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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
Repeal and reverse Obama era policies, that is the key tenet of the Trump administration. Next in the firing line, the response to sexual harassment
and assault on campus. I’ll discuss the controversial new proposals with advocates from both sides.
Then, the scientist who advises the British monarch on astronomical matters. Lord Martin Rees shares his biggest fears about humanity’s threat
to our planet.
Plus, a survivor of breast cancer whose activism includes going topless. Erica Hart speaks to our Alicia Menendez.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
After more than a year of planning, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has finally unveiled her proposals to overhaul the rules that govern
sexual assault on campus. The reaction is fiercely divided. The government says the changes would make a more fair system, returning
balance to a process that it claims is sat in favor of accusers.
The definition of sexual harassment would be tightened, schools would focus only on incidents that happen on campus and both victim and accused would
be allowed to cross-examine each other even with lawyers. Meanwhile. critics say this would just mean even fewer victims will come forward and
the balance would swing firmly in favor of the accused.
Our American classrooms really meant to morph into courtrooms. It’s a question that I put two Anurima Bhargava who helped write the Obama era
guidance on this issue and Samantha Harris from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education who backs the new proposals but says, “While
the measures are not perfect, they are in fact progress,” here’s the debate.
Well, ladies, welcome to the program.
ANURIMA BHARGAVA, FORMER CHIEF OF EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES, U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you for having me.
SAMANTHA HARRIS, FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you both. Let me just start with you, Anurima, because this is something that’s going to overturn what you and the Obama
administration worked on, the protections and the definitions under Title 9 that you helped write and draft for the Obama administration. What do you
feel about what the current education secretary? Ms. DeVos is saying, it’s just trying to make it a fairer situation.
BHARGAVA: So, I think the problem that we have been trying to fix is that one in five female students and one in 15 male students have an experience
of sexual assault on campus, and less than 10 percent of those students report. And they don’t report because they don’t feel safe and comfortable
and that puts everybody at risk.
And what these new proposed rules are doing is discouraging people from coming forward to report and stacking the process against those students
who do want to come forward and talk about what they have experienced. And for that reason, I think it is going to impact students the way that makes
them less safe and puts them in the way of harm.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, there are three main issues, before I turn to Samantha, the three main issues are on — I believe on definition of what sexual
aggression and sexual assault is, I believe location and indeed on the due process aspect of it.
So, Samantha you just heard what Anurima said, you are a supporter of Betsy DeVos’s new proposals. Why do you support it particularly when you hear
that it could discourage even the few people who do come forward to report these aggressions?
HARRIS: Well, I don’t believe that providing due process for students accused of sexual misconduct and providing student who have an assault to
report with a safe and comfortable environment for coming forward are mutually exclusive. And I think that what we’ve seen over the past seven
or eight years is that schools in an effort, in a well-intentioned effort, to address sexual misconduct on campus have created processes for
adjudicating these cases that are manifestly unfair towards accused students but also that undermine the integrity of the process as a whole.
So, I obviously agree that, you know, sexual assault is a very serious matter that schools need to address in a serious way but I don’t think that
that is incompatible with a fair process and I think that these draft regulations go a long way towards restoring some fairness to the process
that we’ve seen lacking over the past stretch of years.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I’m going to get to the process, as you put it, in one moment. But I want to first get you both to talk about the changing
definition of what assault or harassment on campus is.
So, the Obama administration had a broader definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” And now, the new DeVos
proposals are narrowing it to mean “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a
person access to the school’s education program or activity.”
So, what is wrong with that from your perspective, Anurima”
BHARGAVA: So, the longstanding definition has been unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and if a report of harassment was made then a school could
look into it and determine whether or not it was sufficiently severe or pervasive or objectively offensive that it created a hostile environment
for students and limited or deny their ability to get an education.
What the new definition does is it smashes all of that up and makes it all part of the definition of harassment in the first place. And what that
suggests to students is that if they’ve been groped once, if even they’ve been raped once, that that might not be enough to constitute harassment,
and that’s both wrong and ends up with an absurd result, which is that we want students to come forward and report, we want to know what’s happening
on campuses and we want to get a sense of all of the different ways in which students are experiencing harassment.
And the new definition really limits that at the gate and that’s not something that we want to be able to do for students today.
AMANPOUR: So, Samantha, narrowing a definition and the way Anurima puts it, that you can be groped once or even, god forbid, raped once and that
won’t be considered, you know, over the limit. Is that really what’s been proposed.
HARRIS: No. And in fact, there’s no — I should start out by saying there’s no question either in the comments that these regulations or in the
Supremes Court decision that established the definition we’re talking about here that one incident of sexual assault, of physical sexual assault, is
sufficient to meet this definition.
This is a definition that was crafted by the Supremes Court in 1999 definite case called Davis v Monroe County Board of Education. It was
events cited in The Office for Civil Rights and OCR’s 2001 revised sexual harassment guidance, which said that schools, in order to avoid confusion,
should have one operative definition of sexual harassment and that it should be consistent with the definition in Davis.
So, what this proposed guidance — these proposed regulations do is restore that as the operative definition of sexual harassment. What we’ve seen
with the broader definition that OCR recommended and that a lot of schools have adopted in recent years is that it’s being used to investigate and
punish students and faculty for constitutionally protected speech.
