Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; Africa's Vaccine Drive; European Green Deal. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 19, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: These stakes could not be more serious.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): How to avert a climate catastrophe. Fresh off meeting with U.S. envoy John Kerry, E.U. Climate Chief Frans Timmermans
joins us on this pressing global issue.
Then: India's COVID crisis derails Africa's vaccine drive. We talk to the woman coordinating distribution on the continent, Dr. Ayoade Alakija.
RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We need in- school learning. It needs to be full and robust.
GOLODRYGA: Back to school. Teachers union leader Randi Weingarten tells Michel Martin why, come September, students and teachers must be back
ROBERT BALLARD, AUTHOR, "INTO THE DEEP": My mission in life, in fact, if you look at my job description, it's to explore.
GOLODRYGA: Robert Ballard, famous for discovering the wreckage of the Titanic, looks back at his remarkable life and career exploring the ocean's
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Well, as the world starts to free itself from the grips of COVID, another global crisis ever-present is demanding attention, and that, of course, is
With emissions rising again after this year of lockdowns, activists and officials are working on how best to tackle this urgent issue before it's
too late. But there is a lot of skepticism.
The pandemic has laid bare systemic failures and the pitfalls of political infighting and the difficulties with global cooperation. So, could the same
problems rear their heads when it comes to tackling climate change?
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is in Europe this week ahead of the major COP 26 meeting later this year. He met with the E.U. climate chief, Frans
Timmermans, who warns that, if we do not fix this, our children will be waging wars over water and food.
And Frans Timmermans joins us now from Brussels.
Welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us.
And let's begin with that warning that you issued, because you elaborated that this right now is an effort comparable to restructuring after a
violent conflict. Why this urgency, and what is the point you are trying to convey right now?
FRANS TIMMERMANS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL: Well, thank you for having me on the show, Bianna. It's really an honor.
And the urgency is, if you see what's happening already now, with the Earth's temperature just rising one degree, if you see all the droughts
we're seeing, the locust infestations in East Africa, the wildfires across the Earth, and if you don't understand that we will be 10 billion a
generation from now, how are you going to feed all the people, if you know you don't have any harvests anymore?
How are you going to provide water where there's no longer any water? So, this is not just about reducing emissions. This is about saving humanity.
And we have to act now, because the temperature keeps rising.
Look what's happening in the Arctic. Look what's going to happen in the Antarctic. We really need to act now. And I can't stress this enough. Of
course, you have to keep people in their comfort zone. That's what politics always dictates. But I can't -- I don't have that luxury.
I have to tell it to people, people, this is really urgent. We need to act now. We have an opportunity to act. We can come out of this stronger and
better, but not if we waste the next couple of years.
GOLODRYGA: And you talk about temperatures rising.
The Paris agreement capped global warming to two degrees. And now there are scientists that are saying that's going to be more to four degrees, just
giving a sense of the urgency right now.
As we mentioned, you had met with U.S. envoy John Kerry yesterday. What did the two of you discuss?
TIMMERMANS: Well, what we want to try and do, separately and together, is to get the world together in Glasgow in November, and to make sure that all
the major emitters, including China, including India, commit to an ambitious program.
We need this ambition urgently to bring this to the table, to make sure they're part of the deal. We also need to make sure that those countries
most affected already by climate change that don't have the means to that, that don't have the means to mitigate the consequences are supported by the
richest countries on Earth in making the right changes.
And we also need to make sure that we have a plan where everybody can follow, where everybody can contribute in the best possible way. And for
this, working together between the E.U. and the U.S. is a good place to start.
We're on the same page. On most issues, we have exactly the same position. It's good to have the U.S. back. We desperately needed them in this fight.
And I think, together, we can achieve a lot.
GOLODRYGA: Well, let me ask you about that, because we sort of had a preview to the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow last month with the president's
climate meeting in summit in April.
And the U.S. proposed a pretty lofty and ambitious plan, where the U.S. would cut greenhouse gases in half from their 2005 levels by the end of
this decade. What did you make of that commitment? And is it feasible?
TIMMERMANS: First of all, it is feasible.
Second point, it's great, this commitment. And third point, now you have to translate that into national policies. That's exactly what we have been
doing over the last couple of years in the E.U. We have now put the climate neutrality in law. And all member states agreed to that.
And we will be presenting 12 legislative proposals in mid-July to show concretely what it means if you want to reduce the emissions quite
drastically between now and 2030.
GOLODRYGA: In the meantime, China, India, and Russia offered no new commitments. I mean, they talked about going net neutral within the next
few decades and carbon neutral within the next few decades and cutting greenhouse gases.
But there wasn't a specific figure that we heard from them. Was that disappointing from you? And what do you expect from them when you do meet
TIMMERMANS: Well, the good news is that everybody's -- most people seem to be on the same page in terms of wanting to reach carbon neutrality by the
middle of the century.
The bad news is, if you really mean that, you have to have plans, concrete plans, what you're going to do, not just in 10 years' time. What are you
going to do next year and the year after?
And for that, we still need to work with China. We need to convince them to stop subsidizing coal-fired power generation outside of China. We need to
discuss with them when they think they can peak out their emissions, so that we know when they're going to decline emissions. And we need to see
what they're going to do in their own energy mix, how they're going to introduce more and more renewables into their energy mix.
