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The Van Jones Show
Dave Chappelle Receives 2018 W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University; Ben Jealous is Running to Become Governor of Maryland; Neil deGrasse Tyson's Latest Book, Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 13, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:07] VAN JONES, HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Good evening. I'm Van Jones. Welcome to "The Van Jones Show". We've got an amazing installment for you tonight. We got the brilliant, hilarious Dave Chappelle with us. He just got honored by Harvard University. He got a 2018 W.E.B. Du Bois Medal for his contributions to black history and culture.
Dave has always had incredible political insight as an observer. But now he's actually getting involved in the political process for the very first time. He's out there campaigning to support his close friend and his god brother, Ben Jealous who is running to become the Governor of Maryland.
Now, Ben is going to be here as well to share some of his insights for that state and for the country. Plus, we've got the beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson with us tonight. He's got a stark warning about climate change, which everybody needs to pay attention to, because just this week we saw another deadly, devastating storm in Hurricane Michael. And our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of the victims and all the survivors whose homes have been devastated.
We still have a lot to learn about this specific storm. But it's becoming more and more clear that global warming and climate disruption are linked. These storms getting stronger, more powerful, less predictable. Mother Nature doesn't care what political party you're part of. This is something that impacts every single one of us.
And speaking of political parties, by the way, can we please stop this ridiculous debate about which political party can claim absolute moral high ground in America, because I'm sick of it.
I am sick of the conservatives right now pretending to be outraged over comments made by Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder this week after conveniently ignoring three years of inflammatory rhetoric from Donald Trump. With Trump, they say judge him on his policies, not what he says or what he does. But they take Eric Holder literally as telling Democrats to kick Republicans, that's just nonsense.
And now on the other hand, I'm not sure what liberals have to gain from debating about how forcefully to speak in response to the other party. Maxine Waters says make a scene. Eric Holder says get tough and fight. Michelle Obama says go high. Here's what I think. In the words of Barack Obama, don't boo, vote. It's about the vote. In less than 30 days, America is going to be able to go to the ballot box and help choose the country's political direction.
And by the way, don't just vote, phone back, door knock, volunteer, get involved. And my first guest knows a little something about transitioning from his roots as an activist into politics. Take a look.
I want to welcome my friend. He's a former NAACP, Director. He is the current Democratic candidate for the Governor of Maryland, Ben Jealous. Welcome to The Van Jones Show. Show him some love.
I love him too. I can't be new to him. I can't - I'm not even going to pretend like I'm new to him. We've been friends for 25 years. I've known you for so long. What are you learning about yourself on this campaign trail out there fighting to become Governor?
BEN JEALOUS, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: What I'm finding is that my frustrations and frustrations of working parents across our state are similar.
I'm - here we are. We live in the richest state in the richest country on the planet. And I got to lug in jugs of clean drinking water to my son's classroom, because we're afraid for the kids to drink out of a water fountain--
JONES: In Maryland?
JEALOUS: In Maryland, school after school. I tried to move a factory from Northern Canada to South Baltimore, the part of the city that used to be home to Bethlehem Steel, and it would be a big job to bring even small factory back.
I had the deal fall apart, why, because healthcare costs keep surging. The small business people like me, working parents like me, our concerns cross region, cross race, cross religion.
JONES: Yes, let's talk about that, because you're in a tough race against a Republican who doesn't kind of have that taint on him for a lot of people of a whole Trump brand.
You've got a bunch of African-Americans, by the way, running for Governor. You've got Andrew Gillum running in Florida. He came from behind; he might be able to pull it off. Stacey Abrams in Georgia; she might be able to pull it off. But they're running against Trump clones, like Trump mini-mes.
Is it harder for you to run against somebody who's not a Trump mini- me?
JEALOUS: Well, yes and no.
JONES: Governor Hogan? JEALOUS: I mean what's tough is running against an incumbent, who has a 100 percent name ID, right? It's much easier in many ways when you're both candidates and you're both fighting to get your name known.
Trump set the bar so low.
JONES: That's true. If you're not a bigoted lunatic, you'll kind of look good.
JEALOUS: Yes, exactly. But in the case of Hogan, I just got to run against his record. I mean, on his watch, the schools have fallen from first to sixth. Murders have surged.
