Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello everyone, and welcome to Amanpour and Company, here’s what’s coming up.
Why it is time to panic about our planet, a rising movement takes climate demands to the streets. And the greybeard of our natural world, Sir David
Attenborough takes on a new Netflix series showcasing the urgency. I speak to the documentary makers of our planet.
Then, how we got to this point author Nathaniel Rich tell me about the politics of climate denial in the United States, thus as her spouse faces
the Facebook music Dr. Priscilla Chan tells Hari Sreenivasan about the foundation she runs with Mark Zuckerberg on education reform, and diversity
Welcome to the program everyone, I’m Christiane Amanpour in London. Which today has been cloud dark (ph) by a movement gaining critical momentum,
it’s called extension rebellion.
Thousands of people in 88 cities across the globe blocking roads and slowing down traffic in order to speed up government action to stop climate
change. Their rebellion is against the extinction of our species, it’s motivated by the science which says that we have until 2030, just 11 years
to save ourselves from a catastrophic rise in global temperatures due to untrammeled carbon emissions.
Perhaps the most famous leader of these new wave climate protestors is the 16 year old Swedish school girl, Greta Thombur (ph) whose leading hundreds
of thousands of students in cities around the world on Friday school strikes and rallies. Together these protests are paying off, pushing
climate change up the political agenda and making politicians talk about Green policies in ways they haven’t done before from the grassroots up.
Now while the young are putting their parents and grandparents on notice, an elder statesman is also fighting this good fight, the world renowned 92-
year-old naturalist, Sir David Attenborough. He’s brought us the world’s beauty for decades, but now his new Netflix series “Our Planet” is a
rallying cry for urgent action. Take a look at this trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the story of our changing planet, and what we can do to help it thrive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Beautiful, isn’t it? And highly endangered. Joining me now are two of the people who made this wake up call a reality. Keith Scholey is a
series producer for “Our Planet” and Sophie Lanfear directed some of the episodes. Welcome to the program, thanks for being here.
I guess just want to ask you first, sort of describe in your words your mission? We’re sort of putting words in your mouth, but this is a
different series it’s got a point of view, it takes a stand.
KEITH SCHOLEY, SERIES PRODUCER, “OUR PLANET”: Yes, definitely I think we’ve all been in the wild life film making business for a long time and
we’ve seen that things are increasingly becoming more urgent to do something about it. So this series we definitely wanted to show people the
wonders of our world, because we’ve still got them but they are going very, very fast and it’s — yes, it’s a wake up call that’s we have to do
something now if we’re going to keep it, and if (inaudible) we’re going to keep the whole biosphere functioning as we’ve had for four millennia.
AMANPOUR: And you’ve been doing this in various different platforms and ways for many years, and worked with David Attenborough. I mean, just
before I go to one of the clips, what is it Sophie, for you that’s so important about his voice and him putting all his experience behind this?
SOPHIE LANFEAR, DIRECTOR, “OUR PLANET”: I think David, I mean like no one else in the industry he’s a trusted voice with no agenda actually and I
think that’s what makes him more powerful — and his genuine passion. You know, David is the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to
natural world. And he inspired all of us, he inspired me to get in to natural history (ph) film making. So having him kind of voice the series
is a stamp of authority on it, it’s great.
AMANPOUR: So I’m going to play a clip, and we don’t often give viewers warnings about clips on the natural world, but we do have to in this case
because it is a really tragic demonstration on what the current environment is doing to walruses. I’m going to play it, I think it takes place on the
Arctic Circle around Russia, is that right?
LANFEAR: I’m sure that’s right (ph).
AMANPOUR: So we’ll play it, and then we’ll talk to you. And you’ve — you are also visible in this behind the scenes — look, we’ll show you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One’s going to go — there’s one right on the edge.
There’s probably 200 or 300 dead walrus on like a half mile stretch of beach here, they’re exhausted because they’re having to swim 100 miles now
to get to food, and then coming back here because it’s the only place to sleep. They used to sleep on the ice, dive down, eat the food, sleep on
the ice — easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So you’re the director, you were talking there with the cameraman — I guess how was it to see that — had you ever seen that kind
of situation before?
LANFEAR: No, I mean even now watching it — every time it gets me. We went to that location expecting to maybe film a bit of tumbling down some
shallow (inaudible) and maybe some polar bears interacting (ph).
I never — I mean, I was totally shocked. I didn’t realize they could climb 80 meter cliffs, and then we watched them many hours on the top and
we’re just pretty shell-shocked when we saw the first ones deciding to back to the sea and walking off. You know of their own accord, and it was — I
mean, it was devastating, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to witness.
AMANPOUR: So just explain, you call them Arctic refugees just explain why they climbed up and why they fell down?
