The Washington Post has been a leader in covering climate change, with in-depth reporting from around the world. And just this week, in partnership with Rolex, we expanded our award-winning environment and climate coverage to focus on possible solutions, exploring the people and organizations working to jump-start the fundamental changes scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst outcomes.
Which brings us to our discussion this morning. We have with us today two extraordinary women devoted to making a difference and protecting the planet. You know them not only for their award-winning performances on stage and screen, but for their headline making feats of activism: Diane Lane and Jane Fonda.
If you've been paying attention to the news or following #firedrillfriday on Twitter, you know that Jane has been engaging in civil disobedience protests in front of the U.S. Capitol every Friday for the past several weeks. Jane moved to Washington to raise awareness and demand radical action from Congress on climate change, which she calls an existential threat to human life.
Tomorrow Jane will be joined on the steps of the Capitol by her friend and colleague Diane Lane, who for years has fought to protect the environment. We look forward to hearing more from them about their activism and the action they want to see from policymakers.
And we're also going to hear from some other expert this morning, environmental leaders who are on the front lines of this issue, including National Geographic's Explorer in Residence, about how plastic pollution, carbon emissions and rising temperatures are destroying the health of our planet's most important resource and what solutions could help before it's too late.
So my colleague Robert Costa will be out with our guests Jane Fonda and Diane Lane shortly, but first I want to roll a quick video. Thanks.
On The Front Lines: Is A Change Gonna Come?
MR. COSTA: Good morning.
Good morning. I'm Bob Costa, national political reporter here at The Washington Post. Thank you so much for joining our conversation here in the room at the Washington Post, also online. Use the hashtag #postlive. But we're so glad to welcome two award-winning actresses, actors and activists who are on the frontlines of climate change and oceans: Jane Fonda and Diane Lane. Welcome to The Washington Post.
MS. FONDA: Thank you, Bob.
MS. LANE: Thank you for having us.
MR. COSTA: Thank you.
MS. LANE: Thank you for being here and watching.
MR. COSTA: Two close friends. On Friday, you will be there together on Capitol Hill, Fire Drill Friday once again. What do you hope to accomplish as this process continues to move forward?
MS. FONDA: Our goal is to reach people who know there's a crisis, know that it's human-made, but they either don't know what to do or they are too scared or they have given up, move them into the active column, prepared to engage in civil disobedience and risk getting arrested, because for 40 years we've been very polite and we've petitioned and we've, you know, marched and made our demands, and it hasn't quite gotten us where we need to get. So we're now having to do more.
And I was yesterday--I don't remember when I was on the Hill meeting with the Senate Task Force on Climate, and it was very clear that the senators, you know, the Democratic senators anyway, they want this pressure from the outside. They want us to build it bigger. One of them said you're building an army. Good. We need it. We need pressure from the outside.
And scientists are saying in order to do what we need to do, it's got to be numbers that are unprecedented in the streets making the demands, and that's our goal and it's happening.
MR. COSTA: Diane, will you be arrested on Friday?
MS. LANE: Yes.
MS. FONDA: Yes!
MS. LANE: It's a complete sentence! [Laughs] Yes, when Jane asks you to--yesterday you said to me are you ready? Are you going to participate in civil disobedience, and I thought, oh, that sounds deep. [Laughs] But yes, I want to meet the edge of what it is to be a citizen and exercise my right to protest and say we need more action.
And you know, we do these things online where we sign petitions and you personalize your comments to your representatives. And like when my daughter was applying to college, you know, you get all nervous about it. But they need warm bodies, every year. And sometimes there's arguments about being elitist or it's only for people who have the free time and it's a luxury to be a citizen and--but I feel like I'm representing those--every one of us standing there at these protests is representing a million other people who can't be there. And we all need to take a turn. So I'm just going to be the resident virgin going into the volcano.
MR. COSTA: Who's there, Jane? Who comes?
MS. FONDA: Well, I've been in the holding pan or whatever it's called with rabbis and nuns and nurses and manicurists and hairdressers and Vietnam veterans and Iraq veterans. And most of them have never been arrested before. That's what's so interesting.
And what I did not expect and what I'm seeing is that it's a transformative experience. I mean, Ted Danson, we were in there together, and I could see his face changing. And he said to me afterward, Jane, I'm a different person now. Thank you so much.
So I moved June Diane Raphael, who along with all of the Grace and Frankie writers came, and they were all arrested. And our directors and the two actors who play my daughters in the series, and June Diane Raphael, she said to me when she came out afterwards--and I didn't get arrested, so I was there to provide jail support--she said--yeah, we call it jail support. And we're there to welcome them. Sometimes it's six to seven hours that we're waiting. She said I'm going to move in the world in a different way because of this experience. So that's--yeah, because this has to become the new normal.
MS. LANE: To meet the new normal, which is, you know, a lot of fear and a lot of grief and anger. And we're a little bit in awe and in shock at how we've arrived here. All of my generation I've been staring at this moment, waiting for it to come. And you know, it's taken--all of the generations are meeting up, all three of us.
MS. FONDA: This is the time.
MR. COSTA: Why did you decide to do it this way?
MS. FONDA: Well, what other way is there? No, I mean, seriously. You know, I know that there are some people--I mean, I won't name names.
MR. COSTA: You can.
MS. FONDA: John Kerry, okay? A nice kind of moderate approach that will appeal to both sides of the aisle, and fine. It's too late. I'm sorry. It's too late for moderation.
MS. LANE: We could have had moderation.
MS. FONDA: Because the fossil fuel industry has lied to us. They knew the science, and they hid it and they lied. If we had started 40 years ago, when they knew, we could have had a nice incremental transition off of fossil fuel.
MS. LANE: Even 20 years ago would have been--
MS. FONDA: And now it's too late for moderation. We have to--we have to--if the scientists--they're usually so nerdy and conservative--are saying unprecedented numbers in the streets, that's what we have to do.
MR. COSTA: Who did you hear that from?
MS. FONDA: Well, I've heard it--well, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it right in the report. But I interviewed Michael Mann yesterday, the very, very famous scientist. And he said that. You know, I asked him because he contributed to the IPCC report in 2001, which was very different. The politics were different and the science was different, and now this last one in 2018 he said, no, no, we see now and we're stepping outside our comfort zone and calling for massive mobilization in the streets. So, I knew because of what Greta Thunberg was saying that I had to step out of my comfort zone and stop business as usual because it's a crisis, so that's what I did.
MR. COSTA: Diane, you've been a private person for many years, not out front as a protester. What changed?
MS. LANE: [Laughs] Another complete sentence. No, I'm jesting. I mean, honestly, I think it was Oceana and their work and my involvement. And you know, Ted Danson wrote an amazing book by the same name. It came out about 10 years ago. I have it in the backroom in case anybody wants some facts.
And I just have a love for our planet. I have a love for the ocean, and it is such a symbol of so many things as an artist and as a human being. I mean, we came from the ocean eventually a long time ago, and it spoke to my soul. So everybody's got an entry point, is what I'm trying to say, and so mine was the oceans.
And I've become--coming out of my comfort zone, I still don't do social media. You don't see an @ symbol with my name. Which is a little bit dangerous in this time because you can become a pinata on other people's websites. I don't know. But I'm not comfortable talking about myself. I'm not a fan of doing publicity for films. I would much rather talk about things that I care about.
And it's awkward when you're not a scientist, you know? And I've realized that we need to represent the citizenry. And so that made me a little less afraid, that I could just say I'm an introvert, I'm new to this, I'm shy actually despite having to be photographed for a living.
MS. FONDA: But you love the ocean and what's happened to the ocean is just heartbreaking.
MS. LANE: That's right. And I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone and represent what that is on a big scale.
MR. COSTA: Let's talk about that. You're both activists and you've both spent time on Capitol Hill. You've been lobbying about shark fin legislation.
MS. FONDA: Yes.