Health care costs are up 120 percent and our job growth is so low that we had a job growth of Virginia, we have 40,000 more jobs and their growth is below national average.
JONES: Despite all that, he is still real popular. How do you explain that?
JEALOUS: Well, part of it is that we haven't been fighting back and frankly making the case. But in this moment, folks are tuning in and they're paying attention and they're saying, maybe I can't vote for this guy.
I mean, what's interesting is for all his popularity, the would you vote for member stays right about 50 percent, and that's why we're fighting so hard.
JONES: So you don't like his record. Give me a sense of what is your number one priority? Beyond criminal justice, what is your number one priority if you were able to get in there?
JEALOUS: 1952, my mom is 12 years old, and she sues her high school - Weston High School for Girls in West Baltimore, so she can desegregate it. She desegregates it when she's 15.
And we've known since then that zip codes have tyranny over children's opportunity. Where you're born has a lot to do with how well educated you can be. So as Governor, if I do one thing, it will be to finish the work that my mom and so many other young people have started a long time ago.
In this case, I mean, so we have to fully fund our schools. We've had a constitutional requirement for generations. So the average child will get a good education and we have never lived up to it. Our state's own consultant say their state underfunds its schools by $2 billion a year.
Now, I've been a CEO since I was 26 years old. I've never met a budget I couldn't optimize by 5 percent. It turns out $2 billion is less than 5 percent of our state budget. This is not about money. This is about priorities.
And so I've said that, as Governor, because the Governor of Maryland has more control over the budget than any other Governor in the country, I'll present a budget that finally fully funds education.
JONES: You've got a couple of other priorities, Medicare for All, free college tuition, how do you pay for some of these other priorities that you've been talking about?
JEALOUS: When it comes to Medicare for All, this is fundamentally about getting our surging healthcare costs under control. There literally is no option that's more expensive than the status quo.
Healthcare in Maryland right now a number one cause of personal bankruptcy, choking small businesses. We can do much better.
JONES: But where does the money come from?
JEALOUS: This is fundamentally about sitting down with businesses and consumers. I think the option that probably works best is to continue with premiums for employers and for consumers.
You don't have to pay more to do better. Sometimes you got to do better to do better. Where the monies - a big chunk of it's going to come from is taking on the pharmaceutical companies to get a better deal.
JONES: That's right.
JEALOUS: I put a proposal on the table that says, we'll re-import from Canada. You do that, you're going to cut our pharmaceutical costs by more than half.
JONES: Look, I love all those ideas and more. When we come back, I want to get to a few more of them. We're going to be joined when we come back, though, by one of Ben' biggest supporters, comedy legend, Dave Chappelle is here.
We've got so much to talk about with Ben and Dave when we get back.
[19:10:07] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. I'm here with the Democratic nominee for the Governorship in Maryland, Ben Jealous. He is getting some A-list support on the campaign trail from his close friend, who also just happens to be one of the greatest comedians of all time.
What makes this man who's coming on stage right now so brilliant, it's not just his ability to make us laugh, he also makes us think, his riffs on class, on race, Islamophobia, policing, packed with philosophy and honestly as much as with punchline. We love him, we need him, we got him on The Van Jones Show, please welcome comedian Dave Chappelle. It's awesome.
DAVE CHAPPELLE, AMERICAN STAND-UP COMEDIAN, ACTOR, WRITER, AND PRODUCER: Good morning, nerds.
CHAPPELLE: Who says that, who's like I'm going to go see the news live.
JONES: You have never endorsed anybody. You didn't endorse Obama. People came back from the dead - black people to endorse Obama. What do you know about Ben Jealous that makes you want to come out and endorse Ben Jealous?
JEALOUS: Well, what do I know about Dave Chappelle.
CHAPPELLE: I'm not - Van, I'm not a real political dude.
CHAPPELLE: I'm somewhat of a cynic when it comes to politics. However, this particular election has excited me because Ben and I are like family. Our fathers were best friends. My dad was his godfather. And when I was growing up, I never met Ben. He's was just like a picture on the wall.
And when I moved to New York to do stand-up, my dad said, you know you got God brother in Columbia. you should go and hook up with them. And Ben and I hooked up and we became fast friends.
First thing I realized about Ben, we're similar in age, but his intellect was daunting. Man, this guy is one of the smartest people I'd ever met. And from the time I was 17 to now 44, I watched him work on equity, like sincerely and diligently work on equity, outside of the system.