LANFEAR: They live on the sea ice normally, and so they feed on these continental shelves (ph) of Alaskan and Russian coasts. And the sea ice
acts as a platform so they can rest on the sea ice, and then they dive down, feed in the bottom and then they rest back on the ice — you know, in
But in recent years the Arctic’s undergone rapid sea ice loss in the summer months, and what that meant is its retreated too far north now, so the
closest place to rest rather than the ice is the land. So what you’re seeing is that these haul out sites (ph) they call where they come to rest
on shore, are becoming much more overcrowded and there’s a lot less space. And in this particular site we filmed at — that meant that they went up
these cliffs, and then when they want to return to the sea they fell off. So —
AMANPOUR: And really, really is tragic. I mean, Keith this episode actually went viral, the scenes went viral — we’ve had some viewer
response. One viewer said episode two of “Our Planet” is one of the most upsetting things I’ve ever seen. If you get through the last 10 minutes
without committing to real changes to tackle climate change, you’re inhuman. Is that the response that you want? Is that what you’re looking
SCHOLEY: It absolutely is. Obviously we thought deeply about showing these images because they are upsetting. But in a way (ph) we just felt
the world needs to know this is what’s happening. People talk about climate, is it something of the future? It’s not, it’s happening in the
Arctic, it’s big time now and animals are suffering and we have to show it. And we do want that response, yes.
AMANPOUR: You know, I want to play this little bit of an interview I did with Sir David Attenborough during the last climate conference not so many
months ago. But to your point, people don’t know what’s going on in a lot of the world. They think they do, but they don’t know. This is what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, NATURALIST AND BROADCASTER: I think that the condition that the Earth is facing has never been visible to a large proportion of
the world’s population, and it’s the responsibility of people who do the sort of work that I do, to make sure that what is happening is visible to
And mind you, they know but it’s also visible to the people who have their fingers on power, both political power and fiscal power — monetary power
to do something about this situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is quite dramatic to hear him say that, because for a long time he was a naturalist. He didn’t really weigh in on the climate change
aspect of it, certainly not on the political aspect of it. Tell me — tell me what this means to have somebody this important actually weigh in on
this aspect of it, not just on the beauty of our world?
SCHOLEY: Hugely important, and I mean, David he carries the burden that anything he says is the truth and he’s very aware of that. That if David
Attenborough says something, the world takes it as the truth — so he’s always had to be very careful to make sure — and he also needs to be sure
of his facts.
But I think he’s come to the point now where he is very, very sure what’s happening and he’s being very outspoken about it and it’s having a huge
impact. I mean, last – just last week we were at the IMF talking to bank. We were at the World Bank and David was talking about these things to the
most important bankers and finance people in the world. That has impact.
AMANPOUR: And when you’re out there, Sophie, and you realize that people like Sir David Attenborough and you all kind of have to convince many world
leaders that they have to actually do something. I mean, you are doing something now in order to try to push the needle to significant change and
action by governments. When you’re out there, how do feel about those people in their ivory towers maybe not believing it and think it’s all a
hoax as we have some world leaders say?
LANFEAR: It’s hard – it’s to fathom that when you’re in the field feeling it and you’re connected with it, and you know, we’re all very passionate
about the natural world and about what we’re seeing. When you come across a story – that walrus (ph), I mean, it’s so – the empirical evidence is
just so far weighted. I don’t think – you know, 95 percent of the academic community now are in agreement. The IPCC report, you know, it says that
climate change is happening. The sea ice is losing, you know, rapidly in the Arctic. And so, yes. I don’t understand how, you know, we should be
setting about putting all our efforts into how do we change this, what can we do rather than contesting whether is this happening or not, is
happening. Let’s just get on with solving it.
AMANPOUR: I’m going to play – you talked about the sea ice. You were in Greenland I think and these massive glaciers or icebergs were busy cracking
up. Play a little of this and there’s a huge noise, and we’ll talk about it.
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Over the last 20 years, Greenland has been losing ice, and the rate of loss is accelerating.
AMANPOUR: So it’s obviously a hugely impressive sight and sound. How long did it take you to find that episode? What did it feel and sound like for
you who were actually there?
LANFEAR: It was like a warzone. I mean, obviously not the tragic casualties, but it sounded like gunshots, cannon fire. It was so loud.
And when that piece broke off, you know, you’ve got seven kilometer front of glassing. Imagine ice seven kilometers long. And when it breaks off,
half a kilometer is underneath the water. So when that tilts back and flips up and it’s displacing all that water and all the ice is breaking up
and it’s – you can’t – I mean, you can’t convey. It’s bigger than skyscrapers coming to the surface and just bouncing around. And you feel
so small and insignificant and then you realize the power of the planet, the power of this ice, and the changes going on are huge.
AMANPOUR: You know, it’s funny as you say it’s not as tragic in terms of casualties, but it will be if the seas rise and all the low-lying cities
and many, many, even the U.S. military are very, very concerned about that. I just wonder what you think about Netflix going through all the series and
actually tweeting out or posting warnings to viewers particularly to animal lovers that if you feel, you know, that you can’t watch certain scenes, at
this point and this point and this point, turn away. What is the point of that? Does that sort of defeat the purpose?
SCHOLEY: Well, I think that natural history films are there for everyone. So they’re there for families. They’re there for young children. And I
think it’s only right that people should know that there are some places where we have decided to show distressing images about what’s happening to
the natural world. This is a deviation probably from what they’ve previously been used to, so I think they’ve probably made the right call.
