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Interview With Former Gov. John Kasich (R-OH); Interview With James Cameron; Interview U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 22, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable.
AMANPOUR: On a special Earth Day program, I talk to U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa about new pledges and what it really takes to go green.
JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR: You don't lead with the with the gloom, and doom and you don't beat people over the head. You draw them in. You say, come on
this journey. Let's meet some friends.
AMANPOUR: From "Avatar" to the "Titanic," to whales, acclaimed director and environmentalist James Cameron joins me on a deep dive into the lives
of these complex ocean creatures.
Plus: the politics of climate change from Nixon to now.
JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Somehow, Republicans have migrated away from being concerned about the environment. And they need to
get back to it.
AMANPOUR: Former Ohio Governor John Kasich tells Walter Isaacson how to get through to his own party on this global emergency.
And, finally, we meet Jerome Foster, 18 years old and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Board.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Look at this image, children and adults wearing masks on the streets. It could be from today, but it isn't. It's from 1970. It's on the streets of
New York, and it's on the very first Earth Day.
Now, 51 years later, the calls to protect our planet from calamity are ever more urgent. This morning, President Joe Biden hosted a virtual summit to
address the climate emergency with more than 40 world leaders. And Biden pledged to cut American greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The United States sets out on the road to cut greenhouse gases in half, in half by the end of this decade.
NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: We in India are doing our part.
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: Poor countries have historically contributed least to global emissions.
XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): Mother Nature has nourished us. And we must treat nature as our root.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: We will lift our ambition because we must.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, here in the U.K., the government pledged a 78 percent cut in emissions by 2035.
So, what do all these pledges amount to, and the ever-important question, is it enough?
Joining me now is the U.N. climate chief, Patricia Espinosa.
Welcome to the program. We are reaching you at your headquarters in Germany.
So, let me ask you, did you hear anything today from all those world leaders that gives you any hope that there are real plans to reach that
Holy Grail, which is temperature at two degrees, or best-case scenario, 1.5 degrees Celsius? Because one of your chief advisers says that we're on
track to a four degrees Celsius situation.
PATRICIA ESPINOSA, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Well, Christiane, let me say that we are certainly now
in a different scenario from where we were just a few months ago.
So, yes, I think the summit that was convened by President Biden demonstrates, on the one hand, that climate change is a top priority,
especially now. And this is particularly important, especially now that leaders are taking decisions on the COVID recovery packages.
That means it brings an opportunity for them to make the investments in the right way. And the fact that we have heard announcements to enhance the
goals of the national climate plans by the U.S., by Canada, by Japan is certainly encouraging.
I would say that we are not yet there where we need to be to actually go towards the 1.5 goal, because, after Paris, where the two degree goal was
approved, with the expectation of going closer to 1.5 as possible, we saw the IPCC report, the report by the scientific committee, that says clearly
that the two degree scenario is still a disastrous scenario.
So we have to concentrate on the 1.5 degree goal. I am encouraged, but we are very far from there.
Well, very far from there is not encouraging, because there is not a huge amount of time. If everybody is pledging this to all happen, as they did
today, by 2030, the U.S. pledging to cut theirs by half by 2030, and all these other commitments I just listed out, we have not seen and there are
calls for a detailed road map, a detailed plan for what it means in what it will cost, what kinds of investments, what kinds of actual strategic road
map, as I say, they will be laying out.
That has not happened yet. How worrying is that? And when do you expect that detailed road map to be delivered?
ESPINOSA: Well, that is certainly the big challenge now, that we see these pledges translated into very concrete plans.
And this is why did way that the Paris agreement requests countries to come forward with very specific plans by 2020, which, of course, is a deadline
that was not met by all. We received 75 plans. But we have almost 200 parties to the Paris agreement.
That is why those plans are so important. You are absolutely right. We need to see those plans now. We have also heard from the U.S., from Japan, from
Canada that those plans are going to be coming forward very soon. And we are eager to see them. It is very important that those pledges are
developed into very specific plans.
In the case of the U.S., many measures have already been taken, and some others will be coming. But it's important that we have clarity on how this
is going to be delivered.
AMANPOUR: So, interesting you do not mention -- and twice you have mentioned a number of countries -- you don't mention China, which is the
Obviously, President Xi was there. And they have made their promises. But even in your own office, they deliver a lot or they talk about it a lot,
but they have still got long targets. Their targets are for, I don't know, 2060 or something, which is just not good enough.
What can you do in and what do you think, for instance, the U.S. climate czar, John Kerry, former U.S. secretary of state, who was just there, do
you have any idea what he might have got as commitments out of China?
ESPINOSA: Well, let me say that we have a very close engagement with China. And I am very grateful that presidential envoy Kerry is also
engaging with China, because of their participation in global emissions, but also because of the many solutions that they have provided and the way
that they have been transforming their economy and their society.
