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Interview with Taiwanese Journalist and New Bloom Magazine Editor Brian Hioe; Interview with Twitter Former Global Chair of News Vivian Schiller; Interview with "The Wager" Author David Grann; Interview with Earth Day Initiative Executive Director John Opperman. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 21, 2023 - 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 HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
The threat to Taiwan, Washington war games, Chinese invasion as the Taiwanese foreign minister warns of conflict in 2027. I get a view from the
ground from writer and activist Brian Hioe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELON MUSK, CEO, TWITTER: I think a lot of cases, it is the average citizen that knows more than the journalists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: -- Elon Musk's new Twitter gamble. I get the latest on what removing verification badges could mean for disinformation.
And a tale of shipwreck mutiny and murder. Acclaimed writer David Grann brings us the fascinating story of castaways descending into chaos from his
new book, "The Wager."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OPPERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EARTH DAY INITIATIVE: We are just at the cusp of maybe the most ambitious climate legislation and climate action
that we've seen both in the U.S. and around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Protecting our planet. Executive director of Earth Day Initiative talks to Hari Sreenivasan about the high stakes work of tackling
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
When Russia brazenly tried to take over Ukraine last year, it sent chills up the spines thousands of miles away in Taiwan. The island has been under
the thumb of China for years, many of its residents living in constant fear that Beijing, like Moscow, will one day decide to invade and try to capture
The United States is increasingly worried about just this scenario. A congressional select committee war game to Chinese invasion this week. The
committee's chair saying it revealed the need to arm Taiwan to the teeth.
The commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific command says the U.S. military has done a lot of work in taking lessons learned from the war in Ukraine and then
applying them to U.S. support of Taiwan. But he's also been warning that the Chinese threat to Taiwan is closer to us than most think.
With me now is Brian Hioe. He is a Taiwanese American writer and activist. Brian, welcome to the program, live for us from Taipei.
So, just to continue on this saber-rattling. Just today, China's foreign minister has warned of "dangerous consequences" for countries that
intervene in Taiwan. Now, on the surface. This is language that we've heard for years now. But given today's climate, how do you interpret it?
BRIAN HIOE, TAIWANESE JOURNALIST AND EDITOR, NEW BLOOM MAGAZINE: Yes. I think China is probably hoping that other countries in the region do not
intervene in the event of a Taiwan contingency. China would actually stand to lose quite a lot in terms of not only just the lives lost but also the
economic impact, as well as other countries in the region will feel threatened by China potentially targeting them next.
And so, then you have an escalation of rhetoric. We think, for example, there's controversy over comments made by China's ambassador to the
Philippines, threatening the 150,000 Filipinos in Taiwan. And so, it's a question if China will step up its rhetoric intended to dissuade other
countries from interceding on Taiwan's behalf.
GOLODRYGA: This comes as we continue to see sort of this theatrics, I guess, well-coordinated visits between Taiwanese officials, the president
just coming to the United States to visit with the speaker in California. Obviously, this following then Speaker Pelosi's trip to Taiwan last year,
which really rattled nerves in China, and of course, that precipitates these military exercises that we've seen.
As I said, it's also highly choreographed. It's all centered around where you live, your home. What is the reaction to all of this and the
choreography, really, around it all between these two countries for years now?
HIOE: Yes. I mean, there definitely is concerned about the threat of a Chinese invasion. Taiwan has dealt with this for decades. And so, it's not
exactly new. But even during the visit, after the Pelosi visit, the live fire exercises that China conducted, that didn't really cause as much panic
as I think often is perceived international media or is misinterpreted because of the fact that the population is quite used to it, they're used
(ph) these threats and often is trying to making noises.
I think there is cause for concern because this is not China launching invasion tomorrow. Again, there'd be quite a heavy blow to China, and China
would have to really be acting on a -- kind of taking a very risky, adventurous move if it did that. But it is hoping to have pretext to launch
more drilling, to get more experience for not just potentially an invasion but a blockade, which would be less escalatory but would be a way of also
trying to force Taiwan to negotiate and compromise to China's will.
GOLODRYGA: So, as we mentioned in the intro, the threat of a military invasion is something that U.S. officials, military officials as well have
been talking about publicly, I would say, with more regularity over the past year or two and even offering specific dates in which they think an
invasion could take place as soon as 2025.
From your perspective, from your colleagues, is this more helpful or harmful to have these speculations really made public like this?
HIOE: So, it is a question. I mean, I think that this thing has debated. For example, I think U.S. military officials who are offering these dates
are trying to encourage the Taiwanese government and the Taiwanese society to take more proactive action to steam off an invasion.
As I mentioned, sometimes when these exercises do occur, there's not as much panic and that doesn't always translate into them trying to boost
military readiness or prepare for what to do in the event of innovation or a blockade or other scenario.
But then, I think that once they're all these dates being thrown around, it also actually pushes China to take more drastic action, because then they
don't want to look weak. They do want to look as though they are making steps to take Taiwan and prepare for that. And so, also, this heightened
rhetoric actually does also push China to more extreme and aggressive action to threaten Taiwan, to psychological intimidated it, but also, just
to project power.