This definition, physical assault, is always going to meet the level of severity and pervasiveness necessary to constitute sexual harassment under
this definition. What is not going to meet it anymore is constitutionally protected speech that has been adjudicated as harassment over the past
stretch of years by a number of colleges and universities.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I want you to explain what you mean and maybe both of you can talk to me about what that constitutionally protected speech means.
But in the meantime, let me put it in context of what Joe Biden tweeted just last week about this. And of course, he was one of the fathers of
this Obama administration definition and action. He tweeted, “Betsy DeVos’s new Title 9 rules will discourage social assault reporting and
investigations. When one in five women experience sexual assault while in college, we cannot afford to go backwards and then share your views.”
Why are you so convinced that people will not come forward? I don’t they now, you know, don’t. 90 percent of those who have been aggressed or
harassed don’t come forward. It is a shocking, shocking figure. Why do you think that that will change and what do you make of the speech argument
Samantha just posed?
BHARGAVA: Sure. So, we already know, as you just mentioned, that the vast majority of students don’t come forward, they don’t feel safe, they don’t
feel comfortable, they don’t feel like what they have experienced is something that they want to go to a school official and report.
And so, the reason that we’re concerned is because there’s no need to narrow this definition, it was a definition in 2001, it was a definition
again in 2011, it is consistent with the law and there’s no need now to do what is — what these new rules are doing, which is to narrow it because
what you want is for students to be able to come forward with concerns not only about unlawful physical sexual violence but also, when there are
comments that are made, when there is verbal harassment that makes them feel uncomfortable, that makes them feel like they are not welcome in a
classroom and we want students to be able to come forward and report that kind of harassment that is happening far too often on campuses.
And so, for that reason, we don’t feel like there is a need to narrow this definition. And I agree that we want to have free and open exchange of
ideas and viewpoints on campuses, that we want to diversity of students and perspectives but that should not be an excuse to put a system in place that
is going to stop students who have been sexually assaulted and harassed from coming forward.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just follow up with you, Anurima, because, you know, one of the issues that people, you know, on Samantha’s side would point to
is the instances of false accusations. Now, it is true that the media does focus and they are fairly rare but they’re nonetheless very, very high
profile. The false accusations such as the Duke Lacrosse Cross team in 2006, the Rolling Stone story about the University of Virginia in 2014. Do
you think that focus, that media attention has contributed to the current changing of the rules?
BHARGAVA: I do. I do think that the focus on the false accusations, which, as you said, are very rare. The focus on those situations, which do
happen, where in a two student has not had a process in place that they deserved. And certainly, we want to make sure that those instances are
also investigated, that that focus has really taken our eye off of what is happening on campus, which is that we have so many students who are
experiencing trauma through harassment and assault that are not coming forth, that are silence and we don’t want to situation like we had with Dr.
Blasey Ford, for example, where that trauma manifest over, you know, multiple decades.
And it’s something that — as a 15-year-old girl, as we as we see in public schools today or as a college student that someone doesn’t feel that they
can actually share and have addressed.
AMANPOUR: So, Samantha, let’s follow up with you on that and we’ve already talked about the 90 percent of victims or of assaults that are not
reported. And the figures show that only 2 to 10 percent of reports are maybe false, as we’ve just been talking about. And of course, “60 Minutes”
a while back put this in balance to the education secretary herself in an interview, to Betsy DeVos. I wanted to play a little — I want to play a
little bit of it and get you to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY STAHL, AMERICAN JOURNALIST, “60 MINUTES”: Are you in any way, do you think, suggesting that the number of false accusations are as high as
the number of actual rapes or assaults?
BETSY DEVOS, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Well, one sexual assault is one too many and one falsely accused individual is one too many.
STAHL: Yes. But, are they the same?
DEVOS: I don’t know. I don’t know. But I’m committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, a lot of people were pretty upset about that because she said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” And in the midst of, you know,
presenting this fairly radical change, particularly in due process department, which we’re going to get to in a moment.
What did you make of that answer that she gave on national television?
HARRIS: Also, I want to be clear. Yes. I want to be clear that, at least, from my perspective, the issue is not false accusations. You know,
from the work I do and from what I see, the overwhelming majority of these accusations are brought forward in good faith.
You know, fire is concern has been that the process used to adjudicate these cases has often been very unfair, students expelled without a
hearing, without being able to see the evidence against them, without being able to confront their accuser or the witnesses against them in any
meaningful way. And those protections need to apply even when someone’s guilty.
I mean, we are a society that places a high value on the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair hearing. And so, you know, the
discussion of false accusations, to me, is a bit of a red herring because it — you know, that’s not the issue. The issue is, do we believe that
students accused of, you know, one of society’s most heinous offenses, which it really is, are entitled to a fair process before being expelled
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s talk about —
AMANPOUR: — let’s talk about that because part of it does sort of — you know, the new proposals around due process involve sort of cross-
examination and being able to hire a neutral legal mediator and many, again, have criticized that, that it could be, as somebody said, some
highly paid legal pit bull that will once again, you know, start this attack on the victim and people are asking, are classrooms really equipped
to become courtrooms.
I mean, how comfortable do you feel about the remedies that this proposal office?
HARRIS: Well, you know, no there’s no question that adjudicating sexual assault cases is going to be difficult. You know, and colleges and
universities are in a position where they are adjudicating these cases. And so, they have to provide meaningful procedural protections precisely
because of the seriousness of the offense.
