Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Sylvia Earle; Chile Election; Build Back Better Dead?; Interview With Former Senior White House COVID Response Adviser Andy Slavitt. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 20, 2021 - 13:00:00 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.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Build Back Better no more? How Democratic Senator Joe Manchin derailed President Biden's social spending package and the
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days.
GOLODRYGA: Omicron spreading fast in the U.S. and beyond. We look at the data and vaccine efficacy with former White House pandemic adviser Andy
Plus: Chile swings left, as 35-year-old Gabriel Boric wins the presidency. What his victory means for the country and democracy in the region.
SYLVIA EARLE, AUTHOR, "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC OCEAN: A GLOBAL ODYSSEY": If you look to breathe, you will listen up.
The queen of marine, Sylvia Earle, on her new book and her lifelong campaign to save our oceans.
DR. NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS, YALE UNIVERSITY: Everyone on the -- in the United States, in fact, everyone on the planet is either going to be vaccinated
for this condition or infected with the virus.
GOLODRYGA: The anatomy of a pandemic. Public health expert Nicholas Christakis gives Hari Sreenivasan a reality check on where we're at and
where we go from here.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Build Back Better, three words we have heard again and again, and the name of President Biden's legacy-defining agenda. It covers everything from
child care to climate. But now the social spending package looks all but dead, as Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia made it crystal
clear that he will not be voting for it.
Manchin's vote is key, given the Democrats' thin majority in the Senate.
Here's how progressive Senator Bernie Sanders reacted to the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I hope that we will bring a strong bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as we can. And let Mr. Manchin explain to the
people of West Virginia why he doesn't have the guts to stand up the powerful special interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said today that the vote will go ahead early next year and that -- quote -- "We will keep
voting on it until we get something done."
Correspondent Manu Raju is joining me now from Capitol Hill to make sense of all of this.
Manu, both sides really digging in here, the White House issuing a blistering statement following Manchin's announcement yesterday suggesting
that they had been blindsided and that Manchin had gone back on his word. Manchin then just this morning blaming White House staffers for -- quote --
"putting things out" there that were inexcusable throughout this process.
So what is going on now?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the bottom line here is that the president's Build Back Better plan is effectively dead,
and it's uncertain whether it can be revived.
It seems unlikely at the moment because of Joe Manchin's position. Now, Manchin argues that his position -- his position has been very clear. he
said made this over the months, told Democratic leaders, told the White House why he was skeptical about moving ahead, concerns about the price tag
concern about a number of the social programs.
And he went into more detail today about concerns about what he calls things that not -- -- quote -- "accountability measures," such as benefits
that are being provided to people, child tax credits, for instance, ensuring that there are work requirements around benefits such as that.
Those are the type of philosophical differences he laid out as a reason why he cannot move forward. Now, the question for Democrats if they do put this
forward early next year, as Chuck Schumer is promising, then, at that point, Joe Manchin, if he sticks his position, which all indications are
that he will, he will vote no.
So then what happens? Because that means the bill cannot move forward, because one Democratic defection is enough to scuttle the whole effort.
Democrats are open to the idea of scaling back the plan, perhaps looking at other aspects related to either housing or child care or health care, a
number of other issues that are part of this massive proposal to try to get Joe Manchin on board.
But Manchin also, Bianna, made clear that he's not necessarily willing to go for a scaled-back package, saying that they need to take their time, go
through the committee process and even get the support of Republicans, who are, of course, resistant to what the Democrats are doing here.
So this all leads to the question of will any of this get done? Seems highly, highly unlikely. And Democrats are ending this year in a very
difficult spot, as they head into the midterm election year next year.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and this is sort of an accumulation of built-up tension within the Democratic Party itself between moderates, specifically Joe
Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and some progressives.
Now, we heard from Bernie Sanders say, bring it on, let's bring a vote out to the public and have Joe Manchin have to answer for how he votes. Here's
what we heard from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this morning on how she says that the words from Joe Manchin are a betrayal to the American people and
to the president himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The concern is that, if there are no consequences to this kind of betrayal of working families across the
country, of the president of the United States, of the party that one is a part of, then it encourages more egregious behavior like this, which will
make it impossible to govern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Now, Manu, she later on went on to describe Manchin's view as delayed and not dead in the water, which, as we're parsing words here, that
stood out to me.
And she also said, while she may be angry at Manchin himself, she says the power still lies with Democratic leadership. What other tools do they have
RAJU: Well, not much, other than trying to persuade Manchin to go along, which is the predicament that the Democrats have been in for some time.
And recall the progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had demanded they hold up that bipartisan infrastructure plan that Joe Manchin helped author
to try to use that as leverage to get behind the larger Build Back Better bill.
But Manchin resisted calls for this to be used as leverage against him, as did others like Kyrsten Sinema. Ultimately, the Democratic leaders and the
White House pushed the progressives to agree to at least pass the infrastructure bill, as the White House promised that they would get Joe
Manchin ultimately to support this.
