Norman Myers Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Journey of an Environmental Scientist: Conversation with Norman Myers; 11/11/98 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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One final question. If there's a message out there for the American people about our record in environmentalism, what message would you like to give them?

I would say that they should reflect on the fact that they have 5 percent of the world's population but they're emitting 23 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. They are wrecking climate right around the world for everybody, including polar bears at the North Pole, penguins at the South Pole, everybody will be affected by this profligate use of fossil fuels, especially the great car culture. And they shouldn't think that they couldn't switch over a period of time. In Britain we pay $5 for a gallon of gasoline and our economy doesn't go for a loop.

Beyond that, I think I would urge Americans to recognize that they are the most powerful country in the world, not just militarily but financially, economically, scientifically, and the most democratic country in the world by a long, long way. The world needs leadership, that's the resource in shortest supply of all. This country could offer leadership. It does need lots and lots of public opinion behind that to prod the political leaders into action. Since 1960 I've seen several revolutions -- civil rights, the peace movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, several other movements -- all of these have been caused by grassroots Americans, millions of them saying, "We want things to be different." And have kept up that cause for year after year after year, till finally the politicians came running along behind and said, "We will lead you to the promised land."

This is a marvelously democratic country. This is my eighty-sixth visit and I look forward to many more. A great country, even though it is causing much more damage to the global environment than any other country. It can be so readily turned around, put money into your American pockets, and it will give you such a great sense of excitement that you can play a leading part in saving the world at a time of unprecedented threat.

Dr. Myers, thank you very much for coming back to Berkeley to be the Hitchcock Lecturer. And thank you very much for talking with us about your life and your work.

My pleasure Harry, thank you.

And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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