GOLODRYGA: There is a concern that China -- that Taiwan could become more complacent if we're constantly talking about these perceived threats and a
potential invasion, this is something that you could say, listen, we're used to this. This happens all the time. That having been said, we have
seen an increase in in Taiwan's military budget and expenditure over just the past few years. It increased from $15 billion in 2022 to close to $20
billion this year, and it's projected to go up to $21 billion by 2028. Still, that dwarfs what China's military budget is.
When you hear reports from the leaked classified documents that were just revealed earlier this month that the United States' assessment is that
Taiwan is not prepared for an invasion right now. How alarming is that for you to hear?
HIOE: I think it's one of those things. I mean, for example, the military draft was reextended to one year, and this was a politically risky move for
the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, but this was carried out after the invasion of Ukraine, using that as the kind of frame by which calling for
further steps for military readiness.
But I think then when the U.S. or other western powers are continually trying to pressure Taiwan, sometimes it feels like an imposition from
without (ph). And so, that actually might do more harm than good. And I do think that hyperbolic rhetoric about the threat of invasion when Taiwan has
dealt with this for decades and just talk about it constantly as though it were going to happen tomorrow, it might actually lead to less real
For example, I think what's interesting about the Chinese drills is that because they occur on a daily basis, it becomes a repetitive news item.
There's not a sense of a developing kind of escalating or progressively intensifying threat. They're just more planes and more planes and it faces
So, I think actually, in terms of appeals or attempts to convince Taiwan to do more, there has to be a more carefully crafted message there than just
continually trying to fear monger or pulled out these specific times by which China might take action.
GOLODRYGA: It was notable to hear from President Tsai on her recent trip to the United States. She first went to New York, then she went to Central
America, and then she stopped in California. But when she was in New York, she had said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was viewed as a wakeup call
for Taiwan. Do you agree with that?
HIOE: I think so. I think there's so much more discussion of the potential possibility of invasion after Ukraine. That is actually quite interesting
too, to think about that. After the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, there's more focus on the potential of what would occur to Taiwan than there
actually was when there were a live fire drills conducted by China around Taiwan after the Pelosi visit, which took place closer to Taiwan than
during the third Taiwan Straits crisis.
And so, it's actually seeing these images circulated worldwide and how other countries in the world, quickly the U.S., reacted to the invasion of
Ukraine that really caused Taiwan to rethink or to think more seriously about the threat of a Chinese invasion. These exercises, actually, I think
had less of an impact. And so, I think that is noteworthy.
GOLODRYGA: Also, potentially having an impact are elections in Taiwan coming up at the end of the year. When you talk about the Taiwanese
president visiting the United States, it didn't go unnoticed that her predecessor and the member of a party, the KTM Party, which is historically
just been closer aligned to China was making a first ever visit to China at the same time. How was that interpreted at home?
HIOE: That's right. And so, the KMT has historically claimed to be the only party that's able to conduct relations with the Chinese communist party.
They're enemies in the Chinese civil war. And then, the KMT came to Taiwan. But now, it's reinvented itself as a proactive patient (ph) party. It's
also the former authoritarian party in Taiwan. And so, Then-Former President Ma Ying-jeou visiting China is to show them that well, we can
talk with China in way that DPP cannot. And so, you should vote for us.
And so, that actually does point to how the next election cycle that is coming up, with elections scheduled for January of next year. A lot of the
questions that are at stake is what allies of Taiwan pick internationally. Do you try to then build closer relation to China and hope that they
dropped the threats at you, despite the fact that they want close relations to politically control you, eventually at the end of the day, or do you
build stronger ties with the U.S. and western powers or Japan and other potential regional allies to capture the threat of China? And so, I think
that is the question that is voters will go to the polls to decide on.
GOLODRYGA: So, I want to ask you about that debate. And excuse me. Thank you for correcting me. The KMT Party. The former KMT Party's cultural
minister, your former cultural minister, seemed to imply recently in a "New York Times" piece that all of this is indeed more harmful within Taiwan,
that you're starting to have citizens turn against each other on this issue on whether reunification would be better longer-term or whether it's now
the time to really hunker down and fight for independence. She highlights a generational gap as being a major player here. She spoke to a fisherman
called Mr. Chen (ph), who told her, many young Taiwan residents absorbed in their mobile phones, socializing and other leisure pursuits seem oblivious
to the danger.
I know you had a pretty visceral reaction to this piece. Tell us about your response.
HIOE: Yes. I mean, Mr. Lung is the former minister of culture Ma Ying-jeou who visited China. And during her -- when he was in power and under her
administration as minister of culture, there was a youth led movement, the Sunflower Movement in 2014, that was the occupation of the Taiwan
Legislature for a month in protest of a trade agreement that the administration (ph) hope to side with China. That allowed for Chinese
investment in Taiwan service sector industry, but it was feared that that would lead to the traditional political freedom, obviously, self-censor
because of concern about China.
And so, that provoked a lot of backlash. And it seems very strange than that sort of face down a youth led movement, that was one of the largest
movements in Taiwanese history with 500,000 people have taken to the streets, for example, on March 30, 2014 would then claim that young people
are indifferent and not paying attention and just absorbed in their phones. It's a very strange perception.
But then, it is a kind of framing of the debates then about their relation with China -- with Taiwan relationship with China, framing it as though
economic engagement will cause China to drop the threats and that's actually the DPP that is provoking China through building stronger ties
with the U.S. This is a similar narrative that's circulating then regarding, let's say, Russia and Ukraine, saying that Ukraine was invaded
because it got too close to the U.S. And so, that provoked Russia into action.