And, you know, I think that the fact that the draft regulations require that cross examination take place through a third-party, you know, one of
the concerns, very valid concerns, that a lot of victims’ rights advocates expressed with a draft of the regulations that was leaked in September,
which is that it made a provision for cross-examination but it didn’t specify that it had to be done through a third-party, which left open the
possibility that, you know, students would have to be cross-examined directly by the very people they were accusing of assaulting them.
And so, the draft regulations that came out, I think, reflected that concern by requiring that the cross-examination take place through third-
party. And of course, the right to cross-examination does not accrue only to the accused student, it’s a right of both parties and it may prove very
critical for victims as well, you know, trying the credibility of the people they are accusing in this adjudicative process.
So, by providing that it has to be done by a third-party and by providing that a university has to provide an advisor to each party to do that cross-
examination if they don’t have one themselves, I think that balances, you know, the desire to keep it — you know, to prevent the parties from having
to do that cross-examination themselves, which could be very traumatic with the need to assess credibility through cross-examination in cases where
there are typically no other witnesses, where there’s often no physical evidence and that turn entirely on credibility.
AMANPOUR: And just very quickly before I get Anurima’s reaction to that. Are we going to go back to the times when the victim’s sexual history and
all of that, sort of again, the blame the victim mentality that existed in courtrooms through time immemorial when it came to, certainly women,
complaining and bringing legal action against these assaults?
HARRIS: No. I mean, the fact that cross-examination is allowed does not mean that the university can’t appropriately limit the scope to relevant
questions and to questions that are not prejudicial but don’t touch on sexual history. So, no it doesn’t mean that. And it’s incumbent on
universities to ensure that these processes are conducted in a way that’s fair to both parties.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, your reaction to that, Anurima? But I want to also throw one more aspect of this into because these new rules also say or
the proposal says that essentially what happens off campus stays off campus, in the past or postural currently even if they’re at university
events off campus, the university is still responsible in a way for it.
Now, it’s — it could be apartments off campus, events off campus, a bar off campus and that is simply not a university’s responsibility.
BHARGAVA: Right. And so, there’s a couple of different ways in which there are due process concerns. And so, there are concerns that a student
might not be able to access the process at all, which means that there’s a free pass that schools can give to sexual assaults that are happening at
fraternities or at bars or online, which is where for — you know, for students we see in elementary and high school, a lot of the harassment
they’re experiencing may well be online from other students and impact what’s happening in school.
And so, we want to make sure that those kinds of harassment and assaults that are, you know, just a few feet away from campus that are impacting,
whether or not a student can feel safe at school, are things that the school can have reported to them and they can look into. And so, that’s
one of the ways in which we’re limiting access.
The second is that these new rules say that dramatically limit who it is that a student can report to on campus. And you want students to be able
to go and talk to a trusted adult, and that might not be a Title 9 official, it might not be someone who is in a leadership position on campus
in terms of the faculty or the administration.
And so, having lots of ways in which students can come forward and report to someone who is trusted is also critically important for them to be able
to come forward and get relief.
And so, then we come to the process itself. And I agree with Samantha that we want to process that is not going to privilege one side, that everyone
has a chance to look at the information and the evidence before them and for students who come forward to report. However, it does not make sense,
it seems unnecessary to say that they will be forced to but it is a acquirement that they undergo cross-examination in a live hearing.
Imagine, for example, if you brought a complaint of harassment against your coworker or a boss and the only way in which that report would — you knew
when you were filing that report that you would actually have to undergo cross-examination in a live hearing. These are not courts of law. This is
a school looking in to a report of sexual harassment or assault for their own adjudication process.
And for that reason, it doesn’t make sense that something like cross- examination, which we have seen, is extraordinarily traumatizing for those students who are coming forward to report, it’s not something that is being
required. It may be something that, in certain instances, could be important to have but there are less invasive ways like having written
questions that are posed to a student and they are required to respond to them that will get you the same kinds of information about credibility and
cross-examination is no sort of truth serum or some magic process that gets you to that.
And so, for that reason, there were — a lot of these safeguards were already in place and a lot of the concerns about fair and impartial
hearings are something that have been of concern for the Department of Education for many years. And so, there was no need to stack the process
against survivors in the ways that these new proposed rules do
AMANPOUR: Alright. Well, it’s a really fascinating conversation and one that so many people will be keeping an eye on in the weeks and months
ahead. Samantha Harris and Anurima Bhargava, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
BHARGAVA: Thank you so much —
HARRIS: Thank you.
BHARGAVA: — for having us.
AMANPOUR: So, it’s quite refreshing to see a civil debate and even some agreement on such a contentious issue. My next guest is a much needed
voice of civil debate and reason on a subject that will shape our entire future, and that of course is climate change.
As G20 nations gather, the U.N. warns of a 3.2-degree Celsius temperature rise by the end of the century, that is woefully short of our two-degree
global warming goal.
Meanwhile, the U.S. released a dire climate change report predicting quality of life and economic growth will suffer. President Trump doesn’t
quite believe it. So, will we survive the 2first century.
Fifteen years ago, Britain’s astronomer royal, Lord Martin Rees, gave that a 50-50 chance. Now, his new book called “On the Future Prospects: for
Humanity,” his forecast is still gloomy and we are to blame. Therefore, we can also work to improve the prognosis.
