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Interview With Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni; Interview with Head Of WHO European Centre For Environment And Health Francesca Racioppi; Interview With "The Bear" Writer Alex O'Keefe; Interview With SAG-AFTRA Local L.A. Board Member And "The Chosen" Actor Shaan Sharma; Interview With "Better Living Through Birding" Author Christian Cooper. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 17, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

Too much heat to handle, as temperatures soar in Europe, I'm joined by Greece's tourism minister and a top official from the World Health

Organization about how they are adjusting to a climate crisis that's already here.

Then --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The majority of actors aren't millionaires. We're the working-class as well.


GOLODRYGA: -- Hollywood grinds to a halt. What's behind the strike, and can anything break the stalemate? I ask writer Alex O'Keefe from "The

Bear," and actor Shaan Sharma.

Plus --


CHRISTIAN COOPER, AUTHOR, "BETTER LIVING THROUGH BIRDING": Because people are going to shove all these cameras and microphones in my face, I'm going

to use them to try to say what I think needs to be said.


GOLODRYGA: -- life after going viral. Central Park birdwatcher Christian Cooper talks to Michel Martin about unexpected fame, and his new TV show,

"Extraordinary Birder."

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Well, heat and fire. Greeks are facing life-threatening elements this week, as temperatures soar with no relief in sight. A summer camp evacuated

children near a wildfire today. And take a look at this dramatic video of horses being rushed to safety as the blaze near Athens started to burn

their stables. This after Acropolis was temporarily shut Friday to protect tourist from sweltering heat.

And this isn't only happening in Greece, across the Northern Hemisphere, China recorded its hottest temperature ever, 52.5 degrees Celsius. That is

a whopping 126 degrees Fahrenheit. And good timing too, U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry is in Beijing for talks. It is one of the hottest summers ever

recorded in the Chinese capital.

Here in the United States, a heat dome is scorching much of the country. And smoke from the Canadian wildfires is spreading over the northeast.

As the director general of the World Health Organization says, the climate crisis is not a warning, it is happening. Olga Kefalogianni is Greece's

tourism minister, and she is the one making tough calls on how to protect tourists, and keeping them visiting her country. And Francesco Racioppi is

the head of the WHO's European Center for Environmental and Health Work. They both joined me earlier to discuss how they're adapting to the heat.

Olga, let's start with you and what we're seeing take place now in Greece. The Acropolis was close for a few hours on Friday to protect tourists

there. We know that there were some tourists that were taken to the hospital because of heat related issues, and some first responders there

were on site that hand out thousands of water bottles. Give us the current picture of what's happening in the country right now related to heat


OLGA KEFALOGIANNI, GREEK TOURISM MINISTER: Well, I think we have to see the broader picture, which of course is climate change. And this is why

Greece is adapting to the climate crisis, both in terms of having a short- term strategy and also, a long-term strategy.

So, when it comes to the current heat wave, of course we have a short-term strategy, which includes information, updates through our communication

channels, and precautionary protection measures. Such a measure was, you know, unfortunately, that we had to close down for a couple of hours our

cultural sites, because, of course, it could not be safe for our visitors to visit these sites throughout the heat wave crisis.

So, first of all, you know, we are really trying to adapt, and I think that this is the most important thing, you know, being able to adapt and adjust

your measures. We really want everyone to feel safe in our country, and I think that one of the reasons why Greece is always a very attractive

destination is because people feel very safe everywhere in the country. And this is why even in these extreme weather conditions we are really trying

to provide safety for all our visitors.


GOLODRYGA: Yes. Travel and tourism makes up 15 percent, roughly 15 percent of the country's GDP and has a huge impact on the economy overall with

regards to jobs and hiring. So, this, you can see the ripple effects of concerns for people in your country when you see these record numbers, and

I know that you, for the first time, have designated, your government has, a climate envoy for these particular issues. Talk about what this envoy

will be doing specifically?

KEFALOGIANNI: Well, as I said before, our tourism growth will now highly depend on how sustainability will be able to support this tourist

development. So, of course, there are concerns, and I guess the climate crisis is an issue that is a horizontal policy that all ministries should

follow. This is why we need to have a special envoy in order to be able to sometimes control and sometimes make the necessary suggestions to all the

ministries for the policies that each one of us has to incorporate in our own strategies. So, it's important to have it as a horizontal policy.

As ministry of tourism, of course, as you said before, it's not just a direct effect that tourism has to the GDP, but it's also the indirect

effect that it has. So, overall, it's more than 20 percent of Greece's GDP. So, we definitely have to make sure that we have a model of tourism that is

sustainable in the future, and that we do the necessary adaptations and adopted the necessary policies in order for the tourism offering to be

always attractive. And also, to make people feel very safe when they're traveling to Greece.

GOLODRYGA: And, Francesca, obviously, it's not just Greece that's being affected by that climate crisis, 16 Italian cities right now are under red

alert over the searing heat. The current record temperatures set in Europe was at 48.4 degrees, that was reached in Sicily of 2021. Most experts

expect that record to be broken this week.

How is Italy and other countries, for that matter in Europe, prepared for these record temperatures that we're seeing now and could see broken in the

days and weeks to come?