AMANPOUR: But interestingly, I don’t know. I was just really stunned to see all these young kids on marches. Greta Thunberg, as we mentioned, the
16-year-old, but there are kids even younger who have been taken by their parents to these marches now in various cities. It seems like it’s the
young ones who are going to push the older generation to some kind of action.
SCHOLEY: Well absolutely, and they’re going to – I mean, we’re only looking at a time scale of 20 years before things get really, really very
difficult. And this is in their lifetimes, and this strange moment we’re all in that this generation knows everything about the problem and is the
only problem that can fix it.
AMANPOUR: Could you standby for a second. Our reporter, Michael Holmes, is out there in the streets with all these people who have come into the
And I’m going to ask him just to walk us through, you know, of what you’ve just said on this young generation. Michael, you’re there in the streets
of London. There’s been quite a few protestors and they’re trying to block the roads. What are you hearing from the young people and from the
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it’s – you know, you know this city well, and to see Oxford Circus – one of the busiest intersections in
all of London – blocked of for, what, seven hours now, completely blocked off, and not just Oxford Circus. Talking about Marble Arch, Parliament
Square, Waterloo Bridge, and this extraordinary turnout, it’s been remarkably pleasant in terms of the atmosphere here. Very relaxed, and
that includes the police as well who are staying well back, making no moves on this protest. Let’s give you a bit more of an idea of what’ behind this
and what the aims are. I want to bring in Dr. Rupert Reed from the University of East Anglia – a spokesman for extinction rebellion. And
doctor, first of all, tell me do you think this protest or protests like this could be a tipping point for action on climate change?
RUPERT REED, FORMER UK GREEN PARTY SPOKESMAN: Absolutely. We’ve got about 10,000 people out here today. This isn’t just a march. This is non-
violent (ph) direct action. They don’t have permission to be here. We’re just blocking, shutting down big areas of Central London, and we’re going
to be back tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that. This is a rebellion. We actually mean it. This is extinction rebellion.
We are saying that the government is no longer legitimate because they are sending us down a path which will lead to the collapse of our society if
that path isn’t righted within the not too distant future. So yes, I think it can work. It’s worked before in other countries. It’s brought down
tyrannical regimes. This may not be a tyrannical regime, but it’s a regime that’s committing us all to destruction. That can’t be right.
HOLMES: Tell me – the thing that struck me about the protests here today is the youth. These are young people here. There are older people as
well, but mainly vast majority young people. Speak to the role of youth in this movement. Just not – they’re fed up with the older people.
REED: Well, of course, the youth are the ones who are absolutely in the firing line here. I think they’ve all been so hugely inspired by the
climate school strikes all around the world, and what they say – the young strikers on those demonstrations, they say, “save our world. Save our
world.” Well, that’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to step up and say, “yes, we’re going to try to work together to save this world
because they are going to be the ones (inaudible).” You know, it’s not just them. I’m scared. I’m worried about their future, but I’m worried
about my own future, too. I’m worried about your future. This is about all of us. Unless we get our act together within the next 18 months, then
the U.N. Secretary General tells us we’re not going to make those targets that the U.N. say we have to make by 2030. And if we don’t do that, we’re
all on the road to perdition.
HOLMES: Dr. Rupert Reed from the University of East Anglia joining us there to give you a sense of the importance of how they see this unfolding.
Christiane, the police, as I said, staying way back. They say they want to be here for days. They even say they want to be here a couple of weeks.
It’s hard to imagine a place like Oxford Circus shut down for that long, and as I say, absolutely no move by police so far on these demonstrators.
AMANPOUR: Michael and your guest, Rupert, thank you so much. It’s definitely sending a strong signal. Thank you for joining us there from
the streets of London. And of course, back to you, Keith and Sophie. This has been going on around the world, and actually millions have been coming
out over the last months at these school protests and various protests in the United States as well. Interestingly, the series talks about humans,
right? I mean, it’s omnipresent, but they’re the invisible villain in your series, and I say that because you don’t really focus on humans. But what
happens when humans are no longer around. So I want to play this clip which is about Chernobyl, which famously in the 80s there was a massive
meltdown of the nuclear plant there and the whole things was eradiated and people couldn’t live and life couldn’t live, et cetera, et cetera. Cut to
ATTENBOROUGH: No unprotected human being can stay here for long without lethal risk. But in driving us out, the radiation has created space for
wildlife to return. The dramatic re-colonization of Chernobyl in the space of only 30 years is proof of forests extraordinary resilience.
AMANPOUR: So that is really dramatic. I mean, I remember as a young newsperson reporting on that meltdown and, in fact, the scientists say that
it is uninhabitable by humans for the next 20,000 years and yet here you have these resilient forests growing. It’s not a very happy, hopeful sign
about us humans, is it?
SCHOLEY: No, it’s not, but it is a great lesson that nature is very resilient. And if you leave nature alone, it’ll bounce back. And I think
the message we want to give with “Our Planet” is that we still have a lot of nature. It’s under remorseless assault and it’s not helping us or
nature. If you just leave it alone, though, it’ll come back. And the Chernobyl story, basically we have to leave it alone as we had to get out.