Well, Ben got kicked out of Columbia at one point.
JEALOUS: To protest.
CHAPPELLE: He was protesting. The University had bought the Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm X was assassinated and they were going to demolish it and Ben was incensed. And he was like, man you got to come on to this protest with me. And I was like, I'm good.
And Ben got himself arrested. He got put out of school. And for two years, I watched him try to find his way. Academia was his life and it was taken from him. And it took - it was two long years, he got back into Columbia and killed it. Got the Rhodes Scholarship and as a very--
JONES: That's hard to do right there.
CHAPPELLE: That's right. And when he got this scholarship - excuse me, everyone was very proud of Ben. And my father said to Ben, he said, I'm very happy, I'm very proud that you've won this scholarship. And then he said, my fear is that they're awarding this scholarship so that you'll no longer be a threat. Pop was a gangster. My dad was a cynic too.
JEALOUS: His dad went to Brown University at age 15.
CHAPPELLE: Yes, I mean, it was him, not me.
JEALOUS: But it was also like 1953.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. It was not a comfortable time to be brown at Brown.
But my dad's fear was because he's from the generation where we petition the system from the outside. It was the post-Obama world. We've seen a community activist become the President of the United States.
CHAPPELLE: And these times are daunting man. I mean, even as a comedian, I travel all around the country. It's cynical out here. It's polarized in a way that I've never seen it before. And I feel like Ben is the uniter.
I feel like as a policymaker he's imaginative and he understands people like actual people. So for a cynic like me, he restores my faith in the institution. It takes an enormous amount of money from you.
JONES: The government.
CHAPPELLE: The government, that's right. It makes me understand that a person that I know and trust can actually participate in government at very high level and affect real change. That thing is pertinent.
JONES: But you also are trying to build some interesting bridges. I want to show a clip that I think can show the - get us off to a good start in this, trying to bridge some of these divides. Let's hear a little bit from Dave in your genre, as you say.
CHAPPELLE: Full disclosure, the poor whites are my least favorites.
We've gotten a lot of trouble out of them and I've never seen so many of them up close. I look them right in their coal smeared faces.
And to my surprise, you know what I didn't see, I didn't see one deplorable face in that group. I saw some angry faces and some determined faces, but they felt like decent folk and I listen to them. I listen to him say naive, poor white people things.
Man, Donald Trump's going to go to Washington and he's going to fight for us.
I'm standing there thinking, my man you dumb mother (BLEEP).
You are poor. He's fighting for me.
JONES: That was just a - such a brilliant distillation of where we are. People are, no, you live in rural Ohio. People think of you as urban legend. You actually live in rural Ohio.
CHAPPELLE: Yes, I do.
JONES: And now we're two years in, the economy has gotten a better than - it's continuing to get better. What would you say to those folks who are still big Trump supporters today as we we're going to the midterm?
CHAPPELLE: It's a tough question for me, Van. I got to tell you - first of all, the town that I live in is small town.
CHAPPELLE: And it's like a little blue Bernie Sanders island in the Trump sea. They love Donald Trump. And I don't even know that they love him as much as they're frustrated, they're fed up and a lot of these white people feel like their voices don't matter anymore, that their concerns aren't important or what have you.
So to be honest with you, in the name of safety, I won't tell them anything about that guy.
I don't believe that I'm changing his mind or anything. But for me personally, I get along with everybody, whether I agree them politically or not.
JONES: Right. JEALOUS: But when you're actually trying to pull this democracy together, keep it from getting torn apart, you have to talk to everybody, you have to listen to everybody.
CHAPPELLE: That's right.
JEALOUS: I was out in the Eastern Shore and I was giving a speech. A guy who had voted for Trump asked me what I thought about Medicare for All. And I said I support it. He said, well, what if they won't do it at the federal level? I said, then we'll do it at the state level. He said then I'll vote for you.
JONES: The Trump supporter.
JEALOUS: Yes. I said, and I can't suppress it, you voted for Trump, and now you're going to vote for the former National Present of NAACP. Tell me why?
He said, I'm a finance manager at a car dealership. My bottom-line is my business and my people. Neither one of them gets healthier until we can get healthcare we can afford. And if he won't do it and you will, then I'll vote for you.