MR. COSTA: You've seen some success there.
MS. FONDA: Yes.
MR. COSTA: You've been at the Senate, the House. When you are there as an activist but also a celebrity, what are the challenges when you meet with lawmakers?
MS. FONDA: It depends on if you have a hit series behind you.
I mean, I use to lobby in the 70s. It was very different, you know?
MR. COSTA: How so?
MS. FONDA: Well, you know, yesterday I got into the elevator and there was Ted Cruz. Okay. If it had been--he was a baby in the 70s, but if he had been in an elevator with me in the 70s, he probably would have gotten off the elevator or not spoken to me. But because of Grace and Frankie, he was very friendly.
MR. COSTA: Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz.
MS. FONDA: Yeah, yeah.
MR. COSTA: But, Diane, when you're there, I know you've established some relationships with some moderate Republicans, some Democrats. You've been able to break through a little bit.
MS. LANE: Yeah, I'd like to give a shout-out to Minority Speaker McCarthy. He did--well, no, he was effective turning us purple for the environment, and I appreciate him helping get the shark fin bill passed.
Yes, it's a step. It's a step. It might have been the least controversial one. I appreciate it. You know, we have to go out of our comfort zones in our politics, too. And it's important. And I'm grateful for progress however we can shout it from the mountaintops for our planet and for our species. We can't have the oceans fail.
MR. COSTA: How did you close that deal with Leader McCarthy and other Republicans? How did you make that case clearly effective?
MS. FONDA: Did you meet with him?
MS. LANE: I did.
MS. FONDA: Wow!
MS. LANE: Yeah.
MS. LANE: I was thinking about you in China Syndrome.
MS. FONDA: I'm impressed. Thank you. So how did it go?
MS. LANE: Well, it seems to have been a grain of sand on the scale that I was feeling excited to be part of legislation. I mean, it's a beautiful thing. I'm afraid of sharks. I thought it was so surreal to have myself come there. But I was so happy to do it because it is part and parcel of the survival of the ecosystem of the oceans, which we all depend on. And there's a lot of math and science behind that, which I won't pull the string and spout out at you. Yeah, so a win is a win is a win.
MR. COSTA: You've met with many politicians, but what is noticeable when you look at your crowds for Fire Drill Fridays, no politicians.
MS. FONDA: No.
MR. COSTA: Why? Why not?
MS. FONDA: We want to stay--
MR. COSTA: They're not in town, someone said.
MS. FONDA: Yes! [Laughs] They're not in town. But probably only Democrats would come, and there are people who are joining us that are independent or Republican. And so we don't want to, you know, appear political. I mean, it's very political, the policies that have to happy are obviously political, but we are not inviting any candidates or any politicians to join. That may change because this is growing. I mean, this is going to be happening around the country.
MR. COSTA: You mentioned Greta Thunberg.
MS. FONDA: Thunberg.
MR. COSTA: Thunberg, excuse me.
MS. FONDA: It's okay.
MR. COSTA: Thank you. [Laughs] I appreciate it. Has she inspired you?
MS. FONDA: Totally.
MR. COSTA: You've never met her, but you accepted an award or gave an award to her?
MS. FONDA: Right. I read a book over Labor Day weekend. Have any of you read Naomi Klein's new book called "On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal"?
MS. LANE: I'm in the middle of it on my phone, audio.
MS. FONDA: She always writes in a way that just grabs you and pulls you in. But the way she wrote about Greta really shook me. I didn't know that Greta was on the spectrum, that she has Asperger's. And Naomi explained what that means in terms of why Greta can focus the way she can. Greta calls her Asperger's her secret power. And I think she's right.
MS. LANE: Her superpower. It's not a secret.
MS. FONDA: Superpower, thank you, exactly. That's what she says. And people on the spectrum, what they see if they are interested in something isn't clouding by wanting to fit in or be popular or other people's obfuscations or rationalizations. They see what they see, and it comes right at them, unadulterated. And she saw what was coming, and then she looked around and nobody was behaving appropriately in the face of a crisis. It so traumatized her she stopped speaking.
You know what got her out of her trauma? The Parkland students in Florida. When she read about what the young kids in Florida were doing, she decided to take her sign and plunk herself down in front of the Swedish Parliament. And when I read that and read the kind of things that she says--and if any of you have seen her in videos when she's speaking to Congress or the UN or whatever, you can see this incredible focus. She just tells it like it is.
And when I read that, I said, okay, I'm going to move to D.C. I asked Ted Sarandos to give me a year off and put Grace and Frankie on hiatus. And he kind of went, what? Couldn't do it. But so it was only four months, but I want to make Greta proud. She said there's no older people. We're doing this ourselves. C'mon adults.
MS. LANE: Where are the adults?
MS. FONDA: Where are the adults? So I said I'm going to show up. That's what motivated me. [Applause] Yay Greta!
MR. COSTA: You've both had immense success at young ages. Any advice for Greta as she encounters this global celebrity?
MS. LANE: You had something wonderful to speak to that.
MS. FONDA: Yeah, just don't let them get you.
MS. LANE: Right.
MS. FONDA: You know, she's being attacked so cruelly.
MS. LANE: Don't let the you know what's get you down.
MS. FONDA: And that means that she's having an effect. And I've written to her and I've said don't let them get to you. It just proves you're right, and keep going and be brave. She had somebody else answer for me. I've never heard directly from her.
MR. COSTA: So let's step back a bit. Fire Drill Fridays. Not everyone in this room or watching this stream may understand how exactly they work. They're every Friday. They have a theme. How did you come up with it?
MS. LANE: Well, didn't Greta Thunberg coin that phrase?
MS. FONDA: Fire Drill Friday? Well, no, she said our house is on fire. We have to behave like it's a crisis.
MS. LANE: We have to act like it is.
MS. FONDA: And so, okay, house is on fire, so we will have Fire Drill Friday, because Friday is the day that she chose.
MS. LANE: Did you interpret that? I have to ask--I've wanted to know. Sorry I interrupted you.
MS. FONDA: No the person who came up with it, we're doing a documentary and the sound guy came up with the idea. After all these smart people, we sat around in a circle trying to figure out what are we going to call these things, the sound guy took off his headphones and said what about Fire Drill Friday. It was so cool.
So I wanted--from the get-go I wanted it to be a learning experience so that every Friday we focus on a different aspect of climate change and show the intersectionality. And because you can't really go deep at a rally, we have a teach-in every Thursday, like tonight at 7:00. It's livestreamed around the world.
MS. LANE: I've watched every one. They are really needed and appreciated.
MS. FONDA: You're so good. You're just--I'm so--
MS. LANE: Well, I'm unemployed at the moment but I--no, I'm teasing. I'm going to play a senator on FX.
MS. FONDA: And then on Friday we meet at 11:00 and we have an hour's rally where all the experts speak, and then we engage in civil disobedience.
MR. COSTA: And what's it liked when you're detained?
MS. LANE: I'll let you know.
MS. LANE: Here it from the newbie. Have you grown callouses?
MS. FONDA: I've been arrested before, but not for civil disobedience.
MS. LANE: Oh.
MS. FONDA: You know, to be arrested for something that is within your constitutional right, that you know is for a good cause, it's an interesting experience. I mean, the first time I was arrested--and they're these really uncomfortable white plastic handcuffs, and they put my hands behind me. You know, I'm about to be 82, okay? And then there is this paddy wagon--well, I shouldn't call it that because I like the Irish. Police vans, okay? And they're high. To get in it, you have to step up and you can't hold onto anything. It was so embarrassing. The cop had to take my butt and push me and push me in.
MS. FONDA: And then you're in. There's five little seats, and they're all very, very hard, and seat straps. So you're in there with these women that you don't know and you get to know them. And it's really fun, and it takes forever to get--the first time there were only about, I don't know, 13 of us, so we were put into cells in groups, and we organized. We planned and organized.