So, these are the sort of things we need to be discussing with them in the months leading up to Glasgow.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, China is by far the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. President Xi Jinping has vowed to reach net zero emissions by 2060.
Clearly, this is something that's impacting the country and their economy as well. Do you feel that he is as committed as these figures seem to
TIMMERMANS: I think his commitment is genuine.
But now we have to see. We can also then ask, where's the beef? Where are you going to take the concrete measures leading to that carbon neutrality?
I think the commitment is genuine. He's repeated it several times. But now we need to see how they translate that into measures.
And we're also happy to work with them to see how we can work together, so that we don't distort international trade. We would like the industrialized
world all to move in the same direction. That is beneficial to trade and is beneficial to reaching our climate goals.
So, let's try and get as many industrialized countries as possible on the same page. And let's show solidarity with the industrializing world that is
faced with huge consequence already today of climate -- of the climate crisis that is happening.
GOLODRYGA: Well, and let me ask you about that, because this comes, obviously, as we are still seeing many countries being debilitated, India
in particular and surrounding neighbors, by COVID.
India's the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. President Modi has committed to targeting that and lowering that as well. But, given the
pandemic and the crisis at hand right now, do you think that's putting climate change and these issues on the back burner?
And what are you going to do to make sure that that isn't something that's overlooked for the time being?
TIMMERMANS: Well it might sound paradoxical, what I'm going to say now, but I think the COVID crisis has actually heightened people's sense of
urgency with the climate crisis, because the COVID crisis has shown our vulnerability.
It has shown how easy it is for humanity to get completely derailed by a virus, because we didn't take care of our natural environment. We threaten
to lose one million species if we don't change our ways. And one of the reasons why we have this COVID is because we neglected to protect our
We're part of nature. And we seem to have forgotten that. Now, I think we're now reminded of the fact that we can't just behave however we like
without nature reacting to that.
And the climate crisis, there is no vaccine against the climate crisis. So, we really have to change our behavior. And I think this is sinking in all
across the world.
GOLODRYGA: And changing the behavior is really the most complicated and difficult part here, because you have got millions, if not billions, of
people's whose jobs and incomes rely on current professions that are actually great polluters, right, greenhouse gas emitters, many that still
work in the coal industry.
GOLODRYGA: And I was struck by something that you said.
You said you see a huge risk in getting an alliance between those who don't want change because they see their interests affected, whether it's in
fossil fuels or in traditional economic circles.
So, people who feel, listen, this is a great and lofty plan, I have got to worry about my own job and putting food on the table for my children, not
necessarily my grandchildren and great-grandchildren right now, what do you say to them?
TIMMERMANS: Well, exactly. Well, exactly.
There are more jobs in a clean,sustainable economy than in the present economy. That's not the issue. There are more jobs. And the only issue is,
can the people who have the jobs that will no longer be there have the skills to take jobs that will be there?
So, one of the biggest challenges public authorities face and also private companies face across the world is skilling and re-skilling our labor force
to take the jobs of the future. And this has to have a huge, huge impact on the way we organize our educational system, on the way we organize our
This is the big -- because we're in the middle of a tectonic shift, this is the biggest challenge in social terms humanity is facing, to make sure
that, in this transition, we leave no one behind, because, as you say, I'm absolutely convinced, if we leave groups behind, if we don't look after the
ones who are most vulnerable, then the whole thing will derail because then the population will no longer support this change.
But if we can demonstrate that there is a better life, a healthier life after this transition, and that we need to go through a couple of difficult
years of transition, but there's light at the end of the tunnel, there's better opportunities in a healthier environment for our children and
TIMMERMANS: -- I think we can convince people.
GOLODRYGA: And my final question to you is, is, many countries could understandably have whiplash in watching the U.S. policy shift back and
forth on this.
I'm curious as to whether the hesitancy for real investments and commitments in numbers for many countries may be because there's not as
much faith in what a U.S. policy will look like, that maybe they applaud what they hear from President Biden, but who knows what's going to happen
in the next few years?
Do you think that that is something that will continue to hinder this bid of yours?
When I'm asked this question, I always respond the same way, saying, look, during the Trump years, with even a climate denier in the White House, with
even people in the administration not wanting to do anything, the U.S. did move forward. The states moved forward. The private sector moved forward.
The major cities moved forward.
So the U.S. doesn't come -- doesn't start from scratch. Corporate America moved forward. So, you see this is happening as we speak. Look at what's
happening in the financial sector, with the investors in the banking sector and the oil industry.
People have woken up, and they're smelling the coffee, and they're acting upon it. So, I think we can derive a lot of trust that this is a change
that is going to happen. And now with the federal government on the same page, change could happen even more quickly.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, we saw the president in an electric truck yesterday at a Ford plant as well, sort of displaying his initiative and tying jobs and
clean energy together.
It's a great conversation, Frans Timmermans. We really appreciate having you on.
TIMMERMANS: My pleasure. Thank you very much, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
Well, now, oceans do play a huge role in fighting climate change as well. And coming up later in the program, we go deep into the deep with the man
who found the Titanic. Robert Ballard joins me to talk about his new memoir and a lifetime of expeditions.