FRANCESCA RACIOPPI, HEAD OF WHO EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH: Well, these heat waves that we are seeing, they are nothing new, I have to

say. Already in 2003, Europe was experiencing a very severe heat wave that lasted and, you know, killed like 70,000 people at that time.

Last summer was the hottest summer on record. And very recently, we have seen the publications of estimates from last summer, we estimate that --

you know, that in nature, there has been a very recent publication showing that 60,000 people that died last year between May and September, in 35

European countries because of what was last year the hottest summer on record.

So, this one, we don't know yet whether it will be the one breaking yet another record, but certainly, there are -- these countries, they are, in a

way, familiar with this kind of dangers. And there is a lot that we can do to prevent and mitigate and adapt to these issues. For example, at the WHO,

we have been developing and we are broadcasting public health advices to keep us safe.

Heat is very dangerous, but heat can be -- the effects on the health of heat waves can be prevented by adopting some very effective measures. So,

we have a three key messages from our campaign, which are, keep away from the heat, keep your room cool, and keep hydrated. And these are three

measures that can save life.

And these countries, they are -- they have been the developing different systems to protect the public health. Many of these countries have been

developing (INAUDIBLE) action plans that prepare the health systems to cope with these problems. So, they make health system, prepare to withstand and

to react and to protect those that are most vulnerable.

Let's remember, heat is a particularly dangerous for the elderly, it is dangerous for pregnant women, for children, small children, for workers who

are exposed who work outdoors, like people working in the building construction, those who are in the rescue systems, like firefighters, and

people who live in disadvantaged conditions.


It is very important that we protect ourself and we check up on those that we know are there under vulnerable conditions, particularly those who are

(INAUDIBLE). So, it is important for us, as individuals also to check up on them. So, these are the ways that -- to protect ourself and our communities

from the extreme effects of heat.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we do know that heat waves are responsible for the most weather-related deaths. Olga, it's not just some of these top tourist

sites and historic sites that we're seeing have impacts on your tourism, it's also beaches, not just in the Mediterranean, but in the United States.

In Florida, beaches and the water temperature has reached record levels as well.

Talk about the concern that you have there, not only for the tourism industry but also just for the mammal, marine, and plant life?

KEFALOGIANNI: Well, we have our scientists really make their own research when it comes to the sea. And what we have seen is that overall, the coasts

in Greece have not been affected as much as in other countries. So, let's say the sea level rises, not as intense as another areas.

This does not, of course, mean that we don't have a special concern about our beaches and about coastal area, you know that Greece has one of the

biggest coastlines in the world, and this is the overall strategy that I was mentioning before, which is a priority for our prime minister, Kyriakos

Mitsotakis, both in terms of sustainability and also, in terms of protection of our cultural sites.

So, we have a special committee in the ministry of culture which is concerned about the effect of the climate crisis on our cultural heritage,

on our cultural sites, and we have a strategy for protection with a timetable up to 2050.

But of course, as I said before, as I mentioned before, it's important to also be able to adjust the strategy. Because you see that the challenges

are here and we get to face new challenges all the time. So, we really need to be able to adapt to make the necessary adjustments.

GOLODRYGA: Francesca, what should we make of the fact that this isn't happening just in Europe right now, but we're seeing record heat levels in

the United States, a third of the country is under heat advisory here in the U.S. as well, just blanketed under a heat dome for weeks, many cities

in triple digits now in Fahrenheit measurements for weeks on end. We're seeing record heat in Asia, in China, in Japan.

Is there some phenomenon among scientists as to why we're seeing all this happen within the same matter of weeks?

RACIOPPI: Well, as we know, we have been learning from scientists, climate change is not a fiction, climate change is happening and climate change has

bear (ph) the risk of threatening our life, basically. So -- and this is not a phenomenon that is restricted to one single region of the world, it

is a global phenomenon.

Europe, for example, has been recorded by the World Meteorological Organization as the part of the world that this is heating faster than

other parts of the globe. So, this kind of issues they -- there is no way that any single country will be able to solve them by themselves. So, what

we need is global effort to address this.

What is important for us is that this year, for the first time, the meeting at the party of the United Convention of Climate Change will dedicate one

day to help. It will be -- it is unprecedented that it will be in December this year, and for the first time here (ph) that we'll feature very

prominently on the agenda.

As the prime minister was saying before, climate change is across the sectoral problem, and it is a problem that affects all sectors, including

health and health assistance. So, what we need is to bring health more to the climate debate. But also, we need to bring more climate to the health

systems. So, having health systems better prepared and more adapted.


From this point of view --

GOLODRYGA: So, Francesca --

RACIOPPI: Yes? Please.

GOLODRYGA: Francesca, just in the limited time we have left, we talk about the immediate impact from the heat waves, and that is heatstroke and

dehydration. But longer-term, I know there's also a concern about mental health, about heart health, and also about the spread of disease given not

only the heat waves that we're seeing, but the record rainfall coupled with that heat.

RACIOPPI: Yes. Absolutely. The range of diseases and the conditions brought about by climate change is a very broad. If you think of vector

borne diseases, we see now some of them like the -- some of the tick borne, for example, diseases appearing in parts of the world where they were not

present before because the natural conditions, their habitat and the climatic conditions become more favorable for insects to establish

themselves in places where before they were not present.