MR. COSTA: While you're detained.
MS. FONDA: While we were detained. But then now there's like 54 people. There's large numbers of people. So we were taken to a warehouse, and you know, patted down up against the wall, you know, everything single thing you have. And then they put you in different handcuffs, and then you wait, sometimes seven or eight hours, then you pay $50 and they let you out.
MR. COSTA: So you're both so passionate about climate change and about the oceans. But as a reporter, I travel around the country and you can tell sometimes in certain parts of the country there is not this level of enthusiasm for the issues you both champion. How do you break through to someone's who's a conservative Republican farmer in the Midwest who may not put this at the fore of their agenda?
MS. LANE: I was at the hotel bar when I arrived from Los Angeles, and I met some lovely people. And the guy was from North Carolina and we started talking. And it was just an interesting situation because we started talking about the weather. I mean, isn't that the oldest thing you could ever possibly begin a conversation politely about? Has the weather become like talking about politics or religion? I mean, good lord.
So it's interesting because he was a--he makes houses so that they're air-tight and up to code in terms of not wasting energy. And so it turned out that he was interested. And I said do you think climate change is political? Do you find the concept of being concerned about these things a political issue? And he didn't necessarily think so, but the farther we got into it, it just opened up a conversation. I think asking questions and listening is what people want to experience. They want to be asked for their experience. They want to be asked for their opinions. They want to be asked about what they think about their children, because it touches everybody. We're all kind of on edge and losing a little sleep and we think about it as we drink water. And we should.
MS. FONDA: Well, I canvass for Working America, which is the community outreach arm of the AFL-CIO. And I was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for example. I've been in other places. Spent a lot of time in Michigan. And they're there year around, and what they're seeing now--and it's changed in the last year--is that among working-class Democrats, climate is now number three: healthcare, jobs, and climate. And among Republicans who watch things besides Fox, it's four. The people who only watch Fox, it doesn't. But more and more people are becoming--because the middle of the country has been under water. Look, they're being affected now. And there's nothing like being affected that causes you to realize this is real. This isn't something in the future. This is happening right now. And we have 11 years, according to the science.
MS. LANE: We have to accomplish something by 11 years. That's different than, well, let's scratch our heads and debate about it for 9 1/2 of those 11 years. No.
I wanted to ask a question. And I don't know anything about weather patterns. I'm not a scientist. But with the droughts and the fires that we've been breathing the smoke in California--it's been very intense--and the flooding that's happening--20 years I was a taxpayer in Georgia, and I'm from New York, so I'm an East Coaster by nature--and then the hurricanes in the middle. They say that that's what's happening in the waters as well. And I'm seeing it politically as well. The stratification is becoming more extreme, of temperatures, PH, politics, and this rumble in the middle where the two extremes are meeting. But I think we're responding to that instinctively by getting into the street and expressing our concern.
MR. COSTA: So what about when people hear the Green New Deal. Some people say that must happen because there's such urgency and alarm with what's happening with climate change. Other Republicans will say it's green new taxes. It's taxes. Can you break through out of this partisan divide on the Green New Deal or not? Is there a way out of that?
MS. FONDA: Yeah, it's like the New Deal. You know, back in the 30s--I only came into the world on the end of it, but I've read a lot about it, and people were very opposed. They hated the New Deal. They hated Roosevelt. All three of my husbands' fathers thought Roosevelt was a communist.
MS. FONDA: On the other hand, the only time I saw my father cry was when Roosevelt died.
MR. COSTA: Really?
MS. FONDA: Yeah, but, you know, Roosevelt--
MR. COSTA: The only time you ever saw him cry?
MS. FONDA: Yeah, he's from Nebraska.
MS. FONDA: But so there was a lot of opposition. There was a huge number of people that were in the streets demanding that he do these programs that would lift them out of despair and poverty. And so he started doing these programs in areas where people didn't necessarily support him. And once they could see that they were being helped, then they began to understand and they were allies. And I think that that is what is going to happen.
The fact is that no climate legislation can pass unless--I mean real stuff, not cap and trade, and sequestration and all that--but the real stuff that has to happen, like no new fracking or drilling. We have to leave $11 trillion worth of fossil fuel in the ground.
MS. LANE: That includes burning the reserves.
MS. FONDA: Huh?
MS. LANE: That includes burning off the oil reserves.
MS. FONDA: We just have to leave it there, and that's going to be a hard pill for the fossil fuel industry to accept. So it's going to require a massive outpouring of people demanding--
MR. COSTA: How do you get there?
MS. FONDA: And if they don't see that there is something in it for them in the plan how to move forward in a fossil-free world, they're not going to support it. They never do.
MR. COSTA: You brought up the 70s and Senator Cruz, your exchange in the elevator. How do you get there as a climate activist? Because you walk around any city now, people are living in their phones. There are fewer protests on Capitol Hill. You're one of the rare people I've heard about recently getting a lot of traction for having a protest. Does Hollywood still have the capital to galvanize people on some of these issues, or do you worry about Hollywood and celebrities' ability to get people excited about politics?
MS. FONDA: Look what the students did! There were 6 million students globally. They closed down streets in Washington. I mean, they're out there.
MS. LANE: We're late to the party. We're missing a chance to lead. This country is missing its chance to lead by this period of time. I think, you know, the wind farms and the batteries and the alternative energy sources, are likely--we're going to be getting them from other countries because we're not going to be exporting them. We're missing a window of time historically right now.
MS. FONDA: The rise of people's awareness and concern about climate change has been marked. I mean, like last night on the debate there was discussion of climate change. Several of the candidates said it's the number-one problem, and that didn't happen a couple of years ago. It's out there. We just have to get people to now put their concern into action. That's the goal.
But Hollywood is one player, but Hollywood can't do it. The people that are coming are not just coming for movie stars. They're coming because they want to be a part of it. They want to put their bodies on the line. It's unbelievable the requests that we're getting from people all over the country. "We want to start Fire Drill Fridays. What do we do?" And we're going to let them do it.
MS. LANE: Didn't this also go back to the question of how the Green New Deal ties in? And I think people are so eager to have a plan for sustainable energy and one that identifies the justice aspect of--and that's something that you speak so well on, of the disparity between the people that have some say and the water they can afford, or where they live in terms of sacrifice zones of toxic coal ash or superfund sites.
I mean, this Friday is going to all be about fresh water, potable water. And I'm very concerned about every form of water. I don't know what that is about. Maybe I'm an Aquarius and you can call me if--
MS. LANE: But all jesting aside, I think people want the Green New Deal because they want a plan, something they can look forward to and aspire to and see its functionality rather than, oh, writing things off with a wave of the hand. There's a good deal of thought put into that.
MS. FONDA: It's a framework. It's a very general framework of how to move forward. But there are people right now that are working to flesh out all the polices, what a President could do in the first days just by executive order. One important thing is re-ban--because Obama lifted the ban on exporting crude oil, which was a catastrophe, but that can be reversed.
MR. COSTA: You're disappointed with President Obama on the environment?
MS. FONDA: On the climate, yeah.
MR. COSTA: Climate.
MS. FONDA: He didn't get it. He didn't get it.
MR. COSTA: What did he not get?
MS. FONDA: He didn't get how urgent it is. And I don't think that he understood how it doesn't hit everybody equally. It's poor people and people of color. And I don't know. He could have done more. I mean, I love him and I wish he was back. But he didn't get it and we didn't hold him--I blame us. We didn't hold his feet to the fire.
MR. COSTA: What are your impressions of the 2020 Democrat field and the way they're addressing climate change in oceans?
MS. LANE: People don't think about the ocean so much unless you live on the coast, you are a professional who--that's your livelihood in terms of ocean, daily--and impact.
You know, I think it's been a state-by-state unifying process to rebel against this--I think, is it 13795, that horrid Executive Order which is called America-First, and it's not. It's actually America-last because you want to put--this administration wants to put--open up the entire Eastern Seaboard to offshore drilling.