We cannot withstand the radiation, but most of nature can. And so, it bounces back.
AMANPOUR: And just, how did you film that. I mean, is it – it looks like drones from above, right? I mean, did you get down and dirty?
SCHOLEY: You can put crews in for a few days –
AMANPOUR: Ah, the crews.
SCHOELY: – but most of it was – yes, I’m not going to get into that. Most of it, though, we put these remote cameras that are triggered by movement
and we put them all over Chernobyl. And then when a wolf or a Przewalski’s horse or what have you went past, it triggered the camera. We got the
shot. And so, that’s how we revealed the natural world that’s there.
AMANPOUR: Sophie, you worked a lot with the camera crews in the field. I mean, what toll does it have on all of you and on the crews? I mean, you
really do have to, A, go to these, you know, places in extremist, stay for a long time for it to capture it happening. It doesn’t just happen on
queue like a Hollywood movie. And there’s so much, obviously, beauty, but also massive trauma in seeing the destruction.
LANFEAR: Well we really – I mean, we work with the world’s best, and I think we all have the same kind of ambition with our planet that we’ve
always wanted to make a conservation series, you know, or something that had conservation at its heart. And I think when you get teams like that
together and you’re explaining how these ecosystems function and how they work and then what the main problem is and then how we can solve that,
everyone was really behind that. So I think, you know, when you come across some like walrus (ph) in the field, it’s not in vain. You know, you
feel like – with a series like this on Netflix, global that we can do something and everyone was really revved up by that.
AMANPOUR: And you did shoot quite a lot of behind the scenes. One of the things that sort of distinguishes the series and David Attenborough’s other
series is that you get the last few minutes talking to the crews. And that’s not just a vanity project for them. It rally does tell the world
how and why and the feelings. How do you get all of that from them?
LANFEAR: I think we try to shoot it so that it’s genuine and in the moment. I mean, we don’t want to have contrived kind of scenes, but I
think what you don’t get from the main series is you don’t get, like you say, the lengths you go to and the crews go to and, you know, the Siberian
Tigers, the poor old camera man was stuck in the height and didn’t (ph) get a single shot, but the camera traps did. And so, I think if you don’t show
the behind the scenes people might not have the true appreciation of what it takes, you know, to get these stories.
AMANPOUR: And finally, we haven’t been able to show bits from every episode obviously, but the fact that this is on Netflix in the United
States, of course, but around the world is a big deal, right? It’s a kind of a game changer.
SCHOLEY: It’s extraordinary because we’ve gone global instantly, but the great thing is the shows are there all the time, and we have a really big
website called ourplanet.com which can talk to the series. And so, if the viewer wants to know more about a particular episode, it can go on the
website and find out more, but that might stimulate them then to go back to the series. So we hope that we will start a conversation with the audience
about the most important thing on Earth – nature.
AMANPOUR: And an urgent conversation, indeed. Keith Scholey and Sophie Lanfear, thank you so much, indeed, for being here. So just a note,
dramatic pleads from politicians about the dangers of climate change are nothing new. You might remember the world’s first underwater cabinet
meeting way back in 2009 held by the Maldives President to highlight the threat of rising sea levels to islands like his. Now the President of
Cayshells (ph) – another low-lying archipelago – has taken a leaf out of that book delivering an impassionate (ph) plead to protect the beating blue
heart of our planet form inside a submersible 400 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean.
Amazing, amazing picture there. But here’s a question for you. As one of the world’s biggest polluters, why does the United States also embrace a
policy of climate denialism? Or at least the republican party does. President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords
and he’s fire a former coal lobbyist to head up his Environmental Protection Agency. My next guest says this is nothing new in American
politics. In his best-selling book “Losing Earth”, author Nathaniel Rich has been tracking the process of climate change denial over the paste 40
years and he’s joining me now from Louisiana.
Nathaniel Rich, welcome to the program.
NATHANIEL RICH, AUTHOR “LOSING EARTH”: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: You’ve heard all the conversations. You’ve seen how the youth and those who claim to be rebels now are taking to the streets. Take us
now back to the beginning of this. Why is the United States sort of an outlier when it comes to this almost official policy in the republican
party of climate denialism?
RICH: Yes, it’s remarkable especially given the fact that as early as 1979 we had total scientific consensus on the fundamental science of climate
change not just within the scientific community but at the highest levels of the U.S. government, the intelligence agencies, and, of course, the oil
and gas industry. You know, the first efforts – and this is the story of losing Earth – of a handful people, scientists and activists, a few
political bureaucrats who tried to move from the sort of scientific arcane of theory to action.
And over the course of the decade ’79 – ’89 it was not a partisan issue. There were setbacks, but by the end of the decade they’d moved it to the
threshold of a solution or what they thought was a solution – a binding treaty to reduce emissions that would have been signed by every country in
the world, but at the very last minute the U.S. dropped out and in retrospect that’s about the closest we’ve gotten since then, but that is
also the moment at which the oil and gas industry started to work on this propaganda and influence campaign that we are still in the grips of 40
AMANPOUR: You’ve just talked about the industry and, indeed, in the late 80s the American petroleum institute started actually paying certain
scientists to write op-eds that questioned global warming. So how did that work and how did that gain traction then in the mainstream?