China has not yet come up with a revised NDC. However, they have indicated that they will submit it very soon. We know that they are working in this
very detailed plan, and that what they -- we have heard from them is, the reason why they have not yet submitted the NDC is because they want to have
that specific plan, with very clear milestones towards the peaking of emission -- emissions by 2030, or before, if possible, and the net zero by
2060, or before, if possible.
So, we are very hopeful also for China coming forward with a good plan.
So, at the beginning, you said you feel things look more hopeful than perhaps they did a few months ago, even in the last several years. Is that
because Donald Trump is no longer president of the United States, no longer denying climate, no longer rolling back environmental protections, no
longer pulling the U.S. out of climate -- the climate accords?
Do you feel that it is Biden's presidency that makes it more viable?
ESPINOSA: Well, let me say that, of course, yes, the U.S. rejoining the Paris agreement is a very, very important signal, and not only rejoining
the Paris agreement, but also taking these decisions, like the summit today, convening the leaders of the world to come together and talk about
climate change and how we are going to move forward.
This is something we didn't see happening in the last years, since the Paris agreement was adopted. We did see some important announcements last
year at the General Assembly of the United Nations in September.
However, we had not seen these focused at the highest level. And I'm -- I really think that leadership is very central. We need that visionary
leadership that will bring the world to emerge from tragedy that we have been going through in the last year towards a world of hope and a more
resilient and more healthy future.
AMANPOUR: So, you have called for all of these governments and the E.U. and others to stick by their pledges to put green development and the
climate at the very center of rebuilding after this pandemic and reenergizing the global economy.
You know, President Biden says, every time he thinks of climate emergency and dealing with the climate, he just sees jobs and he sees dollars. He
says, it is a no-brainer that, if we do this, it will actually benefit our economies.
But some countries don't see it like that. India and China, maybe they think, well, you all had your time as industrial powers ,and now you are
telling us, on the brink of our development, that we can't do it.
How do you have the kinds of diplomacy with a country like India, for instance, that also is a big emitter, to rein it in?
ESPINOSA: Well, it's very important that we acknowledge the fact that we should not see these transformations and these transitions in sectors -- in
isolated sectors. We should see the bigger picture.
And when we consider that continuing to operate in business-as-usual mode will lead us to less food, to no water, to migration, to more
vulnerability, then it becomes clear that doing these transformations is about investing in the future.
It is not about giving in, or it is not about trying to renounce to some benefits, immediate benefits, because it is very clear, the evidence of
climate change and how much suffering and damage it is causing, especially to the poorest people, the most vulnerable is there.
So, it is precisely talking about the bigger picture. What does really climate change mean? It doesn't -- it is not in isolation, the need to go
to renewable sources. Why do we need to go to renewable sources? To provide our children with a green, healthy, and prosperous future.
AMANPOUR: Patricia Espinosa, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, the United Nations is also warning that our oceans are under threat like never before.
The award-winning director James Cameron, an environmentalist who brought us the epic films "Titanic" and "Avatar," has now turned his attention to
the deep blue sea. His latest project, "Secrets of the Whales," follows various species in 24 different locations around the globe, revealing that
these complex ocean creatures might be a lot more like humans than we ever imagined.
James Cameron told me all about it when he joined me from New Zealand.
AMANPOUR: James Cameron, welcome back to our program.
I want to know where you are, because you look like you are in, I don't know, underwater. I don't know where you are.
CAMERON: Well, you are visiting me on the planet Pandora right now.
I'm in my cutting room working on the "Avatar" sequel films. And so thanks for dropping in to my habitat.
AMANPOUR: By the way, a great pleasure.
And people, obviously, viewers are desperate for your "Avatar" film.
But, in the meantime, you know how to put, let's say, in the English word, bums on seats. And I want to know what you were thinking when you took on
this new project about whales for Nat Geographic and Disney+?
CAMERON: Well, I think a number of things.
First of all, Disney has acquired the National Geographic brand. And they are really leaning into it. They really love it. It has got sort of great
alignment with their mission statements around helping people understand the planet and each other and so on. So that was a real plus going into it.
Also, I knew I wasn't going to be able to do the diving myself. So what could I offer? I figured I can work on the narrative with the people that
are out in the ocean doing the hard yards over three years. It took them three years to shoot this, 24 locations around the world, lots and lots and
lots of hours spent underwater and at the surface, as you can imagine, waiting for the whales to show up and do something interesting.
And I think the challenge was, what are we showing people that they haven't seen before? Everybody has seen beautiful images of whales, slow motion,
leaping out of the water and things like that. We all know it. It stirs our soul, for some reason. We love these animals.
What can we show people that they haven't seen before or maybe teach them? I thought I knew a lot about whales. Turns out I'd only scratched the
surface, so to speak.
AMANPOUR: You have done one of the episodes on ghost whales. I had never even heard of it. But we're going to play this clip right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: There's only one true white whale, like a ghost and just as mysterious.
