Rating the Candidates on the Environment

Alan Weisman's reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Discover, Audubon, Condé Nast Traveler, and in many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing 2006.  His most recent book, The World Without Us, a bestseller translated into 30 languages, was named the Best Nonfiction Book of 2007 by both Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, the #1 Nonfiction Audiobook of 2007 by iTunes; a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction, for the Orion Prize, and a Book Sense 2008 Honor Book.

His previous books include An Echo In My Blood; Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World (10th anniversary edition available from Chelsea Green); and La Frontera: The United States Border With Mexico. He has also written the introduction for The World We Have by Thich Nhat Hanh, available this fall from Parallax Press.  A senior producer for Homelands Productions, Weisman’s documentaries have aired on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and American Public Media.  Each spring, he leads an annual field program in international journalism at the University of Arizona, where he is Laureate Associate Professor in Journalism and Latin American Studies.  He and his wife, sculptor Beckie Kravetz, live in western Massachusetts.

  • Transcript


Alan Weisman: I will be honest with you, I have refrained from looking at their policies until the dust settles form the primaries and I see who the candidates are, because then the issues are going to be rather clear. During the last election, I wrote a piece for the Los Angles times that was a Sunday op-ed, analyzing the, I was asked to analyze the difference between George Bush’s energy policy and John Kerry’s energy policy. Basically, what I described is that, both of their policies where barely connected to reality at all. In the case of Bush, mainly it was a fossil fuel-based policy that I think has gotten us into enormous trouble, both in terms of atmospheric chemistry, climate change and this tragic world that we are involved in Iraq right now. In terms of Kerry, he was talking about all kinds of renewable technologies that we where going to have, but it was very clear that these where phrases that he was mouthing that we are not connected to what the reality of the technological development was. We don’t have hydrogen cars that we can all be and buy 2020. I mean we have been trying to make them from a long time, I have been studying this since the mid-90s, when I started writing about the development of hydrogen cars. I went to Germany, because the Germans between Dainmler, Benz and BMW were trying do it. That was an outgrowth of when Hitler lost the Romanian oil fields and he didn’t have any oil. So, they where burning wood to strip the hydrogen literally out of gassified wood to run things and things like that and that is why the Germans where the pioneers of hydrogen vehicles. But even today they are still, it is too costly in terms of both money and energy to get hydrogen pure, separated from the stuff that it is locked up with, carbon or oxygen, hydrogen does not exist in a free form in our universe and it's hard to mass produce fuel cells. Even if we did have hydrogen and the presidential candidates in the past have really avoided taking detailed looks at the environment, because we don’t have solutions and they want to be offering solutions or it's really complicated and it doesn’t fit into sound bytes, but once we have two candidates, I can assure you, I am going to be writing about this looking at their policies very hard and going to be analyzing to see who makes more sense. Or if the democratic nominating process becomes protracted in to the summer, I won’t wait that long, I mean I have been busy doing other things, so I haven’t done it yet, but certainly Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, ultimately if one of them, or if Senator Mc Kain ends up, I guess there are three senators, they all end up, anyone of them ends up in the White House, all of their policies are going to be underlined by the environment and the nature and the environment will trump politics, culture, everything every time, because if we don’t have an earth to stand on, we don’t have any place to exercise our policies.


Recorded on: 2/5/08