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Lisa Randall studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University. Her research connects theoretical insights to puzzles in our current understanding of the properties and interactions of matter. She[…]

The government, Randall says, needs to think in the long term.

Lisa Randall: Well I think climate change really is an important issue. I don’t think people . . . I think people are aware of it as an issue. I don’t think people realize just how significant it is. I mean our . . . And you know we don’t know. The science is indefinite. But there’s such a big risk that the planet as we know it can be altered in ways that we haven’t anticipated. And even if it’s just, you know, a question of it being, you know, a few degrees hotter . . . I mean even if it’s not some major economic thing . . . if it’s not . . . but just the idea that the world could be different, that glaciers can melt, I just don’t like that. But of course there are much broader implications which are possible that can seriously affect the planet. And I think just in general, our need for energy is also a dangerous . . . has dangerous directions; not just in terms of climate change, but in terms of all the political implications that it has, economic implications. So I think . . . And I don’t think we make that connection as much as we should. I mean to some extent it is, obviously. But the . . . Just the overriding need for more energy is really shaping so much of the way our planet is developing. And that’s just crazy, and we have to face that and figure out what to do about it. I mean that’s part of the problem, I think, is that everyone wants it to be someone else’s responsibility. And I think . . . And a lot of . . . And another problem is that, I think, people go from thinking it’s not a problem to thinking it’s a big problem but they have no chance of doing anything about it. So to turn it into something where individuals and companies and the government can actually make changes is a big, difficult problem; but I think it’s very important. I think just in general the ability to sort of plan for the future . . . Right now our political system and our business system is so concentrated on short term gains that it’s very hard . . . I mean it’s just not built into the system to worry about long term effects, and that’s very dangerous. I think that it’s very difficult in government. I think one of the things is that people . . . I mean and maybe I’m just being overly optimistic, but I do think that it would help to really distribute information in a more comprehensive way. You know even just . . . even for the war in Iraq, which is obviously a big issue – we haven’t talked about it – but it’s really hard to read the articles about Iraq because they sort of just say, “Okay, another few people were killed,” which is horrible. But there’s nothing we can do with that information. It’s sort of similar information every day. We know it’s bad but there’s nothing to grasp onto. There’s no storyline. There’s nothing. And you know I was talking to a reporter recently. I mean part of the problem is that people aren’t over there. They’re not doing in-depth reporting. They’re not doing things . . . But somehow at least we could understand perhaps why this war was different from other wars. Why aren’t people over there? Also who’s making money? I mean we sort of hear bits and piece of it, but why are people interested in perpetuating this war? So I think that if we could follow in a little bit more detail the economic forces that are driving a lot of the developments, that would really change the way people perceive things. I think in terms of climate change, there certainly are energy companies that really are very resistant to change, because it’s not necessarily in their interest – in their immediate interest. But I think if we could really get clear who is benefitting and who’s not benefitting in the long term and in the short term, it would be very helpful. Recorded On: 11/2/07