So, it is a part of a global crisis, which brings together climate change, the loss of biodiversity, pollution. It is all lumped together. And just a

couple weeks ago in Budapest, the 53 member states of the WHO European region came together and they agreed upon an unprecedented declaration, a

political declaration, which is the Budapest Declaration. And then, you are going to break these silos, they are going to work together, and to work in

partnerships to addressed exactly these kinds of issues.

Because as the minister was saying before, we need to be better adapted, we also need to mitigate, and nothing can be done in isolation by each other.

GOLODRYGA: Well, that is very helpful to hear, that this is all really interconnected. So, the fact that these silos will be broken, it is


Let me ask you, Olga, for the final question, we're only halfway through the summer season. Can tourists and can locals there anticipate any more

tourist sites potentially close? What is your plan of action if these record numbers continue to climb?

KEFALOGIANNI: Well, as I said before, we have our short-term strategy, which actually includes adapting our measures in terms of facing other

challenges. But at the same time, let me say something that I think is important, because one of the challenges for Greek tourism is extending the

tourist season.

So, not just having visitors around for the summer months in the sun and, you know, also visiting the cultural sites, but also, having visitors

around the year, because Greece has so many -- so much natural beauty, and we have mountains, we have all sorts of different types of tourisms,

(INAUDIBLE) tourism, wine tourism, special types of tourism. And also, I guess, the cultural sites are much better enjoyed when the weather is more


So, I think we can also be much more effective in terms of achieving the goal of extending the tourist season because Greece is always attractive.

And I think that one should to try to visit Greece in autumn and spring and even winter.

GOLODRYGA: Well, you've just given away my secret to travel, and that is traveling off-season. So, in all seriousness though, I do appreciate that.

And I think that it's something that a lot of people will probably be paying attention to in this new era, I guess our new normal, as we call it,

with the changing climate means changing lives and lifestyle and travel as well.

Olga Kefalogianni and Francesca Racioppi, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

Well, we turn now to Hollywood and the actor writer strike that's brought production to a standstill. A rare show of force from the creators, actors

and writers like this hasn't been seen together on strike since 1960, back when Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild. That issue is

money of course and how to adapt the payment structure to the streaming era.

But the two sides appear awfully far apart. Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, says the expectations of writers and actors are "just not realistic." While

those on strike say that they are just asking for their fair share.

Here now to discuss is a writer for the acclaim show, "The Bear," Alex O'Keefe, and Shaan Sharma, an actor on "The Chosen." Welcome both of you.

So, Alex, let's start right there. Let's get you to respond to what Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, said at a conference just a few days ago. Let's

play it for our viewers, and then, we'll get you to respond after.



BOB IGER, CEO, DISNEY: There's a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic. And they are adding to a set of challenges that this

business is already facing, that is, quite frankly, very disruptive and dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, they're not being realistic?

IGER: No, they're not.


GOLODRYGA: OK. So, Alex, there's no denying that there are challenges that the industry is facing right now. We're coming out of COVID. We're

switching -- a lot of companies are dealing with declining linear and focused on streaming. That having been said, how do you respond to what he

just said and what exactly are you demanding?

ALEX O'KEEFE, WRITER, "THE BEAR": Yes. It's very funny that this multimillionaire CEO says that we're not being realistic. You pan out,

there's a beautiful sun valley background there, and if you pan out even more, you'd see a fleet of private jets. It's funny who gets to imagine, in

this world, who gets to be unrealistic because we're living in the wildest imaginations of a few billionaires who have designed our economy

exclusively for themselves.

And increasingly, there is a 1 percent, and the rest of us are the 99 percent. And that is why you are seeing not just the writers go on strike,

not just the actors go on strike, UPS is gearing going to go on strike, workers across Los Angeles are going on strike because the same thing is

happening across every part of their machine.

And these media companies, you know, about six corporations control 90 percent of the media, I believe, they control so much of the economy and

they have rigged for their profit exclusively. And their next step is to replaced human beings with machines, replace drivers with machines, replace

actors with machines, replaces all with artificial intelligence.

So, this strike is, at the forefront, the fight against A.I. to actually regulate A.I., which many scientists and leading A.I. experts have said has

an existential threat to humanity. We don't need more existential threats. We have enough, all right? So, let's just focus on actually paying workers

what they deserve. The workers who kept us alive through the pandemic, the writers and the actors who kept us entertained in our darkest moments,

let's pay them what they deserve.

I wrote for a very big show called "The Bear." I made very little money. I saw no profits in it. I lived below the poverty line working on this show

that has made millions of dollars for FX and Disney at large. This is not how the world has to be. There is enough wealth in this industry alone for

us all to have success, and for 100 years in this economy, and this industry, that's how it worked. It was a common expectation that this would

be a good union middle-class career. Not for the big actors, but for everyone who makes the machine run.

And now, we are not even allowed to be middle-class. We are told just to be grateful to be there. No, we're mad as hell. We're not going to take it

anymore. We are going to stand up for ourselves. And these billionaires, they're about to get a reality check, because workers have all the power.