And so, members of the KMT and community affiliated groups are circling that, and including circulating narratives that the U.S. would, for
example, try to destroy Taiwanese semiconductor facilities in the case of war. And so, someone, actually -- and I do think verges on disinformation
or conspiracy mongering at this point.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we'll have to have you back on to just talk about the economic implications here. You mentioned TSMC and its impact there as the
predominant chipmaker for the world. So, we'll have to have you back. Thank you so much, Brian Hioe. It's really interesting conversation.
HIOE: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, turning now to roller coaster ride of news that keeps coming from Twitter. Elon Musk is making good on his pledge to remove
verification badges from the likes of journalists, celebrities and academics, those who did not sign up to pay for the service.
Now, the decision risks confusing users over the veracity of information and who was actually behind each account. Musk was asked about removing the
blue check marks and the possibility that it could unleash chaos in an interview with the BBC last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELON MUSK, CEO, TWITTER: I think the media is the driver of misinformation, much more than the media would like to admit that they are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, that's a different question.
MUSK: Yes. But you are sort of saying like who knows best, the average citizen or, you know, someone who is a journalist. And I think a lot of
cases it is the average citizen that knows more than the journalist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, here to discuss is someone who knows Twitter quite well, the former global chair of news for the company, Vivian Schiller.
The area -- the era of internet has no doubt amplified misinformation. And I do want to talk to you about that, and the impact that this could
possibly have on users now that these blue check marks, these verifications have been removed. What is your reaction?
VIVIAN SCHILLER, FORMER GLOBAL CHAIR OF NEWS, TWITTER: Well first of all, there's a lot of misunderstanding about what that blue check mark
represents. It's perceived to be some kind of signal of the elite. But the intention of the blue check mark is simply to say that the person tweeting
who is who they say they are. It doesn't mean that what they're tweeting is correct information, it could be false information or that they are an
important person or not an important person, it just verifies their identity.
By removing that verification, this is just another move that Elon Musk has made to sort of unleash chaos on the platform. Because now, anybody can
pretend to be anybody else. And, you know, some of the Twitter employees will try to take down accounts that are spoofing. But it's now a very, very
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And this isn't just a hypothetical. I just want to put up one example of just a few hours into this new move by Twitter, and you're
already seeing exactly what you just laid out in real-time, the New York City government had an authentic Twitter account they were representing,
and all of the sudden, once they put up a tweet that said, this is authentic Twitter account representing the New York City government. This
is the only account for the New York government run by the New York City government.
I mean, there were responses that said, as our viewers can see, no, you're not. This account is actually the only authentic Twitter account. I mean,
that's just one example. I saw one earlier of Hillary Clinton saying that she was going to be running in 2023. I mean, talk about just the impact
this could have on the spread of disinformation and Twitter's potential role as a source for media and information going forward.
SCHILLER: Well, Twitter has never been perfect. It had a lot of problems, but it was critical infrastructure, global infrastructure for information
that Elon Musk is now systematically, frankly, vandalizing. And by removing this verification, it is -- it -- we're just going to continue to see
exactly what you're talking about, which is anybody can pretend to be anybody else.
And in fact, you can buy a blue check mark which gives you the -- you know, the illusion of being a legitimate source, but it's just a transaction. So,
all of a sudden, legitimate sources like, you know, the City of New York lose their verification status, which was an important signal to the
audience. Some other random person can buy verification and appear to be that source. This is just day one, and we're already seeing the kind of
chaos that could, ensue.
GOLODRYGA: Look, I lost my blue verification check mark, I don't really care. A lot of my colleagues did. They did as well. And so, life goes on. I
mean, I still use the site. But I have to say, it is much harder to navigate. I mean, this was sort of a go-to platform for me in the morning
because I had cultivated a list of people and sites that I had followed and that was my go-to information hub and I would go there first before getting
confirmation or following up on a specific story. That has become that much harder.
But it does seem that Elon Musk has it out for the media specifically. And while the company may say that this is another way to get more revenue,
which I don't disagree with, I mean, they are sort of cash strapped. Do you think this was the only way they could have gone about it?
SCHILLER: No clearly not. If it was just about revenue, this would be a colossal failure. Travis Brown, who is a researcher reported -- just
tweeted, actually, in fact, I think it's Travis Brown, because there's no blue check mark now.
GOLODRYGA: Here we are.
SCHILLER: That in fact, since early April, there's only been a net gain of about four or five paid verification account. So, this is clearly not a
revenue driver, and I think it has a lot to do with Elon Musk's frustration with the media. We see that manifesting in various ways. He's punished, for
example, "New York Times." He took away the "New York Times'" blue check mark a few weeks ago. Why? Who knows?
He punished NPR by labeling them as government funded. Well, first, you know, state, but there was different terminology that was very misleading.
And while NPR is government funded, it was clearly targeted punitive against some reporting that he clearly didn't like.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And then, on that note, I mean, we still have now see the Chinese, Iranian, Russian state media losing their state affiliated
warning, which had always been up as sort of, yes, exactly what that is, a warning for viewers and readers to read that knowing that this is state
sponsored and affiliated, that is all gone. So, it seems that some of these sites and some of these accounts actually get more protection and are
rewarded from this change while he continues, in that interviewed with the BBC, to say that he thinks the average citizen knows more than journalists.