But, first, an update on the latest chapter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has entered its 10th day. President Biden upped the ante
today, telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire, this as the
Israeli military says that it's preparing for more days of conflict, not fewer.
At least four Palestinians were killed today, including a local journalist, while two Israeli soldiers were injured.
And from one battle to another, this, of course, the pandemic. It is the existential crisis facing us right now. Nowhere is that more obvious than
in India. A new record was set today, when the country's daily death toll rose to over 4,500, a number many believe is actually below the actual
So, what's happening in India right now is a tragedy. And it's, sadly, having global repercussions. Africa's vaccine supply is now in doubt, after
India's Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, paused shipments until possibly October.
What's more, some countries are discarding vaccines that they do have because the expiration date has passed.
We want to check back in with Dr. Ayoade Alakija. She is a Co-Chair Of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance.
Welcome back to the program, Doctor. It is wonderful to have you.
So, let me ask you about this COVAX shortfall, 140 million doses, because of the Serum Institute having to be delayed in India. They are promising to
start shipping out vaccines by the end of the year. That is months away.
How is that impacting the developing world, in particular Africa?
DR. AYOADE ALAKIJA, CO-CHAIR, AFRICA VACCINE DELIVERY ALLIANCE: The COVAX shortfall is a disaster for -- not just for the developing world. It is --
or for Africa. It is a disaster for the entire planet.
You mentioned earlier global cooperation and fault lines that COVID has laid back when you were doing the previous segment about climate change in
the sense of urgency. There was -- almost checked myself. I thought I had - - I had missed my segment, and you were introducing the segment on COVID, because the analogy is perfect.
It -- so it's perfect having those two things next to each other. Climate change is urgent. COVID is even more urgent. And COVID, as your previous
guest said, has shown the climate change is urgent.
But what we cannot say, this sense of otherism, this sense of us and them, the developing countries and the high-income countries of the world, that
perhaps not having vaccines in the developing countries doesn't affect the others, is not -- it cannot be allowed to stand.
There is no us and them in this situation. There is no developing country, low-middle-income country or low-income country and a high-income country.
We are one. In this moment of this pandemic, we are one planet, one global community, one people.
And we are all sharing the same air with the same microbe. It is a disaster for us all. And we need to get vaccines to people across the entire world,
Africa, Asia-Pacific, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, as quickly and as urgently as possible.
GOLODRYGA: It's such an important point, as we see the E.U. start to open up travel for those who have been vaccinated, because it's happening in the
backdrop of what we're seeing, the devastation in India, new variants.
And the key takeaway is that no one's going to be safe, fully safe, even if they're vaccinated, unless every country in the world has access to
And as a ripple effect from what we're seeing transpire in India and the shortfall in vaccine production, the Kenyan health minister said that they
may probably have to switch from AstraZeneca to Johnson & Johnson.
Listen to what he said when explaining that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUTAHI KAGWE, KENYAN HEALTH MINISTER: Given the difficulties that the Indian people are going through and the population of India, it is very
unlikely that AstraZeneca is going to be the vaccine of choice for the African continent going forward.
It is very likely that we are going to discuss and agree on Johnson & Johnson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Do you agree with him? Is that the right decision for them to make right now?
ALAKIJA: Well, Bianna, we have already made a decision,not based on whether AstraZeneca is the right vaccine, because I don't want to get into
that conversation. I want to state that every vaccine that has been proven to be safe and effective must be taken once one is given the opportunity.
But he is correct, in that we have at the Africa Union, which I chair, co- chair the African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance, at that level, at a continental level, we have had to go to Johnson & Johnson and actually have
orders in place or options in place for up to 400 million doses, 240 million of which we are expecting this year, because, really, what the
minister there is speaking of about from Kenya is the fact that we are in a race between virus variants and a vaccine.
What we thought initially was a sprint, it seemed like a sprint -- just it seems impossible that this has only been a year. It seemed like a sprint
even six months ago. And now we realize that we are actually in a marathon, or even perhaps in a steeplechase, with hurdles and obstacles and water
jump -- jumps in our way.
And there are things popping up all the time that are literally saying, well, do we go in this direction? Do we not go in this direction?
But what we haven't had in Africa is choice. So, as that minister just talked about, well, we are going to have to sit down and make a decision
and go to Johnson & Johnson, unfortunately, because he is not necessarily at the negotiating table, he doesn't understand that you don't actually
have that option, because the rich countries of the world are ahead of us in the queue.
So, even though we order and we purchase vaccines, we are sort of behind the 10th person in line from, say, the U.S. or the U.K., who are the
countries that have the most vaccines and have the most orders, who are now vaccinating 12-year-olds, when we still have my grandmother and our health
worker and my dad and parents and uncles and aunties who are elderly who have not been vaccinated.
It is morally wrong. And it is what has been described as vaccine apartheid. So, it's not about choosing to go to AstraZeneca or Johnson &
Johnson. It's just, let us have vaccines, period. We desperately need them.
And without vaccination, we are not going to stop this virus, not in the U.K. You mentioned the E.U. and the fact that travel is opening up. And it
is so self-defeating. It is in the world's enlightened self-interest to ensure that those who are coming are vaccinated.