We make this economy run. And we will shut it down until we get our fair share.

GOLODRYGA: Let's talk about the reality check here, because looking at the numbers itself, it does appear that the Screen Writers Guilds inciting a

survey and data going back a few years ago, that the writer producer weekly pay has dropped 4 percent, or 23 percent adjusted for inflation since 2013.

Actors made a medium salary of $46,960 in 2021. The best pay, 25 percent made $60,000 that year. While the lowest paid, 25 percent, made $30,000.

Shaan, the impact that this has had on your career and where you are right now, you are not earning Tom Cruise level millions of dollars salary. How

is your life changed as an actor in terms of being able to afford even your basic bills?

SHAAN SHARMA, SAG-AFTRA LOCAL L.A. BOARD MEMBER AND ACTOR, "THE CHOSEN": Well, I'm very fortunate right now because I struck the lottery with the

kind of show that I'm on right now that I get to tell. But this is 20 years into a professional career where I was making a living off of the, you

know, co-star, guest star, smaller roles that most of us do for an entire career. Not everybody gets to be a serious performer or a lead in films.

And certainly, not at the star level where you get to make really, you know, large and wealthy living.

And so, we -- you know, 87 percent of our members do not make more than $26,000 a year. Only 12.7 percent of our membership qualifies for health

insurance. And so, that should tell you right now that when you're watching a show or movie, look at the person who's the star and look at everybody

else around them, including all the voices you hear, those are our, you know, working-class members working for the bare minimum, which we call



And so, if you adjust scale for inflation, what our employers are trying to do right now in our negotiation is lock us into rates that will mean we

will be earning less in 2026 than earned adjusted for inflation in 2020. And that's not just acceptable, because that's just our base pay, but the

cost of living have gone up everywhere. So, we're being really squeezed out.

And part of this is because our business model has completely changed. We used to be on television where we'd get paid every time something runs. The

more successful a show is the more advertising they brought in. The more they could afford to pay the performers. So, we had a share in the success

of those projects.

And then, you know, companies like Netflix, they came in with an entirely new business model where they use predatory pricing to be able to get

subscribers and they force Wall Street into examining their business model, and all the other companies and networks try to emulate their business

model only to find out that it's really important to make sure that you cut in the people you depend on and the share of the revenue that is being

generated or you essentially starve out the people that you depend on the most for the value of that entertainment.

GOLODRYGA: Alex, can you talk more about how the residual model of payment has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time?

O'KEEFE: Yes. The residual model was won by the last time actors and writers went on strike together in 1960. And what it said is, if you make

something that's very popular, that has a lot of success, you get a share in the success, you get a share in the profit. It makes a lot of sense.

With streaming, they have made it so actors, writers were getting less than $1. We're getting cents on the dollar, residuals. You know, and I'm talking

about big shows, even "Abbott Elementary" or "The Bear," you're getting no money from the success. And what the studios claim, we're not making any

money. We're just doing this for the love. I really doubt that. I really doubt that these billionaires are doing it for the love of the craft.

Because if you work with, you know they don't care about the art. They care about the money. But they're stealing all the profits, they're not sharing

it. They have broken the contract. They have broken the code between worker and employer, and that is why they have forced this strike. And they are

refusing to negotiate with us, which is why they are burning down Hollywood. And it's up to the workers of Hollywood to build a better


Let me tell you the end result, the consequences of not having these residuals. That when I won the WGA Award, best outstanding comedy for "The

Bear," I went to that award show with a negative bank account, a bowtie I bought on credit, a suit that I had to ask my brother and my mom, can you

give me a little bit of money so I can get a suit? I was broke. I was actually broke.

And yes, I got the gilded award. I walked the red carpet. But all that glitters is not gold. You know, I don't do this to be rich and I don't do

this to be famous. I come from poverty. I just want a middle-class lifestyle. I just want to not worry about bills. I don't want to eat ramen

when I'm working on one of the biggest shows in America. I think that is completely ridiculous.

And if I know, if I can't at least make a middle-class income doing this, there's no chance for young black people, young people of color, young

people in general, it's hopeless unless we stand up. Right now, my generation is being offered nothing, being offered nothing. And really,

being told, you are going to be replaced by machines if you act up.

Well, this is now or never. This is our shot to actually show the vision of what this generation can build. The economy that's been built. An economy

that works for everyone, a Hollywood that works for everyone. No more abuse, no more exploitation, no more misery. This should be the dream job.


O'KEEFE: They call this place the dream factory. But if you actually work on the factory floor, you see how much exploitation and how much they grind

these workers down to dust. And it's not just writers or actors, it's IATSE, teamsters, it's the truck drivers who drive the cameras, it's the

people who set up the lights. Everyone is being ground to dust right now, across the entire economy. You push people to their limit, they pushed


GOLODRYGA: Alex, I heard you on another interview jokingly say that you've become famous for being broke.


GOLODRYGA: But I think this is a really eye-opening experience for not only the industry but for consumers who may, as you said, assume that all

that glitters is gold in Hollywood and that everyone is rich and making millions of dollars.