SCHILLER: Well, look, all of this just points to the fact that Twitter is a declining asset. It used to be very important. Like I said, Twitter always
had problems. They should have extended the verification process to anybody that could prove their identity. They should have done that a long time ago
to, you know, dispense with this notion of it being sort of the elite. There were lots of issues with Twitter with spam.
He said he was going to come in and fix all of that. But unfortunately, he hasn't fixed those things. And he has now broken things that were working
GOLODRYGA: And Twitter is also quietly rolling back some of its protection, specifically for transgender people. It's removed specific language
involving hateful speech and its policies surrounding that. And its policy used to read, Twitter prohibits targeting others with repeated slurs,
tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted,
misgendering or dead naming of transgender individuals.
That second line isn't there anymore, and that's causing a lot of concern as well. Can you speak to that?
SCHILLER: Yes. That's right. I mean, this was -- there's a reason why, the policy specifically called out transgender individuals who we already know
are subject to a lot of abuse online. And by removing that line and keeping it broadly, targeting of others, it removes that added protection and gives
-- well, first of all, there aren't -- they're not nearly as many people on Twitter who are looking for harmful content as there were before he fired a
great deal of them.
But even now, it's sort of giving license to not take down those kinds of harmful tweets when they appear. It's very concerning.
GOLODRYGA: And it's not as large as other platforms, right, and social media sites. It has about 300 -- over 300 million users. What is your
prediction about the future of the company?
SCHILLER: Well, Twitter has never been nearly as large as most other platforms, but it has always punched above its weight. Because let's face
it, that's where journalists and politicians and CEOs and other influencers got a lot of their information, and those people then would amplify that
So, you know, we in journalism would read a tweet, we would then put it on the air where it reaches exponentially more people. There's that's -- you
know, that's why President Trump was using Twitter so actively to sort of rally his base and why it was so powerful, not because of just the 300 --
just because -- not because of that -- you know, the smaller numbers of active users, but rather that amplification.
I think we're just going to see sort of a slow decline of Twitter as it becomes filled with much more complicated, difficult, hard to verify
content, and it's just sad because there really is no replacement.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. It has sort of turned into, and it does seem to be leading towards a cacophony of chaos. And, as you said, it is sad because it was a
really useful source and it's unfortunate to see that this is what it's turning to.
Vivian Schiller, thank you so much for your time.
SCHILLER: Glad to be here.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the era of the internet has no doubt amplified misinformation. But the bending and twisting of the truth has always been
part of human nature and existence. Bestselling author David Grann dove into the history books and found a fascinating tale of shipwreck castaways
who descended into chaos on a desolate island, and their fight over the true story of what actually happened there.
The book is called "The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck Mutiny and Murder," and it's caught the attention of none other than Martin Scorsese, who is
turning it into a film, and not his first of Grann's.
David Grann, welcome to the program. Congratulations on the book. I loved it. I have to say, I look forward to my evening, one hour, an hour and a
half, whatever time I could get to devour this book. It's fascinating.
DAVID GRANN, AUTHOR, "THE WAGER": Thank you. That's the best news and author can ever hear.
GOLODRYGA: Well, let's talk about your research for it, because you came upon it when you were going through little electronic files of British
archives back in 2016, and you were specifically focused on mutiny as a topic, of researching mutiny. Why the fascination?
So, it's always been one of my pet obsessions as mutinies, you know, what is it within a military organization, which is an instrument of the state,
which is designed to create order. What is it that suddenly caused members of it to rebel? Are they these extreme outlaws or could there be something
rotten at the core of the system that justifies the rebellion and perhaps even gives it some sense of nobility? So, that was always an issue and a
theme that interests me, which eventually led me to this story.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. So, in your research, you come across the journal of John Byron, a midshipman who, incidentally, would become the grandfather of the
poet, Lord Byron. And his time on a British warship, and it was called the HMS Wager -- excuse me -- that sank off the Coast of Chile and 1740. Set
the scene for us. What is The Wager?
GRANN: Yes. So, The Wager was a British warship that set off on a secret mission during an imperial war between Great Britain and Spain, and it was
on the secret mission to try to capture a Spanish galleon filled with treasure, which was known as the prize of all the ocean. But pretty soon,
almost everything begins to go wrong in this journey.
First, they have to get around Cape Horn, at the tip of South America, where they encounter just the most violent seas possible. It's the one
place in the earth where the seas travel 13,000 miles around the globe uninterrupted. So, they accumulate enormous power. Waves can dwarf a 90-
foot mast. You have the strongest currents on earth. And then, you have winds that can accelerate to 200 mph.
Herman Melville, who later went around the Horn compared it to a descent into Dante's inferno into hell. And so, they come around the Horn and they
are battered, and they suffer from scurvy outbreak, and as you say, they eventually wreck.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and it would be an arduous trek today. You, in fact, took it, and I want to get you to talk about that experience in a minute. But
back then, for the navy and these warships, you described them as the wooden world themselves. How difficult was it for the ships to endure all
of this back then?
