K. there seems to be a lack of awareness and a lack of
communication on behalf of the government.
AMANPOUR: And we and when you see the United States of America, President Trump wants to pull out or the U.S. out of the climate deal, you know that
there are deniers around there and around the world, in fact. As a kid, an adolescent, how does that make you feel?
TAYLOR: It makes me feel frustrated, and I would say hopeless. But I think the point about the Fridays for future movement and school strikes is
that it counteracts those feelings of hopelessness. What’s going on right now is giving me hope. And seeing the way the leaders deny climate change
at the moment definitely makes me feel very disappointed. But I do agree that the school strikes are counteracting that.
AMANPOUR: And very quickly, you know, people look around and they say, “Oh Gen Z, you know, they’ll take up this issue today and that issue tomorrow.”
Do you think — from all your friends and from what you’re noticing, do you think this will be sustainable, this movement, this grassroots movement?
TAYLOR: I think this feels different and most (INAUDIBLE) feels different, the amount of people who care about this feels different. And as I heard a
quote someone else said today, “A million snowflakes create an avalanche,” and I completely agree with that.
AMANPOUR: Well, that’s brilliant. Anna Taylor, well done. Congratulations. Good luck.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Making your voice heard, making all of our voices heard through you. Thank you.
One thing that we’re learning about climate change, of course, is often has to be seen to be believed. That’s why the American environmental
photographer, James Balog, is traveling the world, especially the United States, documenting evidence of rapid climate disruption for his new film,
“The Human Element.” Here’s a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BALOG, PHOTOGRAPHER, “THE HUMAN ELEMENT”: When I became a photographer, I wanted to celebrate the elegance and beauty of nature. But
I soon realized there was a more complex story going on in the world about the collision between people and its nature. And I felt a great sense of
urgency to bear witness to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A sense of urgency, just as you heard from Anna Taylor. And I spoke to Balog this week to discuss how climate change is already affecting
American lives right here, right now.
James Balog, welcome to the program.
BALOG: Thank you. Nice to be here.
AMANPOUR: The trailer we saw had this rather profound statement from you, in that something like, “I wanted to photograph the beauty of nature and
now I realize I have to bear witness to, you know, this sort of calamity.” Expand on how you’re photography and what you see through the lens how that
BALOG: Well, I’ve been doing this sort of work for about 40 years as an environmental photographer. And as time has gone on, I keep witnessing
more and more situations where nature clearly isn’t natural, where the power of homo sapiens, the human race is altering what we see out there on
the world, we’re altering the earth, we’re altering the air, the water, the plants and the animals.
And the more of that that I saw, the more I realized I needed to bear witness to that and not just hide behind beautiful nature pictures and
AMANPOUR: So, your film talks about — well, it’s called “The Human Element.” And I gather that that is the 5th element of the earth’s four
elements, which are earth, wind, fire, ice, I think, and air. Tell me about how quickly these changes are happening and how you notice that
through your work?
BALOG: Well, you know, this idea of earth, air, fire and water goes back thousands of years, many cultures have had that notion. And the
understanding in modern science, this idea of the Anthropocene, namely that we’re leaving our imprint in the fabric of the rocks and the soil beneath
our feet is what really has helped to bring this story alive.
We have seen the way things are changing, we have seen that it’s urgent, we have seen that it’s happening right now. And, of course, climate change is
one of the more visible and obvious manifestations of that profound impact. And I’ve come to realize that climate protection equals people protection,
and I’m sure we can come back to that later.
AMANPOUR: Well, no, I think that’s really important because I think some people, those who don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe in the
human element to climate change need to understand that it’s about protecting people as much as protecting, you know, the civilization.
So, you start the film in Iceland, I believe, with this whole time-lapse photography and the ice time-lapse you did. What were you achieving there
and what surprised you about that?
BALOG: Well, I have been to Iceland many times and seen the way these big glaciers were breaking down and the water was converting from its solid
state on the glaciers to a liquid state in the ocean. And we went to Iceland for the film in order to simply bring that alive through some new
pictures that I hadn’t done yet.
