On CNN Sunday night, it was like Ted "Captain Planet" Turner was still running the place. CNN anchor Tony Harris interviewed Robert Redford with a sense of awe about his latest Sundance Summit with local officials to "fight global warming." Redford trashed President Bush as "pretty transparently awful on the environment," and the administration as "retarded in its views," but said "what I think is the exciting part, which is the optimistic part, which is that we can now do something ourselves as individuals that can change the course of things." The anchorman, Harris, replied: "That is so great." He professed disappointment that the president would not meet with Redford, as if he were a world statesman and eminent scientist: "Boy, I sure would love to see the day when the two of you -- you and the president, actually had a real dialogue. But I guess it's not going to happen."
Harris began the segment with the gooey "Access Hollywood" kind of introduction, without any pesky liberal label: "We know Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid, a Legal Eagle, Bob Woodward and All the President's Men. But this actor has spent much of his life as a political and environmental activist. He joins us tonight from the Sundance Summit, an event he is co- hosting to help fight global warming."
After Redford professed nervousness about his earpiece, the substance began. Notice how soft and vague and promotional Harris was:
HARRIS: I have to ask you, we understand this is the third year of this conference. What do you think that you are accomplishing with these city leaders and state leaders?
REDFORD: Well, I can tell you what we intend to accomplish, which is basically an extension of what we've already accomplished from the first conference which was two years ago. The idea behind this -- let me tell you how I -- if you're interested...
REDFORD: How I got involved in this in the first place. About 23 years ago, I was at a conference with an organization that I had started on the environment in Denver -- at the Jewish hospital in Denver. And we were talking about clean air in Western states. And suddenly there was a lunch presentation by two scientists from the Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. And it was on climate change centering on global warming. And it shocked everyone because what they were saying was that we were in a process of a slow meltdown on a part of our environment.
Well, it was such a shock, and that nobody knew about it. And then that led to me inviting the Soviet Academy of Sciences to Sundance along with our scientific community in 1989 because the two polluting countries at that time were the United States and the Soviet Union.
[Editor’s note: And no other country in the world polluted? Earth to anchorman?]
So having the two scientific communities come together to discuss this issue seemed to me like a good thing because I thought it would get traction. So in 1989, we had this conference. In fact, they did. We had the Soviet Academy of -- the head of their space program, Roald Sagdeev, Carl Sagan headed up our scientific community. And they both agreed at that time that this was an issue that was already overdue in 1989 and had to be addressed immediately. Otherwise, we were going to see things like Kilimanjaro's melting, ice caps melting.
And it was going to affect not only climate change but our lives as individuals. So, anyway, it didn't get any traction because that was premature. Those were the days when they were still being denied as an issue. And the power of politics at that time to support that denial was so strong that we were never able to get any traction. So now it's almost 20 years later, and I decided that probably going at the top was a waste of time, particularly with this administration...
HARRIS: That's what I was going to ask, if that was the case.
REDFORD: Well, this administration, I don't think, needs a lot of discussion. It's pretty transparently awful on the environment. So therefore, it's pretty clear that not only are they supportive of issues to help our environment, but they want to go against them, because I think they are living in a day long gone by.
But -- so forget about them. Where are you going to find the solutions? Where are you going to find the action and the traction? Well, it's going to come from the grassroots. And that involves mayors and governors, people that are closer to the citizenry, people that are closer to the American public, and know what the real problems are, and, therefore, are more in touch with what the solutions can be. So...
REDFORD: ... that's why I decided to bring mayors to Sundance to have a discussion to find out if we can bring all the mayors on board to push up from the grassroots and push Congress and eventually leadership when it comes around into taking action on a federal level. So that has been the intention.
HARRIS: So how are you actually helping these mayors? I mean, what are you giving them in terms of tools, information, funding or helping them identify funding sources that will get this work done? How are you helping them?
REDFORD: Well, aside from the good food and a nice environment to be in, what we're doing is using the -- you know, let's face it, the first year we had mayors, a lot of mayors that came from different communities. And these are not just major cities. These are communities all over the United States. There were a lot of them that were not believers. There were a lot of them that were just ignorant about the issue itself. But there were enough mayors like Mayor Daley of Chicago who -- and Mayor Nickels of Seattle who were actually doing things already and they could demonstrate the results.
Such as, by creating new industries that come from new technologies, you are going to create new jobs. And therefore, you are going to affect the economy. So what has happened, the turning point, I think, has come not from films or lectures or literature about how bad things are. We've had that. America doesn't do well with doom and gloom. We've had that. We get that.
Now what? Well, now what is what I think is the exciting part, which is the optimistic part, which is that we can now do something ourselves as individuals that can change the course of things.
HARRIS: That is so great. That's where I wanted to take this.
REDFORD: It's great. It's optimistic.
REDFORD: Yes. That to me is the most exciting part of it. So let's move to the next part by bringing -- because Sundance, as a place, is very committed to art obviously because of the film festival and the film labs and so forth and my own life. Bringing art into the picture to help tell the story is another issue. So we bring artists to the table to help the mayors tell the story about what they are doing.
Now that's going to work its way up to the top. You can already see, I think, that Congress -- I mean, Congress, despite its being constipated for so long on this issue, is beginning to turn because they're getting pressure from the voters, the public. And that's because of what the mayors are telling them.
So I think there's a great movement coming from the grassroots, which is probably more democratic than what we have right now anyway. So I'm pretty excited about this. And there are changes that are occurring and they are very, very positive. I'm really -- I'm just sorry so much time was lost in the interim.
HARRIS: Have you really given up on trying to reach this administration? Eighteen or so months left with this president. Have you really given up on trying to have a dialogue with him? Have you ever had a dialogue with the president?
REDFORD: Oh, yes -- no, no, no, forget it. It's not worth it. It's a waste of time because I think this administration is so retarded in its views and arrogantly so that they aren't interested. As a matter of fact, the more you try to reason with them, as we can see, I mean, this is not new news. As we can see, the more you bring reason to the table, the more they create -- the more they seem to enjoy denying it or pushing it away. So no, forget about them. It's going to be who comes next, and it's going to be stopping this president and his administration from doing any more damage than they've already done.
HARRIS: Boy, I sure would love to see the day when the two of you -- you and the president, actually had a real dialogue. But I guess it's not going to happen. I guess it's...
REDFORD: It would be a very short conversation, I would tell you that much.