GRANN: Yes. So, these were these -- the -- in many ways, they were the engineering marvels of their day. They were these lethal instruments used
for battle, but they were also these fortresses designed to be the homes for hundreds of seamen who might live together as a family for as long as
three years. At a time, they had three masts. They could fly, depending on the size of the ship, as many as 18 sails, but they were extraordinarily
vulnerable to the elements of storm and sea because they were made of very perishable materials, which was wood.
It could take as much as 4,000 trees to build a single warship. So, you would have worms, kind of these sea worms that would burrow holes into the
bottom. You'd rats gnawing at the ropes and the sales and termites. So, they were very vulnerable, and they were especially vulnerable on this
GOLODRYGA: And even for successful voyages back then, these sailors endured an awful lot. It's not just the winds, it's not just the rough seas, its
scurvy, as you mentioned. It's splinters. It's typhus. Talk about the difficulty that you describe in the book and actually recruiting enough
sailors because they knew what they were in for and it led to the British government and authorities really just having to literally cease men off
GRANN: Yes. It's really -- it's madness. So, the British navy had exhausted its supply of volunteers. And so, it dispatched these arm press gangs to go
to towns and ports and cities and they would eyeball you, and if you look like you had any signs of a mariner, you know, maybe the round hat or the
checkered shirt or even a little tar on your fingertips, because tar was used on ships a lot back then, they would seize you, in effect kidnap you,
and take you unwillingly out on the voyage.
And even after the press gangs had done their work, the ability (ph) was still short of men for the squadron, which needed about 2,000 men
altogether And so, what did they do? They took the extreme step of rounding up soldiers from a retirement home. These men were in their 60s and 70s.
Many were missing an assortment of limbs and somewhere so sick they had to be lifted on stretchers onto the ships. So, the seeds of destruction were
really planted from the very outset.
GOLODRYGA: Tell us about Wager Island, about your experience there and how it corresponded with the records that you had read in your research for
GRANN: Yes, yes. So, Wager Island is very remote. You know, when the seamen from The Wager finally wrecked there after suffering so much on the
journey, you know, they thought maybe this might be salvation. And yet, it turns out to be completely inhospitable, short of food, virtually no food
in fact. One British captain compared it to a place where the soul of man dies in him.
But I wonder, could I ever fully understand what the castaways have been through unless I made my own journey? So, I found -- it's probably not the
smartest thing I've ever done, but I found this Chilean captain who had a wood heated boat to take me there. He had sent me a photograph of the boat.
It looked pretty big, but when I got there, it turned out to be pretty small. Again, just heated by wood.
We had to journey about 350 miles to get there. So, I got a real taste of those terrifying seas, just being tossed about. Sometimes I just had to sit
on the deck. I couldn't move, just hunkering down or I break a limb. I listen to inaudible recording of "Moby Dick," which was probably not the
wisest thing to have done.
But we did eventually make it to Wager Island. And it was a really important visit because it really remains this place of wild desolation,
and this trip really drove that home to me. It's windy. It's cold. It's -- the temperature hovers around freezing, and it's always raining or
sleeting. And like the castaways whose journals I had read, I could find virtually no foods and bits of celery, that was about it. And I could now
finally begin to understand, you know, why that British officer had said it was a place where the soul of man could die. And my soul might have died
had I stayed -- had to stay there for many more days.
GOLODRYGA: You have the luxury of Dramamine too, but that's for a different story.
GRANN: Oh, yes. I was like an experiment for every seasickness drug you could possibly take on that journey. As you could tell, I'm not much of an
explorer. So, you know, I had the patch behind the ear. I had that little weird band on my wrist and I was half drunk of Dramamine, yes.
GOLODRYGA: Well, let's --
GRANN: And still didn't really work.
GOLODRYGA: That gives us a picture of what these sailors had to endure these months stranded on Wager Island. Inhospitable land there.
GOLODRYGA: And really no resources available. They were running low on food supplies, given that their crash, and it was very difficult for them to
navigate hunting, finding any sort of marine life until they were surprised, really, and sort of as luck would have it, they had saviors come
to them in the form of a Patagonian tribe.
GOLODRYGA: And they were called the Kawesqar Tribe, and it was an indigenous tribe there that is acclimated to the region over hundreds of
years and had able -- been able to navigate through the island, through the resources, becoming more resourceful, diving in for fish and really, just
making it seem that life for them was quite easy. They traveled in canoes that had always had been fire lit. I'd like for you to read a passage about
this encounter, and the short-lived help that this tribe provided for these sailors.
GRANN: Sure. And the Kawesqar Tribe had adopted to this region so well that NASA, when they were thinking about putting people in this space actually
went and studied to see how these people have adopted to the circumstances. So, they had offered the castaways a lifeline. And I'll read you a very
short passage here.
One morning when Captain David Cheap awoke, he discovered that all the Kawesqar had gone. They'd strip the bark from their shelters and slipped
away in their canoes, taking with them the secrets of their civilization. Could we have entertained them as we ought? Midshipman John Byron lamented
they would have been of great assistance to us, given that the castaways' behavior had prompted this abrupt departure, he added, they did not expect
to ever see the Kawesqar again.
GOLODRYGA: And what were the circumstances behind their departure?