Beluga whales smile, show emotion with facial expressions. They have one of the largest vocabularies in the ocean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That must have been an amazing thing for a director like yourself to see and to try to put into a story which is being released on
Earth Day, these animals that seem almost human.
CAMERON: Well, right.
I mean, certainly, our anthropocentric perspective is to ascribe human characteristics to the whales. Maybe we're just more like them than we
What's the common through line? These are intelligent animals. They're emotive. You could see that with the belugas in particular. They have
complex speech. The belugas especially have complex speech, but so do the - - so do all the other species as well.
And they have familial bonds that are generation to generation. They have matrilineal societies. They respect their mom and their grandmom and do
what they're told and do what they're taught. They have culture, which is passed down from generation to generation.
And we were actually able to film mothers and grandmothers teaching their sons and their daughters how to survive in very particular ways. When a
deer is born, it's just sort of born with the programming that it needs to survive.
Whales aren't like that. They're operating on a higher level, like we are. And their education is important. They grieve. They have emotions like
ours. They will mourn their dead. We were able to image an orca mother pushing its dead calf with it around for a long period of time. It was --
it was several days.
And it was in that grieving process of letting go that we understand us as human beings.
AMANPOUR: That's just such a remarkable description.
The families follow these ancient maps, really, road maps in the ocean for their long, long journeys. How were you able to follow that? Did you follow
a whole journey? And what did you find?
CAMERON: Really good research is critical.
So, obviously, there are cetacean experts that study the individual species. And we, as the show, went to them, so that we could look at these
aggregations and these special gatherings and show up to tell the story. Part of it is knowing in advance what is likely to happen.
But just because something's likely to happen doesn't mean it does happen, because I have done a lot of dive work myself. You know, I know that there
are times when the ocean gives you a gift, and there are times when the ocean sort of turns her cold shoulder to you.
And, obviously, our teams were there for those moments where the ocean gave us a gift gave, gave the individual photographers like Brian Skerry a gift,
quite literally, when an orca female brought him a stingray and said, you look a bit thin, you should eat, and dropped it in front of them, and then
waited a little while.
And then, when he didn't eat it, she just took it. All right, I have got kids to feed.
AMANPOUR: That is amazing.
So, we're going to play another clip. It's the narwhal whale.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: The narwhal's legendary horn is actually a long, sensitive tooth. Some females and all the males grow them.
It's one of only two teeth they have. And exactly how it's used has been a mystery, until now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How extraordinary was that? Had you ever seen whales -- what is the point of these long tusks?
CAMERON: Well, it's not terribly well understood. It probably right plays a role in foraging on the sea bottom.
But then most of the females don't have them. So they still have -- they have to eat too. So we think it might be more of a male display thing, I
mean, basically, getting girls, like a lion's mane or so many other things in nature.
And that's the thing about all these animals. We don't know as much as we need to. And we're -- our human presence in the ocean is pushing them, many
of these species to the edge of extinction. Or, certainly, they're under great duress.
And we really need to understand them, so that we can protect them.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you the other important stuff about whales, which is their unbelievable contribution to carbon capture. I couldn't believe
when I read that saving whales is much, much exponentially more powerful for a carbon-free atmosphere than even saving the Amazon rain forest.
In other words, whales capture even more carbon. Did that come up? I mean, do you know about that? Did that come up in the film?
And so, if you think about what a whale does, it eats the animals that eat lower on the food chain. So, a lot of carbon dioxide gets taken out of the
atmosphere into phytoplankton. It's the base of the food web. The whales come along and just kind of snorkel it all up.
And then, when they die, their bodies sink into the deep, where it's sequestered, where it's basically put deep in the ocean, won't come out for
tens of thousands of years. So, they perform a service for us every single day, keeping us from experiencing droughts and all the horrible weather,
violent storms, wildland fires, and things like that, that are in our future, getting worse and worse.
So we need to protect them, because they're actually doing something for us. That's called symbiosis. We're all in the same spaceship Earth here
together, and they're part of the crew too.
AMANPOUR: It's really remarkable, because I honestly don't think most people know that. Every time we think about carbon capture or the lungs of
the Earth, we think about rain forests and other such things.
AMANPOUR: Whaling, basically, has been a way of life for so many countries. Apparently, the whale population has diminished by 90 percent.
CAMERON: It's not just the whaling, because the whaling is now located only in a few countries, and it's still making a dent in their in their
populations. And we need to stop that, obviously.
But it's really just civilization at large. It's what we -- we're using the oceans as a toilet for our for run-off pollution from our farms and from
our cities and so on. And that degrades the food chain. It becomes toxic.
An orca mother's milk is often so toxic because of the bioconcentration of toxins in the water that its milk poisons it young, and its calves die. Our
ships hit them. Our fishing nets trap them, so they can't surface, because they're air breathers, obviously.