So, while Stephen Hawking once urged us to look up to the stars and not down to your feet. Lord Martin Rees told me why our footprint is indeed
the biggest threat ahead.
Martin Rees, welcome to the program.
Sir and now Lord Martin Rees, you are astronomer royal. What is that?
LORD MARTIN REES, ASTRONOMER ROYAL: Well, it was the person who ran the observatory at Greenwich and was —
AMANPOUR: A famous Greenwich meantime?
REES: Yes. And it was, in fact, the first publicly funded scientist because strongly it was used for navigation and the calendar, et cetera,
from 1675 onward. For the last 50 years, we’ve not used that observatory under the cloudy skies of London and going on overseas. So, the post is
now (INAUDIBLE) one. I don’t like to say the juices so ambiguous, I can do the posthumously. So, I’ve got to keep going because it’s on the royal.
But it’s a sort of title like poet laureate, which is given to a senior academic on the subject.
AMANPOUR: So, given that you have got this title, it’s not just an honorary title, it’s because of your long and illustrious career in the
fact-based, evidence-based world. How do you feel when you see those, you know, empirical issues challenge right now?
REES: Well, I deplore it and I think it’s a job of scientists do all they can to get the word out to the wide public, especially in issues like
climate and health where it matters and where the public has to decide. So, it’s deplorable. But I’m not sure that it’s worse than it was in the
past. I think the main change is that a wider public has a voice.
In the past, lots of public were pretty ignorant, more so than anyone today but they didn’t have a voice. And also, I think it’s important to
(INAUDIBLE) not to bemoan the ignorance of the public of science and even more than other kinds because it’s equally sad, as I’m sure you would
agree, if people don’t know the history of their country, if they can find South Korea or Iraq on a map and many people in your country and mine can’t
do even that. And so, that’s sad and it’s also sad if they don’t understand the basics of science because in none of those cases would they
be able to have a proper informed debate on the kind of issue which has a scientific dimension but goes beyond science and requires ethics and
politics and economics.
AMANPOUR: And I guess that’s why some of these the minority of deniers have such a disproportionate impact.
REES: That’s right.
AMANPOUR: So, your new book, “On the Future,” is full of prophecies for humanity. I’m just going to quote what you have described our planet as
being, “Spaceship Earth hurtling through the void with its passengers fractious an anxious.” What do you mean exactly?
REES: Well, I mean, that we have long-term issues which we need to address but they’re not addressed partly because of minor disputes which we can’t
settle. And so, there’s a big gap between the way things should be and the way things are on the current policies.
AMANPOUR: When you look towards the future, what is the biggest existential threat to our planet? Is it an asteroid collided with the
mother ship or what is it?
REES: Not an asteroid because those risks exist but they’re getting no bigger. They were bad for the dinosaurs, they’re bad for us but they’re
most unlikely to happen in next century. What I worry about most are the kind of risks that are induced by us humans, either collectively on the
climate or the environment or individually, because technology is so powerful that even a few people can have a really catastrophic effect that
And as I said in my book, I look at this astronomical perspective a new Earth speed around for 45 million centuries but this is a first, right, one
species, maybe the human species has the future the planet in his hands because what we do in this century will determine whether we leave a
depleted planet for future generations or whether we can survive sustainably.
AMANPOUR: You know, that’s is an extraordinary comment, the earth has been around for that many millions of decades but this is the first time that a
species, our species, faces a catastrophic extinction?
REES: Well, it’s up to us. We could cause a catastrophic extinction but let’s hope we don’t. But there’s never been a state when one species has
so dominated the planet and we’re uniquely empowered by technology, of course.
AMANPOUR: So, basically, you are saying that the existential threat to our planet is us?
AMANPOUR: All right. So, how do we fix it?
AMANPOUR: If we are the all-powerful species, there’s never been anything like us before, can we fix it? What is your book telling us about that?
REES: Yes. Well, I think it’s a serious issue and one quote I like to say the unfamiliar is not the same as improbable. So, the fact, if they’re
talking about things that haven’t even happened doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about them because conditions are quite different now if never before
because of technology and the number of people on the planet.
But I think also, if we think of the new technologies, A.I., cyber and bio, they empower people greatly and they can be used human’s benefit, for
health or the communications, of course. But the way I put it is a global village will have its village idiots and they will now have global range.
And as we know, in the case of cyber-attacks, you know, a few people can cause something which cascades over a wide area, even a continent.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you’ve left me a huge opening with the global village and the village idiots. I mean, I don’t even want to go there to make it
REES: Well, you know many of them, of course.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And one of the major, major problems as you’ve identified and many around the world have is, as you say, climate change and the
threat to our environment by mankind, by men and women on this earth. So, we have the G20 coming up —
AMANPOUR: — where all the world’s most powerful leaders are going to be, whether from the United States, China, the Middle East, Russia, everybody.
And yet, do you think that they can make a dent in this problem of manmade climate? Change none of these countries have — even though the U.S. has
pulled out, have abided by or met their goals under the Paris Climate Accord.
REES: Yes. Well, I’m pessimistic about that because it’s very hard for politicians to raise interest in something which benefits people in remote
parts of the world 50 years from now in the face of urgent problems. They don’t put it in high priority. The only way for it to become high priority
is if there’s a mass movement which supports it. And I quote in my book that the paper in (INAUDIBLE) in 2015 where we got a standing ovation at
the U.N. and had a huge effect in Latin America, Africa, the station, that did a bit to raise consciousness among his billion followers.