GRANN: Yes. So, the castaways, at a point, we're beginning to descend into warring factions and violence and they were also on imperial mission and
shared many of the racist attitudes that were fueled by the British empire. This idea that somehow British civilization with superior to others. And
so, some of the castaways, barbarously mistreated the Kawesqar. In a certain point, they just said, you know what, we're out of here. You know,
they have been going out and bringing them back food. And a certain point, they say, it's enough. And so, they disappear.
And after they go, the castaways only to descend further into a Hobbesian state of depravity, into murders, anarchy and some of the men succumb to
GOLODRYGA: And here enters the tail, really, the rivalry that I find most fascinating between these two very different men. There's a captain of the
ship, Captain Cheap, who rules on an order driven basis, and he's all about following orders and following the mission. And the other is the
charismatic gunner, and that is John Bulkeley. He's a natural leader. A bit more rigid. Would actually respond to any developments in the moment. And
they sort of developed their own two rival camps. Can you talk about that?
GRANN: Yes. So, you know, David Cheap, who was the captain was kind of -- he tried to set up an imperial outposts, and he thought the only way they
would survive is if you remain their commander, as he had been on the ship, and for them to be governed by those same regimented rules that had worked
on the ship.
The gunner, John Bulkeley, was an interesting figure because he did not come from the aristocracy. So, even though he was considered perhaps the
most skilled seamen on board The Wager and an instinctively leader, he would have never had a chance to be a commander of a warship in those days
of class structure.
But on that island, in that democracy of suffering, he suddenly is this instinctive leader and more and more than men begin to gravitate to them.
And so, they represent these two powerful opposing poles. One Cheap, who is championing ideas of duty and sacrifice and patriotism and order,
basically, the old rules, and John Bulkeley, who says in this state of nature, we can no longer be governed by those rules. And he is invoking
such phrases that will resonate with us today and resonated with American revolution. He literally uses the phrase life and liberty to stir the men.
GOLODRYGA: And we end up finding out that he moved to the new land, right, to what would be the United States.
GRANN: He did.
GOLODRYGA: And didn't hear from him --
GRANN: Yes. He went to Philadelphia.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you couldn't find much information on him after. It is a fascinating development in the story. Ultimately, these two groups, much
smaller, end up surviving -- the survivors from these groups and these smaller groups, end up making their way back to England. And I found the
end of the story, perhaps the most anticlimactic part of this entire book, because I expected otherwise.
Without revealing too much for our viewers, were you surprised at how the story ended?
GRANN: Yes. I mean, I think it tells us a lot about systems of power. You know, a few of these castaways from each faction make it back to England,
and they are suddenly summoned to face a court martial where they could be hanged for everything they did. So, they published their competing
accounts, you know, hoping to save their lives, and this leads to a war over the truth, the war much like we experience today, there was
misinformation and disinformation and even allegations of fake journals, kind of fake news at the time.
GOLODRYGA: It is a fascinating book. It's a fascinating story. And I am not surprised that Martin Scorsese is turning it into a movie. I would love to
have you back on just to talk about that experience. Really appreciate your time though. David Grann. Thank you and congratulations on the book.
GRANN: My pleasure. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the U.N. agency has today revealed that global sea levels are rising at double the previously recorded rate. The World Meteorological
Organization's report which has been released right before Earth Day on Saturday, also shows Antarctica's sea ice receding to record lows last
year. And it says oceans were at the warmest on record.
As the Biden administration commits another billion dollars to the international effort to fight climate change, Hari Sreenivasan asked
climate activist John Opperman if there's any hope of averting disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. John Opperman, thanks so much for joining us.
The most recent climate science reports, I don't know if I can find any optimism in what they're saying and how they are projecting that we are
passing by all those benchmarks that we earlier agreed to try to keep climate emissions low.
JOHN OPPERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EARTH DAY INITIATIVE: It's tough as far as having optimism, but this is kind of the world that we live in when you
work in climate change and climate action.
So, the way that I've described the last few years actually is a time of both high hopes and high anxiety where these dire warnings keep coming out.
But also, we're just at the cusp of maybe the most ambitious climate legislation and climate action that we've seen both in the U.S. and around
So, it's an interesting dichotomy of both wins, but also setbacks and then also in what happens that we see in the environmental community is that the
winds are quickly followed by setbacks and we see ambitious legislation followed up by whittling away at the details and maybe watering things down
or projects being approved that really pushes in the opposite direction as far as possible fuel projects continuing to go forward at the same time
that we say that we're pushing for a more clean energy future.
So, the dire warnings that we see coming out of, you know, the IPCC, this is nothing new. It's really just increasingly alarming though as far as the
more recent ones where it's like in less than a decade we could see us crossing that threshold that has really been a barometer for folks as far
as we need to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase to stay away from some of the most alarming effects of the climate crisis.
SREENIVASAN: So, there were kind of two interesting things that I see in this report. I mean, the U.N. secretary general is calling this report the,
how to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. OK. And the other part is that it's asking for countries like the U.S. to start curbing emissions,
maybe 10 years earlier than other developing countries.
OPPERMAN: Two things, actually. First, I want to address the name of the report because I think that there's a lot even in that name.
OPPERMAN: There are two themes that I see there. The I see playing out with the recent developments in the climate movement and a focus on, A, getting
into the details. So, providing a roadmap. So, that's even in the name where it's like these are the solution, this is the path forward to
actually solve things.