CAMERON: And that's what that spout is when they come to the surface. That's them exhaling so they can they can breathe back in. And so they
drown. A lot of them drown. Thousands of them drown every year in fishing nets.
AMANPOUR: And yet this series is not overtly about the climate and about climate change, is it?
AMANPOUR: I mean, you don't really at all go into that.
AMANPOUR: And I wonder why. What was the thinking going -- given your background and your interest?
CAMERON: Yes, well, I think you have to put the cart before the horse. You have to remind people what we love about these animals. It's not just that
they're -- they speak to us kind of almost spiritually, meaning that they evoke that awe of nature.
But we get to know them. We sort of get to know them in this series as people. We get to know them as characters. You could almost name them. They
have individual personality traits, their emotionality and so on. We're not going to protect what we don't love and what we don't respect.
So you don't lead with the gloom and doom, and you don't beat people over the head. You draw them in. You say, come on, on this journey. Let's meet
some friends. Let's meet some interesting people.
Now when you have engendered that love and that respect, now the next question for people coming out the end of the series should be, what can I
do about it? What can I do, as an individual, to make life better for these sojourners with me on this planet, these fellow beings that think like I do
and feel like I do and have families like I do?
AMANPOUR: Yes, that's a great way to put it.
And, of course, you reunite with Sigourney Weaver. And she's also helping tell this story and introduce us to these ocean family members.
What was it like -- she's doing the narration. What was it like reuniting with her on this?
CAMERON: Well, Sig and I reunited many times over the years on different projects. And she's very active as a conservationist and as a spokesperson
and activist for sustainability.
So, she was a natural choice. And it was really one phone call, because she's fascinated by whales. She wanted to learn more. She knew she would.
She tells a very funny story that she kept stopping, because her mouth would sort of drop open while she was watching the footage. And she'd
forget to narrate.
AMANPOUR: She's a formidable woman in every single way.
AMANPOUR: And I read -- you did "Aliens," and she was obviously in "Aliens."
What was your first impression? Was she a bit intimidating?
CAMERON: I think I was more intimidated before the fact.
She's tall. She's so intelligent. She's got that ferocity on screen. But when you meet her, she's kind of not what you expect. She's kind of --
she's kind of fun. She loves comedy. She's playful.
So, we really hit it off on that film. And she pushed back. She had a lot of challenges for me, as a director. I had to defend my position. I think
we got through that phase of learning to work together. And then it was just joyful, everything that I have worked with her on since then, which is
really now for "Avatar" films, because we did the first one, and then we did three sequels, which are all in the can now.
AMANPOUR: So, there are new "Avatar"s in the can? Is that right? Is that what you're doing over there?
CAMERON: Yes, this is my cutting room. You're dropping in on my editing room here. And I will turn around and go back to Pandora when we're done
talking about Earth and its amazing creatures.
AMANPOUR: And when will they be released?
CAMERON: "Avatar 2" comes out in December of '22. And, hopefully, theaters will be back in full strength at that point, because, obviously, they're
quite beleaguered right now.
CAMERON: The whole theatrical film industry is on the ropes right now.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that your industry, in other words, going to the cinema, is going to happen again?
CAMERON: Yes, I think the demand will be there. I think people do want to go to the theaters.
I'm less concerned about demand and people wanting to get out of the house and go experience that thing that we all know from the movies. I'm more
concerned about the theater chains. So, we will see a contraction of the actual infrastructure, the number of movie screens that are available
And that's going to take years to rebuild, if it ever does.
AMANPOUR: But it's a great experience. And I don't think you can ever get that experience of an "Avatar" or a "Titanic" on anything other than the
big screen. So, we also hope it comes back.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to leave you to turn around and get back to your editing.
AMANPOUR: Thank you, James Cameron.
CAMERON: Great conversation. Thanks, Christiane. Always a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And in tangentially related news, tomorrow, the American Museum of Natural History will be pressed into service as a COVID-19 mass
vaccination site for New York City.
The vaccine shots will be given under the museum's iconic blue whale, which is now sporting a massive Band-Aid for the occasion.
So, sometimes, we help save the whales, and, sometimes, the whales help save us.
And next: Even when the federal government in the United States has lagged behind, individual states have forged ahead with climate action. But now
Biden's ambitious pledge has placed the crisis at the top of the Democrats' agenda, it is perhaps hard to imagine that climate was once a bipartisan
issue that Republicans got behind as well.
The former Ohio Governor John Kasich has committed himself to raising climate change awareness.
And here he is talking to Walter Isaacson about how the GOP lost its way in the thicket of climate denial.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, John Kasich, welcome to the show.
KASICH: Thank you, sir.
ISAACSON: Hey, is there a climate plan that sensible Democrats and sensible Republicans could all agree on right now?
KASICH: Well, I think there can be, Walter. I think so.