AMANPOUR: This is Pope Francis?
REES: Pope Francis, yes. And if we had a sustained campaign like that led by charismatic figures, that would make a difference. But otherwise, I’m
pessimistic. And I discuss in my book, the only win-win situation for climate change in my view, which is to enhance research and development
into all forms of clean energy. Do it at the level of health research or defense research.
So, as we develop clean energy, including fourth generation nuclear much more rapidly and the costs come down. Because if it becomes as cheap as
safe (INAUDIBLE) then India which clearly needs to have some sort of grid will be able to leap front directly to clean energy and not build coal
power stations, which I do advice.
So, I think a win-win situation is to enhance research and development so that the countries develop it, make money, and it benefits, the countries
can buy it cheap.
AMANPOUR: The president of the United States already pulled the United States out of the climate accord. But is variously described as a denial
or an obstruct or a transactional kind of guy who doesn’t want to deal with the economic impact to trying to go to clean energy and regulation and the
rest. This is what he said recently to an American television station about whether he was a denial or not about the recent incredible climate
upheavals in the U.S. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I’m not denying climate change but it could very well go back. You know, we’re talking about over
millions of years.
LESLEY STAHL, HOST, 60 MINUTES: Well, that’s denying.
TRUMP: They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael.
STAHL: Who says that they say?
TRUMP: People say that in the —
STAHL: What about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?
TRUMP: You have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean here you are, one of the leading authorities in the fact- based world and even you are having a hard time getting the critical mass going.
AMANPOUR: How do you lobby against that kind of view?
REES: Yes. I think the main political debate is between people who take climate change seriously with all uncertainties but have different
assumptions about the discount rate and how much we should sacrifice now for the future. If you take the standard discount rate, many economists do
this when they talk about climate. Then you write off what happens after 2050. And we all know before 2050, there may be no catastrophe.
But on the other hand, if in this context you say we should take a small discount rate and care about the life chances of a baby born today, we
still live in the 22nd century, then you would decide this is worth making a sacrifice now to remove a potentially catastrophic risk for them in their
lives. And I think this is ethics and economics difference which is more important in the policy debate than the few denies.
AMANPOUR: OK. But the few denies seem to have a lock on the public debate because as you heard the president say, you know, scientists have a
political agenda. Do you have a political agenda?
REES: Not at all. I don’t see why scientists should have an agenda. I don’t have one but I think they do share the common culture because science
is the one uniquely global culture. Protons and proteins are the same of the world and so is the debate about climate change. So there is a
consensus that climate change is something which is happening and is potentially serious.
And so to that extent, they have a common agenda. But the way we deal with it does depend as I said on the sums about the discount rate and where they
value future generations and the yet unborn. And that’s a big ethical issue.
AMANPOUR: Let me just take again President Trump who is also the elected president of the United States, the most powerful and the most polluting
country in the world. This is what he said about Thanksgiving. He tweeted, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter all records.
Whatever happened to global warming?” This is the coldest weather in the history of Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and one of the coldest
Thanksgivings on record. All right. Is that how you measure global warming and climate change?
REES: No. He’s confusing weather and climate. Weather is short-term. The climate is a long-term trend. But far be it for me to criticize a
AMANPOUR: In your previous book, “The Final Hour”, you gave humanity a 50- 50 chance of surviving the 21st century. That was 15 years ago you wrote that. And now what are our chances?
REES: Well, I would say we will. That’s most likely. But I think there’s a very high chance, more than 50 percent of having a very bumpy ride
through this century when there are severe setbacks and social breakdowns.
AMANPOUR: What does a social breakdown look like?
REES: Well, let me give you one example, pandemics, district of natural pandemics, OK. When they had the black deaths in the 14th century, half
the population of some towns died, the rest fatalistically went on as before. If we had a similar event now, I think to be a real social
breakdown, number of cases surpass the capacity of hospitals. Maybe even less than one percent. But the social breakdown, people have clamor and
fight for access to hospitals, et cetera.
And we’re so vulnerable that society is so brittle that I think we need to be very concerned about that. And also internationally, if we think of the
situation Africa which is getting left behind more and more compared to the west, then they now know what they’re missing. They have mobile phones,
they have internet, and they can travel more. So I think in this wealthy countries decide collectively, we’ve got to do something to help Africa out
of the poverty trap.
Then the mega versions of the people Mediterranean in the later part of the century. And, of course, they won’t have the opportunity in
Africa which East Asian countries did to offer cheap labor, manufacturing because the robots are doing that now. We have what’s called reshoring in
wealthy countries. So I think the situation in Africa is something which in the self-interest of wealthy countries has to be addressed.
AMANPOUR: You talked a moment ago about ethics and science and the future. You are on — an advisor to the papacy on these kinds of issues, science
and the future. But I wonder what you think given what you’ve just said about the Catholic Church and even this pope never talking about population
growth, never talking about, you know, contraception, and trying to keep the population down, never talking about safe sex and seeing this AIDS
pandemic sort of bloom. When it comes to ethics and morality, doesn’t the church also have a bigger role to play there?