So they really don't have much leverage over Joe Manchin. Last week, he told me of when I asked about pressure he is feeling, he says: I'm not
feeling any pressure. I am from West Virginia.
And in West Virginia, Bianna, that's a state that Donald Trump carried by nearly 40 points, the second biggest state of any that he won last year,
and Joe Manchin could run for reelection in 2024. I'm told -- he told me that he is seriously considering it. And, undoubtedly, this is factoring
into his consideration here. If he views he is standing up to the national Democratic Party, perhaps he believes he can sell it to his constituents,
even though his constituents are among the poorest in the country and could benefit from some of the provisions in this bill.
Well, that leads me to my next question, because, despite all of the tension that Democrats face towards him, progressive Democrats towards Joe
Manchin right now, he is still a -- quote, unquote -- "Democrat."
And he was asked in an interview just this morning that I referenced whether there's still room for him in the Democratic Party, and his answer
was a bit questionable, given that he seems to think that the Democratic Party might not want him at this point.
Where do you see that going?
RAJU: Yes, he did say that.
He said that: At the moment, I believe that are Democrats like me -- he calls himself socially compassionate and fiscally conservative. He says
that perhaps, if they don't view it that way, maybe there's something else.
Now, he left that vague. There have been questions about this for some time. He did say earlier this year that he at one point floated the idea of
becoming an independent, but still caucusing with the Democrats, meaning that it wouldn't change the overall 50/50 majority. But it'd be more of
something he could campaign on as an independent member.
At the moment, he stays as a Democrat, but clearly he is on the outs with much of his party.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, a real throw there to the president's legacy and his agenda there.
Manu, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
Well, five days from Christmas, it's not looking so merry. Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans should brace for a tough few weeks to months, and that
holiday travel will spread the Omicron variant even among the vaccinated.
The winter surge is already hitting New York, where cases are up 154 percent in less than one week. In Europe, countries are in the thick of
Omicron. Germany is tightening travel restrictions, and the Dutch are in a strict lockdown until mid-January.
In the U.K., government scientific advisers say more restrictions are needed to limit hospital admissions.
With me now to discuss this is Andy Slavitt, a former senior White House adviser on COVID.
Andy, welcome back to the program.
So let me begin by going back to that number, the spike that we're seeing in the U.S., specifically in New York. Is that Omicron or is that still
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, Omicron is really taking hold in New York. I think, as of last week, it
represented about 13 percent of cases.
We're hearing now that that could be as high as 30 percent. Most of the biggest cities in the country have seen Omicron double several times during
the last week alone. So it's a small percentage in most of the country. In New York, it's becoming dominant. And by Christmas, it could very well be
dominant in a large part of the country.
GOLODRYGA: One of the major concerns and complaints that we have seen is the lack of testing availability, right, whether people can't afford the
test. They are very pricey if you can find one, or you just can't get one on a store shelf.
We're two years into this now, Andy. Why do you think we're still having this issue, where other countries like the U.K. and other European
countries are not?
SLAVITT: Well, let's be clear.
This is going to strain all of our resources. You can't see hundreds of thousands of new cases, even what some are predicting, a million cases a
day, without really swapping our hospital resources, our human resources, our personnel resources, so it's going to be a trying time, and we all have
to do our best to get through this.
Now, you may have noticed, you may have seen today that three of the rapid at-home antigen tests, been indicated do not effectively diagnose Omicron.
So there have been problems and I think tradeoffs in Europe -- we have handled it a little bit differently in the U.S. -- in terms of quality and
And I think there simply needs to be more manufacturing, more tests. But we're going to have long lines in certain parts of the country. There are
testing sites available everywhere, but in places like New York, expect that you're going to need to plan ahead.
I think a lot of this is also holiday-driven. People want to test before seeing their family.
GOLODRYGA: You know, I was listening to got Colorado Governor Jared Polis on "Meet the Press" over the weekend. And each state is obviously tackling
COVID in their own specific way. Case numbers there are not as high as they are in New York.
But he even said that he's expecting that cases could possibly go up too. But what they are doing there is, they are shipping free at-home tests to
every Colorado. They have shipped over 1.2 million over the past few months.
Let's listen to some sound where he describes this as a popular program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): We have made free at-home testing available to every Coloradan for months now. So we have sent out over 1.2 million just
right to your doorstep. You get the free test, the same kind that in other states people have to buy.
We peaked in October, early November. We have a lot less hospitalizations than we did a few weeks ago. Now, that could change on a dime, we know,
with the Omicron variant. But we're in a better place now than we were a month ago. And absolutely the free at-home tests have been part of that.
They have been very popular with the people of Colorado.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I guess, Andy, my question to you is, why can't we do something like that on a federal scale?
If it's true that scientists and doctors have said that they were expecting different variants and foreseeing them, why did we not foresee the need for
more at-home tests and perhaps even institute the Defense Production Act to get there?
SLAVITT: Well, the federal government starting in September has put -- has invested about $3 billion in additional testing resources.
They have quadrupled the number of at-home tests on the market. And I think they're pushing manufacturing to go as fast as possible. I think what
Governor Polis has done in Colorado is absolutely the right idea. And I wish I could tell you that I was confident we have the capacity to do that
around the country.