But, you know, I think the essential point of the Iceland story, the Greenland story, the mountain glaciers, story in North America and Europe
and in Asia is simply that the ice is converting from its solid state in the form of these blue and white glaciers to its liquid state. And, of
course, the liquid — or when the ice turns into liquid, that winds up, sooner or later, in the ocean. And when the water winds up in the ocean,
that means, sooner or later, the ocean level will have to rise.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, we’re going to take the example that took or one of the examples, Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. There are people who live
there and have done for generations intimately and intricately linked to water and yet, the scientists say that it could possibly be all underwater
by 25 to 50 years from now. Here’s a clip of Tangier Island and what you found there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I remember this used to all be sand when I first came up here. We could just take a boat across and we could walk all the
way up the West Shoreline.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Where we are now, there’s three stones on the bottom here and that was high ground at one time and high enough to support
the homes that were up here and a schoolhouse, a small general store and kids up here playing just like on Tangier Island. And then I’m sure, at
the time, they kept imagining that their town will be underwater someday.
When you’re walking up here at the site of where their community was, it could be depressing. To this day, you can still find bone fragments from
the graveyards that eroded and went into the bay. And here’s one of the headstones from the graveyard.
I actually know — I know a guy down on the island, this was his grandmother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, James, it is almost too perfect to measure for, you know, you’re seeing those gravestones, the debris from graveyards and
you’re talking about the potential extinction of this whole island. What did you find people saying? What do they want? Do they believe that they
have impacted and humans have impacted the climate?
BALOG: Well, the — you know, the situation on Tangier is a combination of erosion lapping away at the island and rising sea level. And depending on
one’s philosophical or ideological bent, you focus on one of those issues or another. I think both of those issues, erosion and sea level rise are
part of the story. But many of the people on the island don’t like the sea level rise idea because it comes to them from what they deem as pointy
headed intellectuals in the big cities. And so, they prefer to focus on the erosion.
AMANPOUR: Also, in that area, you visited the Norfolk Naval Base and that is the biggest such base in the world and you heard from military officials
there that it could possibly be a national security problem if seas rise around there. What did you hear there?
BALOG: Well, what we’ve heard over and over again through the years, in fact, is that the navy is quite concerned about sea level rise, and it has
been a group of different admirals that have led the charge within the Pentagon to say, “Hey, climate change is something we need to pay attention
to because we have all these facilities that are built right at sea level,” the navy is obviously intimately connected to notions of where the seas are
and where the levels of those seas are and they know that this is real and they’ve been studying it and that makes them even more concerned about it
because of the reality of it, they’re not hiding from the story.
And I think that’s a powerful saying for all of us to remember, the part of the National Defense Community or the International Defense Community that
is most intimately connected with one of these major changes is waving the flag saying, “We have a problem here. We have to pay attention to it.”
AMANPOUR: And just in case somebody might miss that point, it is really illustrative and dramatic to see the number of families you focus your
camera on who have actually been raising their houses over the years, literally taking the whole house and placing them on stilts.
And then let’s just move on to air now because you sort of say that it took you a while to figure out that was so dramatic. You can’t see it. None of
us can see it. But you talk about how we fill our lungs with air, at least 20,000 times or more per day.
And you did this amazing experiment to check out the density of the air. You let off this balloon. It carried sort of a platform and on it, you
attached your camera. And it came back down and your camera was intact and you had amazing pictures captured.
But I think what I’d like to ask you about is the tragedy of a family you met in Denver, Colorado. Colorado which we all connect with mountains and
fresh air and this and that. And yet this family have all become asthmatics. I’m going to play the clip and we’ll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After we moved to this part of town, my older son, Ruben, started developing asthma. My daughter, Olivia, we had to start her
on medications at the age of one. And Leonardo was just kind of born into it.
OK, good job. Now go rinse your mouth really good, please. All four of us have asthma so we’re indoor people. We’re not outdoor people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, how did it impact you just as a human being to see these children, to see our future so compromised?
BALOG: It’s really wrenching to see those children, that some of the children who are in the school, within National Jewish Hospital where these
kids go because they need asthma medication all day long and the school provides opportunities for nurses to give them the medication. It really
tears at your heart.
They’re otherwise ordinary, normal looking kids but their systems are stressed by the pollutants, the toxins that are in the air and their bodies
react. We’re all getting that same dose of chemistry but the smaller organisms, the littler people with less body mass react faster than the
rest of us do or more acutely than the rest of us do. But we’re all being attacked by those same toxins all the time.
I think they’re the distant early warning signals for what’s going on — or not — actually, distant is the wrong word. They’re the immediate warning
signals for what’s going on.
AMANPOUR: Let’s move over to the fire because if anything, we have seen fire really, really wreak havoc this past year in California. We have the
amazing pictures from your documentary, from your film whereby even you are having a hard time hanging on to your camera, getting the pictures. We see
you having to sort of turn away and shake your hand from the heat. Tell me what it was like just to do that work.