REES: Of course, it does. I deplore those attitudes you just mentioned. I should say I’m not a Catholic. I’m not religious at all but the Papal
Academy does contain about 70 scientists more around the world of all face unknown. And I believe in the case of climate change and also now
extinctions, human trafficking, and other, it does have an effect. Because politicians will listen to a large body of people, not directly to our
AMANPOUR: And looking further beyond, you know, as this sort of cataclysmic view of our planet has gained traction, you see in the science,
I mean even just this week they landed another probe on Mars and you’ve had private citizens, Elon Musk and the others talking about, you know, going
to Mars. You’ve had the idea of human beings immigrating to Mars. Is that the solution?
REES: No. I think it’s a dangerous illusion. I mean I cheer on Elon Musk and the idea of doing cut-price, high-risk space exploration by humans.
And I wish them good luck and Elon Musk himself wants to die on Mars but also the impact. I hope he does that.
But it’s a dangerous delusion to believe as he did and also my late colleague Stephen Hawking that we can have mass emigration to Mars. It’s a
dangerous illusion because Mars is far harder than the climate change here on the earth. And we’ve got to make the Earth habitable. There’s no
planet B for all the risk-averse people.
I think the point is that people who know about Mars, know it’s far less clement than the south pole of the top of Everest. And to make it
habitable in a global way would be almost impossible the next few centuries and they’d be living under some sort of bubble.
And if you — pioneers will do this. And I think we should wish them good luck because they are the people pioneer post-humanity because they’ll be
away from all the regulators. They have to remotely use genetic modification and cyber techniques to adapt themselves to the environment.
So they will be doing something which is important in cosmic history but I don’t think ever we’re going to see mass immigration to Mars.
AMANPOUR: As we’re talking, the U.N. is putting out its new report and it’s quite dire, in fact. It says, “The world is woefully short of the
two-degree goal for climate change. Projections of carbon emissions from countries put us on a path for 3.2 degrees Celsius. That’s 5.7 degrees
Fahrenheit warming by the end of this century.” How would you — break that down. What does that mean for us, ordinary mortals? How do we
REES: Well, of course, it’s not so much the global average temperature rise but the changing weather patterns, the changes in where the monsoon
go, where are the droughts, et cetera, and mass changes in land use, et cetera. So it’s very hard to cope with those rapid changes and that’s the
reason why it’s important to ensure that the annual emissions of carbon dioxide which is still going up should be cut back so that we can stabilize
the climate preferably at two degrees, 1.5 degrees.
AMANPOUR: It looks like that’s a pipe dream though.
REES: Indeed 1.5 is pretty unlikely.
AMANPOUR: And now these guys are saying two is a risk.
REES: Well, I think that is the situation, yes. But we would have to cope with it and, of course, the wealthy countries can cope but the ones that
can’t cope are the ones who did nothing to cause it namely in Africa and elsewhere.
AMANPOUR: Did you always dream when you were a little boy of being an astronomer? I mean did you gaze at the stars?
REES: No, I didn’t really. I went into science at the university partly because I was bad at languages and good at mathematics. I thought to be an
economist. And some of my friends became economists aftermath. But I was quite lucky to get into this subject but going back to a long time to the
1960s which was when the (INAUDIBLE) opened up, the first evidence for black holes to the Big Bang and Neil Armstrong’s one small step. All those
things happened when I was a student.
And what’s so exciting is that although those were great years, the last five years have been equally exciting with tiny planets around
other stars, that there are a billion planets like the earth in our galaxy and that we can detect stars and given gravitational waves and all these
things. So it’s a very exciting subject.
And I like to say astronomy is a fundamental science but also it’s the grandest environmental science because everyone throughout history has
gazed up at the vault of heaven as it were, in terms differently. But it’s the one thing we all have in common even more than the rest of science so
it’s a great subject. And also, it’s good that the public interest in it. I would get so much satisfaction if I could just talk to a few fellow nerds
about it. You know, it’s good that I can talk to a wider public and there’s interest in these things.
AMANPOUR: Well, Lord Martin Rees, thank you very much indeed for joining us on the future.
REES: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much.
Turning now to someone who’s neutrally putting her body on the line for change, Ericka Hart was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at the age
of 28. A writer and sex-ed teacher, she realized that the cancer’s impact on her identity and even on her sex life did not feature prominently in her
So Hart embarked on a mission to spark a broader conversation about the visibility of cancer survivors. And she sat down with our Alicia Menendez
to talk about pushing boundaries, even going topless to make a point. Just to note, what you’re about to hear and see, it’s a frank discussion about
sexuality that also contains some images that may not suit all viewers.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: Erika Hart, welcome.
ERICKA HART, SEXUALITY EDUCATOR: Thank you.
MENENDEZ: You told Cosmopolitan, “I was raised to believe that sex is something you don’t talk about. I was raised to believe that sex is for
someone else’s pleasure. I was raised to believe that sex is something that’s done in private.” How does that person become a sex educator?
HART: That person is a Sagittarius and loves to talk nonstop and really wanted the information. I asked a lot of questions in school. I didn’t
really understand math. I asked lots of questions about math. I asked lots of questions about history, science. And then when I got to the
little health class that was connected to the cooking class and the woodwork class, you know, like the ’80s and like in the ’90s, the teacher
was like, you know, we’re just going to talk about abstinence and that’s it. And I said why are we —
MENENDEZ: This was growing up in Maryland?