I don't think we do in as high-quality way as we want to. I think that's got to be something, though, that we keep pushing on. And there's -- with a
few more approvals through FDA and some more manufacturing capacity, we will get there.
In the meantime, there's tens of thousands of free test sites people should make themselves available to. There are services now that will come to your
door and do testing in most major cities. And it is -- so it's just going to take a lot of these efforts kind of in combination to make sure that we
have enough testing to go through -- to get through this, I think, very difficult peak.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, we are expected to hear from President Biden tomorrow on any new policies, perhaps initiatives that they will be implementing in the
wake of Omicron.
But something struck me that you just said about at-home tests in Europe not picking up the Omicron variant, because we are seeing a similar
response to the majority of vaccines that have been given around the world, not including, obviously Pfizer and Moderna, the mRNA vaccines-based
Other vaccines from China to Russia to AstraZeneca do not seem to be as effective vs. Omicron. So how worrisome is that to you, given that we can't
isolate ourselves here in the U.S. if we're so focused on two vaccines that are?
SLAVITT: Well, it is a brilliant question. And I'm amazed that I don't get asked it more and that others don't get asked it more.
And it just shows that we are so -- still so U.S.-centric, that I think our -- many of our first response to this new variant was not, A, how are the
people in Africa going to fare? The response was, gee, when will it come to our country? And that's fine. That's a human response. It's very natural.
But as long as we respond this way, the virus has plenty of opportunity to take advantage. But what you're talking about is, we now not only need to
have three shots in order to have protection with Omicron. That needs to be done around the world and it needs to be done with mRNA vaccines.
And if indeed the early studies are right that Sinopharm and Sputnik and the AstraZeneca and even the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are severely
hampered, then that's going to mean much more massive production of mRNA vaccine. It's going to mean that Omicron will be sweeping through the world
And so we can only hope that prior infections and prior vaccinations have some impact. And I think our sense is that even -- and I think the one
reassuring thing we have been learning is, even if it doesn't prevent infection, all of these things will -- should seek to lessen the impact.
And, hopefully, that will mean a much less virulent wave.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And, obviously, we don't want to put more pressure on our hospitals as well.
Another perhaps optimistic note that we can end on is that South Africa seems to be showing the cases are starting to go down. That having been
said, Andy, can you just sort of talk to us about how you're viewing COVID and Omicron going forward?
I mean, for a long time, I guess my mentality has been, do the right things, wear a mask, get vaccinated, get boosted, use all the mitigation
factors, and try to avoid getting sick or getting COVID. Are we at a place now where we should sort of come to terms with the fact that we may very
well get it and it won't be a bad case?
SLAVITT: Look, I think you're still in the right place. Those things you described, to my mind, are very modest inconveniences.
Now, if there are important things in your life, like seeing your family over the holidays and so forth, those things can increasingly be done
safely with the kinds of things you talked about, access to a test, a well- fitting mask, dining outdoors whenever possible, so -- and oncoming therapies.
So anything that this virus could throw at us, we could throw science at it. And as long as we use the scientific tools at our disposal, we can do -
- I think we can do fine, and we can get through this and we can continue to move on with life.
So my attitude hasn't changed. Look, I don't want to get the flu either. And I don't think -- it's a lousy feeling. And if I get it, I certainly
don't want to spread it. So I do what I can to avoid getting sick. Some people, the flu does a lot of damage to.
Viruses are unpleasant, even if they're milder and they're unpredictable. So I'm still where you are. I'm going to use the tools available. But I'm
still going to -- but I'm also going to take the kind of smart risks that allow me to live my life and see the people I care about.
And I hope that the country is able to move in that direction too.
GOLODRYGA: Important to note to end on, Andy. I mean, we have been shocked by this virus over the past two years, but the science for the most part
has been right, mitigate, wear masks, vaccinate, and get tested as frequently as you can.
Thank you so much for joining us. Happy holidays to you, Andy. Great to see you.
SLAVITT: Great. Great to be on.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we are next to Chile, which has elected its youngest president ever, 35-year-old Gabriel Boric.
The leftist and former student leader defeated a polar opposite candidate. And this election comes two years after massive protests and riots shook
the country, with demonstrators demanding better pensions, education, and a system that's not rigged in favor of the elite.
So what does this swing to the left mean for Chile? And what does it say about politics in the region?
Jose Miguel Vivanco is the director of the Americas Division at Human Rights Watch. And he's joining me now.
Jose, welcome to the program.
So let's take a bigger look approach here as we're breaking down what this election means, because here you have a country that for 30 years now
following the Pinochet dictatorship has been successfully living through a democracy, right?
And yet here the public was given two stark different -- two very different options in who they were going to elect as their next leader. And they went
with the millennial leftist. What does that say about the future direction the country is headed in?
JOSE MIGUEL VIVANCO, DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH AMERICAS DIVISION: Well, I think the result of the elections clearly shows that the vast majority of
Chileans are choosing change.