You can't be sure that somebody who comes in with a negative test yesterday is going to be negative in four days' time. And, as I said, the variants we
are looking at, I mean, B1617, the variant first identified in India, it's been shown to be more transmissible.
It is shown to be -- we are seeing breakthrough -- anecdotally, we're hearing of breakthrough infections, not -- maybe not necessarily leading to
death, but they are certainly putting people in hospital, which is also putting a drain on health care systems.
Africa cannot afford this. But the whole world -- it's not just Africa. The whole world really needs to sit up and treat this with the urgency that it
requires to get health justice for all.
GOLODRYGA: It's almost laughable that, early in the pandemic, it was described as the great equalizer, because that, it is not, clearly.
And you touched on what the World Health Organization had viewed and described as vaccine apartheid, in the sense that, in many rich countries,
in Western countries, the United States in particular, kids 12 to 15 can now receive the vaccine. And, in Africa, your family members cannot.
I understand the optics of that. And I think everyone does. I'm curious as to the feasibility and your opinion of things actually changing. Do you
expect the president of the United States to be able to tell his citizens that we should put a pause on younger kids being vaccinated, so that we can
get more vaccines to other countries?
I mean, is that something that, politically, he -- you think he could do?
ALAKIJA: You know, that is an excellent, excellent question, Bianna.
It is really -- and you touch on something that I have been saying now for the last couple of months, that this is a geopolitical mud fight. This
entire thing is a geopolitical mud fight. I mean, politically, leaders know the right thing to do morally and ethically, but, of course, because we
have gotten into such a divisive world politically, and we're all sort of batting at each other with cricket bats at the moment, the sort of
appealing to the base nature of our citizens becomes the paramount thing.
So, it's making it very difficult for world leaders. President Biden very admirably just a few days ago announced that 80 million vaccines would be
shared with countries that don't have vaccines at the moment. Other countries, France, have agreed to share 5 percent. The -- Norway, Sweden,
other countries are beginning to share doses.
But, Bianna, it -- your question about, can they tell their citizens, I think let's turn that around. They need to not tell their citizens that
they are stopping vaccinations or pausing, so that they can help the rest of the world, but they need to tell their citizens that they are pausing
vaccines so we can save ourselves, because vaccine nationalism, and it's all about me, me, me at the moment.
So, let's turn that around. It's not about pausing vaccinations to stop children in America being vaccinated. It's about stopping -- pausing
vaccinations and sharing those doses -- or not even pausing, maybe slowing down, and to share the vaccines, so that the virus does not come back at us
bigger and stronger, because that is what people are not understanding.
I said earlier virus, variants and vaccine. It is a risk between those three things. About three months ago, it was virus ahead. Now we have the
variants ahead, and we could very well have a more dangerous variant if we don't -- vaccinating the rest of the world.
And you can't isolate yourself. No man is an island.
GOLODRYGA: No, not in a globalized world that we're living in right now. That is for sure.
I can't end this conversation without asking something that you brought up last time you were on this program. And you said -- you talked about Africa
grabbing a seat at the table, or climbing on the table if there was no seat.
Can you talk about the role that Africa holds here in this conversation, not just by having a spokesperson like you come on, but maybe some of the -
- own initiatives that Africa can take without necessarily having to rely on the benevolence and generosity and humanitarian aid from other
ALAKIJA: Thank you so much for that, Bianna.
I wish I could get -- show you a table right now and show you how we're edging our way up and climbing right up onto that table.
GOLODRYGA: I love that.
ALAKIJA: We need those voices heard.
Right now, we have -- when I say equity and justice, we need the world to understand that we are not a charity case. We are not out with a begging
bowl. What we are saying to the world is that we want to be -- those -- that time has passed.
I had an opinion piece out in a newspaper just yesterday in which I said that it is time for Africa to stand up and to take her own position. And we
are doing that. We have ordered our own vaccines.
People assume that the vaccines coming to Africa are from the COVAX initiative. No, they're not from COVAX. We have ordered and paid for our
own vaccines. We are looking at Africa manufacturing. We just recently -- Africa Union, Africa CDC, led by the incredible Dr. John N. Nkengasong,
just hosted an Africa vaccine manufacturing conference, in which we are looking at three manufacturing nodes on the continent.
Senegal, with Institute Pasteur and Professor Amadou Sall there, in South Africa with Aspen Institute and Biovac, and also in -- in -- ooh, I lost
that in just that moment, the third -- Rwanda. Gosh, how could I forget? Rwanda, with the incredible political will from President Kagame, we are
also looking at manufacturing there.
So, we are not waiting for humanitarian relief. We're not. But this is about to turn from not just in Africa -- around the world -- it's about to
turn from a global health issue into a global humanitarian crisis.
And we need the world, as the G20 global health summit comes together and leaders gather in Rome on just this Friday, May the 21st -- I will be
privileged to be one of the high-level experts on the panel advising them. And we're saying that we need to treat this with urgency. We need to
declare this the global health emergency that it is.