RICH: Yes, it’s a remarkable story and, you know, the Director of the Environmental Unit at API told me all of this when I was doing my research
that in ’89 as it seemed that there was sure to be some kind of regulatory policy and some kind of global treaty, the industry started to figure out
what its public stance should be. And they put together a working group and the conclusions at first were essentially we should talk about the
uncertainty in the science, where it exists – they weren’t yet saying that the whole science was uncertain – and we should make sure that no policy –
we endorse no policy that affects the bottom line.
That’s the beginning of it and they start to find a few scientists, and it’s a very small few. It’s about three or four people originally who are
close to the industry and can be trusted to write editorials often for a fee, $2,000 a pop at the time – and start to speak to reporters. And all
of a sudden an issue that at that point was gaining a huge amount of attention nationally and was not – there weren’t two sides to it. Everyone
was just concerned and trying to figure out what to do about it, in 1989 you start to see pieces that are articles in national publicans that
question whether the science is so established. And that’s the very beginning of it, but then the industry almost seemed surprised by how
successful this effort is and they keep pushing it.
And over the course of the 90s they go farther and farther and more and more brazen until you get to this sort of delirium now where, yes, an
entire political party questions the fundamental science of climate change which is fundamental science which goes back, you know, long before 1979
into the 19th century.
AMANPOUR: But interestingly in the article that you wrote about this that led to your book, you wrote during those years – in other words the one’s
you’re talking about, the 70s, et cetera – conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction
had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way except ourselves. So again, how did this little handful of people who, OK, they were being
pushed, they were being paid a couple of thousand for these op-eds, how did they get such a momentum and such a tipping point that journalists were
able – began to treat on the one hand on the other hand?
RICH: Yes, well they moved incrementally and I should say that the treaty itself fell apart – the framework for the treat which will later be the Rio
Summit in 1989 – independently of industry efforts. That had to do with Chief of Staff of George H.W. Bush, John Sununu, who was sort of the
original skeptic became skeptic of the science, skeptic of the politics, and he won out a political dog fight within the White House about whether
to accept a binding treaty. And so, that’s the beginning of it, but then soon thereafter industries start spending a fortune to try to block
anything approaching regulatory policy.
So there are two things we’re talking about, one is our failure before 1989 to generate the kind of public support and urgency necessary to force the
But then from ’89 to the present you have this vice grip of industry on the Republican party, and to a much lesser extent on certain Democrats who are
— have spent untold tens of hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying to block any kind of meaningful effort to address the problem.
AMANPOUR: I again want to go back to the late ’80s when it was possible to have done something, and there was a bipartisan sort of consensus certainly
amongst the public. Because you mentioned George W. Bush, of course (ph) as he was running for president he basically said the following — he
wanted to be sort of, Mr. Climate president, this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I want to lead this country, and the other nations of the world too, to a greater understanding of the
threats facing our planet, and to a greater commitment to meeting and resolving them. But if we don’t see the need to act, clearly future
generations will not only see it dramatically in retrospect, they’ll have to live with the consequences of our inaction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, what he said then we could hear on the streets of these protests right now. And to be fair at the very end of his presidency he
was the first U.N. Climate Conference which was the Rio Summit that you just talked about in 1992. How much of the science and the opportunity was
RICH: All of it. And you know, the — Bush is a fascinating figure in this regard because certainly when he was running for office in ’88 and
when he first got in to office he was saying all of the right things, and yes things that you might hear in a climate protest today. He said those
who are — think we can’t solve the greenhouse effect as the problem was called then — haven’t heard about the White House effect. And when I’m in
the White House I’ll do it.
From my research what I gathered was that he really didn’t have a very strong understanding of the issue and when push came to shove he deferred
making some of the big decisions to his deputy who was Sununu, the Chief of Staff. And that lead to the failure, and you can imagine in a sort of
parallel universe if you have someone like Bush saying those things and pushing, and putting the weight of his presidency behind them — we’d be in
a different world right now.
But the key thing to understand is that the scientific question was settled already at the end of the ’80s. Not only did we have this global treaty in
the works, but there were 32 climate bills introduced in Congress in 1988 alone — many of them bipartisan and in some crucial aspects some of them
were more ambitious than when you see in the Green New Deal today, some of these bipartisan bills at the time.
So there is — yes, there’s a cruel irony to the whole thing.
AMANPOUR: So let’s fastforward to today, first of all we have this proposal of the Green New Deal, we’ve had the Sunrise Movement protestors
camping outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to make their point. And we’ve had AOC as she’s known, Congressman Ocasio-Cortez saying the
following about exactly why this Green New Deal should be tasked and implemented.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: We should do it because we should lead. We should do it, because that is what this nation is about.
We should do it, because we are a country founded ideals — of a culture that is innovative, that cares for our brothers and sisters across this
country. We should do it because we are an example to the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So do you think, in short Nathaniel that there is a new tide of public opinion? That we could go back to that sort of era where most
people now think that something has to be done?