That's what got me passionate--
MR. COSTA: You wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post about--
MS. LANE: Thank you for running it. I mean, it ran September 11th, that's a tough date, but things live forever on the Internet, and that's good.
But yes, I--the oceans and the way it interacts--I mean, we have the visuals now of all the plastics that are floating on all the shores all over the world, and people are--there's no words. I mean, it's--if that were art and poetry and beauty and truth, you see it in a photograph and it is heartbreaking. And it is strangely beautiful because it's screaming "help" at us and it wants--it doesn't have a voice. We need to give a voice to the creatures that are choking on virgin plastic.
What people don't realize--I mean, the plastic that's breaking down in the oceans that we see. What people don't realize is that the petroleum industry has figured out a way to shift its focus over into new plastics. Three hundred new plants are planned in the United States alone to make nurdles. Google "nurdle." Look it up. You will see a visual. It chokes everything with a mouth in the ocean. I mean, it's virgin plastic and it gets spilled everywhere.
And it's shocking what happens with--plastic has no place in our oceans, and it is a full cycle of ruination when it comes from the fossil fuels industry. So, it should not be on our shores.
And all of the Governors of the Eastern Seaboard and the West Coast agree, we don't want offshore drilling in this country.
So, unban, re-ban, go back to the ban, back-and-forth with these Presidents that we've had. But the fact remains is we only have one planet. There is no Planet B, right?
So, the ocean we can all agree on because we share it. It's not as political as you'd think. It doesn't have boundaries, it doesn't have borders.
MS. FONDA: I thought what was striking last night at the debate was that several of the candidates said climate crisis is the number one issue, overriding everything. And that's the first time that that's happened.
MS. LANE: I think the Sunrise Movement organization gets a hand in that--
MS. FONDA: No kidding.
MS. LANE: --because they are grading--the young people are grading the politicians that are running for office now and in terms of their policies on what they say, how they say it, and how many times they say it, on climate change. That's--that's brilliant.
MR. COSTA: We have a question from Twitter on this: Which 2020 elections candidate's climate and oceans platform do you feel best addresses current and future global warming?
MS. FONDA: I think there's three of them: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Steyer. They all have very good climate policies.
MR. COSTA: Anyone in particular in that trio stand out? Are you working with any of them behind the scenes on climate?
MS. LANE: She's not going to go there.
MS. FONDA: All I can say it's too late for moderation, but whoever gets elected--
MR. COSTA: Are you talking about it's too late for moderation in the Democratic Party?
MS. FONDA: Any party. You know, we have--when we vote, we have to vote for somebody who is very, very brave. I mean, just think what it's going to take in terms of courage to demand that the fossil fuel industry leave $11 trillion in the ground, stranded assets.
MR. COSTA: It will take immense political capital to get any of this done. Look over at Congress and--
MS. FONDA: Yeah, and that's where people come--that's where mobilization and the streets become important.
MR. COSTA: Are you satisfied with Speaker Pelosi in how she's handling these issues?
MS. FONDA: Climate? No, no. She's badmouthing the Green New Deal and I do not think she quite gets it, but she's got her hands full and I'm really glad she's Speaker, because we need that kind of--yes.
MS. FONDA: You know, I really, really, really admire her but, you know, when the impeachment is over and things like that, then we'll talk to her about climate and try to get her.
MR. COSTA: This is a global issue. You've both worked around the world. China is beginning--The Washington Post has reported, beginning to reopen and restart some coal power plants in China. India has some climate challenges.
Should more pressure be exerted on those countries, as activists? Should that become more of a focus abroad?
MS. LANE: I feel that it's hard to point the finger when you have three pointing back at yourself.
We are--we claim to be leaders, this country, so proud--I watched all of the Democratic, you know, people running for the job of President last night were all--still wet paint on the canvas of our psyches. And I'm thinking, "Okay, so, this is what they are saying. How is it going to manifest? If not the planet, then what?"
You know, again, it goes back to global dominance and all of the things that I heard when I went to a meeting at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and I got to meet the head there, Mr. Cruickshank, and he was very kind to me.
I went on behalf of the oceans to speak to him about zoo plankton, zooplankton, and phytoplankton. And here I am making images of reverse pyramids and explaining the food web and saying, "You know, wind energy is wonderful." I walked in his office and there was this plexiglass, larger-than-life size--well, not actually--oil field derrick, but it's an offshore oil derrick, and I just thought, "Oh, boy. We have our work cut out for us."
And so, at the end of the meeting after indulging me and being gracious and listening to me--Oceana was there with me--he said, "Oh, here's this map. And we want to leave you laughing and encouraged about the wind farms."
And when they let it go--I mean, they dropped it. They turned their back and said, "Oh, we need to go back and think about this more." You know, I understand the fishermen need a certain amount of room between each tower of wind power on the oceans, but I just want to--I want to hold their feet to the fire. I want to make sure they actually do it. That's why I wrote that op-ed, because it was the--oh, I'm blocking on the name of what the wind farm was--
SPEAKER: Vineyard Wind.
MS. LANE: Vineyard Wind. God bless you.
MR. COSTA: Vineyard Wind?
MS. LANE: Yeah, and we hope it goes through. I mean, Rhode Island has done a lot of wonderful work, and Senator Whitehouse is a hero of mine. I admire him tremendously in terms of--I met him at the climate march in April of '17. So--anyway, I digress.
MS. FONDA: It's a global problem and Diane's right: We have to lead the way, because in other countries people are saying, "Well, why should we bother. Look at--there's nothing happening in the United States. So, we do have to do all kinds of things.
MS. LANE: The hypocrisy.
MS. FONDA: And we can really help those countries by developing, for example, a technology to make cement that doesn't hurt the environment, things like that would really be beneficial for China and India and Africa.
So, we can play a really good role. Stop exporting our oil, stop exporting our plastics, and help them with new technology.
MR. COSTA: I was down in Atlanta for The Washington Post/MSNBC debate over the last few days and telling some people about this conversation. And there was a lot of enthusiasm among many of the political operatives I was encountering.
But among some of the Republicans who were down there, they said, "Well, challenge them on their own carbon footprint." So, I thought that was a fair question. How are you both taking steps to reduce your own carbon footprint as you also advocate for the climate?
MS. FONDA: Yeah, let me just say that's what the right wing does. They say--
MR. COSTA: I told you it was a question from the right wing.
MS. FONDA: Yeah, they turn it back on individuals. It's our fault. If we didn't buy things that were made by oil, you know, the clothes and everything else that is made by the fossil fuels industry, there wouldn't be a problem. "It's not our fault that consumers like our stuff."
MR. COSTA: How do you counter that?
MS. FONDA: Yeah.
MR. COSTA: If that's their [unclear]--
MS. FONDA: Yeah. So, you know, I drive an electric car. I had a windmill on my ranch in the 1970s, and that's how we got our electricity, north of Santa Barbara, and photovoltaic cells.
I am getting rid of single-use plastic. I've cut way back on meat and fish, because fish stocks are plummeting. Recycling--I'm doing it all.
But what I realized is, as important as it is, it is an onramp, it is a starting place, not an ending place. You can't be scaled up in time to get us where we need to go.
MS. LANE: That is correct, and ditto to the list of personal choices.
MS. LANE: And I am actually going to--I am in the process of accessing my--or assessing my carbon footprint. I did buy offsets to travel here to defend myself against that question.
MS. LANE: To be put on the defense, and rightfully so. I mean, we have to look and contend with our own hypocrisy as we participate in capitalism.
But I will say--oh, God, what was I going to say? Something specific.
Oh, I think at night sometimes--sleepless, as I lay there--I think about ways in which consumers can have a warehouse of options that we can bring to policymakers, even if it's just your local grocery store.
