Stephen Gerald Breyer is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed in 1994, Breyer is often regarded as more liberal than most other members of the court. He is highly regarded across the political spectrum for his pragmatic, rather than ideological, approach to the Constitution. In Bush v. Gore, which settled the controversial 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, he issued a widely respected dissent which criticized those who would decide the case on the basis of equal protection. Breyer, a Rhodes Scholar, was educated at Stanford, Oxford and Harvard. He is the author of Breaking the Vicious Circle: Toward Effective Risk Regulation. Ideas recorded at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival on: 7/5/07
Stephen Breyer: The barriers are that we will not get our environment under control. The barriers are that . . . I saw a very interesting film. It was on a French television program. It was showing some people come up from . . . they had been nomads in the south part of the desert in western Africa. And there was a fishing season, and they arrived in trucks. And thousands of them went out and they were catching these fish, and pretty soon there were no fish left. That was the point of the film. And the real point of the film is, well, there aren’t going to be any fish left. But the message was, what are they supposed to do? What are they supposed to do? There isn’t work for them where they started. They have to eat, and so they come up and they take the fish. Well this is a huge problem. And we know that on the one hand, we’ve gotta keep the fish. And we also have to find work for these people. And so that’s the kind of problem that’s caused tremendous environmental problems; tremendous population problems; tremendous problems, of course, of keeping the what I call the fanatical, dark element of human nature under control. And it only takes a few or it’s out of control to do tremendous damage. But we have terrific instruments of cooperation . . . the Internet being one, our educational institutions. Our economy is good. We have this economic need. So forces of . . . points of light and possibilities of darkness.
Recorded on: 7/5/07