It is a threat to our global peace and security. It is our threat to our children. It's not just a threat to our lives. It is a threat to our
systems. And we need to see global systems shift and change. And, yes, we need to let the (INAUDIBLE) of this world, the Africas of this world, the
smaller nations, we need to let them up on that table, so that we can have a decision-making role right from the beginning, not just when things turn
GOLODRYGA: Yes, global health cannot be prioritized and cannot improve without Africa having a seat at that table. I'm glad that you're going to
be at that table Friday, and we appreciate your insights today.
Thank you so much.
ALAKIJA: Thanks, Bianna. Lovely talking to you.
GOLODRYGA: You too.
And we turn now to the U.S., where another ramification from COVID, this time school closures, continues to impact millions of families.
Our next guest says schools must fully reopen this fall.
Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union. Here she is talking to Michel
Martin about how she plans to make it all happen.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna.
Randi Weingarten, thank you so much for joining us.
WEINGARTEN: It's my honor to be with you.
MARTIN: So, you have made the announcement on behalf of the union and behalf of its members that school can open five -- or should open five days
a week starting in fall full time, but that schools could also open now.
MARTIN: So why this announcement now?
WEINGARTEN: So, there were a bunch of different reasons. But number one, we're closing in on the end of the school -- on a very nightmarish of a
school year. And we should be planning for next year.
And what we're seeing is, because of what Joe Biden has done, frankly, something going back to April 2020, we asked the Trump administration to
do, which is to provide the real scientific guidance and the resources and the data, so that we could have the kind of school reopening that we knew
we needed, because kids need to be in school.
So, Biden did what Trump wouldn't. And in the last few weeks, the school reopening that we had seen, the vaccines being the big game-changer, the
layered mitigation, both in school and outside, all of these things have really worked to change circumstances.
And so it was time to be unequivocal about it. And we had a meeting with all of our Executive Council. And so the speech is, frankly, undergirded by
a unanimous resolution of all the AFT vice presidents from all across the country.
So, we are one and all in and saying, we need in school learning, it needs to be full and robust. And, frankly, it also can't be what it used to be,
that the normalcy we all crave is obviously vital, but we need to also recover, and we need to reimagine, so that we are really helping every
MARTIN: So, what does that look like? You're saying it needs to be reimagined. What does that look like?
And I will just start with, should teachers be required to be vaccinated?
WEINGARTEN: Let me start with the vaccines.
Personally, I hope everybody gets a vaccine. I find -- with every passing day, the science is clearer and clearer about how the vaccines help thwart
serious illness, and now seem to thwart transmission. And so they get -- with every person who's vaccinated, it gets us closer to herd immunity.
At the same time, we are in the midst of a period of time of great misinformation and great distortion of fact. And these are new vaccines
that are still under emergency use. So, for the time being, I think we need to make this volitional. We don't even have vaccines yet -- hopefully, they
are on the horizon -- for our youngest children.
But so, for the time being, they should be volitional.
At the same time, almost 90 percent of our members in all the recent polling that we've done have either gotten the vaccine, want the vaccine,
and we just have to convince not only our members, but parents and those who are hesitant across the country that this is the way to normalcy and
the way to safety.
MARTIN: Should masks be worn?
WEINGARTEN: I think that the logistics of how to apply the new CDC guidance is going to be hard to figure out. And so, I think that Miguel
Cardona, the secretary of education, has already said that let's keep everything as it for the end of the school year, which, you know, in some
places ends this week or next week and in other places ends in June.
But, you know, I think that for those who have been vaccinated, who want to take off their masks, that we are going to have -- that that's going to be
part of what we do in public education. Certainly, outside and, frankly, if the ventilation systems are working, I think inside. So, it's really a
matter of how does this work and, you know, for, you know, high schools and middle schools. For elementary schools, since there is no vaccine yet,
probably elementary schools are going to have a lot of masks still.
So, there is just -- there is a lot of complications. But what you're hearing in my hesitation is that those logistics are going to have to be
worked out and I think we're going to need some guardrails because we can't have two things happen. We can't have people who want to wear masks be
shamed and we can't put educators in the position of being mask police.
And if vaccines are not required, and I don't think they should be required of anyone yet, then you don't want to be in a situation where the teacher
becomes the mask police and has to ask a child, are vaccinated, are you not? So, that's why I think the guardrails will become important.
MARTIN: But haven't teachers and sort of those -- their representatives' writ large kind of been the mask police all along? I mean, hasn't that been
one of the arguments for keeping schools closed, it's because there has been -- compliance has been variable, you know, all over the country? I
mean, there are different levels of compliance in different places just like there were different levels of vaccine hesitancy in different places.
So, what would be different now? I guess I'm wondering is, is a nationwide standard really realistic?
WEINGARTEN: The safety guardrails were the way to reopen. If they were cleared and consistent from the CDC from the beginning, I think we would
have had less problems. And, yes, there was an issue about do you wear masks at the beginning, two months into it, you know, Dr. Fauci and the CDC
said, yes, wear masks. Of course, that created some issues. But the science was evolving on a very, very new, you know, coronavirus.
So, I think that what we -- where we are right now is that mask and physical distancing, ventilation and washing your hands, were four of the
big things that were about layered mitigation and that layered mitigation prevented the virus transmission. So, what the CDC is now saying is, if you
are vaccinated, you don't need a mask.