Why can't I bring my--and reuse my Tupperware? I know that sounds completely small, but on a daily basis, if we're going to be reusing our bags, why don't we re--why does all my greens at the grocery store come in plastic bubbles, now? It didn't used to be that way.
And France and most of Europe, you can get all your vegetables and flowers in paper that's biodegradable. And you know, I look for everything to be biodegradable and compostable. That's the tell: compostable, doggy bags, it's a thing.
MS. FONDA: But don't let them guilt trip you. It's not our fault.
MS. LANE: We didn't create it, but yes, we've been duped and hooked. And they're coming between us and our water, now. They got us to not trust our water and drink out of plastic.
MR. COSTA: Back to fire drill Fridays, how long does this go and what are the legal implications? Are your lawyers telling you, perhaps, "If you keep doing this, keep getting arrested, you may actually be put in prison for an extended period"?
MS. FONDA: Yeah. On the third arrest--and I was given a court date, and then I got arrested a fourth time and I spent the night in jail. And my lawyer--but they dismissed my case, but the lawyer said that the next time I get arrested I'll spend the night in jail. And then, if I do it again then I might get more, and I can't because I have to start Grace and Frankie, but I intend to spend my 82nd birthday in jail.
MR. COSTA: When is that, December?
MS. FONDA: December 20-21.
MR. COSTA: You're prepared to spend your birthday in jail?
MS. FONDA: Yeah.
MS. LANE: Bob, could I trouble you for that water?
MR. COSTA: Yes, of course.
MS. FONDA: We're trying to call attention. I'll do anything to call attention to--nobody else drank that.
MS. LANE: Okay.
MR. COSTA: No one else has had a sip.
MS. LANE: It was [unclear] says it's fine--
MR. COSTA: I saw you pause. No, no one else has had a sip. It's clean water.
MS. LANE: It's not an Erin Brockovich moment, is it?
MR. COSTA: No, I hope not. Okay.
MS. FONDA: Eighty-two people are going to get arrested for my 82nd birthday, yeah.
MR. COSTA: Eighty-two? Well, how do people even join this? I mean, is it just you showing up at the Capitol? How does this work?
MS. FONDA: Well, I invite my famous friends, although some are now asking to come.
I mean, you know something cool? You know who is going to be there tomorrow? Any of you watch The Good Place? You know the--Manny Jacinto? He's the Buddhist--the crazy Filipino character that's so cool? He's coming. He got inspired by Ted Danson and asked to come. I didn't even ask him. I didn't know him.
The kid that plays young Sheldon in--he's 11. He's coming.
They reach out and ask to come. So, you know, people just call up, either me or Ira who deals with our communications; or DC Action, which does our logistics and say, "Tell me where to come and where to"--and it's just growing and it's not going to stop.
MR. COSTA: You talk a lot about how youth inspires you both, but we have had a conversation about older women showing up, and that you've noticed older women are passionate about this as much as younger people.
What does this experience reveal to you about that group and the climate?
MS. FONDA: Well, I've noticed for a long time that older women--first of all, we get braver as we get older. We just do. What the hell do we have to lose, you know what I mean? It's--we're not in the market anymore for some guy that doesn't--is scared of strong women.
MS. FONDA: So, we can rise to who we really are and be ourselves.
MR. COSTA: What?
MS. FONDA: And so, that's one thing. Another thing is that we understand--just innately, we understand the collective, the notion of interdependence, the sense of the common, the public sphere is inside women much more than men. We're much less vulnerable to individualism, number one.
Number two, we're more impacted by climate crisis in terms of our bodies, because we carry more fat, which tends to--
MS. LANE: Yeah, the bioaccumulation is a thing.
MR. COSTA: And what do you mean by this?
MS. LANE: It affects your endocrine system. Bioaccumulation of all the toxins that are available in--wherever the toxins are. I'm not going to--I guess we can say water.
MS. FONDA: They're sequestered in our fat and it affects us, it affects children in utero, it affects, you know, childbirth.
We are--80 percent of the climate refugees are women. We're the last ones to be rescued. Rape, sexual assault, and even disappearing--disappearance is always on the rise in zones that are being fracked or drilled or mined. Because thousands of men are brought into these rural areas--
MS. LANE: Man camp.
MS. FONDA: --housed in man camps and there's a lot of sexual violence that goes on.
MR. COSTA: What about that issue, though, if people are getting jobs through the oil industry, the shale industry and they say, "Maybe climate change is a concern." But how do you break through to that person who counts on that job--
MS. FONDA: Yeah, yeah.
MR. COSTA: --it's a--
MS. LANE: You mean a just transition that's been spoken about in the Green New Deal? They speak about a just transition.
MS. FONDA: Yeah, it's--
MR. COSTA: So, let's say they're not reading the Green New Deal. If someone has a job in a man camp--
MS. FONDA: Right.
MR. COSTA: --what do you say to them to care about the climate in the same way you do?
MS. FONDA: Well, you know, there are--there are good pipes. Some pipes are bad, but some pipes are really good. Like, when we create thousand--tens of--millions of jobs retrofitting every home in America, laying out the new energy grid, putting up charging stations for electric cars and so forth, these are all-new jobs that use the same skills that the workers are using now.
Of course they're scared. These are union jobs they have, they pay a decent wage. Whereas, what's happened too much is, as they're transitioning to new jobs they're not paid and they're not union jobs.
What the Green New Deal says is they will be paid during the transition and they will be union jobs with a decent wage. But they don't believe it now, and I can totally understand why and the AFL/CIO is not supportive of the Green New Deal and what we're talking about.
But all you have to do is look at what happens when there isn't a just transition. Look at the miners, the coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky where there's been absolutely no planning. They've lost their health care, they're suffering from black lung, they're not trained for new jobs. Nobody is paying any attention to them.
MS. LANE: Well, they're primed to be suckered again, because they've become dependent on this and now the fossil fuels industry is saying plastics. Plastics in Appalachia. It's very large. I do believe our leader in chief toured the facility. I think it was Royal Dutch Shell and they're making those nurdles. So, I'm just saying it's a continuation of a similar thing but now they're manufacturing plastic.
And yes, they're afraid of change, and I understand that. Look, California is the number one user of fuel in cars, but at the same time we need a new gridding system for our power structure, and that is a lot of union jobs. It needs to happen. We can't keep having fires from windstorms that are coming our way.
MR. COSTA: So, if you read The Washington Post there was an article, a great profile of Diane Lane, called "The Diane Lane Thing," about how she has such appeal across with men and with women.
And you're the first quote in that profile, praising your friend. I'm not sure everyone here knows about your longtime friendship and how this came together. You're not just activists who are being pushed together today for an event.
MS. FONDA: No, I courted her.
MR. COSTA: How did this all come about, the friendship and the activism?
MS. FONDA: I've always admired her. I thought she was--she is so beautiful and so sensual. I love her acting and I wanted to be her friend.
And I remember the first time I met you at Bob Shaye's party and I honed in on you and I haven't let you go.
MS. LANE: I feel the same way. She's stealing all my lines--I'm teasing.
No, Jane, I adore you, and thank you. I'm blushing and I don't know what to say.
But I grew up feeling so much love for Jane, and I felt that we had something very similar, and I've spoken about it to other people, so I'll now say it to y'all right in front of her.
Georgia, I can say "y'all."
There's a quality that Jane Fonda has that I've always admired and when it became conscious I realized it--and it's in her work--and I hope it's not going to make you self-conscious--in the best way.
There's a kind of offering up of vulnerability that's almost against your will. And I felt like I had that, too. It's almost like, "I don't want to have this feeling that's coming in the scene, and it's happening to--here we go. We're going to have this emotional experience, now." And I felt that I took these emotional journeys with you that I would have taken in the same way. And so, I've been feeling very kindred towards you forever.
MS. FONDA: She's a woman who's not afraid to go on a journey of self-exploration. And you know, when she disappears and I don't know where is, she might be in Machu Pichu on a shaman vision quest or something. She really--she works on herself. I like that, I really admire that.