For your first season on "The Bear," you said that you earned $43,000, or at least that's what you were offered. And you thought that was huge bucks

at the time, until you realize exactly how that money needed to be divvied up, and what you would be left with. Can you also talk about what the

writing circumstances were for you as well, because you weren't in some posh swink room with food catered in for you along with your colleagues as

many would imagine, you were sitting at home with a space heater in the midst of the pandemic writing, and perhaps getting some creative ideas from



GOLODRYGA: But writing it in a much less sexy fashion.


O'KEEFE: Absolutely. You know, I am a working-class guy. I'm just some guy, to be honest with you. And I am very grateful "The Bear" gave me the

opportunity to write about the working-class, that's been my dream for so long.

Now, I, coming from the outside in, I assumed that, you know, you get the plane ticket, you go out, you know, the red carpet is rolled out. No, not

whatsoever. Especially if you are young, if you are a writer of color, you get exploited, you know. And it has nothing to do with anyone who worked on

this show. It has to do with the studios.

The fact is, the studio didn't believe in the show about the working-class, they didn't think it was going to have appeal. They might say whatever they

want to say now, that is the truth. They didn't give us any money for the first season. That's why it takes place basically in one location. And they

said, well, you have this young writer, we don't have to pay them much, you know, diversity waiver it. And basically, free labor. And we don't have to

fly them in. So, I zoomed from my apartment.

And again, it was a surreal opportunity. And I am extremely, eternally grateful for it. But the fact is, because of that, I didn't have health

insurance. I was not yet in the union. I was on Medicaid. I had asthma. I was freezing in my apartment because my radiator was out. My landlord died

of COVID-19. I had no way to repair my -- I would plug in the space heater, sometimes all the power would go out.

Episode eight, I actually had to go to a public librarian, whisper ideas very quietly pitch, and the librarian would literally shush me. That is not

how Hollywood should work. That is not a productive workplace. It is an absolutely ridiculous way to structure any kind of job in America.

And a lot of workers have it far worse. The UPS workers who are about to go on strike, they don't have ACs in their cars. There was a worker last year,

in Los Angeles, who dies because they don't have AC. These are really small things. But on a -- and for the scale of the business people, they just see

it as numbers. But on the individual level, it means suffering and it means misery for the worker.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. You mentioned the UPS workers, some 340,000 are prepared to go on strike next month, and it does appear that United has reached a

deal with pilots just now to increase their pay 40 percent. But is an issue that permeates beyond just Hollywood.

Shaan, as far as an endgame is concerned, is seems like both sides have really dug in and are waiting this out. I want to play sound for you from

Barry Diller, a former industry executive who is still well connected, obviously, and what he said over the weekend about what led to this

situation and a possible solution in terms of mediating. Take a listen.


BARRY DILLER, CHAIRMAN, IAC AND EXPEDIA GROUP: The result of which is, that there will be no programs and at just the time strike is settled that

you want to gear back up, there won't be enough money. So, this actually will have devastating effects if it is not settled soon. And the problem

with settlement, in this case, is there is no trust between the parties.


GOLODRYGA: So, there's no trust. And he says a compromise would look something like perhaps the executives would take a 25 percent pay cut, and

the top actors and earners would take a 25 percent cut. Shaan, what do you make of that proposal, and is he right to say there's just no trust on

either side at this point?

SHARMA: Well, you know, his proposed solution doesn't address our needs at all. It's not about how much the CEOs are making and the biggest stars are

making, that wouldn't compensate the rest of us appropriately and cut us into the revenue that we generate for these companies. Certainly, the CEOs

are paid way too much, but that's because Wall Street is driving this behavior.

Wall Street is -- it drove this reckless spending these companies have been doing over the last few years, where they were all competing for

subscribers, then they found out that that wasn't going to be a sustainable business model, and we're also getting cut out of the residuals that we

would ordinarily earn, we're getting smaller show orders of only a few episodes, not as many seasons, because as soon as they launch a new show,

they get the subscribers. As soon as that levels off, they get us with a new show to try to attract more subscribers.

So, it's been a very abusive and gaslighting relationship with the studio and the networks because it's like they're blaming us for their risk taking

on the backs of our works. Well, we're not getting paid the way that our contract is structured on the broadcast television and cable models.

So, what we need to rebuild the trust is we need the studio executives to not go on record saying, we want to hold out until these artists lose their

homes and they'll be so desperate that they'll have to accept whatever deal we put before them, so we can continue to maximize profits and pay our

executive bonuses that are tied to stock performance.

I mean, it's incredibly -- it's like a repeat of the economic recession in 2008 where all these people get rich exploiting that working-class

Americans, and then they leave us holding the bag with the bailout. And that is not acceptable to do that to this creative community that is asking

for such reasonable things, like to not be replaced by digital replicas of our name and likeness, which is how we make a living and how we've always

made a living.


There should be room for human participation. We shouldn't have to have our artform weaponized against us. The idea that we should be grateful for

work, it's like every American is grateful to have the ability to feed their families just because most the work we do is behind closed doors that

people never see. What they do see is the glamorized what happens on the screen. But this is working-class people working really hard.

Most of the work we do is never seen, and we don't deserve to have our passion for the arts be weaponized against us in the benefit of these

billionaires and these studio executives that made a bad business decision. That was their fault, that is their responsibility to treat us fairly.