What does that really mean in schools? If we have the trust, we are going to be able to deal with all these issues and we will have some models that
we can then, you know, circulate. If there is no trust, there is going to be people who fear, you know, returning to school like we have right now
with so many black and brown parents.
So, the bottom line is we got to create the trust. The science creates the trust. Talking to each other creates the trust. And, frankly, being present
in school creates the trust.
MARTIN: You know, it kind of feels -- forgive me. This is not a criticism. It kind of feels like this is still a little all over the place. So, I mean
WEINGARTEN: I agree.
MARTIN: So, it kind of leads me back to the first question, which is, if it's all over the place, is this the time to make this announcement? Like
what's motivating the announcement? It just seems as though there is still really isn't consistent guidelines. There doesn't seem to be consistent buy
in. I take your point that 90 percent -- close to nine 90 percent of teachers say that they want to be vaccinated or will be but it still seems
to be that there isn't consensus around what the right conditions are for kids to be back in school. So, it kind of leads me back to the first
question, why now?
WEINGARTEN: Well, the big issue -- the big change, Michel, was what -- there is two big changes. Number one, the vaccines have really been game
changers. And I think that once you see that for kids 12 and over, as well as for educators, and you see how efficacious they are, that has been a
huge game changer. And, number two, we have been in lots and lots and lots of schools that have now reopened or have been opened, part or full-time,
and with layered mitigation, the testing and the vaccines, they have been safe.
The curveball now is, what do you do with masks? And my hesitation in answering that is we are going to have to have some guardrails so that
teachers don't become the mask police.
MARTIN: It's interesting that there is a racial divide on this even now. On the one hand I think a lot of parents broadly, broadly think the kids
belong in school. But there is a divide about whether kids are actually going back to school.
I mean, the people who are most vocal about getting kids back in school full-time, at least from what I have seen, tends to be white, whereas
African American parents and, frankly, other parents of color, including in some surveys, Latino parents and Asian parents, are more likely to favor
some continuation of remote learning or even a hybrid model. Why do you think that is?
WEINGARTEN: I think there's two things. Number one, it's about who COVID affected. COVID really wreaked huge havoc in communities of color. And part
of that is because of pre-existing conditions. Part of that is because of who was front line -- who had been front line workers.
And, number two, the schools in places that are high poverty or in places that are urban centers tend to be less equipped to deal with respiratory
issues like, you know, they have terrible ventilation systems. And then, number three, there is always an issue about we are keeping our kids of
color safe and welcome in a school.
So, it's not just COVID, but it's all of the other issues that have -- you know, that have been in front of mind this year in terms of, are we going
to make sure that all of our kids are treated, you know, in a way that fits them, that lets them thrive. And so, there is a skepticism about whether or
not we are going to, you know, shortchange that, whether -- or whether we are going to be able to do that. And you hear me keep saying we because we
all have to be all in here.
I am tired of people -- you know, the teachers have done an incredible job this year in terms of going from in-person to remote to hybrid, often with
very inconsistent guidelines and things like that and still bearing a lot of the risk because they knew in-person learning was so important. And what
you see, frankly, in the polling that we just did is that there is a lot of appreciation, if you walk away from what you hear on Twitter, there is a
lot of appreciation for what teachers have done and what school districts have done throughout the country.
MARTIN: Now, critics of the union in general, your union in particular, argue that this is a calculated because the teachers union understands or
believes that parents have lost confidence. That there's -- that the political has taken place where people are less willing to defer to the
teacher's union or the teachers and their representatives. What would you say to that?
WEINGARTEN: So, you know, it's hard to actually respond to everything -- to a complete total falsity and nullity. I mean, you know, at the end of
the day, teachers want what children need, and anyone who has watched me since last April has watched me over and over again talk about how the AFT
is trying to reopen schools and using safety as a vehicle to do that. And there is fact after fact after fact over the course of time to do this.
So, you know, at the end of the day, kids need to their teachers. Parents and teachers together are what ends up helping succeed. And teachers are
the most unionized occupation in the country because they knew that they needed a voice at work and they still need a voice at work. And so, I wish
for two and a half nanoseconds that the group of people that are denominated as the parent's union would actually work with us instead of
immediately trying to dismiss anything that we do. It's discouraging. It's political.
But, you know, I'll -- you know, we're going to do what we're going to do. We are going to work with parents all throughout the country as we have
because we know that's the alchemy, that's the formula that helps kids thrive.
MARTIN: One of the things that a number of people have pointed out some different feels is that things had been revealed over the course of this
pandemic that we're there anyway but were not necessarily visible, right? Like access to health care or, you know, lots of different things. Have you
learned something from this that you didn't know, that you think was maybe there all along that just became visible to you because of what has been
happening this last year and a half?
WEINGARTEN: Number one, I've learned a lot more about gratitude and a lot more about being very grateful for, you know, the people around me. The
good -- the amazing work. I'm sorry. I am going to tear up. The amazing work that teachers, that food service providers, that bus drivers, nurses,
grocery store workers, the -- what is normally considered as the ordinary was the extraordinary in terms of how to fight this pandemic. And that I am
really grateful for.