MS. LANE: Well, men encourage us to grow--
MS. FONDA: And she was part of Oceana with Ted Danson, and it is a great organization.
MS. LANE: It is a great organization, and Ted is a wonderful leader of ocean advocacy.
MS. FONDA: Yeah.
MS. LANE: And his wife, Mary Steenburgen, is a beautiful soul who needs to have her name sung out, as well. Because you know, marriages and families and support systems are part and par--and friendships. You know, it's the united factor. It's--buddying up is an important part of facing forward.
MS. FONDA: And if you're old, it's good to have friends that are younger than you--
MS. FONDA: --so that people aren't dying and then you're suddenly left with nobody. All my friends are younger so I'll die first.
MS. LANE: Well, my mom is gone and God bless you, Jane, you're many people's mom.
MS. FONDA: A lot of women call me "Ma."
MS. LANE: Right, right?
MR. COSTA: Really?
MS. LANE: Yeah. Happy to be in the crew.
MR. COSTA: So, we're going to look for both of you tomorrow in handcuffs.
MS. FONDA: No, I'm not getting arrested tomorrow. I'm jail support tomorrow, yeah.
MR. COSTA: So, just for cheering on.
MS. LANE: She's saving herself for her birthday.
MR. COSTA: For your birthday and because of Grace and Frankie.
But how many people do you think will show up tomorrow, 82?
MS. FONDA: I never know.
MR. COSTA: You never know?
MS. FONDA: No.
SPEAKER: What time?
MS. FONDA: Eleven. Every--it's always at 11:00 on the southeast lawn of the Capitol.
And the civil disobedience, because it's water and the Supreme Court is going to be hearing a bill to roll back the Clean Water Act, we're going to do the civil disobedience and close off the street between the Capitol and the Supreme Court.
MS. LANE: And I think metaphorically it's beautiful that it might actually be giving us water out of the sky tomorrow. It is going to be raining, maybe, which will be an interesting--you know, to brave through the weather, for the first time. It's been beautiful over the last--
MR. COSTA: And you're wearing a fire drill--
MS. FONDA: Somebody gave me this, because I'm not buying any new clothes, but they gave me this. So, I'm--
MR. COSTA: Fire Drill Fridays, excellent.
MS. FONDA: It's becoming a thing.
MR. COSTA: It certainly is.
MS. LANE: I think it's going to continue after--
MS. FONDA: Oh, it is.
MS. LANE: --January.
MR. COSTA: Are you going to carry it on?
MS. LANE: Well, I'll do what I can. I will do what I can. I'm going to be on crutches for a little bit, but then, after that, I'll march again.
MS. FONDA: The first February--the first Friday in February we're going to do one of these well-produced--like we do here in LA, for every--because I'm going to be there making Grace & Frankie, every first Friday we're going to do it, and other places around the country.
MR. COSTA: Great. Well, Diane Lane and Jane Fonda, thank you so much for joining us here at The Washington Post to discuss activism.
MR. COSTA: Really appreciate it.
MS. LANE: You are the bomb.
MR. COSTA: Thank you. Please give them a nice round of applause. Thanks so much for joining us. Best wishes. Thank you for joining us.
Oceans in Crisis: Turning The Tides
MS. SELLERS: Hi, thank you for coming. I'm Frances Stead Sellers. I'm a senior writer here at The Washington Post. We've just heard from the activists, and now I have with me people from the research community and the business community here to talk about some of these same issues. First, I'm pleased to introduce Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. They're the co-founders of 4ocean, which is a global for-profit company. And they take plastics out of the ocean and recycle them. And on my left is Enric Sala, who is an explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society. He's dedicated his entire career to restoring the health and productivity of the world's oceans.
We would like all of you to join the conversation. So if you have questions, please tweet them to #postlive and I'll pick them up and being able to call on them during the conversation today.
So, Enric, I would like to start with you first. And tell us why the oceans are so important to the health of the planet as a whole. What role do they play?
MR. SALA: Well, without the ocean there will be no life on earth. The oceans regulate the climate and for--throughout human history have made the climate relatively table, and actually allowed for the development of human society.
MS. SELLERS: So they absorb [unclear]? How are they doing this?
MR. SALA: Oh my god, if it weren't for the oceans, Earth would be like Venus. Because think about this. The oceans since the start of the industrial revolution have absorbed 93 percent of the extra heat that we have generated.
MS. SELLERS: Ninety-three percent.
MR. SALA: Ninety-three percent. That means that without the ocean the temperature here right now would be 36 degrees higher. Not the 1.5 degrees that we don't want to exceed with the Paris Climate Agreement. Thirty-six degrees. So just by that, the ocean is our life insurance. And of course, it absorbs a lot of carbon. It actually absorbs a third of the carbon pollution that we expel into the atmosphere every year.
MS. SELLERS: So what's going wrong now? What's the change that has prevented the oceans from performing this crucial role?
MR. SALA: Well, you know, it's like we are in the hospital connected to all these machines, and we're actually disconnecting them one by one to sell them so we can pay for the energy bills. It's ridiculous.
So we're doing three main things, basically. One is we are taking fish out of the ocean faster than they can reproduce, and we are seeing the collapse of many, many fisheries around the world, and more than half of the fish stocks around the world are overfished.
Two, we are making the ocean warmer and more acidic, which is killing everything from small microscopic organisms to coral reefs and [unclear] coral reefs. That's climate change.
And three, we are throwing everything that we don't want into the ocean. Before it was organic pollution and some chemicals that we don't see. Now it's plastic. And I will let these guys talk about the plastic. But these are the three main things that are doing to the ocean.
MS. SELLERS: And how are you--just before we will move to you--how are you evaluating the damage that's been caused to the oceans? How do you know what we're doing wrong?
MR. SALA: How do we know what we're doing wrong?
MS. SELLER: How do we evaluate it?
MR. SALA: Well, we--the global statistics of fisheries showing that fishing really started to increase after a Second World War everywhere around the world, and it peaked in the mid-90s. And it's been declining since. A third of the fish stocks have already collapsed. And if we continue with the status quo, by 2050 most commercial fisheries will have collapsed.
MS. SELLERS: Wow.
MR. SALA: And that's the main source of animal protein for over a billion people. So this is just one way. We also have seen the increase in ocean temperature, the death of entire coral reefs when the water gets too warm for too long in the summer, like happened a couple of years ago in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef where half the corals in the Southern Great Barrier Reef died.
And then the Arctic ice for example is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. We have this white heart of the planet on the top of the world where the sea water freezes in the winter and then it shrinks in the summer. The problem is that with ocean warming, that heart, that pulsation is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller. And old explorers complained that there was too much ice so they couldn't get to the North Pole. In 2040, you will be able to go to the North Pole on your sailboat, because there's going to be no sea ice during the summer months.
MS. SELLERS: Right.
So, Alex and Andrew, you're tackling one small part of this huge problem we're talking about. Every year--and I always have to check this number--but 8 million tons of plastic is thrown into the ocean. What's 4ocean doing to combat that problem?
MR. SCHULZE: So we started 4ocean as a for-profit business trying to create a movement to try and help end the ocean plastic crisis. We looked at pioneers in the industry such as Yvon Chouinard with Patagonia and how he's able to disrupt the supply chain actually using sustainable materials and leverage business to do great things for the planet, as well as Blake Mycoskie with Tom's, you know, creating economies all around the world producing shoes for those in need and being able to provide those with a private business. We wanted to leverage a lifestyle brand to make sustainability cool. We wanted to make cleaning the ocean cool, and that's our mission with 4ocean to try to end the--
MS. SELLERS: So this was a kind of--Andrew, sorry, maybe you can pick this up, but you were kind of a surfer dude couple right who went to Bali. Tell your story a little bit.