JONES: There is this question around Democrats versus Republicans. And you've got people like Kanye West, who is saying listen, love you guys and Democrats--
CHAPPELLE: Excuse me, one second.
JEALOUS: What are you doing on FaceTime.
JONES: You know where I'm going with this? Kanye says that we - it's timeout for Democrats. What do you guys think?
CHAPPELLE: Well, I think that first of all, Kanye is an artist, man.
[19:20:07] JONES: Yes.
CHAPPELLE: And he's a genius.
CHAPPELLE: Whatever he is saying right now, I think that the angle he's seeing things from is about the division that he sees and he's not inconsistent with what he's saying. For instance, a decade ago, I read a quote where he said he wanted to take the Confederate flag and re-appropriate it some other different kind of way.
I mean his MAGA hat, whatever, the thing that's scary about this Presidency is after it. I don't know if you've been married before, had a girlfriend and said something in a fight that was so long. And then after that, we're still family, we're still around each other, but man I sure did say all that shit, didn't I?
And I'm not mad at Kayne. That's my brother. I love him, I support him. I buy his albums.
JONES: No claps. Oh, man, no--
CHAPPELLE: No, whether people clap or not, whether people clap or not, but I'll have to agree with everything that he says. I just trust him as a person of intent. But he shouldn't say all that shit.
JONES: But let me take it on the argument, so take his personality out of it. What about the argument he's making which is that, it's almost you're in this PC prison, you can't say anything and you're not allowed to vote for Republicans if you're African-American?
I mean, what's your argument to people who feel like it's time to give Republicans a chance? It's an argument being made by a minority.
CHAPPELLE: Well, I'll say this, I'm not a partisan dude. If he ran as a Republican, I'd vote Republican. If I got a chance to vote for someone like this, I'm voting for someone like this.
JEALOUS: This isn't about party. This is about ideas.
CHAPPELLE: That's right.
JEALOUS: The ideas have kind of migrated from party to party. The Democrats used to be much more conservative. Today, however, unfortunately, there's only one party that stands for civil rights. There's only one party that stands for environmental protection. And we have to, as voters, really listen to the ideas.
What I say to folks is that the war on drugs has failed. Trickle-down economics has failed. We have to have the courage to put ideas on the table that actually lift up working families, white, black, brown, Native American, Asian American, we've got to move beyond the labels of party and look at ideas.
But let's also be clear, Donald Trump's party is Donald Trump's party, and what they stand for right now, we have to fight with everything we have.
JONES: The other big issue you - we're talking about race, talking about class, gender. We're now in this situation where a whole new set of voices is coming forward. How do you guys look at the role of this new movement for women's empowerment, the Me Too movement in center?
JEALOUS: I hope it succeeds. What we all have to realize is that we all have to stand up in this moment and say that these women who have the courage to step forward, these men in many places, the courage to step forward, who were sexually assaulted as well.
We have to believe survivors. We have to have their back and we have to figure out how we finally leap forward, because we've been staying stuck for a long time, it shattered a lot of lives, and enough is enough. CHAPPELLE: Yes, I think that for most men, especially the men that I'm talking to, one, I'd tell you that as a movement it's effective, right. In Hollywood, they may have to button it up, which is good.
JEALOUS: It's good.
CHAPPELLE: It's better than good. It's necessary. Two, I'll say that there's a lot of men that are learning for the first time the extent of the plight of the women in their lives.
JONES: We're just learning that consent is important. Most of our states, they don't teach consent when we teach sex ed, think about that.
CHAPPELLE: That's right. And this is a tough discussion, but it needs to be had and people need to learn their lessons and we need to listen to one another. I think that some people are so threatened by the movement, or they're so worried about it, that they're not hearing the messaging behind it. But I think as an idea as times come and we'll see.
JONES: Did you watch the Kavanaugh testimony, the hearings, all kind of stuff?
CHAPPELLE: I've seen highlights, yes.
JONES: What was your take and impression, could you imagine an African-American and/or female yelling at them senators like that?
CHAPPELLE: Oh, you mean the way that Kavanaugh yelled?
JONES: Yes, or any of it.
CHAPPELLE: You know man, I'm from this area. Like I grew up around here in this--
JEALOUS: Yellow Springs.