GOLODRYGA: Well, this is an issue, as noted, is not coming to a resolution anytime soon and it may be up to consumers, at some point, when they don't

get their favorite movies or their favorite TV shows to stream and to watch, to really see where the blame ultimately lies and how far this can

go. We can have a whole other conversation on A.I., because, as you know, this isn't just impacting Hollywood, in your industry, it's impacting so

many industries across the board.

SHARMA: Well, you can't have trust with people that threaten your livelihoods --


SHARMA: -- and say that we're not going to come and make a deal with you.


O'KEEFE: You can't have trust with people who say you're going to be homeless if you don't --


SHARMA: That's right.

O'KEEFE: -- just completely surrender.

GOLODRYGA: Listen, I know, Alex, you're going back on the picket line right now. And sadly, this doesn't look like anything is coming to an end

anytime soon, which means we can continue to have this conversation. Please come back in the next couple weeks, and keep us posted as to where things

stand on your end. We really appreciate your time, both of you, though, today. And best of luck with everything. Thank you.

SHARMA: Thank you.

O'KEEFE: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: Well, our next guest believes we should be looking to the skies to learn some important life lessons. Christian Cooper is a passionate bird

watcher, but went viral after he was on the receiving end of a racially charged incident in Central Park.

Well, he is now turning one of his darkest days into a platform for inclusion and education. Cooper hosts a National Geographic TV show about

birds, which debuted last month. And in his new memoir, details about how a life of bird watching prepared him for that now infamous incident. He is

joining Michel Martin to discuss the natural world.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Christian Cooper, thank you so much for joining us.


MARTIN: Before we dig into your book, and your new TV show, which are both really kind of joyous experiences, I have to say, I am going to start with

the pain. Because you start with the incident that will be the reason that many people know your name, which is that you were in Central Park, in New

York City, in 2020, when this white woman, you know, falsely accused you of threatening her life as you were doing what you do in the park, which is

observing birds.

And this happened right around the time that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. So, you know --

COOPER: Same day.

MARTIN: -- so many things -- same day, like literally hours before. That it is in an episode just kind of took on a life of its own, and I just

wonder what you make of that?

COOPER: It was disorienting for the first couple days. I just wanted to crawl under a rock and wait for it all to blow over until I could get my

life back. And eventually, I realized that would be a mistake. That for better or worse, there was an opportunity here to articulate certain things

about where we stand as a country and to, at least, give a certain perspective that maybe people weren't aware of, particularly white people.

I think most of us black people are aware of it, but I think a lot of people -- and white people weren't aware of racial bias and how deeply it

infects our culture.

And so, this was a chance to talk about it in a way that, for example, George Floyd could not, because he's no longer with us. So, I figured, let

me try and do that in -- with, you know, what's been given. In other words, if people are going to shove all these cameras and microphones in my face,

I'm going to use them to try to say what I think needs to be said.

MARTIN: So, could you just talk a little bit more about what that feels like, to be at the center of that kind of maelstrom and frenzy and just --

and why you kind of wanted to wait for it to go away?

COOPER: Well, it's disorienting and disruptive. It's kind of weird to turn on your TV and your normal morning newscast is talking about you, or to,

you know, have your phone vibrate in your pocket with the latest update from, you know, "The New York Times," and it's got your name in it. That's

weird and it's unsettling, and it's difficult to process, especially when it's coming at you from sort of all directions.


The weirdest was when I came home, and a conservative rag in New York newspaper had sent a photographer to stake out in front of my apartment

building to catch a photo of me. And I'm ducking into my apartment building like I'm Princess Di ducking the paparazzi. I mean, that's weird (ph). So,

you know, it's a lot to deal with.

Eventually, I was just like, all right. Well, if this is what it is, then let's use it for a positive purpose.

MARTIN: You decided not to pursue criminal charges against the woman who falsely accused you, just for folks who haven't followed your story or

haven't had a chance to read your book yet, why not?

COOPER: It was up to the district attorney whether he wanted to pursue the charges or not. I decide -- I declined to cooperate in that. If he needed

my cooperation, he could subpoena me and I would agree. They were a lot of reasons behind that decision, partly a sense of proportionality. Her life

had imploded. If -- but I also understood that there was potentially a legal point to be made. So, there was a lot to balance.

Ultimately, I was right on the line, and I decided on -- that -- you know, sort of a sense of mercy had to prevail. But there's something even more

important that happened in that moment, which is that it's not about her. And to focus on her, to -- for everybody to say, of, we got to throw her in

jail, that puts the attention in the wrong place.

The important thing in that incidentwas how it demonstrated how deeply racial bias runs in our country and how it's integrated. And that bubbles

up in much more important ways than the dustup between me and her. It manifested later that day when that racial bias made a white police officer

think it was OK for him to kneel on the neck of a black man until that man was dead. That racial bias comes to the fore in the other cops who were

there who did nothing because of that racial bias that informs how they make their decisions.