MR. COOPER: Sure. So we met at Florida Atlantic University studying business. And after we graduated we celebrated with a surf trip to Bali, Indonesia. Prior to that trip, we knew we wanted to start a business. We were the kids that had the lemonade stands, that we were selling candy bars in the hallway. We were entrepreneurs at heart our whole life. And we knew that the business, whether it was a brick and mortar surf shop, was going to be something centered around what we were passionate about. And our passion quickly changed when we flew in and before we landed we saw strips of plastic that we call them back home weed lines. And we thought they were weed lines, and then we further investigated, went straight to the beach, and I saw people playing in plastic that was knee-deep. And I went up to the lifeguard and I said, hey man, how come nobody is cleaning up this plastic? And he said, oh, it's 3:00. It's high tide. We clean it up every day. This is just what happens by the end of the day. And we were like, oh my gosh, this is way more severe than we could have ever imagined. Did more research, and this was happening to a lot of places all over the world.
MS. SELLERS: And you combat this by selling bracelets.
MR. COOPER: Right.
MR. SCHULZE: Yup.
MS. SELLERS: You're wearing your bracelet so I can see. These are $20 bracelets made with recycled materials. And for each of those bracelets you say that you will take a pound of plastic out of the ocean. Which actually seems like kind of an expensive way of bringing plastics out of the ocean, but tell me--
MR. COOPER: It's a great point. The model, what we wanted to do when we brought it back home was there was a lot of people that live on the coastline of Bali that participate in that cleanup. There's billions of people all over the world that can't participate in that cleanup. So we really wanted to have an opportunity where anyone, anywhere in the world could participate in that metaphorical cleanup, but in cleanups all over the world. And what ecommerce and the bracelet and the website and this new world that just opened up in the past, you know, 10 years and what we were studying in school was that if we could sell a product made from the recycled materials, that could be a reminder that's on your wrist that represents a quantifiable pound that gives anybody in the center of the United States, the North Pole, far away from these beaches to be able to participate in the cleanup, that's what we wanted to do. That's how 4ocean was born.
MR. SCHULZE: And I think that, you know, the bracelet was just the stepping stone to the bigger picture, right? This is someone's commitment to a cleaner ocean. And what we're really trying to do is when we first saw that plastic on the beach in Bali, we realized that something needed to be done. And after further investigation, really learning we have to move upstream and change plastic production habits and change consumption habits to truly end the problem, because purchasing a bracelet, consumerism alone will not solve the ocean plastic crisis.
MS. SELLERS: So, Enric, I'd like to come back to you on this. This year we've had this huge campaign against plastic straws and there's been a change in consumer--I know in my habits, in consumer habits. Is this the right way to tackle one aspect, or is it sort of a plastic sticker on a gunshot wound?
MR. SALA: Yeah, well, you know, doing less bad is not good enough, right?
MS. SELLERS: Right.
MR. SALA: And this is great, but it's not enough. And plastic is a very visible issue, and I think this is a bipartisan issue because except for a few people here in Washington, nobody likes plastic pollution, right?
MS. SELLERS: Right.
MR. SALA: But there are three main problems. One, again, is the overfishing. Two is the plastic pollution. And three is the global warming. And you know, when I was in--I'm a recovering academic. I was one of these nerdy scientists that Jane Fonda was talking about.
MS. SELLERS: Right.
MR. SALA: And we were studying the impacts of humans in the ocean and the impacts of fishing and climate change and plastic was not such a big issue then. And one day I realized that all we were doing was writing the obituary of the ocean with more and more precision, more data. And people were very happy saying, oh, wow, now we have more statistical evidence that there is a problem, right? So this is when I decided to quit and work on solutions.
And of all the solutions for these distinct problems, the solutions are very clear. One is not to put plastic into the ocean.
MS. SELLERS: And biodegradable plastics, does that help?
MR. SALA: Compostable, compostable.
MS. SELLERS: Compostable.
MR. SALA: Because biodegradable, it degrades into smaller pieces.
MS. SELLERS: And then you get these microplastics.
MR. SALA: For climate change, for ocean warming acidification, the only solution is to go to phase off fossil fuels and go to fully renewable economy by 2050. That's it. Everything else is just burning issues.
MS. SELLERS: Say that date again?
MR. SALA: We need to shift to a renewable energy economy by 2050. We need to phase off fossil fuels. That's the only solution for the climate change, the ocean warming and acidification. And for fishing, it's the simplest and the fastest way to fix this problem, because if you protect areas in the ocean, what you call marine reserves or marine protected areas, if you don't kill the fish, they take a longer time to die and they grow larger and have more sex and have more babies. And what we have seen is that places that are fully protected from fishing, fish come back and the entire ecosystem, the entire marine life comes back so spectacularly that on average marine life increases an abundant six times relative to the adjacent unprotected areas. And these fish not only grow larger but also grow fatter, which means that the number of eggs that they produce is exponentially larger than outside. So they produce a disproportionately large amount of babies, which help to replenish the areas around. And when we have these protected areas that are well-managed, the fishermen are doing so much better around them.
MS. SELLERS: So on the periphery of these sort of national parks of the ocean, if you like.
MR. SALA: The periphery, exactly. So these national parks in the ocean--so today only 2.4 percent of the ocean is fully protected from fishing. So we can fish in more than 97 percent of the ocean. The 97 percent is like a bank account, a checking account where everybody withdraws but nobody makes a deposit. These national parks in the ocean are like investment accounts with a principal that we set aside that produces compound interest that we can enjoy. We can enjoy the returns.
And this works everywhere, in small reserves and large reserves, in developing countries and rich countries, with small species to large species. And we just need to go from that 2.4 percent to actually 30 percent of the ocean protected.
MS. SELLERS: So I've just come back from Ocracoke, North Carolina, where I wrote a story about the threat to the Outer Banks in North Carolina from rising sea levels. Venice is under water right now. What is the best example you have of a place where you've said this is human-caused climate change if we don't do something now, the place is going to, the community is going to die?
MR. SALA: All of these examples are, all of these examples are. And one example which is probably the most dramatic is the Arctic, because the Arctic is the fastest warming place in the world. And by 2040 there's going to be no sea ice in the summer, and there are all these animals that depend on the sea ice for survival. So you have the sea ice that forms on the surface and you have little algae growing underneath the edge of the sea ice, and you have these little shrimp eating the little algae and you have the little Arctic cod eating the little shrimp, and you have the seals eating the little arctic cods, and you have the polar bears and the belugas and all these animals support the way of life of the Inuit, of the inhabitants of the north, right? And all of a sudden, boom, this is going to be gone within two decades. That entire history, the entire culture, the entire lifestyle is going to be gone.
MS. SELLERS: So a question for all three of you. We have Washington Post Kaiser Family Foundation Poll recently, and I'm going to read from it. It said that nearly four in 10 Americans described climate change now as a crisis, and they're increasingly worried about it. Fewer than that believe that tackling that problem will require them to make major sacrifices, and most are unwilling to pay for it out of their own pockets. So what are your responses to that, and how do you see getting people more involved? And maybe you guys want to start with this mission of getting people involved in these big issues?
MR. SCHULZE: Sure, sure. So, you know, your previous question as well with is a straw the right way to approach it? I think that's very similar to, you know, can individuals have an impact on climate change. And I think that, you know, what we're trying--the message that we're trying to get across is individual actions can have a huge collective effort. And what people don't realize is that their individual action of turning down a straw creates a change reaction. It might not be the fact that that person in the middle of the states refuses that single-use plastic straw and if that is actually going to end up in the ocean in the middle of the states. But more importantly what it's doing is it's continuing the conversation. Corporations are listening to brands and brands are listening to consumers. We have the ability to change what's happening in the world, and it all takes individual action.
MS. SELLERS: I want to jump in here with a Twitter question that's come in from Dustin [phonetic], for you guys saying, "Won't you be cleaning up plastic forever unless we stop the flow of it into the ocean and reduce production? How is 4ocean creating awareness about reducing plastic use?"