For so long we had seen just general calls for climate action where it's like, we got to take action on climate, but not really getting into the
details. And what's heartening is that we do actually see people getting into the details, that's providing a roadmap forward.
So, there are big five solutions that various folks in the media have latched onto that we could tackle right now with wind, solar energy
efficiency, deforestation -- or stopping deforestation and reducing methane emissions.
And then, the other piece that I see as a trend of the way that people are talking about this is being real about it, calling it the climate crisis,
calling it a time bomb and actually pointing out that this is an emergency, and it is a crisis and using that language, I think both of those pieces of
providing a roadmap forward but also, being real about it and using the language that is appropriate for it is great.
Getting back to your question about the -- bringing developed countries on board 10 years faster than a lot of developing countries. I mean, this has
been one of the cruxes of the problem for decades, trying to solve this. There's the argument that the developed world contributed much more
massively to the climate crisis with emissions over decades before the developing world caught up with those emissions. So, arguably, the
developed world should shoulder more of the burden and bringing emissions down.
SREENIVASAN: Since the last Earth Day, the Biden administration has passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which set aside some $370 billion to -- for
carbon emission reductions. green technology initiatives. Is that enough? Is the money getting out? Will it work?
OPPERMAN: So, the short answer is no, it's not enough. That said, it is really the largest piece of climate legislation that this country has ever
seen, and probably just because of the size of the U.S. that the world has ever seen.
So, that's what I was alluding to earlier, mentioned that it's a time of high anxiety but also high hopes. You know, we see these big developments,
we see ambitious legislation that a lot of us have thought was dead because it really had stalled any of the climate action that was coming out of this
administration over the last couple of years. And then, all of a sudden, the Inflation Reduction Act comes out and it's really quite ambitious. It
is not really what the climate movement wants or what scientists would say that we need to bring emissions down to stay below that 1.5-degree
threshold. So, there's that.
And then, the other piece that makes it complicated is the legislation is not a ban on emissions or a ban on fossil fuels, it's not even a tax on
emissions or fossil fuels. It's really providing incentives for people to move things in a positive direction. There's a lot in there around tax
incentives and tax credits so that people can take advantage of those to buy electric vehicles, to electrify their homes, to make their homes more
There's a lot in there that people have to take advantage of, but the projections of how much the legislation is going to bring down emissions
depend on that. It depends on people taking action. That makes it a lot more complicated because it's not an outright ban, it's not saying, you
cannot use fossil fuels anymore after this date, or even putting a tax on it that really people would respond to perhaps even more strongly than
So, it's a complicated picture and that it's not enough even as everyone took advantage of it, but also, it depends a lot on people taking advantage
of credits and incentives that a lot of people may just not be aware of.
OPPERMAN: You've talked about it. And I know people that have made retrofits to their home. And after they did it, they realized that they
could have gotten subsidized for this, and we need a big public messaging campaign around this to get people on board and say, hey, you want to move
things in the right direction on climate change, there are things that you could do that would benefit your wallet, your home, your lifestyle and
bring emissions down.
SREENIVASAN: While we can look at the Inflation Reduction Act as a large piece of climate legislation that's working in maybe the right direction,
there are a lot of concerns right now from environmentalists that the Biden administration has also issued more permits for fossil fuel drilling than
the Trump administration did at this point in that presidency.
OPPERMAN: The environmental community is quite upset about the idea that this White House had said that it was going to be very ambitious on climate
action. We did see some progress and a great deal of progress with the Inflation Reduction Act, but then, these fossil fuel infrastructure
projects continued to get approved, and this is what we have seen for decades, if you're in the environmental community, or if anyone just, you
know, in the general public is paying attention to this, that it's like two steps forward one step back. And this is how it always is where we're
putting money toward clean energy, but we're also continuing to subsidize passel fuels.
We are making efforts around reducing our emissions, but then, we're still approving projects that are going to make emissions rise for decades to
come. So, people are pretty upset in the environmental community about the recent approvals, especially of some infrastructure projects in Alaska.
There are pretty dire warnings from experts about what that will do to our climate change goals. And this is just part, for the course, unfortunately
though, about how this goes as far as we're making progress, but then, we take of steps back.
And what the environmental community would like to see is really just an end to fossil fuel projects, period.
OPPERMAN: Because we're not getting anywhere by continuing to lock ourselves in for decades into these. And then, it also doesn't even make
economic sense. And a lot of cases, renewable energy projects are more cost effective than these fossil fuel projects.
SREENIVASAN: Given that the Biden administration ran on such a pro climate agenda, what's the report card on the administration so far?
OPPERMAN: I guess if we're judging this administration on a curve, it could be quite good because it's a lot more ambitious than anything that has come
before. So, there is that. So, I do think that people have gotten more realistic about climate change in the last few years. So, there was a lot
of pressure on Biden as he was running for office to please younger demographics of people, people who care about climate action, the
environmental community overall, the demands became more ambitious because the climate crisis has become more dire.
So, there was a lot of pressure to make those commitments. And then, it looked like for a while the administration was faltering on following
through the Inflation Reduction Act and some of the executive orders that have come out of the White House around climate change really have been
unprecedented. We have not seen anything like this as far as climate action in the U.S. or really around the world just given, as I said, the size of
OPPERMAN: So, that is great. But then, we have a lot of setbacks. So, I think if we're not judging on a curve, it could be like a low B as a report
card. I think if we are judging on a curve, it could be a higher B.