RICH: Yeah look — she gets it, this is a profound shift in a conversation. When you listen to her say those things she’s making a very
different argument, and this is true of Greta Thunberg you had on your show — and the students in the sunrise movement.
They’re not making the same argument that activists have been making forever which is to say, it’s crazy that we don’t act — we know what to do
it’s foolish. They’re saying that of course too, but the emphasis is on our failure to act is undermining the basic values that we uphold as the
pillars of our society. And that’s a moral claim, and I think it’s the only honest way of looking at it, and it represents a dramatic break in the
And it’s the kind of argument that until now you only saw from people in the island nations, you saw it from the Pope and his encyclical (ph). But
this is a profound shift, and I think it’s shaking the whole conversation both in the U.S. and internationally.
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether — you know, what I find fascinating is how some on the sort of Christian and Republican-Conservative side are really
weighing in now while Mitch McConnell might say, the radical left-wing of the Democratic party has unveiled their Green New Deal, a socialist
fantasy. You’ve got others like the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe who talks about convincing people from the heart, listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHARINE HAYHOE, CLIMATE SCIENTIST: Just about all of the objections that I have heard — the genuine objections to (inaudible) climate, have
everything to do with solution aversion. The fact that we fear the solutions more than we fear the impacts. We think the solutions will
destroy our way of life and lead to much lower quality of life than we enjoy today, whereas we view the impacts as very distant and far off they
don’t really matter to us.
So to address this I have to do two things that are very uncomfortable for a scientist to do. The first thing is rather than engaging with people
from the head as we often do with data, and facts, and charts, and figures — I have to engage with people from the heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So we’ve literally only 10 seconds Nathaniel, but to get conservatives like that onboard, and her husband’s a pastor — must be a
good thing for people like you and the others who are watching this.
RICH: Absolutely, I think it’s essential — and I think it’s crazy to think of this as a partisan issue, and the sooner we make this moral claim
— I think the more people on all sides of the political spectrum will understand what we’re up against and the need to act right now.
AMANPOUR: Nathaniel Rich, author of “Losing Earth” thank you so much. And now we turn to a different kind of science, Dr. Priscilla Chan is a
pediatrician by trade. She’s risen to prominence though as the wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and together they run the Chan Zuckerberg
Initiative which aims to advance human potential and promote equality. Our Hari Sreenivasan spoke to Chan in a rare interview in San Diego, where he
also asked her about her latest project, education reform and tried to get her to talk about whether Facebook should be paying more tax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRISCILLA CHAN, CO-FOUNDER, CHAN ZUCKERBERG INITIATIVE: I’m really excited to announce a new program at University of California, San Diego and U.C.
Berkeley — a program that we are borrowing from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where we really are building in mentorship and
practical advice, and good cohorts for underserved, underrepresented minority students to be able to pursue careers in the stem field.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How does this fit with the initiatives that your foundation works in?
CHAN: At CZI we are a big believer that we need to have diverse talent to be part of building that better future for everyone. And so we apply many
tactics to ensure that we are recruiting a strong, robust, and diverse workforce.
At CZI we’re more than 50 percent women, across the organization we’re a quarter underrepresented minorities. And that’s not a nice to have, we
have to have this in order to be building solutions that really meet the needs of all.
We also have a science program that allows us to really think about how to cure, prevent, and manage all disease in the next century. And having
diversity of opinions, and ideas, and backgrounds is incredibly important because we need to bring fresh ideas, bring fresh perspectives and skill
sets in to doing that, because if we just use the same set of tools and solutions we’re not going to be able to see those breakthroughs.
We also have an educational program, we’re taking equity lends (ph) at how we really make sure that we are educating and opening up opportunities for
all. An individual with a stem degree makes 26 percent more than an individual without a stem degree. And so we really see this as a pathway
SREENIVASAN: You’re not the first to tackle education reform, this is a tough problem to crack — so how do you think you’re going to be able to do
it where — in a specific way, where others have been daunted by this challenge?
CHAN: We don’t think we’re going to be the only ones to solve this challenge, and we don’t want to be. We really think about how can we
enhance what’s already great and happening in the field and spread that to more?
And so what I’m really talking about is like, my experience of having mentors. I kind of think of them as heroes, you needed heroes to be able
to unlock opportunity when you are in a minority group or you don’t know what’s possible. And we can’t rely on heroes, we can’t rely on luck.
So how can we actually like look at these shining examples of what’s happening — of great education, great mentorship. and build tools so that
others can do it in a high-quality, sustainable way so that we’re not really relying on luck but we’re actually building systems for others to
SREENIVASAN: So what is the Summit Learning Platform?
CHAN: The Summit Learning Platform is a software and professional development program that we’ve developed in partnership with the Summit
Public Schools. It really is a three-part program – project-based learning, teaching kids life-long learning skills, and also mentorship.
And what we’ve been able to do is take the success of Summit Public Schools and build a software that empowers teachers to better do those things and
share them with other schools freely.
SREENIVASAN: So give me an example of how it works.