MR. COOPER: That's a great question. Is it, Dustin? It's a great question, Dustin.
MS. SELLERS: That was Dustin. Thanks, Dustin.
MR. COOPER: So, A, stopping it at the source, so that is boom systems at river mouths and not just going out to the center of where the problem is but reversing it. And we do that with raising awareness, education programs, research and development. But more importantly, it's a comment I heard on this panel, was that the plastic is getting thrown in the ocean. And I was actually getting makeup backstage--not that I do makeup on my own; it was mandatory--she said what about these freightliners, like how are we going to stop the freightliners? And I said, you know what--
MS. SELLERS: Ditching their stuff overboard.
MR. COOPER: Right. And that's not the plastic we're finding on the beaches. What we're finding is plastic that comes from land-based sources. So whether it's the United States or a country with a lesser waste management infrastructure, if plastic ends up on the ground it does not break down, it doesn't go away. It goes somewhere else. And the rain brings it to the gutters. The gutters bring it to the drains. The drains bring it to the rivers. And the rivers literally bring it to the ocean, where it gets washed up on the beaches and animals ingest it and animals get entangled it. So the other quote I used when I'm talking to a lesser educated audience is, just like Finding Nemo says, all drains lead to the ocean. It's very true.
MR. SCHULZE: And I think to chime into that as well to kind of answer the point is, we're trying to leverage social media. We've been fortunate enough to get over 3 1/2 million followers, and that's a platform, right, to have that discussion.
MS. SELLERS: And this is in two years.
MR. SCHULZE: In 2 1/2 years. Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. And we're trying to leverage social media and awareness. You know, Andrew and I have stood on beaches that are football field-sized plastic that's 10-feet deep. We've seen rivers of plastic pouring into the ocean, and it's our job to bring awareness to that, right? We want to show people around the world what's happening, that that straw that they're refusing at a restaurant truly does have an impact on the bigger picture.
MS. SELLERS: So this is important on the grassroots level. Take me again to the higher level. What's going to happen unless world leaders get on board and recognize the science that you're talking about?
MR. SALA: We are on the way to a planet not 2 degrees Celsius but 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, which means that 90 percent of the coral reefs of the world would be gone with a 2-degree Celsius world. So basically we are going to lose all of the coral reefs as we know them. There's going to be no sea ice left in the Arctic Ocean during summer months, which means that the air conditioning system of the planet is gone, which is going to create crazier storms and more frequent droughts and these extreme weather events and fires and floods in the Northern Hemisphere. So we are going to a world that nobody is going to like.
MS. SELLERS: And what does President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement mean for you and your world?
MR. SALA: Not for me, for everybody. Well, the good thing is that we are not out yet. There is a process, and hopefully--it is going to be too late to get out of Paris, but the United States has been living and many countries around the world always were waiting for the United States to do the right thing, like it or not. And it was the leadership of the United States that actually inspired China to join, and then also brought India, the three biggest polluting countries together to get to the Paris Climate Agreement. Right now there is this vacuum of leadership. The United States not being there is a big, big, big problem for the world. And the problem is that, well, like, if the United States doesn't do it, we will not do it either, right? So it's not a question of I'm going to--the America-First world is an illusion. It does not exist. The ocean is downstream of everything and connected to everything, and this separating the plastic problem with the climate problem in the ocean and biodiversity in nature, it's wrong. It's all linked.
MS. SELLERS: So last night in the Democratic debate we heard about the central issue of the climate crisis then. But do you think U.S. lawmakers understand how dire this situation is?
MS. SALA: Well, there is this expression that nobody will understand something if their funding depends on the opposite, or something like that. I think everybody understands, but there are short-term interests, right? And it's both corporate greed and political survival. It's all about greed for money or power at the end of the day. It's as simple as that.
MS. SELLERS: Andrew and Alex, your company is global. What kind of pushback or reception have you received in other countries you've been working in?
MR. SCHULZE: I think, you know, a lot of the different countries that we're working in, we're trying to bring awareness that you can end the plastic that's entering into the ocean by providing upstream solutions and recycling infrastructure and waste management infrastructure. That truly can have an impact. And that's been the hardest part, is, you know, trying to work with these different countries to allocate resources towards these different campaigns. And I think that's been the biggest pushback we've seen.
MS. SELLERS: And, Andrew, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced plans to eliminate single-use plastics as early as 2021. Can we expect this kind of action, do you think, from U.S. lawmakers?
MR. COOPER: I would hope so. I can't speak too much to that, but I would really, really hope so. As I said earlier, all of the plastic we're finding in the ocean comes from land. It's not from a mysterious ship driving around or nurdle containers that just spilled into the ocean one time and if we fix that the problem is over.
MS. SELLERS: And how many countries are you now operating in?
MR. SCHULZE: Four countries.
MS. SELLERS: How many?
MR. COOPER: Four countries.
MS. SELLERS: Four countries. So that's--
MR. COOPER: So that's United States, Indonesia, Haiti, and Guatemala.
SPEAKER: Go Haiti!
MR. COOPER: Yay Haiti!
MS. SELLERS: So, Enric, tell me a little bit more about Pristine Seas. This is literally sort of creating these national parks and taking that model and moving it into the ocean.
MR. SALA: Yeah, when I left academia I came to National Geographic in 2008 and I moved to D.C. then and proposed this project, National Geographic Pristine Seas, to help save the last wild places in the ocean before it's too late. And National Geographic loved the idea. And in the last 10 years we have used the combination of expeditions, scientific and economic research, films to inspire country leaders and communities to protect their waters or the most precious parts of their waters before it's too late. And we've been able to work with 16 countries. And we've seen the creation of 22 of these national parks in the ocean covering a total area of almost 6 million square kilometers, which is over half the size of the United States. And there is a lot of interest in that. And we know that when we protect these places, marine life comes back, the local economies improve, people's health also improves around these protected areas. So it's a triple win: ecological, social and economic. And politicians also love this. So we are planning at National Geographic to continue doing this for the next 10 years and we'll hopefully double the impact that we've had so far.
MS. SELLERS: So one quick last question for each of you. What do you think individuals can do to make a difference?
MR. COOPER: That's a really good question. I think the most important thing, so the first one is make the change to your daily life. But we all need to know that for a big change to come, the quickest, it needs to come from the top down. So for that change to come from the top down, we need to keep the conversation going. Because the people that are at the top, the politicians, the governments and the industry leaders, decision makers, manufactures are truly listening to what we're talking about and the actions that we take every day.
MS. SELLERS: Do you want to add a little bit?
MR. SCHULZE: Yeah, absolutely. I think that, you know, just continuing that conversation and doing anything that we can all across the Board to show that conservation and sustainability is cool, you know? And you had a great quote from your TED Talk that is when economic needs and conservation align, miracles can happen. And I think that that is so true all across the board because we really need to find ways to show people that conservation can have amazing impacts and it can do great things not only for the planet for businesses, politicians, everyone. It's important, and we have to do it.
MS. SELLERS: Enric, over to you for the individuals.
MR. SALA: Individuals, there is one thing that everybody can do, is eat mostly plants.
MS. SELLERS: Eat mostly plants.
MR. COOPER: That's a good point.
MR. SALA: Yes. Mike Pollan says eat food, eat less, and eat mostly plants. And that will be good for your health and also for the planet because meat consumption produces something like 15 percent of the global emissions, carbon emissions. So that's a solution that is easy and actually is good for everybody.
MS. SELLERS: Okay, eat mostly plants. And unfortunately, that's the message we have to close down on today.
MS. SELLERS: Thank you very much everybody for coming. If you want to check in on what we have heard today from either of the programs, please check into Washington Post Live. Thank you very much. Thank you to our wonderful panel. Congratulations. I'm Frances Stead Sellers, and thank you for coming.
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