Number two, communities that grew up, you know, remotely. Communities that normally were in-person that grew up remotely and checking on each other, I
am so grateful for that. Number three, all of the inequities that are there under the surface became glaringly visible. The lack of high-speed internet
and not being able to solve that. I mean, it seemed like that should have been a soluble problem.
In most places, you actually -- you know, most urban settings were actually wired for internet. Why couldn't we give, internet, high-speed internet to
every family in America that had school kids? Why couldn't we solve that? The hunger issues. Why couldn't we solve that? The issues of some
communities having decent health care and some communities not.
So, the inequities were glaring and it makes you want to use this moment as we are overcoming COVID, as we have this amazing science that has created
vaccines at a breakneck speed that have been able to help us, let's use this to create a renaissance in public education.
MARTIN: Randi Weingarten, thank you so much for talking with us.
WEINGARTEN: You're welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It's so wonderful to have kids back into classroom in-person.
And finally, as students and teachers prepare to head back in-person, one veteran explorer is keen on getting back to his own classroom, and that is
the ocean. Robert Ballard is the world's most famous oceanographer for tracking down the wrecks of the German battleship Bismarck, JFK's PT-109
and, yes, the Titanic in 1985.
Not content to be known for discovering that rusty old boat, I am quoting his mother here, I wouldn't say that's a rusty old boat. He's mother can
say that though. Ballard is ready to launch new expeditions. His new memoir is called "Into the Deep." And he joins us now from New London,
Great to have you on, Bob.
You know, no one like our mom who can bring us back down to earth, even if you were coming up to earth. But I would imagine how proud she was at that
discovery and here you are now, I have to say, I love that backdrop, by the way. You have conducted over 150 missions over 60 years. Why did you decide
now was the right time to write about it?
ROBERT BALLARD, AUTHOR, "INTO THE DEEP: A MEMOIR FROM THE MAN WHO FOUND TITANIC": Well, you know, as you say, I am getting old. I've turned 79 in
a matter of days. But I'm just beginning. I am starting a major new program. But before doing that, I wanted to wrap this up. So, that's why we
are doing the book and the television special that airs June 14th.
But we're now been asked by our country to explore the 50 percent of our nation that lies beneath the sea. We have better maps of Mars than half of
the United States of America and I really want to launch into that project in a matter of days. Our ship goes back into the ocean and you can follow
us live starting around July 3rd, nautiluslive.org. So, it's an amazing new program.
But I wanted to sort of wrap up the program I had been on for quite a while and also, as you know, in the book, I get a little more personal than I
have ever been to talk about the fact that I am dyslexic and how excited I am and how I view dyslexia as a marvelous gift. So, a percent time to do
GOLODRYGA: Let the record show I did not call you old. You are anything but old. I wish I could have your energy. But let's pick up on that
discovery of your dyslexia at the age of 72. You view that as a gift and actually, it helped you when you located the Titanic. Can you explain how?
BALLARD: Well, you know, dyslexics, we have a different way of processing information. But we're very visual creatures. So, imagine a person that
really uses their eyes and their ability to create imagery in our mind. That's our secret. We take in a lot of information and then we form a
three-dimensional image in our mind.
So, here we are we found the Titanic in 1985. We're going back in 1986. We get in our submarine, we found it initially with robots. We are now heading
down. As soon as we hit the water, as you'll see, everything started going wrong inside the submarine tracking. Navigation, sonar, everything. And the
pilot said, well, I don't know where we are. And I said, I do. Keep going.
And we finally, after a two-and-a-half-hour descent, landed on the bottom 12,000 feet down, pitch black, look out the window and my pilot says, well,
smarty pants, where is the Titanic? I closed my eyes and I went there. And that's where it was. How I did that, I didn't know how I did it then, I now
know how I have that gift to do it. And it's been so useful to me in all my explorations and I want other fellow kids in the world that have dyslexia
to embrace it as the wonderful gift that it is.
GOLODRYGA: It will be such an inspiration for anybody who is struggling with dyslexia to be able to hear this to story and know they can have
whatever career they want despite their dyslexia and maybe in spite of it, maybe because of it, they can achieve wonderful things.
BALLARD: Because of it.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And it's interesting. I don't want to spend too much time talking about the Titanic because it's actually something that has
been consuming your life for better or worse and there were many other discoveries, but what I found really interesting was the discovery that
happened to coincide with the Cold War. And you had been sent on a mission to help find some submarines and then in addition to that was when you
requested to also find the Titanic. So, this was some sort of top-secret mission that you can only reveal years later.
BALLARD: Well, that's right. You know, I was a cub scout, boy scout, army officer, naval officer and I was always taught to tell the truth. And yet,
I was not allowed to tell who was really funding my expedition. I know the Pentagon was very nervous.
In fact, my commanding officer, Admiral Thunman, called me on the carpet and said, Commander Ballard, you are supposed to look for the Titanic, not
find it, because they are worried that they would realize I was actually exploring two nuclear submarines we lost during the Cold War, and in
particular, the USS Scorpion that was carrying nuclear weapons and they didn't want to draw the Soviet's attention to us. So, yes. But now I can
tell the truth and it's a very liberating for a cub scout to do that.