What they are demanding is significant change in terms of public services, pensions, public education, universal health care. That is essentially what
they are demanding change on the economy, social change, change that could guarantee social mobility in Chile.
Chile is one of the country in the region, and as a member of the OECD, with an actually pretty dramatic concentration of wealth; 1 percentage of
Chileans owns 25 percent of the wealth of Chile. So, I think that is essentially what the victory of Gabriel Boric represents.
GOLODRYGA: You talk about the wealth sort of being isolated to the 1 percent. It's also the richest country in Latin America as well.
What is it that voters who took to the polls, because this was a run-off election between these two candidates, what is it that they ultimately were
seeking change for? Was it that disparity in income?
VIVANCO: Well, the changes that they are demanding is going to imply pretty serious fiscal reform in Chile, tax reform.
And, obviously, that should happen in the context of an economy that should keep growing, which is not the case of the economy of Chile today. It is,
like the rest of the world, subject of all the constraints of the pandemic and inflation and so on and so forth.
So -- but what I think is important to highlight is that the other candidate, the candidate who was defeated, he represents extreme positions,
positions that identify himself with the former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet.
Mr. Kast was running on a platform against, for instance, women rights, migrant rights. He was explicitly against same-sex marriage, which was
approved in Chile this month. So I think the victory of Mr. Boric as the new president of Chile and the youngest president in the history of Chilean
and probably in Latin America, it represents social change, but it's not a threat to democracy.
Or he's not promoting some sort of authoritarian views that will challenge the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, or free speech in Chile.
And, for that sake, he is not going to be setting the wrong precedent for the region.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it's interesting, because during the campaign, Boric was calling Kast a fascist. Kast was calling Boric a communist.
And as the days got closer to the actual election over the weekend, it did appear interesting that both candidates decided to move more moderately to
the center, right, to move away from their extremes. Do you think that gives you a sense of where the country wants to go, not extreme in one
direction or the other?
I mean, I think your description is absolutely accurate. Boric is not a communist. Boric is associated with the Communist Party, but the Communist
Party is part of his own coalition. But, actually, his positions moved to the center during the second round of the election, and which -- I think
what it shows is that Chile is majority supporting change, but change with respect for the rule of law.
In other words, law and order is an important component of the equation in political terms today in Chile.
GOLODRYGA: And it's also coming at a time when they are going to be rewriting the constitution, obviously all of this stemming from the unrest
that we saw in 2019, ultimately perhaps taking away some of the power that lies with the executive.
So a lot to be seen and expected in the country in the weeks and months to come. But can you give us a sense of who Boris was as a person? He is a bit
eccentric with tattoos. I think he had to cut his beard a bit more to become more acceptable as a politician. But what can we expect from this
young unknown leader?
VIVANCO: Well, actually, he has been in politics in Chile during the last 10 years.
He's essentially a student leader who was the leader of a very important movement, demonstrations 10 years ago demanding better education in Chile.
And he went to law school, same law school that I went in Chile many years ago.
And -- but he represent the new generation of Chileans, who are -- they're not challenging -- and this is very important to highlight -- democracy.
What they want is to live in a system that will ensure social mobility and a fair chance for the new middle class of Chile and the poorest in Chile.
The most -- the average worker in Chile earns $500 per month, which is actually surprising to everyone, taking into account the wealth of the
country and how well Chile has performed during the last 30 years in macroeconomic terms in the region.
GOLODRYGA: Look, this was a campaign that got ugly at times, as many campaigns do. But if one takeaway sort of stands out, on a positive note,
that is that democracy worked in democracy won.
Kast conceded to Boric, called him that the president that the people voted for. The current president, Sebastian Pinera, called Boric and promised a
smooth transition and handover. And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: "Once again, the people of Chile set an example of free and fair
How important is that to showcase around the world, perhaps in light of what's even transpired in the United States following the 2020 elections,
that, yes, an ugly, election and campaign can turn out clean and democratic?
Chile is as polarized as any other country today in the world, including, obviously the United States. And the campaign was very divisive. However,
the candidate -- the behavior of a political leadership of Chile, Mr. Kast, was clearly defeated by Boric.
But as well as the current president, Sebastian Pinera, I think he set up an example for the rest of the region, and particularly for the U.S., where
the former president still is not conceding that he was clearly defeated.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, I think we will just leave it with this quote I read from one Chilean following the election, saying: "We Chileans want stability and
calm. We chose the person who gives us that."
Thank you so much, Jose Miguel Vivanco. We appreciate your expertise.
VIVANCO: Thanks a lot for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Well, for our next segment, we turn to the queen of the marine conservation.
Legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle has spent a lifetime at the bottom of the sea. And, at 86, she is still campaigning to save the oceans, as much
as the planet's lungs are our forests. Her new book is called "National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey."
And she joined me from Oakland, California.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Sylvia, thank you so much for joining us. And congratulations on this new book, "Ocean: a Global Odyssey."
I have to ask. You have logged more than 7,000 hours of underwater dives. What are you trying to convey in this book to readers?