And I think it's things like making sure we modernize the grid, so that power can be moved in both directions, not just one. I think it's a lot of
research and development into new technologies, particularly around batteries, although there's questions about the issue of lithium and
batteries, from what I understand.
But if you're going to have renewables, you have got to have storage. So, I think there would be agreement that we need storage, I think E.V.s,
electric vehicles, are in the future. And I think there should be an agreement or could be an agreement about the need to have fast charging
I actually drive a Tesla. And my wife is like -- sometimes, she says: "John, if we go out of town, it's a hassle."
And I think the hassle needs to be eliminated. I think most people would agree with that. As to how that gets accomplished, I'm not sure. I think
there's agreement that carbon is bad and that carbon sequestration, as we see ExxonMobil -- I just read about it recently. They're interested in
carbon -- in being able to capture carbon.
I think there would be interest in -- interest in that and perhaps a carbon tax, depending on what you do to it. You could rebate it. There's a lot of
things you could think about.
So, I think there are areas where you could definitely have agreement. I think what -- from what I understand, though, it's that Republicans are
very nervous it is going to disrupt all of these jobs, and I think some of the claims about the fact that miraculously all of these jobs are going to
appear is -- you know, I think they are going to be skeptical about that. You would have to explain it.
But, Walter, look, you have studied some of the greatest people throughout history. It is the ability of people to think about the we and not the I.
It is the ability to break out of being trapped by your own self-interests and being able to think about the greater good for everyone. And there was
a time when we did that in America. But that time is fleeting and it needs to be recaptured. And can it be? I absolutely believe it can be but it is
going to take time.
ISAACSON: The simplest way to reduce carbon would be to put a price on carbon, either a tax on carbon or even a cap in trade, which is not quite
as simple. You've mentioned that maybe you would open to a tax on carbon. Do you think that's something you could get other Republicans to support
and do you think that's really the best way to go?
KASICH: Well, I think it's one of the things that you can do. And it's interesting, right, because it is Jim Bakker and George Shultz that first
started talking about the carbon tax. It was Reagan that first expressed concerns according to George Shultz, I had a conversation with Secretary
Schultz and it was Reagan who was worried about the ozone. I think it was Nixon that might have created the EPA.
You know, somehow, Republicans have migrated away from being concerned about the environment and, you know, they need to get back to it because
for a couple of reasons. One is we are healthier. One of my great friends and great thinkers, Arnold Schwarzenegger, always says, instead of thinking
about icebergs 30 years from now, why don't we think about the problem of asthma today and health and clean water and clean air. Everybody is for
And I think when it comes to the issue of the carbon tax it gets to be about where the proceeds of that tax go. I mean, some of it perhaps could
be used to build infrastructure that we all know we need in this country. But that's a whole other discussion about other ways of thinking about it.
Or perhaps it is just do, as Jim Bakker told me, just a rebate to the American people. But I think that the idea of a carbon tax is coming. I'm
not so sure about cap and trade and all that. But the carbon tax is something that perhaps over time Republicans could support.
Look, Walter, I mean, the problem we have is that the Republican Party is not the party that it used to be. I mean, that's like the understatement,
perhaps, of the century. But at some point, good thinking people who understands science, and I mentioned, it's about a cleaner environment,
it's also about faith. I mean, the lord gave us the planet. We are not to worship it, as some might want to do, but we you had at to be good stewards
ISAACSON: You said the Republican Party isn't the Republican Party you knew and that it's migrated away from caring about the environment. Why?
Why did that happen?
KASICH: You know, it's such a -- it's a lot of things, Walter, that we -- that I can't put a firm finger on. But for some reason, this whole issue of
science -- I mean, got -- somehow got into question. I think some of the extreme voices were able to dominate and just move us away from some sort
of givens or some principles that the Republican Party really held dear.
But, Walter, I may not be the best one to answer these questions because the Republican Party has always been my vehicle and never my master. And my
view was, I'm an American before anything else, and the subset is the Republican Party. I don't get -- I have never taken orders from them. So, I
may not be the best person to ask about what's happened because, you know, I was never a doctrine err person. If the party doesn't warrant it, I'm not
But if you look at some of the great leaders in the party, Teddy Roosevelt -- I'll tell you one that shook up the system was Jack Kemp. I mean, he
thought differently. And there was more openness at some point to different opinions. And for some reason, the loud voices on the extreme of the party
seem to try to cancel out those people who were frankly more moderate, people who had good ideas.
Now, every time I talk about this, I start thinking about this and I am not about to absolve the Democratic Party. Because there are members of that
party who really engage in the cancel culture. If you don't think the way I do, I cancel you. And the party's got to be careful that they are not run
by the extremes, the hard left. Because I think most of the country operates in the middle.
And if the loud voices on both sides -- because I think you grow a country, and policies, not that the extremes don't push the middle, but you grow
things from the middle out, not from the extremes in. And I think in both parties, they've got to be very wary of this, of being able to let the
ISAACSON: What has caused this polarization when most of Americans probably do have a gravitation towards the middle, as you have said, and
yet, the parties have become more extreme?