BALOG: It’s unbelievably intense. I almost had my house burned down in the foothills of the Rockies a few years back and that’s what really
triggered this work. And then I went out and I got trained as a wildland firefighter so I had some comprehension of how to handle myself within this
dangerous situation. And most of my crew also went to fire school.
And so we knew roughly what the right behavior was and — but still, we relied on the local fire commanders to help keep us safe. Yet for me, when
I wanted to get a good picture, I had to get up close and personal with those flames.
And what you really can’t understand until you’ve been out there and experienced it is how incredibly intense that radiative heat is coming off
a flame. A flame that goes from two feet to four feet isn’t just twice as hot and powerful when the radiation hits your skin. It’s like 6 or 8 or 10
times and then the flame goes up to 10 feet, 20 feet, 100 feet.
It’s mind-boggling how hot those things are. And I, as you comment, that scene in the film where I’m shaking my hands, I thought I had maybe melted
the glue in the glass of my lens. And then I realized oh my God, I think I’m burning my hands because I was in too close to the flames.
The firefighters were way back behind me but I, the guy who had to get the picture, was obsessed with this picture and hiding behind this camera. You
know that syndrome.
AMANPOUR: I know that syndrome.
BALOG: Take your shot and —
AMANPOUR: I know that syndrome. Well, you’ve lived and survived to tell the story. I thought it was really interesting because
parts of your documentary where you talk about the coal — and, of course, we know that this is administration is trying for its base or for whatever
reason to talk about reviving the coal industry. It’s very committed to continuing to extract fossil fuels, et cetera.
But you went to another town where the coal industry was dying or is and you found that unemployed coworkers and former execs are turning to a new
solar energy. We’re going to play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN JOHNS, VICE PRESIDENT, BERKELEY ENERGY GROUP: The company that I work for, we’re a coal company. We have a lot of coal assets. And I was asked
to look at a reclaim of sites and to say OK, what are some ideas?
Man, you know, I was told no matter how far out they may seem or whatever, bring it to us. I said let me make, you know, a few phone calls. And so
then our friend Adam had decided.
ADAM EDELEN, FOUNDER, EDELEN VENTURES: And I said why don’t we do a renewable energy project. And Ryan said, “Well, what does that mean?” I
said well, hell, it’s solar panels or those big windmills or something.
JOHNS: And I think I kind of surprised him a little bit because I said well, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean I’m kind of smiling James because I think it’s charming because it goes to the heart of people are so suspicious and so afraid of
what’s happened to their industries. And yet if enough were prepared to do what Ryan and his friend were prepared to do, it might make a difference to
know that there are other industries that you can transfer your expertise to.
BALOG: Yes, I agree with that completely. I want to emphasize that I deeply respect the dignity of hard manual labor. I’ve done a lot of it
myself at different parts in my life long ago. And I know what that’s like and I have great admiration and respect for the men and women who do that.
My own grandfathers mined coal and my father’s father was killed in the collapse of a coal mine in Western Pennsylvania years ago. So this is
embedded in my DNA as well.
So I found it really heartening to see that in Eastern Kentucky where the coal mining industry has been in a downturn for some years, here you have
these entrepreneurs that are saying, “Let’s look for a different path. Let’s put some solar panels, a lot of them, up on a mountaintop and we can
generate power more cheaply than our local coal-fired power plants can do. It will send that electricity down to the communities in the valleys and
will show a different way.”
And I think that’s a key point here. We have to understand that technologies change and new opportunities come with those changes. That’s
always been the way of civilization for a long, long time. And we have to allow those windows of opportunity for new cheaper forms of energy to come
AMANPOUR: And that is truly the American way, of course. So let me ask you, look, you have said in the film that there is such a thing as truth
and that you are trying to reveal it one picture at a time. Why do you say that?
I mean I think I know because the truth about climate is constantly under assault by a handful of deniers. And actually at, the moment by a whole
administration. What do you hope your picture by picture revelation of this truth might achieve?
BALOG: Well, for me, it’s about the evidence. I started out doing this as a visual artist trying to just look and create an aesthetic response to the
world around me. Even if the world around me was upsetting, I’m still trying to make a good picture.