GOLODRYGA: It is fantastic. Look, as somebody from the Soviet Union, it just gives me goosebumps to know that this was discovered in the midst of
the Cold War as we were trying to stave off the Soviets. The technology has improved 10-fold, if not more, since those days. You know, we spent a lot
of time talking and as we should, it's fascinating, the space race and SpaceX and the new generation of the men in space and women in space.
You like to focus underground, underwater. And you talk about God may be being up in the heavens but you got the devil underneath. Can you tell us a
bit about the technology that has improved in terms of your expeditions that we don't hear enough about?
BALLARD: Well, look at the room I am in right now. This is a command center that I can do everything I do at sea here. Just moments ago,
President Biden was just across the street at the Coast Guard Academy. And so, we just had 21-gun salute. So, you won't be hearing that right now.
But from here, when my ship is at sea, I can choose where I want to physically be because this is really a spirit transporter. And this is
really portents to where we are headed in the future with electronic travel. This has been accelerated and acceptance, ironically, due to COVID-
19. How many people understand Zoom and understand the ability to go somewhere else at the speed of light. Wait until this comes into your home
and this is only $20,000, this is less than a car.
And not too long into the future, in fact, within the next 10 years or so, hertz will be renting robots in the Serengeti and you will go to the
Serengeti without having that carbon footprint you have now. You simply move your spirit, which moves at the speed of light and is indestructible.
So, what we're doing now is going to be affecting the way all humans living in the future and, like I say, you just saw a big dose of it with COVID-19.
GOLODRYGA: And I'm glad you mentioned the human and the carbon footprint because we spent a lot of time on the program talking about climate change.
It impacts your job greatly. Can you give us --
GOLODRYGA: -- a sense of what you are most worried about and what can be done to help save the oceans as well?
BALLARD: Well, it's, again, carbon footprint. Moving towards what we are now calling the blue economy of how we feed ourselves. Right now, we're
largely dependent upon farmland. It's rapidly disappearing as our population continues to grow. By the year 2050, we won't have enough food
to feed the world as we are doing now. So, we have a real short time to solve this problem. And part of that is to declare peace with the earth,
Many of us in the earth sciences believe in a new theory called guy Gaia. And theory is that the earth itself is a creature and its codependent upon
life on the planet. And what I'm worried about is not whether the earth survives. It's going to be around for billions of years.
I'm not worried about whether there will be life on earth. There will be -- I am worried about whether the human race is going to be around. Because
right now, I think the earth has declared war on us, and unless we cut a deal with the earth, and that means handle our expansive population, handle
our carbon footprint, the earth will eliminate us.
And so, there is no plan B for the human race. We are not escaping planet earth. We are not going to live on Mars. We don't have time. We have to
come to peace with our planet within the next generation.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. It's, you know, been able to withstand our wear and tear for thousands of years, if not more. And so, this is a really important
point to make right now. The earth may be here, but we've got to make peace in terms of living, you know, side by side with the earth in a healthy way
for generations to come.
We know about your most famous expeditions. Is there one that holds a more special place to your heart that we haven't heard yet that you talk about
in the book?
BALLARD: Well, it's what my mom said when she said, son -- I am the first of 13 generations to go to college in my family. And my brother and I both
secured PhDs. And like you say, as you read the book at the beginning, my mom calls me after I did the talk shows and said, that was nice, son, but
now they are only going to remember you for that rusty old boat because you have done some really amazing -- these guys right over here, the discovery
of a whole new life system was my greatest discovery in 1977 when we discovered an ecosystem that lives not off the energy of the sun, as we
have been taught in biology books, but literally lives off the energy of the earth itself through a process we call chemosynthesis.
This now tells us that we are not alone in the universe. The extremophiles supporting this life system can survive in extremely hash be environments.
NASA is on its way to the moons of Saturn and Jupiter which have larger oceans. The ocean of Enceladus in Saturn and Europa in Jupiter has more
water on those moons than we have here. And we expect to find life living in those oceans within the next few decades.
So, I am hoping NASA finally gets the job done, finds life, but it's not going to be able to replace what we have here on earth. There is no plan B
for the human race. It's earth.
GOLODRYGA: Well, look, the beauty of it is that you've passed this on to another generation, your daughter also loves expeditions and is in the
business with you. So, perhaps this is something she's going to be doing as well. I know that your next mission now is trying to find and solve the
mystery of Amelia Earhart.
GOLODRYGA: What's the likelihood that that's going to happen in the last 90 seconds we have with you?
BALLARD: Oh, we are going after it again. We -- there's only two options. We did the first one because we only could go to 12,000 feet and we
couldn't get to the deep depth. We are headed to Howland Island where the water depth is 15,000 feet and we now have a whole new set of toys that can
do that. Autonomous vehicles that can go down there like a pack of dogs, and we are going to find her.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I have zero doubt that you will accomplish that mission. What a great job to have as an explorer. I can see the passion in your
eyes, in your face. I know this must have been a tough year on lockdown for you not to be able to do what you love out there. But like we said, you're
79 years young. You have many more expeditions ahead of you and we will continue to follow them
Congratulations on the book. We appreciate it.
BALLARD: Thank you very much.
GOLODRYGA: Talk to you soon.
And that is it for now. And you can catch us online and on our podcast casts and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye
from New York.