KASICH: Walter, look, that's a much deeper question. We've gone from a culture of we, where we think about those things around us which we had
most of the 20th century. But starting in the 1970s or whatever, we have kinds of moved to an I culture, what's in it for me, not for everybody
else. And when you get yourself in an I culture, it disrupts everything.
We can begin to get back to a we culture. And then in a we culture, the extremes no longer dominate because too much of that is about I, and fear
that I'm going to lose something, as opposed to the fact that we are all in a boat together and we have to row in the same direction. Today. one group
rows going forward, one group rows going backwards, and the ship can't move anywhere. But it's not just true in politics. It's true across the American
Now, Walter, only a guy like you would ask me a question and actually let me finish those thoughts. Because I think they are significant thoughts,
and they are impactful thoughts about how we can get our country back and begin to do the things that we care about.
So, on the environment, instead of a Republican being criticized because they work with Obama or they work with Biden or whatever, they say, wait a
minute, there is a greater good here, I don't agree with them on everything but there's things here that will bring us together as a people. People
will be healthier. The environment will be cleaner. Good things could happen. But right now, those considerations are secondary to what's in it
ISAACSON: More than half the Republicans in Congress are now climate deniers, meaning they don't believe that human activity is causing climate
change. And it's growing. You on the other hand actually moved in the other direction. You were skeptical for a while to some extent about human impact
on climate and you have looked at the science and moved in the other direction. How would you make an argument to that half of the Congress
Republicans to get them to see it differently?
KASICH: You know, Walter, more than being, you know, skeptical, I just wasn't all that informed. I didn't know that much. But as governor, there
were some things that were clear to me, that the more that we could use natural gas, which is really the transitional fuel, we would have more
jobs. If we fracked and we did it carefully and we begin to capture methane more than even the federal government would require, if we were able to
develop renewables and figure out some way, ultimately, to be able to store it, that just made all the sense in the world.
And you know, for me, I was overwhelmingly reelected in our state. And -- but I mean, we reduced emissions like 30 percent over the last 10 years in
the state. So, these are just commonsense things. We know that burning coal is not a good thing, ultimately, for the environment, that we need to move
away from coal, that we need to move into natural gas. I find it interesting that many on the left begun to embrace nuclear power. Remember,
they used to have protests and wanted to shut all the plants down. Now, they want to open them up and build new ones. But, you know, over time, it
made sense to me to do these things. It was smart economically and it was good for the environment.
I don't know how you can be a denier. I mean, I think part of the problem is, they say we live in cycles, that cycles come and cycles go. But when
you talk to them about the amount of carbon that we now see in the atmosphere and how it heats and creates the greenhouse gas effect and all
of that, Walter, if somebody just says, I just don't -- I am not going believe you, you have got to -- there is a lot of fish in the ocean, you
got to move on to others.
I think we find in this debate right now -- and I know this myself, if I'm on with some environmentalists and I agree with them 80 percent, it's the
20 percent I become their enemy. You can't achieve anything that way. And by the way, you can shove all of these policies through any way you want.
They will not last. They will not be accepted. This has to be done in a -- even though it frustrates those who are, you know, the strong
environmentalists, this cannot be done overnight.
ISAACSON: Late last year you set the tone for that type of bipartisan approach when you worked on World War Zero with Secretary John Kerry who is
now the climate envoy, and Governor Schwarzenegger. Are you going to continue to try to work with John Kerry and some people in the Biden
administration to see where we could go?
KASICH: Yes. Sure. But we have got to figure out a mechanism to bring more people around and to convince -- you know, we have got the usual suspects
in the Republican Party who buy in. We've just got to figure out a way how to kind of advance this among those and get some breakthroughs among people
who you wouldn't normally expect to get breakthroughs from. And we have seen that happen in other areas. You know, we have seen it in defense
reform. We have seen it in health care reform. We have seen it dealing with the issue of poverty. We just have to bring people along, some of the
unusual suspects, who can say, yes, this is really an issue and really a problem.
But, Walter, the other part of it is, it's the grassroots. You know, and that this diverts just a little bit but it makes my point. I was leaving --
as governor, I was trying to do some agreed to gun control measures. The problem we had is that nobody wanted to show up to support them. All the
people in opposition showed up. But those who should have been for them never came, and there was no pressure. I think the same is true with the
environment. I think more and more young people, by the way, are very, very clued in to this. And the Republican Party better be very careful. They are
going to lose all of those young people if they don't bring them along to the issues they care about, and one of them is climate.
ISAACSON: What is the role in business, both in moderating our politics and in finding comment sense solutions on climate?