But over the years, of course, I’ve realized that my job is to bring back the evidence of what’s going on. I’m almost correct — collecting forensic
information. I feel like I’m a detective sometime, sometimes capturing the story within that rectangle and bringing it back to my society saying,
“Look, here, this is real. This is — climate change is not something that’s going to happen in some distant imaginary future. Here is the
evidence of what’s happening right now. Wake up and pay attention.”
AMANPOUR: Really interesting. James Balog of “The Human Element”, thank you so much for joining us.
BALOG: My pleasure. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And we hope all our climate guests from the governor of Washington to Anna Taylor to James Balog have caused us to wake up and pay
attention a little more just now.
And we’re turning now to a different story with our next guest actor Andre Holland and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the star and scribe of the Oscar-winning
Moonlight. Their new film, “High Flying Bird,” tells the story of a sports agent in the midst of an NBA knockout and it follows his fight
to put power back into the hands of mainly black athletes, grappling with topics like social justice and race.
The film was directed by the Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh who shot it all on an iPhone. Holland and McCraney sat down with our Michel Martin to talk
about “High Flying Bird” and why it’s necessary for African-Americans to create their own stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MICHEL MARTIN: Screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney and Executive Producer and Star Andre Holland are both with us now. Thank you
both so much for talking to us.
ANDRE HOLLAND, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HIGH FLYING BIRD: Thank you for having us.
MARTIN: One of the writers reviewing the film called it the most radical sports film he’s ever seen. And not just because it’s a basketball movie
with hardly any basketball in it. Tell me a little bit more about what you were going for because I understand that you worked on this over a period
of years really, right? Can you talk about that?
TARELL ALVIN MCCRANEY, SCREENWRITER, HIGH FLYING BIRD: Yes. I think about two to three years.
MARTIN: Yes. So what do you — what were you going for?
MCCRANEY: I think it’s what we were going for really. I mean the nuisance, the beginning of the piece came from conversations that Andre had
to have it with Steven. And they brought me into that conversation.
They brought features, and clips, and articles, and books, a very important book, The Revolt of the Black Athlete, and they put it in front of me and
said, “Look. What are you thinking about this? How do we make to story into something that is about an industry that circles around one of the
most powerful and exciting games ever?”
MARTIN: Talk a little bit more about those conversations you’re having with Steven Soderbergh. What was the germ of the idea for you?
HOLLAND: It was sort of two-fold. One, we were working on the show “The Knick”, Steve and I were, and I was really enjoying the process. And it’s
really been a long time coming. And I mean, before I feel like I got a part that I can really sink my teeth into.
So I thought, well, if I’m going to have the kind of career that I want, it’s probably going to involve me making things for myself. Steven agreed
with that. And so I have this idea about —
MARTIN: Which is very generous to actually tell the truth to your face, right?
MARTIN: I mean for somebody to —
MARTIN: — who knows the industry as well as he does to say yes, you’re right.
HOLLAND: Exactly. He didn’t sell me a dream. I said, no, just keep working hard and keep on auditioning, keep on pushing. He said, “No, man.
Actually, there’s not really a lane for you so you have to go out and make the stuff.”
MARTIN: I do want to get to the film but I do want to hear a little bit more about what it felt to hear I got to make my own work, I’ve got to
create my own world because it’s not going to just be there for me.
HOLLAND: Well, the truth is it was sad. It felt sad to me to hear that. I think it was — I thought that going to a good university, going to a
good graduate program, and then working hard, and being on time, being responsible, doing good work was enough. And then I realized that it
And I can see that other people around me were getting great opportunities. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not begrudging anybody and I’m not — this is
not poor me session. But the reality of it was that there were opportunities that people got that weren’t necessarily available to people
of color, right.
I think you had similar experiences —
MCCRANEY: Oh, absolutely.
HOLLAND: — you’re kind of realizing the limitations.
MCCRANEY: The slap in the face or the bump on the glass ceiling, which I’m sure you understand and know about, there’s a moment where you recognize
that the American dream is a bit of a wolf ticket. They tell you in the good schools that we’ve gone to and the good institutions that we go
through that there is no limit to your imagination.
And, in fact, there is. There’s an industry that is constantly keeping you checked a balance in terms of how far you can go and how far you can fail,
how many jobs you have to take, how many projects you need to do it once just to keep up with your white counterparts or your white peers.
We begrudge our friends nothing. We’re not trying to take anything away from them but we are being asked to do more for less. And clearly, you can
see how that made its way into the film, into the ethos of the film.
MARTIN: Perfect segue to the film. Thank you for that. Let’s play a clip that describes kind of the point — we’re not giving it all away for people
haven’t seen it yet. What if the players were in control?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY BURKE: The money would go direct to you two. No Players Association. No league.