You know, we see that racial bias going all the way to, for example, the fact of the people of Washington, D.C., largely black and brown, don't have

any voting representation in Congress, while, you know, white rural Vermont, with fewer people than D.C., white rural Wyoming, with fewer

people than D.C., get two senators each, but the larger black and brown and urban people of Washington, D.C. have no representation. That's racial bias

at work.

Those are important. Those are the things we should focus on. You know, while we're high-fiving, we put that woman in jail, the Supreme Court is

rolling back affirmative action. So, we got to keep our eyes on the prize. We got to be focused on what matters, and what we can do to try to

eradicate that racial bias when it bubbles up in these places the matter.

MARTIN: Before we move past the incident, we'll call it that, you've been visiting that section of the park for years, and I just wondered if it

changed your relationship to that place that has is meaningful to you?

COOPER: Not at all. And it's funny, people have asked me that. How could those three minutes, four minutes, however long it was, possibly compare to

35 plus years of going to that place, that exact spot, and seeing absolutely amazing birds, like a mourning warbler that came out onto the

woodchip path for all of us to see, this is incredibly rare sculky (ph) bird, and it's out in the open for all of us to see, for a week. That's

what's imprinted from in my head for that spot. That other stuff? Yes, it happened, but the birds are so much more significant for me.

MARTIN: OK. Well, let's talk about the birds. Your book, your new book, "Better Living Through Birding," notes from a black man in a natural world.

It's just -- it's very interesting kind of meditation on like all the things we've been talking about so far, kind of social justice and our

place in the world and how we take up space. So, just talk about, if you would, just to start, like how you fell in love with birding and with


COOPER: Sure. And the first thing anybody who has to know about the book is that it is a memoir. It's not a how-to about birding, though there is

that shot through it, because I've been birding my whole life. And what got me started was my spark bird, as we say in the lingo, in birding lingo, was

a red wing black bird.

I put up a back bird feeder in the backyard, and I was looking at all these all-black birds with red on the wings. So, I thought, I discovered a new

species of crow, until a little 10-year-old me was all excited, and then I found out, no, actually, they are red-winged blackbirds. But that didn't

matter, I still loved it. And that's what got me started.

MARTIN: So, before we move on, what's the difference between birding and bird watching?


COOPER: There is no difference. We prefer birding these days simply because you can be blind and be a birder. And fact, in the Puerto Rico

episode of my show, "Extraordinary Birder," we actually meet a blind birder who only sorts by sound and is able to analyze recordings over 24 hours to

tell the people who run the reserve, oh, these are the birds that have shown up over the last 24 hours. And I can tell you that because I'm

listening to the recording and telling you exactly what's been there.

By myself, I'm what they call a near birder. You can drop me into just about anywhere in the northeastern United States and I can tell you what

birds are around just by what I hear. So, you know. it's not just watching.

MARTIN: Interesting.

COOPER: And why now these days, we use birding.

MARTIN: So, you talk about -- in the book, about -- and you talked about this before, about being, oh, I'll just, you know, a closeted queer kid in

a predominant -- a queer black kid in a predominantly white Long Island neighborhood where you were kind of always sort of a bit of an outsider, or

at least, you kind of felt like one. How did birding kind of help you be in the world?

COOPER: Well, you know, I knew that I was gay from like super early, like the age of five. So -- and I, from that age, knew enough to hide it,

interestingly enough. So, when you got all that bottled up inside and you feel at odds with everything, with the whole culture, you know, it can be -

- it weighs on you.

What birding does, you know, no matter what your roles are and no matter where they come from is because you've got to focus on, you know, looking

for a certain kind of motion, listen for particular sounds, for a little while at least, whatever woes you've got fall away. And instead, you are

fully engaged with a natural world around you that is so much bigger than you are.

And then, as you're engaging with this world, you realize, I'm part of this world too. I am an integrated part of this natural world. And you start to

learn about it, and you just get engaged on so many levels with the wild. And while you're doing that, you know, whatever is preying on your mind,

whatever is weighing you down for at least a little while, it just goes away. And that's awesome. That's incredibly healing. And that's why I wish

more black people would bird, because we need that, you know? We need to be able to let go and just feel some healing from the natural world.

MARTIN: It sounds, in a way, like you immediately felt at home in the natural world, but did you feel, still, an outsider in that world as you

took up this passion?

COOPER: Oh, my God. I was a closeted gay person, I'm black and I was a birder, on top of that, and a nerd, a science fiction, comic book nerd. You

know, I might as well have been red stamped of my forehead but the scarlet letter. So, yes, I'm with odds with the world around me. And, you know,

that was difficult at times. But --

MARTIN: Well, but the birds don't care. I mean, the birds don't care.

COOPER: That's --

MARTIN: They don't care about any of that.

COOPER: That is the thing, the birds don't care if you are queer, straight, trans, you know, black, white, Asian, handicapped, able-bodied,

they just -- they don't care. So, that's pretty amazing.

MARTIN: You do have some really funny stories though where you kind of, you get the word that there was a special bird that you wanted to see and

you're like, hold up, I got to go.

COOPER: It helps to have understanding bosses. And there's a word for that, by the way, in birding lingo, it's called the twitch, where you hear

of some rare bird that is, you know, in -- showed up somewhere and the twitch is when you drop everything and you just go, because you've got to

see this thing.