EARLE: So, the book is like a journey. It is an odyssey, starting out with, what do we know about the ocean? Where did water come from? How about
all that salt? Where did that originate?
And life in the ocean, who lives there? And what do we know about them? And what don't we know? But, finally, to pull it together and try to share, OK,
why should we care about the ocean? How does the ocean influence us with every breath, we take every drop of water we drink, a climate that works in
our favor? Or at least it has until we began fooling around with it.
But, also, how are we influencing the ocean?
GOLODRYGA: This has clearly been a passion of yours, marine life and ocean exploration.
But you hit on, why should everyone care about this, those that aren't as passionate about it? Why should this be a priority for us?
EARLE: If you like to breathe, you will listen up.
Over, I will say gazillions of years, it's like at least two billion years, photosynthesis, the process that generates oxygen, captures carbon that we
know is accomplished by trees and grass and all green things on the land, except for frogs, of course, and the like, but plants, in the ocean.
The ocean is where this really began and dominated the process of capturing carbon and generating oxygen. And we now have an atmosphere that works in
our favor, 20 percent oxygen, 80 percent nitrogen, just enough carbon dioxide to power photosynthesis and keep this cycle moving in our favor.
But on our watch, what we've done to the chemistry of the planet, through what we've done on the land, clear cutting forest, diminishing the
diversity of life overall. And then, ocean similarly, clear cutting the fish and disrupting the carbon cycle. It's -- you know, why should we care?
Because our existence depends on the healthy ocean that has taken a very long time to shape the planet in ways that favor us. It's taken us a short
time to disrupt those very basic systems. It's not too late to turn the corner.
GOLODRYGA: Well, you have described this as what's taken billions of years to form and come together as being decimated in just mere decades. We spend
so much time now, and rightly so, on the impacts of climate change and we see it almost in our daily on land, right, whether it's drought, whether
it's flooding, whether it's tornadoes. What impact is it having on ocean, in ocean life, from what you've experienced?
EARLE: The ocean excess carbon dioxide is a big problem because it's causing the ocean to become more acidic. Bad news for coral reefs. Bad news
for oysters, clams, anything with a calcium carbonate shell that dissolves in a more acidic environment. And so, you know, change of chemistry of the
ocean, you're basically nudging the way the planet functions. It gets to the small things that generate oxygen and capture carbon.
Creatures with names with most people haven't heard of, like cocolisahorics (ph). I mean, it's not a hard name to pronounce name, cocolisahorics (ph),
but they do a lot of what it takes to generate oxygen and capture carbon and maintain these basic cycles. Diatoms, other phytoplankton, if you will,
the forest of the sea. But it's not limited to the phytoplankton if the whole system gets nudged in a different direction when you change the
GOLODRYGA: So, there's the impact of manmade climate change, right. There's the impact from global -- from overfishing, it's something you have
been focused on as well. As you mentioned, about half of the coral reefs are gone. But there is still hope out there, and there's work that can be
done. And that is something you're doing with your Mission Blue Alliance. And that's identifying about 130 hope spots around the world which, as I
was discussing with our team here on the show, what would seem to be a no brainer. It's somewhat like national wildlife's sanctuaries and federal
preservation of land on water though. Talk more about that and what can be done.
EARLE: About 15 percent of the land is safeguarded for wildlife and basically for water protection and for human purposes. Only about 3 percent
of the ocean has similar proactive care. That means 97 percent of the ocean is open one way or another for exploitation without those safeguards.
So, some people are trying to really encourage protection of the ocean so that you can have more fish to take. And it is true, when you take the
pressure off and maintain protected areas, fish and other wildlife prosper and they do spill over into the surrounding area. But, you know, we don't
protect national parks. So, we have more birds to kill. We protect national parks because -- well, for a variety of reasons that, the diversity they
contain, they're beautiful. Emotionally, we love these intact wild places and increasingly, beginning to understand that they are so important for
harboring and protecting diversity of life that doesn't exist anymore elsewhere.
And the ocean, similarly. We need to think of protected areas on the land, protected areas in the sea for carbon capture and storage, for protection
of the diversity of life, this network that holds the planet together and is vital for our existence. We need to protect the ocean, large areas of
the ocean as if our lives depend on it, because they do. And at the goal of 30 percent of the ocean and the land by 2030 is embraced by many countries
around the world as something we need to safeguard ourselves.
GOLODRYGA: You mentioned 2030, and that got me thinking about what's next for you because this book is, by no means, an indication of your final
chapters in your career. You continue to -- for more explorations, more dives are planned in your future and you're already the age of 86, looking
to what you're doing at the age of 100, and that's going to be in 2035.
Another dive that you are planning with John-Michel Cousteau, of course, he is the son of Jacques Cousteau. What brings that love that you've had and
carried with you for so many years throughout your life to make you want to continue this endeavor into 100 years old?
EARLE: Well, or beyond. Anyway, just --
GOLODRYGA: Or beyond.