CHAPPELLE: The sad thing about it is, I believe sadly, if that woman had gone to the police in 1982 and told him exactly what she had told the Senate and he wouldn't have gone to jail, not in that place, not in that time, have no name like Brett Kavanaugh. It was daunting.
It also made me sad that this is a national discussion that's happening during a Supreme Court nominees' hearing. It's a tough time for this country, man.
JONES: We've got a lot more to talk about. I want to talk to Ben and I want to talk to Dave Chappelle about mass incarceration and marijuana, which I never thought of talking to Ben Jealous about, when we get back.
JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. I'm here with comedy legend Dave Chapelle and the man that got him to wade into politics, Democratic nominee, for the Maryland Governorship, Ben Jealous. Give them both a round of applause to be back.
Did you say to Ben Jealous to get him to be pro-marijuana decriminalization? Because I've known Ben for a long time and that is not Ben's thing. So what did you - you must have done, he must have something.
JEALOUS: I'm not nearly as fun as some of my friends.
JONES: Exactly. I can testify that you are not. What was that conversation like to get somebody like Ben Jealous to be onboard with decriminalizing marijuana?
CHAPPELLE: Well, Van, you just got to be consistent, most times.
I can't really take credit for it, man. But I got to say, when I heard it was on his platform, I was so pleasantly surprised.
CHAPPELLE: I think that is a very important issue, especially in the state of Maryland. And you can speak more about that, how it affects Baltimore.
JONES: But as you know, Maryland's gone through a lot over the last few years. We had big uprisings in Baltimore City after the Freddie Gray case.
Two years later, murders have kept climbing up, up, up, up. And as a retired member of the Baltimore Police Department - recently retired Captain, to go across the city as only a retired member of BPD could and talked to commanders on the ground.
[19:30:07] And find out what they were saying about why murders were going up.
He came back, he said, - two interesting data points. He said, one was that, nobody could really agree - a lot of debate about what's been happening in the last two years. So on the other hand, the question is what's been going on in the last 10 years, they were all in agreement that half shootings in the city, half the murders in the city where one set of marijuana dealers killing another set of marijuana dealers.
And I said how could that be? I think it was a relatively peaceful drug. He says, it's not about the drug, it's about the trade. The violence in the trade is about territory. And a little idea - a little lightbulb went off in my head.
I said, OK, this is no more harmful than alcohol - and alcohol, we all know, can be very harmful in many ways. Then if we legalize it and you're - the police officer is telling we can bring down killings. I said, well, what's happening in Washington State, what's happening in Colorado? Killings are coming down.
And I said - and then we take money out of pockets of gangs and cartels and we put it - that money in the pockets of farmers and businesspeople and we do that in an equitable way, that's a big deal. And then we tax it.
We take money that we can tax from it and we're able to fund - it's enough money to fund Universal pre-K for every four - Universal full- day pre-K for every four-year-old in the state.
JONES: So you came at it more as a business guy and as a smart dad guy as opposed to--
JEALOUS: Well - and as a murder victim family member. I've had two family members shot in Maryland over the last 10 years and when you tell me that we can bring down killings by legalizing cannabis, you got my full attention.
CHAPPELLE: I'm just saying that it doesn't just quell violence in Baltimore. It stops a lot of violence and a lot of mayhem and it's fun to smoke over that.
JONES: Well, that maybe true about marijuana. But there are other drugs that are much worse. Our mutual friend - all of us had a mutual friend in Prince who died because of a fentanyl overdose.
I saw you at a stand-up thing in Los Angeles where you were talking about the impact of heroin in rural America. What are you seeing in rural America when it comes to this whole opioid epidemic?
CHAPPELLE: The role reversal.
JONES: A role reversal.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. Poor white people looked like black people in the eighties with a different drug of choice. And it's very sad to hear the vocabulary - now this is a health crisis. We've been begging for them to call that crack epidemic a health crisis. We were criminalized, were marginalized.
And now these heroin eaters (ph) are here, and man, they don't have our baby clothes on. It's terrible to see.
JONES: In both ways it's terrible to see the pain and suffering and terrible to see the hypocrisy political.
JONES: What's your concern about marijuana legalization possibly then opening the floodgates for things like opioids, heroin, fentanyl.