ERICK SCOTT: Just 10 percent for you then taxes, right?
BURKE: It ain’t about the money, man. We’re talking about money because that’s what makes the listen and pay attention, but this makes you the
decider, brother. The game that they made over the game is over. It’s your game now if you own it.
Come on, South Side, we don’t need the league, man. We don’t need the Players Association. Let them battle that shit out over network rights and
splits for the next few months while you, me, and a few others, we wreck shop. Paid event by event like —
BURKE: But without the brain damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: Well, OK. It’s about control. Who do you think your audience is for this film?
MCCRANEY: I mean I always start with an audience of one trying to make sure that the person who began studying and researching and having
conversations with Andre and Steven Soderbergh about this will I be fed, will I know more than I did before?
Increasingly, you want folk who engage in any system, systems in this country in the way it works, to want to look at this and see, yes, the
critique, but also how we all play a part in it, how we all hold up the system in some ways and are afraid to be disruptors.
I mean I know I have that fear. I still have that fear and I think the engagement or that conversation is what I’m interested in. And I’m
interested in folks who want to talk about that.
MARTIN: Interesting. Andre, what about you? Who are you interested in talking to?
HOLLAND: You know it’s interesting. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. And tonight, we have our first public screening of the film and my nephew
who’s 12-years-old is coming to see it. And he’s a —
MARTIN: Is he a baller?
HOLLAND: No. Well, he could play. He could play. He’s at the beginning of it but he can play, he can hoop. But he’s a young black one from
Alabama and so it’s important to me that he sees it and sees in it somebody that looks like him who’s taken charge of their own lives.
MARTIN: And so I’m going to ask you though, what is it that you want him to see? Do you want him to see disruption? Do you want him to see — you
can think thoughts that have not already been handed to you?
MARTIN: He could read from a script that you wrote.
HOLLAND: Yes, that and also that you can say that you can look at the circumstances of your life and say, “Well, I can still have some agency
within this and I can take charge of the situation and shape my life to be what I want it to be, regardless of what people have told me is possible
MARTIN: You know it’s funny because I was describing this film to people who had not yet seen it. And one person said to me, “Oh, is this like
Black Panther without the magic?”
HOLLAND: Oh, I got to think about that.
MARTIN: Isn’t that deep because, in a way, what they’re saying is that had to be made up, because the idea that the players could take a controlling
position seemed like science fiction.
MCCRANEY: And that’s this terrifying thing about it is like we believe that this disruption or this new system or this way of putting control in
the players’ hands is far and distant in science fiction. But in truth, it’s like — it’s actually right there. All people really need to do is
reach out and do it. And I think again, it goes back to that question of how much agency do you actually want?
MARTIN: Well — but as we’ve seen with the protests by NFL players which have largely dissipated you know, by the way, their nonviolent protests
over police violence and other issues have not been well received by some people. Now even setting aside the fact that the president has been
harping on this because one assumes that he finds it to be a good issue for him, you have to assume that it wouldn’t be a good issue for him if what
he’s saying didn’t resonate with certain people.
So the bottom line is for some people, they don’t want to hear it. They feel like, you know, what sports is, my release, my relaxation, I don’t
want to bring your politics into it. Or they say look, these people are making big money, what do I care what they think? Pull up your shorts and
And so what do you both say to that?
HOLLAND: To the people who say, “Well, you know, shut up and dribble”, I would say that there’s been a long lineage of people who have been athletes
who have also been activists, who have been vocal about this right. Dr. Harry Edwards who consulted with us on this, obviously in his book, we —
you know, The Revolt of the Black Athlete whose book we borrowed from —
MARTIN: How many sociologists make an appearance in a — like what the heck.
HOLLAND: Well, he’s a great guy and he really believed in what we’re trying to do and helped us to sort of stay on the right track but he helped
me to the history of this. It’s been going on for a long time.
So I would say that citizens have a right or responsibility, right, to speak up and to be vocal and to be political I think. And I don’t think
athletes are an exception to that rule.
MCCRANEY: At the moment you start telling citizens not to have their politics involved, you have to look at the economics of it which is 60 to
70 percent of athletes out after their tenure in the NFL, five years later they’re in financial duress.