HART: Yes, Maryland. Yes. Said why are we just talking about abstinence? The teacher is like, “Because we are. And you need to wait until you get
married to have sex.” And I said why like why do I have to wait until I get — like really just like I don’t understand. She’s like, “It’s just
the way it is.” And I was like that’s not sufficient. Like two plus two equals four because that’s how addition works but that doesn’t make sense
So I went to my parents and they kind of gave me an explanation as to why they were saying that and explain sex to me as well. And then as I got
older in middle school, my friends were having sex. And sex, — there’s woods that like surrounded my middle school and they were going out in the
woods and having sexual breaks. And then getting STIs and some of them also got pregnant at a very young age. But they didn’t have the
information to know what was happening to their body.
Even during pregnancy, it was — it’s a problem now that you’re pregnant and now we’re going to disregard you as a human because you got pregnant at
15 so there goes your teenage years. But we’re not going to actually talk to you about postpartum or talk to you about what labor is going to be like
or talk to you what the rest of your life is going to be. We’re just going to shame you. And I thought that that was wrong and I was really
interested in not having it be a problem that people experience their bodies in those ways.
MENENDEZ: Do you believe that pleasure is political?
HART: Absolutely. All the way. Pleasure is absolutely political because, you know, as a black person, I didn’t necessarily — or a black fem rather,
I didn’t necessarily experience desire until I was much older.
MENENDEZ: You didn’t experience desire and others were being desired?
HART: Being desired. Like I was — people were like I don’t really — there’s a guy that, you know, I loved. I will not say his name. I loved
him in middle school and I’ll never forget it but it was me on one side of him and a white girl on the other side. He said, “I want to be with her.”
And it didn’t necessarily hit me in the way of understanding the ways in which desire is political until I was much older is that she was the object
of desire, not me.
And everybody was kind of watching this courting of who is he going to choose. Like seriously, middle school is awful. Who is he going to
choose? Who is he going to be with? And it’s like he chose her. And even in my heart of hearts I was like, of course, he’s going to choose her.
She’s prettier than me. Quite naturally, she would be prettier than me and I was respected —
MENENDEZ: Because of her race?
HART: Because of her — yes, because of how she looked. Yes, absolutely. And it’s — but I have been receiving that messaging for a very long time.
I mean Beauty and The Beast is not a black girl. Do you know what I mean? Like there’s lots of imagery where it’s not the black girl wins,
you know, the prince. Sleeping Beauty, not a black girl.
So it’s like you see these things over and over again and you don’t get how they impact you and that’s why you can’t talk about sex and gender without
talking about race and about talking about class and talking about the systems or oppression that impacts us in this country. It’s just
MENENDEZ: How did you personally undo that?
HART: I don’t know that I undid it. I think that there’s awareness for it. I definitely have my own internalized anti-blackness where sometimes
I’m like I don’t think that I’m pretty or maybe I shouldn’t wear my hair like this because people are not going to find it pretty.
I actually used to wear my hair like this in high school and when I slipped it back, I was like I don’t know if I should do this. Maybe people won’t
think that I’m attractive. Maybe I should wear headscarves. So I definitely have my own — it’s constantly undoing. I don’t think that
there’s a — and now it’s undone. It’s just a constant conversation that has to happen.
MENENDEZ: Do you imagine a future where that’s not the case?
HART: Sometimes there’s a question who are you without racism. And I’m just being kind of pondering that question is like who am I without racism.
And I feel like that’s that question I don’t really know. My intention as a black person is to still lift our narratives and to take up space and to
disrupt what I can and with my platform and to continue to get uncomfortable and also make other people uncomfortable for — even if it’s
a second that you’re uncomfortable, if you notice the discomfort, it’s a privilege.
I live my life in discomfort. I don’t even notice that I’m uncomfortable anymore. So that’s why I’ve really — I think that there is hope that has
me continue doing the work that I do in some ways whereas that I think hope has me like keep going.
MENENDEZ: Because do you believe that people can change or that institutions can change?
HART: I think that people can change. And then my hope is that the institution would change because the institution is nothing without the
people. The people run the institution. So I think my hope is that people will see it like, “Wow, OK, I’m going to change this. I’m going to, you
know, listen to the black fem in my office and make sure that she never experiences racism ever again and make sure that whoever is, you know, not
paying attention will do something about it.” That’s my hope. That’s how I see it and that’s what moves my feet. That’s what gets me out of it.
MENENDEZ: You interrogate a lot of these intersections. When you were 28, you got diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and a part of your critique
of the medical institution and the care that you were given was that no one really talked to you about your sex life or your sexuality. What would it
have looked like for them to have done that?
HART: Well, when you go to any doctor’s office, you have to fill out a, you know, a dissertation of papers and paperwork and sit down with doctors
and fill them in on everything you’ve done in the past, you know, 10 years. And nothing involved like how I express my, you know, my sexuality or my
sex life or what that looks like or where I’m experiencing pleasure and how I continue to.
When we talk about breast cancer and double mastectomies, we also — we connect it to just cisgender women having breast and having some sort of
like womanhood inside of their nipples but — and there are problems inside of that as well where this everybody has nipples and not every person that
gets diagnosed with breast cancer is a cisgender woman but it’s also where is the conversation around pleasure and nipples. You know, like when
that’s gone now, I don’t get to experience that.