JEALOUS: There's a lot of lives that are being shattered right now. I mean opioid deaths in Maryland are up 160 percent in four years. We have to treat it like a public health crisis.
And I wish we could go back in time, we can't. We just got to learn and go forward. In that respect this is a gateway drug to common sense on drug reform. We've got deal with this public health crisis as a public health crisis.
JONES: Famously on SNL you said, you wanted to give Trump a chance, but you also wanted to make sure that he gave disenfranchised people a chance. Looking at the Trump presidency almost two years in, do you feel that he gave disenfranchised people a chance?
CHAPPELLE: It's hard to tell which hope ends and his constituents begin. But I think that the rhetoric of his presidency is Republic. I just don't like the way he talks. I don't like - you know, there's certain - we're living in a time where there's got to be a little more cultural sensitivity.
And even a guy like me, that's just writing jokes, I have to listen more than I've ever had to listen, because the gripes are coming so fast and furious. And I'm not dismissive of people's gripes. I might sound like it on stage. But I listen.
And as a President of a country, as an eclectic as ours, you look around your crowd, you see it's like a patch worth of people. I just think that he's speaking to a very small choir. And there's so many more things that he's - the way he's - just the way he engages is probably dismissible.
I don't like talking bad about the President. But I said we should give him a chance, because he's the President of the United States now. What choice do I have?
JONES: Right, right.
JEALOUS: But I think you also apologized for that sometime later, didn't you?
CHAPPELLE: Well, I no ever apologized. But what I said is - I said, I shouldn't have said this.
JEALOUS: Let's be clear. Donald Trump is playing a politics of divide and conquer. He's picking scapegoats all day long. Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, black folks, women, it goes on and on.
JONES: Yes, right.
JEALOUS: Occasionally - and so, what do we do in that moment? We actually have to listen to each other? We have to talk to each other respectfully. We got to pull each other together, because the only thing that beats the politics of divide and conquer is a politics of unites and prosper. And that's only possible if we're willing to respect each other and listen to each other.
JONES: Well, listen, you gave people a reason to tune in and you're giving people reason to turn out, I can't tell you how much it means. My dream is coming true having a show like this.
I know your dreams have come true being able to be one of the greatest that we've ever seen rocking microphone. And for you to be on the campaign trail, raising these issues, dreams can come true in America.
When we get back, I'm talking to the most famous astrophysicists in the universe Neil deGrasse Tyson. We're going to get his take on the increasing attacks on climate science and President Trump's Space Force, when we get back.
JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. My next guest is America's favorite scientist. He's an astrophysicist. He's Director of the Hayden Planetarium and he is the author of 15 books.
His latest book is called Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military. It's already on the New York Times bestseller list. Please welcome to The Van Jones Show, Neil deGrasse Tyson in the house.
[19:40:07] I love it. I love it. It's a dream come true. Very appreciated.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, AMERICAN ASTROPHYSICIST: What are they doing here?
JONES: Neil deGrasse Tyson, this is your life.
TYSON: Thanks for having me, man.
JONES: It's an honor to have you here. We're excited about it. Listen, you are somebody. You deal with facts. You deal with analysis, rationality. How are you handling this world now where it seems like it's facts over feelings, anger over analysis--
TYSON: Feelings over facts.
JONES: Yes, yes, feelings over facts, anger over analysis. As a scientist, I mean, how do you make sense of what's going on right now?
TYSON: Yes, it's frustrating. All I can say is, the universe is in good shape. It's Earth that has all the problems, all right. So it's a frustrating time, because you try to have a rational informed conversation with someone about what is objectively true and then people argue vociferously against it. And it's revealing itself on many levels.
I mean, there's the comical level where you have this movement of people who are sure the earth is flat.
TYSON: And so we laugh at that and you might even sort of discount it. But that is a symptom, I think, of some other deeper state of mind where - maybe it's not a state of mind, perhaps it's just a state of not knowing what science is and how and why it works.
We spent time in school learning - you take a science class. We all did. I think the way it's taught is, here's a satchel of knowledge which is facts, learn them and then move on.
JONES: And bubble it on a task--
TYSON: ...bubble on a task, move on. Now you take the next class without realizing that science is a way of querying nature. Science is a way of asking questions about what you do not know. And if you don't think of it that way, you'll just leave the science class behind.