EARLE: As long as you can breathe, you should just embrace life as fully as you can, which I will do as long as I can, of course. And building
little submarines and using them. You know, if the day comes when I can't dive and I -- so far, so good. But, you know, all of these submarines and
it's wonderful to be able to get into a nice one atmospheric container, like getting into a car or an airplane and diving into the ocean deeper
than you can go as a scuba diver. I've done this now using more than 30 different kinds of submarines.
And I see reasons for hope, which is what keeps me going, I guess, you know, among the hope spots are not just these beautiful areas such as the -
- ones National Geographic embraces as pristine seas, but also, San Francisco Bay is a hope spot. The Florida Gulf Coast is a hope spot. There
are places that are clearly in need of help but we do know that actions by individuals, by communities, by countries make a difference.
We can go from decline to recovery. We have that power. It starts with knowing, which is what this book tries to convey. Once you know, you might
care. You can know and not care, but we are at a point where everything that we do, we know makes a difference that affects the future, and this is
GOLODRYGA: Who best do convey all of this information than someone like yourself so experienced and so passionate and so hopeful about our future
and the future of our oceans. We need that hope right now.
Sylvia, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on the book and we will continue to follow all of your dives that you have planned ahead.
EARLE: Thank you. I live by the motto, onward and downward.
GOLODRYGA: What a fantastic motto to live by. Sylvia's book is available now.
Well, so with omicron on the rise, what might next year have in store? Nicholas Christakis is the director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale
University and author of "Apollo's Arrow." He's talking to Hari Sreenivasan about what's to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Nicholas Christakis, thanks so much for joining us.
And I got to ask, you have been in conversation with us a couple of times now. Your predictions have been fairly spot-on. And your book, you talk
about three different phases of a pandemic. And I want to know, like everyone else, which phase are we in now and when are we going to get to
the next one?
NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS, PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL AND NATURAL SCIENCE, YALE UNIVERSITY STERLING: I think that it's safe to say while we are not,
unfortunately, at the beginning of the end of this respiratory pandemic, we are thankfully approaching the end of the beginning.
And respiratory pandemics go through three phases. There's the immediate phase, which I had thought and it's proving to be the case, in the case of
the coronavirus pandemic, would last into 2022. There's the intermediate phase, which I think is going to last a couple of years into 2024. And
then, there's the post-pandemic phase.
During the immediate phase, we're feeling the full biological and epidemiological force of the virus. It's like a wave of the virus that's
sweeping through the human population and the virus will spread and spread and spread among us until it becomes endemic, until we reach actually herd
immunity. Basically, unless you're a hermit in the mountains or you're incredibly lucky, everyone in the United States, in fact, everyone on the
planet is either going to be vaccinated for this condition or infected with the virus. And we're going to have to wait until that happens. That's going
to happen sometime in 2022 in this country, in the beginning of 2022.
And then, we will finally put the biological and epidemiological impact of the virus behind us and enter the intermediate phase. And during the
intermediate phase, we're going to have to cope with the clinical, psychological, social, and economic aftershocks of the virus. It's like a
tsunami has washed ashore and has devastated the countryside. Finally, the waters recede, which is great, but now we have to clean up the mess.
And as a nation, we're going to have to deal with lots of fallout from the virus. And then, finally, in around 2024, and these are approximate dates,
we'll enter the post-pandemic phase, which I think is going to be a little bit of a party. People will be very relieved to the finally have put the
pandemic behind us.
SREENIVASAN: So, before we get to that what is life like in phase two and phase three, when you talk about herd immunity, you say it's either going
to happen through vaccinations or by everybody getting infected. And one of the concerns quite a few people who are hesitant to get the vaccine have
is, you know what, I'm just going to wait and get infected. I'm going to get COVID the old-fashioned way like I get the flu and then I'm good for
And part of their almost counterfactual evidence is, look at these people who got vaccinated and they're still getting the Omicron variant. So,
what's the point? What do you say to those folks?
CHRISTAKIS: Well, I think it's very important to understand that if you get an infection and survive it, then that's a crucial point, then you
could have natural immunity, which could be quite strong. In fact, we have evidence it is very strong. But first of all, you have to understand that
in order to acquire the natural immunity, you have to run a very material risk of death.
On average, about half a percent to 1 percent of people who are infected with this virus will die. And that is a nontrivial risk of death. Of
course, it varies tremendously by age and that's just a rough number, and that is a kind of a silly risk to run when we have safe and effective
vaccines. IN fact, that's the whole point of vaccination, that you kind of get the immunity without running the risk of infection.
In addition to that consideration is the fact that there is evidence that being vaccinated actually offers superior immunity to acquiring immunity
via the natural means. Now, this is a difficult topic. It is usually the case that natural infection, if you survive it, offers superior immunity
than vaccination for most pathogens but not always. For some pathogens, vaccination offers better immunity. And there is evidence that in the case
of coronavirus, that is also the case.
Now, there's a lot of studies. This opinion could be changed with new evidence coming in. But right now, it's approximately the case that six
months after vaccination with an mRNA vaccine, you have between 84 percent and 96 percent efficacy against serious disease, whereas six months after
recovering from a natural infection, you have between 80 percent and 93 percent. So, there's still a little advantage of vaccination.