KASICH: Well, as you know, businesses now are increasingly involved in ESG, Environmental, Social and Governance issues. And they are very, very
interested. In my business, I worked with them and I have come to understand their deep commitment. And I have suggested to them that
environmental, social, or governance change is not a matter of checking a box, but, rather, an issue of the heart. And I find more and more of them
understand that. They get it. They want to move things. And frankly, I think they are just tired of the inability of the political system to solve
Now, when we talk about an I or a we culture, we know there are a lot of businesses that have only cared about themselves. And so, perhaps the issue
of taking political stands or engaging in something like the environment can help move them away from an I stance to more of a we stance. Perhaps
they can become a leader in the fact that in America we are all in this together.
So, I'm very, very encouraged by the ideas that the business community has about not just environmental, but social issues as well, inclusivity,
diversity. They are all starting to pay great attention to this. And I hope that the government can lead them into it rather than beating them into it.
Because when you beat somebody into something, then it becomes a check the box rather than a real evolutionary change.
ISAACSON: You have proposed some commonsense gun legislation. And with this spade of shootings we've had in the past few weeks, what type of gun
legislation do you think should be passed? What are you pushing? And how would you get us there?
KASICH: Well, the first thing that ought to be done is a Red Flag Law. A Red Flag Law says that if we know somebody at work or in our family who we
think poses a danger to themselves or others, that you can go to a court and through a due process situation, you can take guns away from them. That
makes all the sense in the world because when people say it's mental health issue, OK, I agree with that in many of these cases. But what are you doing
about it? If you think it's a mental health issue, then you shouldn't let people who have these problems be able to have guns. Now, once they are
stabilized, give them their guns back.
But, look, the biggest problem we have today in our country is the fact that there is not the training that we need of our police. I mean, it's one
of the biggest problems that relates to this whole issue. We actually -- I put together a group, Walter, on the issue of police and community right
after we had some tragic incidents here in Ohio. And it has made a huge difference in the way that police and community work, it needs to be
constantly upgraded. But we then moved towards gun measures. And this Red Flag Law to me was something that was very simple. But yet, the politicians
figured out a way to not do it.
Walter, until we have people demanding it, it's not going to happen. Because the gun -- people who oppose this are very strong and they are very
strident. And they have to be respected. They can't be dismissed. But At the same time if the people of this country say, look, we need to know who
has those guns. And if somebody is unstable, they ought not to have a gun. Then we can get into the issue of, you know, what type of gun should you
have? That's another legitimate issue that needs to be discussed.
But let's get some early victories because we don't seem to get too many. And I know this sounds kind of boring to people, you know. But look, power
goes from bottom up. It goes from our hands up based upon a moral purpose that we have to say, we will not quit until we get what we want. And a good
example on environment about that, just taking it back for a second, is Greta Thunberg, who, you know, decided she was going to hold a sign outside
of a parliament and created a global movement.
Everybody matters. You matter. What we do in the workplace, in our families, in our communities. Driving change. And one of the areas that has
to be changed are the gun laws in this country.
ISAACSON: John Kasich, thank you very much for joining us.
KASICH: Thank you, sir.
AMANPOUR: And just a note, that conversation with the former governor was recorded before the fatal police shooting of the black teenager, Ma'Khia
Bryant on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.
And finally, talking of Greta Thunberg, youth activist had been at the very forefront of the fight against gun violence and the climate crisis. And our
next guest has had a truly remarkable journey. From protesting outside the White House to helping effect change in climate policy from inside.
Jerome Foster held his signs aloft for 58 weeks as part of the global school strike for climate which was sparked by Greta Thunberg. He did so
mostly alone. And now 18 years old, he is the youngest member the Biden White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. And he's joining me now
from New York.
Jerome Foster, welcome to the program.
That is a very long name for that body you are sitting on right now. But just how does it feel personally? I mean, we see those pictures of you then
and you now. You must be so proud. Your parents must be proud.
JEROME FOSTER, YOUNGEST MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ADVISORY COUNCIL: Yes, yes. Thank you for having me. And I think just being a part
of this council is an incredible eye opener for so many young people to know that our voice was heard. Especially in the U.S., 17 percent of every
vote was cast by young people. And now, actually having a seat at the table to affect the policies that will help to save our climate is incredibility
ambitious, incredible responsibility driven. But now, it's time the take action. It's time to get policy to paper. And that's the work that I am
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to get to that in a second. But I just want to know what it was like. I mean, you took a decision. I think -- I mean, I
said you were in New York. You must have had to travel every week to Washington, D.C. to sit outside the White House with your sign. Was your --
were your parents supportive? Was your school supportive?
FOSTER: Yes. So, I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and I would go to the White House climate strikes. And it was definitely nerve-racking
going out there and striking every Friday. Because there would be people from all different political perspectives walking by, frowning. Some school
children that I will never forget that were just smiling and waving because they knew and were aware of the climate crisis at that young age. And every
week, it was just continually seeing how broad this climate crisis is affecting even our entire generation.