SREENIVASAN: Fair enough. You know, last month there was a report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and interestingly, besides the
Climate Reduction Act, there's obviously other powers of the presidency has, and it was pointing out that the federal government should reassess
basically what kinds of incentives and disincentives we put in the way of lots of other parts of our society.
Are we subsidizing farming in certain areas or are we kind of creating other kinds of risks after wildfires with what we actually put money out
OPPERMAN: Yes. I think that that report that you're referring to is really interesting for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, it's interesting that
the White House is saying it out loud. So, this is something that people have known for a very long time and a lot of folks have talked about for a
very long time.
The idea that we're continuing to make bad decisions where we say that we want to take action on climate change and make our country more resilient
to the effects of climate change or just more resilient in the face of potential disasters, but then, we subsidize things that are really going to
push us toward disaster and throw billions of dollars at areas that really shouldn't be built in. If -- whether it's prone to floods or prone
wildfires, whatever the potential natural disaster is, we do things that just don't make any economic sense and put the government's money behind
On the other hand, the administration said it, I don't think that there are any concrete plans as of yet to anything about it, because there is a lot
of pushbacks. So, I've heard examples of communities that had reports around, you know, this area is really going to be prone to wildfires in the
future, and it was really just looking at this situation going forward, trying to put a realistic perspective on how certain communities might be
vulnerable to wildfires, and the community, in which this report was released, was really up in arms after that, and then the report had to get
buried because people did not want to hear it, even though it was just stating the facts.
It didn't necessarily even say that anything was going to be done about it, but people didn't want to hear it. And I do think that even some
progressive communities that generally lean toward being more environmental, even those communities can be a bit hypocritical when it
comes to wanting that beach house and building in an area where you really shouldn't be building.
And I think that what we need overall is a really holistic, all hands-on deck, look, how do we reduce emissions and also, make ourselves more
resilient? How do we put money towards moving things in the positive direction and stop putting money towards moving things in the wrong
direction? We are just throwing money away because we're subsidizing things that we know are going to be more vulnerable, they're not as resilient as
some other options that we could put in place, and that White House report really names the issue, now, it would just be great if we could get people
on board to act on it.
SREENIVASAN: One of the storylines that we've seen in the last few months, I mean, this has been around, really, since the kind of popularity of
bitcoin, but the idea that cryptocurrencies and basically, the mining of them is so energy intensive that it -- there was a report from University
of New Mexico recently talking about how mining crypto is as bad for the environment as, you know, raising cattle or mining gold.
OPPERMAN: Yes. I mean, we have known for basically the entire existence of crypto that the process to create it is really bad for the environment. It
moves us in the wrong direction on climate emissions. Related to what I was talking about before about a lot of communities not really wanting to
accept the reality.
Even people who really care about climate action and would support robust climate action, I do think turn a blind eye to this idea that crypto is
moving us in the wrong direction. And I think that there's some hypocrisy there about saying that we want climate action, even amongst certain groups
that would really want that and then, people not really being willing to face the reality when it comes to crypto, because that's something that
they're very excited about.
SREENIVASAN: John, this week you had a virtual event, the Earth Day Initiative Organization did, and one of the themes that you focused on was
how to be a climate communicator. And, you know, you say that there's kind of a distorted perception of how people feel about climate initiatives in
So, how do we change and how do we decrease the gap between how people feel about climate and what kind of action we take?
OPPERMAN: Yes, absolutely. So, one of the big things that we talked about Earth Day Initiative is being a climate communicator, and that is because
while more than seven out of 10 people support robust climate action, people estimate that number to be far lower. And the reason is there is
what folks in the environmental community and climate communications community have called a spiral of silence around climate change.
While most of us support kind of action, people don't talk about it, and there are various reasons for that. One is I find that people are
intimidated to talk about it. You know, I'm not a climate scientist, they say, you know, I don't really want to dig into that. I don't want to get
into some argument and such a complicated issue. People don't really want to rock the boat. It's historically been a somewhat controversial issue.
So, people don't want to get in an argument with their friends or family. But that means that there's not a lot of discussion about something that
actually people support.
So, if people talk about it, you start to realize, oh, I care about climate action, you care about climate action, most of the people around us care
about climate action, and a lot of studies do show that you are actually one of the most powerful influences on the people around you.
So, if I start talking about it, and I say, hey, I'm going to this climate strike, do you want to come with me? Or there's this webinar on climate
action that I was going to attend, or any number of things that maybe I'm doing in my own life to bring down my own emissions, if I talk about that,
then you are much more likely to get involved, you're more likely to realize that we share this thing in common and that the number is seven out
of 10 people support robust climate action rather than feeling like you're very alone on this topic.
SREENIVASAN: John Opperman, the executive director of the Earth Day Initiative, thanks so much for joining us.
OPPERMAN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Really important conversation there.
And finally, a different lens on disability in the media and society at large. British "Vogue" is dedicating five special covers to disabled
trailblazers for its May edition. The magazine's editor-in-chief says it's dynamic, daring and disabled issue is a necessary and overdue education for
all. "Vogue" also worked with the U.K.'s Royal National Institute of Blind People to produce a braille version, which is out May 5th. Talk about a
powerful message that sends.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great
weekend and goodbye from New York.