You'll sell your textbook and you'll move on and then you might feel the freedom to discount it as you would discount anything else you might have learned, not realizing that you don't actually have that option.
JONES: Right. And it's dangerous because science and politics kind of bump into each other. The climate debate seems to me - there was a - very recently Republicans and Democrats agreed on the science and we're thinking about what to do about the policy. Now we can't even agree on the science. It's - are we running out of time on climate?
TYSON: Yes. The broader problem is, if you have politicians arguing about what is established objective truths then you're wasting time.
TYSON: You're wasting everybody's time. That's not where politics should be. I have nothing against politics. I understand, we live in a complex world. People have different ideas and feelings about what kind of world they want to live in. I get that. I'm mature enough to understand that.
The problem comes about is when you go behind closed doors and you are arguing about what the scientists tell you, not arguing about what to do about what the scientist tells you. But the more those are delayed, because you're wondering about whether the science is true, even though you have reports from scientific agencies establishing this. I worry (ph) for the future of the country.
JONES: But what is the thing that worries you the most about climate?
TYSON: We've had relatively stable climate. No ice ages, no hot spells and we've had these ice caps that have remained primarily in Antarctica and Greenland. Oh, my gosh, if you melt those ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the water levels will rise and come to the level of the Statue of Liberty's elbow. OK?
So we are talking not so much, it's so hot, it's going to kill me. No, we're talking about sea level change. And where are all the greatest cities in the world? They're on the ocean's edge, on the river's edge.
My point is, what's going to happen first. The coastal cities will get flooded. You're not going to just see water levels slowly rise. That will happen. But that's not what you going to notice first. The storm, the swell that previously only brought the water to here now breaches your city walls. You'll see it in the extremes of the weather and this will destabilize the world. You know, who knows about this is the military.
JONES: Yes, the Pentagon has no debate.
TYSON: Pentagon has no debate. You know who else doesn't have a debate, insurance companies.
JONES: Right, right. But you're saying our cities are at risk, our civilization is at risk and displace a whole bunch of people and that could cause all kind of wars.
TYSON: It will be faster than you could move the city inland.
JONES: Exactly. And so that level of instability is something that worries me. Something else that you talk about is this whole idea of the relationship between the military and science.
And when Trump came out with his whole idea, the Space Force, because I'm a progressive, I was like, well, that's just nuts, a crazy idea. But then I looked into it. I want you to see what I found out about the Space Force and now I want to get your reaction to it.
JONES: Space Force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): President Trump says his proposed Space Force would prepare us for any potential Star Wars. The Space Force would be a new equal branch of the military branch. Now the last time the U.S. created a new military branch was 1947. That was the Air Force. It would manage space missile systems, build and launch satellites and oversee all the military space related programs that are currently being run by other departments like NASA or the Air Force.
The new force would even have it's own intelligence arm, designing and operating spy satellites. The U.S. military has been a space player for quite some time, with its space shuttle actually delivering classified payloads like spy satellites into orbit and this, the X- 37B.
It's a 29-foot unmanned space plane. It launches and lands like the old space shuttle. It stayed in orbit now for over two years at a time, but its mission is classified. President Trump says, the force is necessary, because adversarial countries like Russia and China are already building weapons and anti-satellite systems that could threaten the United States.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): But not everybody is over the moon about this new agency. Some are worried that this new branch would be just too expensive. Some people are putting the cost at $12.9 billion over the first five years alone. Other critics were worried that you could spark a space race that could lead to real combat in the cosmos.
The Trump administration is hoping to get the new agency a lift off by 2020, but in order for this to be anything other than pie in the sky, Congress must approve it.
JONES: Is this exact (ph) idea or bad idea for execution?
TYSON: It may be - some ideas are neither good or bad they're just the right thing to do. Just because the idea came out of the Trump administration, doesn't make it an irrational suggestion.
JONES: Good. Listen, well, that's actually good to hear.
TYSON: As you correctly noted, you would shift away from the Air Force, what is already controlling the U.S. Space Command and would just become its own branch. And if I were to - if - I would throw in maybe asteroid defense, why not?
JONES: You wrote a book about this relationship between astrophysics and war and in the way that almost inevitably science and the military accelerate each other. Why did you write that book and what do you hope that people get from this book?