So doctor, can you help me of what have other people done or what have you suggested. You know, when I was on chemo, my libido completely drops
because of the amount of hormones that were being pumped into my body. So I just — I didn’t know. And thank goodness I was in my Master’s program
at the time for human sexuality so I had to bury and to kind of ask the questions of like this is weird and this is interesting that I’m
experiencing this and I don’t want to have sex with my partner that I’ve had for — we’re about to get married and I don’t want to so what’s up.
It’s like “Oh yes, you know, on the 18th page of the list of side effects for chemotherapy, you could experience, you know, a lack of libido. You
could experience vaginal dryness. All of these things I wish were imparted to me when I went. You know, it’s like they tell you, you might be
depressed, you’re going to have hair loss, and, oh my God, it sucks that you have cancer but you could also say your sex life may also be impacted.
MENENDEZ: Part of the way in which you thought your care was not totally culturally competent was as it related to sexuality. Part of it was also
around being black. I want to read you something you told “Paper Magazine”. “Even though my mother passed away from breast cancer when I
was 13, what came to mind when I thought about breast cancer was a middle- aged white woman with three kids, a beautiful stainless steel kitchen with a minivan and a summer home.”
MENENDEZ: Where does that idea come from?
HART: It comes from every breast cancer advocacy ad that ever exists. Still, to this day, I have not seen a major breast cancer ad
that had black people at the forefront. What’s attractive is a white body. What’s disheartening is something happening to a white body. But it’s not
necessarily disheartening if it’s happening to a black body because we’ve been conditioned to believe that things are just supposed to happen to
MENENDEZ: We’re also conditioned to believe that black women, in particular, are stronger.
MENENDEZ: Which is just a disturbance.
HART: Right. So that’s a function of, you know, slavery that was instituted for so long is that oh, this is happening to them and they can
handle it because they’re strong.
MENENDEZ: Right. You know, very recently the question of the racial gap and maternal health has come into prominence again because of Serena
William sharing her story of childbirth and postpartum. And for a long time, there’s been this debate about why there is this racial gap and part
of it has to do with systems of racial inequity within health institution.
MENENDEZ: But part of it, researchers are coming to believe and agree upon, has to do with the physiological stress that black women are
constantly under simply as a product of living in American society.
HART: Yes, absolutely.
MENENDEZ: And so I wonder for you as someone who has gone through this experience if that manifest in your own journey.
HART: Yes. I mean the — it’s called weathering where you — you know, it’s not that you go in as a pregnant person that’s 30. You’re socially
going as a pregnant person that’s six — with a body physiologically that’s 65. And I definitely think about that as someone who had a mother who died
at 39 for breast cancer and no one ever talking to us about weathering or never — no one ever talking to us about the impacts, you know, emotionally
that racism has on our bodies.
You know, it’s that this incident happened and now it’s over. And now this incident happened and now it’s over but there’s no taking care of ourselves
emotionally, spiritually of how that impacted us of living in a country where you’re constantly gas lit and led to believe that you don’t belong
here, you know.
MENENDEZ: When you decided to get your bilateral mastectomy, you asked your doctor to show you images of other women who had had a bilateral
mastectomy. Part of the challenge was finding pictures of a black woman or a black body that had had a bilateral mastectomy. And so in many ways, you
took that into your own hands and became what you call a topless activist.
HART: Yes, yes.
MENENDEZ: What are you hoping to achieve with that?
HART: I just want to take up space. I want people to pay attention to how black bodies are being regarded. I think what happens a lot of times in
this country is that we’re like, OK, Starbucks is being protested because they’re — they did something racist. And now it’s Starbucks, that’s the
issue. And now, maternity health black mothers are dying inside a maternity health and we stick to this one thing that it’s like it’s an
issue of maternity health. It’s an issue at Starbucks. It’s an issue in every institution in the U.S.
MENENDEZ: But isn’t part of the reason we focus on Starbucks and we focus on maternal health because if the target is that narrow, then it feels like
maybe there’s something we can do about it.
HART: I mean I don’t know. I think the — I think we focus on those things so we can maybe have an article that goes viral because maybe the
article won’t go viral if it’s just the all of the U.S. is racist. And every — it’s in every single institution and we could write about this
every week. It could be literally the same article every single week, we have go.
I think it should no longer be surprising that these spaces are racist. And I think me going topless is not just to take up space inside of breast
cancer but that’s absolutely one of my reasons for it but it’s also so people pay attention. And oftentimes, I’ve sat in meetings where most of
the people around me were white and expressed, you know, this doesn’t feel right and this seems like this is a function of racism or being the only
black person in the room and people not listening to me. But all of a sudden, when I go topless, people see me.
So I use that as a way to say, OK, you see me as topless. You’re shocked by this photo which is also a function of patriarchy and also capitalism
that a feminine body can’t just be without a shirt but this man could be without a shirt on the internet, that’s completely fine. But I want people
to pay attention to the picture and also to the message.
So I don’t always have — you know, I post pictures, I don’t always say check your breasts. I’ll have, you know, something about what’s happening
in the world because I want people to read it and I want people to see it. So just literally putting my body on the line.
MENENDEZ: Ericka, thank you so much.
HART: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Really interesting insights there into the power dynamics between race, class, and the distressing impacts they can have on gender
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.