CHAN: A school would have their students be able to have a year in review and say these are the topics in English, Science, Math that you need to
cover in a year and here are the habits of success. You need to be able to lay out a project plan, track your progress against it, how to ask for
help. So it’s got two dimensions – both the academic and the cognitive skills –
CHAN: – of learning, and then they take those skills – those skills and those learnings and apply them to projects. How does your project – how
does your learning actually live in the world? And so, someone might do a journalism project or visit and understand a local zoo, and to really bring
that learning to life, give students the understanding of why something is important.
SREENIVASAN: You know, it’s – one of the concerns when large organizations try to tackle education is, hey, this might be an experiment for you, but
this is my kid’s education that you’re playing with, right? You might take a key learning from this, but did my sixth grader or fifth grader fall
behind or not meet certain expectations that they should have gotten by the end of this program, right?
CHAN: We partner with Summit to make sure that the curriculum provided is standards aligned and vetted by academics across the field. And so, we –
of course that’s something we believe in and we want to make sure that we deliver not just what is expected but outsize results. In Pasadena, Texas,
the students who were furthest behind actually had a 17 percentage gain in their reading and a 20 percentage gain in math. That’s incredible. We
want to be able to see that type of outcome from strong implementations for students nationwide.
SREENIVASAN: How much of this informed by your own background as an Asian- American child of immigrants?
CHAN: I’m a child of Chinese and Vietnamese refugees who came to this country with very little English and very little assets. And what my
family was able to do was actually take advantage of the great public schools systems that we had in Massachusetts, and I had two incredible
mentors that told me about college, told me that that I would someone who would do great in college, but I needed that mentorship because as a first
generation to college my family wasn’t able to provide that for me. But having someone who told me about what the practical steps were – take the
SATs, take this class – but also the inspiration of you can do this, you belong here is what made I possible for me to reach Harvard as a first
generation student. And for so many more students when I look to the right of me and the left of me in high school, they should have been there, too,
but we often miss the opportunity to unlock potential when we don’t give students the right amount of access, mentorship, and opportunity.
SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about science. What’s the Cell Atlas? What are you hoping to do with it? What is it and what kind of
discoveries are you hoping that it leads to?
CHAN: I’m so excited about the Cell Atlas. So believe it or not, no one actually knows how many cells are in your body, what they are doing, what
they look like when they’re healthy or sick. And so, by understanding that we can actually understand how your body works, what happens when you’re
sick, and how to take care of it when things go wrong. And I’ll give you two really exciting examples. I’m a pediatrician. I’ve taken care of lots
of kids with cystic fibrosis. We always thought that they were these two cell types involved and it was a certain channel in the lung that caused
cystic fibrosis. What – and a scientist working on the Cell Atlas and single-cell sequencing have figured out there’s a new cell type that no one
knew of before and it’s involved in cystic fibrosis. So we – there’s still lots to be worked out about the mechanism and if we can take an advantage
of it to actually treat kids with cystic fibrosis, but that’s thrilling.
Another exciting example of how you’d apply the science of Human Cell Atlas is in chemotherapies or any drug actually. Right now there are many
chemotherapies that have horrible side effects because they’re nonspecific, but what a researcher at the Biohub realized is that for a certain
pancreatic cancer, it was a certain receptor on the cancer cells. CD44 that was what we needed to target. And the drugs that previously treated
that cancer had horrible side effects. You would lose all of your skin. We need to redesign those chemotherapies to just target that receptor to
significantly reduce the side effects. So this Human Cell Atlas, it’s going to be really exciting because it’s going to be an open resource for
scientists to build upon the knowledge of others for biotechnologies to actually build useful tools, for pharmaceuticals to build medications that
better treat human disease.
SREENIVASAN: In your interest in kind of criminal justice reform, that is an inherently political process meaning we collectively decide what’s good,
what’s bad, what is reform, what’s our debt to society. So does that mean you end up lobbying or advocating on behalf of legislation?
CHAN: So CZI’s a political organization. We are excited about criminal justice because there are folks on both sides of the aisle that are excited
about improving the criminal justice system. The way we actually engage is through a two-prong strategy. One, we work with prosecutors. Right now,
prosecutors hold and enormous amount of power in the criminal justice system. It is a decentralized system that allows prosecutors, many of whom
are elected, to apply the law at their discretion. And the thing that is disappointing is that there’s actually no feedback loop. Prosecutors often
don’t know when they make a certain decision if it actually improves the outcome for an individual and if it makes the community safer. So we’re
working with prosecutors to better understand how they can improve their decision-making process. And the other side of this is really giving
people a second chance. We – we’re part of the clean slate effort. How do we allow individuals who have served their time to actually have an
opportunity at redemption afterwards? Right now, records stay on indefinitely. It affects housing opportunities, if affects job
opportunities, educational opportunities, but how can we as a system really allow people to have these records cleared automatically to open doors to
them that they deserve? And this is incredibly important to us because one in two Americans have a family member that’s been incarcerated. That means
one in two individuals in this country are affected by these decisions that are being made by prosecutors and the opportunities that are available to
people after they serve their time.
SREENIVASAN: How tied to the success of Facebook is CZI meaning what happens if Facebook doesn’t work out? Does the money and the push behind
all the initiatives that CZI is making, do those stop, too?