Same with the NBA. If they’re not a marquee player and they haven’t sort of banked a kind of wealth that they can sort of rest on for the rest of
their lives, then they and their family now fall into a financial burden. But also, if it is a matter of just shut up and dribble, then why we wear
The legacy of these people on the court is going into a kind of feeling that is intimate. It is both policy of a city. It means something when a
player leaves, is traded. People really feel betrayed by that. That’s not just shut up and dribble. That means that is connected to a
community, that is connected to folks.
So you can’t ask a person to represent those things, to be economically engaged in those ways, and then to have no ability to speak out for what
should be their betterment.
MARTIN: One of the things that struck me about the film is that it’s not just about control. It’s also about vulnerability. It shares with the
other work you’ve all done together. Moonlight which is this much-lauded film drawn from your play in which you also have a role.
And I wondered if there’s any way in which your upbringing informed this film as well? Because the hard growth you had, you know, you lost your
mother at a young age. And did it inform this in some way?
MCCRANEY: Of course. But I think again, our friendship — I mean one of the things that you touched on I think is really relevant is the bond that
Dre and I have. I mean Dre is an incredible actor and — but also people don’t know this, was an incredible athlete.
And when you’re an athlete and you’re one of the big gifted kids in your community, you’re often told that like, “Oh, you have the talent and the
keys to go elsewhere and make money and go away from here.” And then again like we’ve just been talking about, we get to this place and we recognize
that there’s a lot that’s been told. And that the community that we want to be here with us, is it afford it this ability to be here and that the
ability to give back to them is also constrained in many ways.
MARTIN: There are three consequential women’s roles in this film, the players union rep, the mom who’s also the manager of — the kind of — one
of the players, maybe a chief rival of the star, and also the kind of rising star who works with your character, the agent who’s also I guess the
girlfriend of one of the players sort of too.
I wanted to ask about that. Was it important for you to highlight the role of women? Because again, women don’t generally play a big role in sports
HOLLAND: Yes. I mean it was very important to me that we include three- dimensional women in it. Because the more we read and we did and we discovered that there are a lot of women who are involved in the
professional athletics. And so we definitely wanted to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to tell to tell their stories as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYRA: Thank you for trespassing.
SAM: I’m sorry. But, you know, desperate times, right.
MYRA: Hardly. Lady, you have a bright future.
SAM: You’re sure I didn’t overstep with that licensing suggestion?
MYRA: That’s exactly where we were headed if this lockout hadn’t happened. Come work for us. We could use —
SAM: Ooh. I don’t like to be used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLLAND: You know before we started shooting, Zazie and I got together.
MARTIN: Zazie playing — plays the — she’s supposed to be your assistant but she’s actually kind of a co-agent with (CROSSTALK) just get real about
HOLLAND: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So she and I got together for lunch to talk about the script. And then Sonja and I got together. And we sort
of sat down and said, well, what do you see here?
Like what do you see in this woman that we have on the page and what can we add or take away that will make her feel fully realized for you? And so I
think that spirit of openness is something that we have with each other and I think that we had throughout this process. So it’s nice to see that
MARTIN: I do want to talk a little bit about the fact that the environment in filmmaking in Hollywood, in the entertainment industry, is so roiled
right now around so many of these issues around race and opportunity, around the way women are treated, the MeToo Movement. The LGBTQ community
is speaking up particularly in the wake of the whole Kevin Hart thing with the Oscars and saying, you know what, we have something to say about how
we’re depicted and represented.
And as artists, I’m wondering, does this moment feel fertile or fraught?
MCCRANEY: I will say this. It feels like a time for community. I mean a lot of people are like, well, why a basketball film? Why a basketball
film? Because one of my best friends felt really important and then made me see how really important it was.
And community, to me, is the way — is how I’ve always wanted to create and make art. I’m really interested in working with my people and creating the
stories that we need for our own nourishment right now.
MARTIN: Andre, what about you?
HOLLAND: It was fertile to me. It feels like there’s — there’s a window that’s open now and more and more people are going through it. But I don’t
feel like I’ve ever been in a place where I felt completely just free to sort of do whatever I wanted to do. You know what I mean? I’ve always
been aware of the pitfalls and I think maybe that’s a part of — I think that’s a version of vulnerability that we understand.
MARTIN: Well, Andre Holland, Tarell Alvin McCraney, thank you both so much for talking with us.
MCCRANEY: Thank you.
HOLLAND: Thank you for having us.
MCCRANEY: Thank you for having us.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: Well, I’m looking forward to watching High Flying Birds and we all can because now it’s on Netflix and in selected theaters.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.