And now, it was -- my parents weren't as -- in the first. Like, so, they were confused and they were like, why are you doing this? What is this
movement all about? Why are you taking time out of school? And when I explained it to them and broke down the scale of the climate crisis and
what action needs to be taken, they were 100 percent behind me and they were with me, they were helping to make sure our message was heard.
And a part of my climate strike was the patch to climate change education act and it still hasn't been passed. But now, through this position, we're
going to continue to push that movement forward.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, was your school supportive? And what exactly would that do, the climate change education act?
FOSTER: Absolutely. So, my school was not that supportive, unfortunately. A lot of my teachers would not allow me to make up old assignments. They
were very combative and things like that. But as a schoolwide, it was a mixed bag. There were teachers that were helping and there were teachers
that were definitely trying to be confrontational.
But at the end of the day, it was just about what I was there for. If I am studying for future that doesn't exist, then why am I there? If I am going
there every singly Friday and every week and showing the scale of urgency around the climate crisis, that is a much louder message.
And talking about the climate change education act, the reason why I went to strike is because I really understood that if a generation like mine was
born into the climate crisis, and now, after 70 years of inaction from politicians, we should be seeing some changes and we should actually be
learn being this in the classroom.
So, the climate change education act is basically adding environmental science as a core subject in American education and also giving funding to
youth research. And that is incredibly crucial because we are stakeholders not just victims of this crisis. So, we have to learn about it.
AMANPOUR: Well, exactly. And now, to the White House. You are 18 years old. You're on the advisory council, as we said. What? Did they welcome you
with open -- what was it like? You're the only one under 40. There must be some crusty old timers there. I mean, did they look at you weird? I mean,
what did they think when you were part of the discussions there?
FOSTER: Yes. I think when I first went to our meeting two weeks back it was open arms, actually. It was -- all the older generations that were
there, people that were 40, 50 and 60 years old were excited to see young people. Because even before this, I had done research at Harvard University
and was able to talk with Representative Norton and at the United Nations. And every time a young person steps into a political office, politicians
are excited because we are the future. We are the ones that are going to continue to push forward legislation.
So, even in the meeting that I was in at the White House, they were excited to see young people because we are going to continue to push for bold
action to stymy this climate crisis. But, yes, it wasn't any people saying like, oh, what is this young person doing here? Because beyond the climate
strikes, I have continued to show, even in my academics and through my work, that young people are in the forefront and they have to be included
at the table.
AMANPOUR: And how did you get the call? I mean, how did you get the job?
FOSTER: Yes. So, it is a bit weird how it happens. It was nominated by some of the other members of the council and through the Biden
administration himself around what people should be at this council. And it was originally due to the fact that in tenth grayed, I had served on the
D.C. State Board of Education to change Washington, D.C.'s graduation requirements for students graduating in 20, 30 to add climate science to
So, through that work, they learned about, whoa, if a young person being the only person in the room at the D.C. State Board of Education, what if
we include him in the White House to make sure that 40 percent of our executive funds go to front line communities and young people? And that was
kinds the process. It was just an e-mail that I got in my inbox saying I was invited to be part of this council. And it was definitely shocking to
see that in my inbox. But now, it's a spark driven in me to be able to continue this work for so many people that should be at this council as
well to represent my generation.
AMANPOUR: Did you ever meet Greta Thunberg?
FOSTER: Yes. Me and Greta are very good friends. We talk very often. And she came to Washington, D.C. in 2019 at the White House to join me at the
ellipse. So, we talked several times, yes.
AMANPOUR: And just one question. Look, you heard all these amazing promises. But the years are 2030, 2035, 2040 -- I mean, you know, a long
time down the line, essentially. You are young and you can see it happening now, and your generation of activists can see, you know, that they want
stuff, you know, done now. Where is your head on what's going on, what President Biden is doing, and how it does seem to be quite far into the
FOSTER: Well, I would like to push back on that a bit. Based off of some of the science that came out throughout the past two years, we have about
six to seven years before we start reaching irreversible feedback loops. And I think with this work as a part of the White House Environmental
Justice Advisory Council, we are making sure that every legislation that is tailored to the environment, make sure that 40 percent of those funds goes
to communities at the front lines, like the Lower Ninth Ward, like Miami- Dade County, like parts of New York City, like Coney Island. So many of these communities have not been centered in the solutions. So, we're
looking back and now, meeting the moment by looking back at indigenous knowledge and people that are the front lines and investing in their
I think that when we talk about the far future, it's kinds of disingenuous because it has already been 70 years. It's already been so many decades of
inaction. So, now, when it comes to whether we're going take action in the next decade or so, scientists are in agreement that we have six to seven
years before we start reaching catastrophic actions across our planet.
AMANPOUR: Jerome Foster, you can push back and you should pushback any time you like. It's an incredible achievement and we're really happy to
have had you on the program this evening on Earth Day.
And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.