CHAN: CZI is funded by our family’s assets in Facebook, but they belong to CZI. And so, we are managing the funds so that CZI can continue on for as
long as we have the resources.
SREENIVASAN: If CZI continues, your best case scenario is that you change the world, et cetera. If Facebook doesn’t do well and these things would
be hampered, you’re saying they’re completely separate and CZI’s work would continue?
CHAN: We’re managing the funds at CZI to protect our work going forward. We are always making sure that we have enough – we understand how much
runway we have –
CHAN: – and we’re very comfortable with the runway we have right now.
SREENIVASAN: One of the concerns is that I know that you don’t run Facebook and this is not – I know you’re not in the operations of Facebook,
but since CZI has been capitalized with the success from Facebook, the concern is that, you know, Facebook sometimes is making money from
communities that its working in in a way that might be normal for corporations but doesn’t seem almost moral, meaning why park yourself in
kind of tax havens? Wouldn’t it be better for communities that you’re working in if Facebook just paid more taxes? It’d be less work for CZI to
do if schools were better funded.
CHAN: So I don’t think for those who can afford it that higher taxes are a bad thing. We would be supportive of that and we do believe in making sure
that community schools are well-funded. And so, I think it’s really about making sure that both the government’s advocating to make sure the
government systems are well-funded because those are so much larger than any single philanthropy.
And that’s why we really think about how we engage on the advocacy level to ensure that those things are true, while looking at the incredible
opportunity that we have to fill in a specific niche in these spaces.
SREENIVASAN: So what I’m saying is, if Facebook paid let’s say $6 billion more in taxes, wouldn’t that eventually come in to school districts, and
fire departments and so forth? And so that would actually be better for communities, it would be less work CZI to have to pick up and do, right?
CHAN: That’s not — the way schools in California are funded don’t actually quite work that way —
SREENIVASAN: Yeah, yeah —
CHAN: And so in theory that all sounds right, but that’s not actually (ph) how schools get their funding. So we need to make sure that we are really
ensuring that the institutions that we care about — the NIH school districts are getting the right funding they need to do the important work.
SREENIVASAN: So you know, one of our previous guests (Inaudible), I remember him — he had a book out for a while, and one of his premises is
the world would be better off, existentially if you and your husband, or other billionaires had less not more. And even more specifically had less
say in, whether it’s health or in education — what do you say to that?
CHAN: I think that we as a society should really think about making sure that we are taxing those who can afford it. And I think that is a great
opportunity to ensure that our public systems are well funded. But for those who want to give back, and we should be really thoughtful about
ensuring that we aren’t a single voice.
That as a foundation, as a philanthropy CZI should be listening to the voices of scientists, of teachers, of advocates on the frontlines and
saying, “what do you need? What do you need to actually build a better system, do better work?” And actually supporting that work is something
that we’re incredibly proud of doing.
SREENIVASAN: As a mom, how much digital technology is in your house? Like, how much — how comfortable are you with your kids and screen time?
CHAN: I think screen time is a fascinating question. Because right now we lump it as like screen any one minute is bad, or equivilant. But I think
it’s — we need to be more thoughtful about how we think about it. Like, we have the girls video conference, video call with their grandparents all
the time. And I think that’s a fantastic thing.
I think very few people would argue that little kids connecting with their grandparents across the country is a bad use of their time. But we don’t
park them in front of the T.V. for hours at a time, we think that’s bad screen time. And so we are very thoughtful about when we introduce
technology and why, to make sure that the kids are getting a balance of different inputs, and access to learning that they otherwise wouldn’t have
SREENIVASAN: Will they get Facebook accounts, and if so what age?
CHAN: Thirteen, and yes.
SREENIVASAN: Did having children change how you and Mark thought about the platform and your responsibilities?
CHAN: I built my career around service. Before I met Mark, before I went to college — I knew that I had access to an incredible opportunity, it was
my job to give back. I never knew that I would have an opportunity this large to give back.
And so it was always in our conversations that we were going to do this, but it always felt like we should do it in the future. But when we were
pregnant with Max, we realized, “oh my goodness, the future’s coming any minute,” and if we wanted our children to be a part of a future better than
what we lived, we needed to make sure we were doing our part.
And so that’s what gave us the — I don’t know, kick in the bottom to actually do it. When we had a newborn, and we’re glad we’re doing it
because there’s so much to learn, we’ve already come so far in the past three years and this is going to be a lifelong effort of making sure that
we’re giving back with the incredible opportunity we’ve had.
SREENIVASAN: Now as a fellow Asian, I’ve got to ask this — is — are your parents more proud of the CZI work you’re doing, or that you’re a doctor?
CHAN: They’re — my mom, is so — are you a real doctor yet? Like, when I graduated medical school, does this mean you’re a doctor? When I was in
residency, does this mean you’re a doctor? And then when I started tending (ph) — are you a doctor now? And so, I would say they are incredibly
proud of the work we’re doing at CZI, but I think they are just so happy that my sisters and I have been able to build our careers and lives here.
SREENIVASAN: Priscilla Chan, thanks so much for your time.
CHAN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.