So, yes. It helps to have people around you who understand what you're about, and that this may occur at certain times. And when a Kirtland's

Warbler showed up in Central Park, which there's only about 6,000 of them in the entire world and they breed in an area about this big in Michigan,

and one of them took a wrong turn, ended up in Central Park and somebody saw it and knew what they were looking at and got the word out, and we lost

our minds. I mean, everybody twitched for that one.

MARTIN: I see that. I hear that. So, how do you get started? Give us little hint here.

COOPER: I mean, the most important thing if you want to get started birding is to just look and listen. Step out your front door and look and

listen. Get to a local park, look and listen. That's the first thing. And, you know, you will see birds. You may not know what they are, and that's

OK. You don't have to be an expert. You'll learn.

Some people think binoculars are a barriered entry because they can be super expensive, don't let that stop you. If you don't have them, they've

been plenty of times and I've been caught out without my binoculars, and you know what, I just use my eyes and my ears, and I drink it all in.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about one other sort of issue. You're a longtime board member of the New York Audubon Society. There are those who

believe that the name should be changed, to get rid of the name of John James Audubon. He was a noted opponent of abolition. He owns and sold

enslaved people. What are your thoughts about it?


COOPER: I'm one of those people who comes down on the side of we need to lose the name, and I'm very happy to say that New York City Audubon, of

which as you mentioned, I'm a board member, has made that decision to change the name.

And we need to be clear, there is no erasing Audubon. This is not cancel culture. This is not, you know, oh, my goodness, his name must be stricken

from the role. You can't. John James Audubon was huge in terms of illustrating the birds of North America, bringing public awareness of the

birds of North America to a wider audience.

So, you know, you can't do anything to change that. You can ask to risk it, but the fact that a lot of work was funded by the sale of slaves, by the

work of slaves. So, you know, and that's an important asterisk, but you can't erase him. So, why change the name? Because birding has been

overwhelmingly white for the longest time.

I mean, I used to joke when I was young that, oh, you can count all the black birders in North America on the fingers of one hand, and I was only

slightly exaggerating. You know, happily, that's changing. But there's still a huge deficit in the numbers of black birders.

And if you lead with, oh, please join our birding organization, it's the John James Audubon Society, you know, named after this slave owner, you're

going to have a hard time getting black people who haven't already signed onto birding to join. And we really need to do that, because we need to get

everybody birding. We need everybody focused on the birds, because we've already -- in North American, just in my lifetime, we have lost one third

of the birds in North America. Gone.

MARTIN: And why is that? Is that climate? Is that development? Why is that?

COOPER: There's a whole lot of reasons. There's a whole lot of reasons. Habitat loss. Climate change. You know, and all of them just coming

together to really give us, as human beings, a huge warning sign that something is terribly, terribly wrong with our environment. I mean, talk

about canary in a coal mine. We've got one-third of our birds acting as that canary telling us we've got to do something to fix our environment.

So, if we're going to do that, we need all hands on deck. The demographics of the country are changing, and if birding remains an entirely white, or

perceived as entirely white activity, then we are in trouble.

MARTIN: So, before we let you go, Mr. Cooper, you know it's -- you've had this wonderful -- I mean, you've written this wonderful book, you might

have written it absent the incident in Central Park, maybe, you have this show a National Geographic, "Extraordinary Birder." I don't know if those

opportunities would have come to you had it not been for this terrible painful incident. And I just -- I don't know. I wonder how you feel about


COOPER: No, I don't think there's any doubt about the fact that there's a connection between, you know, the notoriety that came with the incident and

the opportunities that came my way. I consider myself incredibly privileged, because -- and I've certainly found this out making the show,

Extraordinary Birder," because that title isn't about me, it's about all the different biologist and just plain old birders who are doing

extraordinary things to save the birds in -- from the habitats that we all enjoy.

And they are all doing these amazing things, have been doing them for years, and they don't necessarily get the chance to tell their story in

their own words, as I've been able to do. And so, I consider it -- I consider myself extremely privileged, and I think there are hundreds of

thousands of equally amazing stories out there that people are just living.

And if I had never gotten the opportunity to write this book or do this TV show, I would still be living what I do, which is, you know, as I said

before, fighting for justice for black people and probably for queer people and wild birds for all people. And I'd still be doing it. So, this just --

let's be -- do it on a bigger platform. So, yay. And I am happy that that's happened.

But really, I think a lot of people have amazing stories to tell and I wish all of them got the attention that they should get.

MARTIN: Well, speaking of the attention over something, you know, turning pain into purpose, I was curious if the woman who falsely accused you, has

she ever reached out to you? Has she ever apologized?

COOPER: She apologized in the press in a fashion. I don't think it indicated that she quite understood everything that had happened, why it

was significant. She never reached out to me directly. I'm not looking for anything from her. You know, I have my own life. I'm moving forward with

it, and hopefully, she's doing the same.

MARTIN: Christian Cooper, thank you so much for talking with us today.

COOPER: No. My pleasure.



GOLODRYGA: What a fascinating man. And a way to turn a negative into a positive. I'm so glad the world got to know Christian Cooper.

Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great day and goodbye from New York.