TYSON: The relationship between science and military might is well known, all right? It wasn't soldiers who invented the catapult. There was some engineer in the back room who said, hey, I can do this. And then military leaders said, let's take it and use it. All right?
And so for physicist they made the bomb and the chemist made the napalm and the biologist might weaponize anthrax.
JONES: What does the astrophysicist do?
TYSON: I care about things like - dim things that I'll use multispectral imaging to detect. I care about sending - moving spacecrafts to intersect moving objects in space. I care about navigation where I am on the sky and where I am on earth.
JONES: And all that could be used by the military.
TYSON: All of that--
TYSON: --not only can be used, has been used.
JONES: Are you trying to warn us about that are you just trying to make sure that we understand it. Help me understand your passionate about that.
TYSON: Thank you. I grew up in New York City. It's a progressive City. It's a progressive place. My first awareness of culture and news was late 60s and what is the state of the Vietnam War on our conscious - war - the equation was war equals bad. JONES: Right.
TYSON: And I had no way to understand why there were statues of heroic soldiers in reference to other wars? And I would have to mature into the state of mind, realizing that there are times when a bad agent rises up and you would be irresponsible, as a contributing member of civilization if you do not stop it. That's what happened in the Second World War with Adolf Hitler.
People rose up and you weren't saying, Oh, war is bad. Don't use my new invention to help defeat Hitler. You were saying, here, do it, use it as much as you can. I'll work on some more.
So once I realized this, and I said I know my people, my historic brethren have been handmaidens to this, especially when it came to navigating the world. We don't make the bombs. But we tell you how to get to where you're going and how to find your enemy again and how to know a coastline, if you're going to take over that land.
But in this book I don't - I'm not there to judge it, I'm there to expose it.
JONES: Well, listen, I'm excited about the book. I know a lot of a people are. We got so much more to talk about when we get back. Coming up, we got more with Neil deGrasse Tyson, including answers to some of the most pressing science questions in the news right now, when we get back.
[19:50:07] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. I'm here with the most famous astrophysicist in the universe, Neil deGrasse Tyson, time for a lightning round. OK.
JONES: Here's my stuff. First of all, is Pluto a planet? Yes or no?
TYSON: No. Next.
JONES: Come on.
TYSON: Get over it. Next.
JONES: This is wrong, so wrong.
TYSON: Hey, no business being in it. Number two?
JONES: There is a skull shaped asteroid that's coming toward the Earth during Halloween, should I be scared?
TYSON: No, it'll come near us. We'll get some good shots of it and I promise you. It will not look exactly like a human skull in spite of the artists' renderings. It will be far enough away and you don't have to worry about it.
JONES: Nothing to worry about.
TYSON: No, I promise you.
JONES: OK. What's the one thing that you know nothing about?
JONES: Stop them.
TYSON: No, no. I don't - I wish I knew how to compose music. In another life, that's what I'll do. I want to compose music for Broadway musicals, that's a fantasy of mine.
JONES: Oh, man, I didn't think that--
TYSON: --in a different life, yes.
JONES: Different life. Well, you still got time.
TYSON: I said in different life.
JONES: Not this one.
TYSON: I'm busy. I've got more to do in this life, OK - in the multiverse.
JONES: Last question. Carl Sagan's gone, Stephen Hawking's gone.
JONES: Did you ever think when you were a little black kid watching Carl Sagan that at some point, the most beloved scientists in America, maybe in the world, would be an African-American man.
TYSON: No. And I still - I'm still a little bit freaked out. I think, I don't view it as a personal achievement. I view it as evidence that people have a little bit - everybody's got a little bit of geek in them, and I'm there tickling it for them, and I'm stimulating it and it rises up and they want more.
So my hope for the future is that this bit of stimulation gets people to want to care about what is objectively true. Care about science, care about technology, care about the future of our country and the future of civilization itself. And if I'm a catalyst for that, that's great.
I don't even have to be remembered for any of it. You know, what I want on my tombstone, a quote from Horace Mann, "Be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory for humanity".
JONES: Yes, it's beautiful. Listen, Neil deGrasse Tyson, give this brother round of applause. Thank you for being here.
TYSON: Thank you.
JONES: Everybody checkout the book that's called Accessory to War. I'm Van Jones, The Van Jones Show. Thank you for watching. Peace and love for one another.