SREENIVASAN: So, right now, there is also a focus on the number of people who are dying with this. But I also want to point out the large population
that's living with it and what are the implications for our society if a significant percentage of the population has, say, long COVID?
CHRISTAKIS: I think I'd like to answer that by actually stepping back even more. I think the average American has not yet been able to fully
appreciate the gravity of what has happened to us as a people. About 800,000 of our fellow citizens have died. And I think almost for sure, a
million of our fellow citizens will have died before the pandemic is over. We have had millions of children miss school. We have had millions of
Americans lose their jobs. We have millions of businesses closed. We're borrowing trillions of dollars against the future. One estimate of the
economic consequence of this virus puts it at $16 trillion, which is an economic disaster that surpasses the Great Depression.
And in addition, as you mentioned, it's not just that people who die, the 1 million Americans who may die, we have a lot of evidence that perhaps five
times as many people as die will be disabled by this condition. I don't mean long or short COVID, I mean, you've recovered, whether long or short
but now your body is scarred. You have pulmonary fibrosis or cardiac problems, a renal insufficiency, pancreatic insufficiency or neurologic or
psychiatric problems as a result of the virus.
And that means as many as 5 million Americans or our fellow citizens will be disabled to some extent by this virus, and they will also need our care.
So, there are so many ways this virus is harming us and I don't think people fully appreciate yet the magnitude of what is happening.
SREENIVASAN: We have Larry Summers speaking to Walter Isaacson recent and he said that there up to a 40 percent chance of a recession in the next
four years. How does that fit with the models that you've seen or, I should say, the examples that you've seen historically of how pandemics progress?
CHRISTAKIS: You can learn a lot by contrasting what happens to a society when it's attacked by a plague versus when it's attacked by an invading
army. During a war, a lot of people die. And during the plague, a lot of people die. But during a war, in addition to people dying, you destroy
capital. Buildings are bombed and roads are destroyed and farms are destroyed. And actually, there's no worst waste of money than to build and
ammunitions and detonate them, right? Just you want to make all this money to build a bomb and then explode them.
So, in warfare, you destroy people and capital. But in plagues, it's like a neutron bomb. You just kill people and you leave the capital intact, the
roads, the farms, the factories, the gold, the knowhow and so on. And if you study across time what this means economically, it has some pretty
Because in a plague, people die but capital left intact, afterwards, the labor to capital ratio changes, and you have many more people, about the
same amount of capital, so wages tend to rise. For about 20 years after a serious plague, if you look historically, wages rise. And real interest
rates overtime tends to decline because there's so much capital chasing less and less opportunity.
So, you can look at the history of plagues and make some informed guesses about what's also likely to happen today. Coronavirus is a little different
because it tends to kill elderly people, not working age people and it's not as serious as smallpox or bubonic plague or cholera. So, it may not be
the same as previous epidemics, but we're seeing a lot of indications that it might be in terms of what's happening in our labor markets and in our
SREENIVASAN: You know, it's interesting that you mentioned labor and capital because it's not coincidental that there has been a resurgence of
strength in labor movements right now. I mean, there are a lot of people who say, you call me an essential worker, but you don't treat me essential
when it comes to how you pay me, how you schedule me or what kind of benefits I get?
CHRISTAKIS: Exactly. And I think we're seeing a lot of evidence of that. We've had what is called the great resignation. A lot of people that were
near retirement, for instance, especially if they were not well paid, teachers, nursing's assistants, low wage workers of various kinds, so-
called essential workers in many industries, you know, who are 62 or 63 and they're saying, gee, it's unsafe for me to be around. I could get infected
and I'm older and I run a bigger risk of death. My job wasn't that interesting to me. And I'm approaching the end of my career when I could
retire anyway, why don't I retire? It doesn't take many people to retire to disrupt the labor market.
In addition, one of the other fundamental things that plagues do is that plagues often prompt a search for meaning. When -- you know, when there's a
deadly germ afoot and people are cooped up at home, they begin to think about what's important to them in their lives and what kind of lives they
want to live and what kind of societies they want to live in. And we've seen a lot of indicators of that in this modern plague as well.
Yes, religious attendance went down. There's been a long-term decline in religious attendance in our society and it went further down during the
plague when many houses of worship were closed. But prayer, including among the religious and among the previously non-prayerful went up. This is
typical in times of plague.
In addition, people found other ways to search for meaning. I think the Black Lives Matter protests from a year ago, even the right-wing
insurrection at the nation's capitol, many of this political ferment can be understood through this notion that people searching for meaning, they are
questioning what kind of society they want to live in. This rejiggering of the labor market we're also seeing. For example, there's been a boom in
applications to nursing school and medical school. People see these as meaningful occupations, even though you would think they'd be more
dangerous right now.
SREENIVASAN: I also want to ask about this latest variant. I know it's still early, there's still a lot of research that is being done. But what
do we know about Omicron? Because there are -- you know, we kind of see these different reactions. We see people lining up for testing left and
right all over the country now. We see numbers of infections that have increased. And then we also hear, well, it may not be leading to
hospitalizations at the same rate or, you know, if you're vaccinated, you have greater protection.
I mean, from all the different sources that you're listening to and paying attention to, what's your advice to people about this new variant?
CHRISTAKIS: Well, first of all, I have to say, it's still early days. And, you know, the WHO, I think, declared this a variant of concern on November
the 26th approximately, and we're not even a month after that. And so, scientists have been scrambling to collect data. And so, what happens is
when a scientist like me offers an opinion about something, I just have to say, it's given the current state of knowledge.
CHRISTAKIS: If knowledge changes, well, then I'll revise my opinions.
Anyway, as of now, if you look at the overall data, it seems very clear that Omicron is much more contagious and it's more contagious for at least
two distinct reasons. One is intrinsically, the virus can spread more easily. For example, if the virus is better able to buying to receptors in
your nose than prior variants, if this variant has that capacity, then it can leap from person to person more easily on its own.
A distinct reason it's spreading more easily is another property of the virus, which is its ability to evade, do something called immune escape. It
can evade immune defenses of previously immunized people, people who had acquired immunity naturally or through vaccination, the Omicron variant can
outsmart that a little bit. Actually, more than a little. So, for those two reasons, the Omicron variant is very -- is much more spreadable, and that's
The second issue is, is this more deadly or not? And this is less clear. If I had guess, I would say on a case-by-case basis, the Omicron variant is
less deadly than the Delta variant, but I could change my mind on this depending on additional evidence that comes in.
The thing is, even if on a per person basis it is less deadly, at a societal level, it can still wreak havoc. Because it spread so easily, so
many people will get sick so fast that our hospitals could once again be overrun. And we're seeing these very steep rises in Omicron cases in South
Africa, in Europe, in American college campuses, which worry me.
SREENIVASAN: You now, I want to ask about the people who are going to hear this and say, you're right. We could have taken the route of not
vaccinating anyone, that our response to this as a planet has been excessive or overblown. I mean, even with 800,000 Americans dead, we still
have this mindset in an active debate right now. Explain that.
CHRISTAKIS: I don't understand that thinking, honestly. If we hadn't vaccinated anyone, we might have lost two million American lives. I mean,
just doing nothing, that was -- that's like a medieval response. You know, our ancestors had to accept that kind of fatality rate. But we're in the
21st century. We've spent 200 years inventing vaccines. Vaccines are a miraculous technology. So, the idea that we would have just done nothing is
absurd, in my opinion.
And furthermore, whatever your attitude the level of lethality this pathogen, you have to understand that this pathogen is kind of a plague
light, like our time in the crucible we this ancient threat, we're just facing a light version of what our ancestors faced. Our ancestors faced
Bubonic plague and smallpox and cholera and the 1918 Spanish influenza, which -- all of which were much more deadly. And our pathogen is not as
deadly, but there's no God-given reason it's not. It could have been.
Just imagine if we had been doing -- we had been facing the same pandemic but the intrinsic lethality of the pathogen, instead of being 1 percent was
10 percent or 30 percent. There are coronaviruses that are that deadly. MERS, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, which is coronavirus, kills 30
percent of the people it infects.
So, I wonder, what had those people against vaccination be saying if this pathogen was even deadlier? Would they really be saying, oh, never mind,
just let 100 million Americans die? So, I don't -- if you're not going to make that argument with a hundred million Americans, I don't see why you
should make that argument for a million Americans. And million Americans, our fellow citizens, at least, I think, will ultimately have died as a
result of this plague. And that is an enormous catastrophe, that, again, I don't think people fully have grasped.
SREENIVASAN: We're heading into the holidays right now, and there's a lot of people who are on the cusp of cancelling their holiday plans, and it is
causing not just fatigue but also a deeper frustration that perhaps it was at bay over the last several months. And people wondering, you know, when
will this new normal stop or what is 2022 looking like? Paint us a picture if you can.
CHRISTAKIS: Well, first of all, I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for people with those feelings. The fact that we are fed up with this plague,
which we all are, has no bearing on the virus. It -- the virus is just doing its thing. And we're -- there's more suffering, more woe ahead of us.
Now, for those of us who are fully vaccinated, including a booster, if you want to get together with your family in small groups, I think that's very
safe. If you add to that one other layer of protection, you test people when they come to your home with a rapid home test or you have outdoor
gatherings or you increase the ventilation in your home or wear masks.
If you add some other layer of protection, I think it's totally fine. I think the risk is not zero but it's tolerable. So, for my family, we're
going to gather for the holidays. Everyone has been triply vaccinated. We're going to test people when they arrive at our house and then, we're
going to spend a week or two together and not worry about the virus.
SREENIVASAN: The book in paperback. "Apollo's Arrow." Nicholas Christakis, thanks so much for joining us.
CHRISTAKIS: Thank you for having me, Hari.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The message there, if we take precautions, it might not be a bad holiday for us all.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from New York.