Earth Day 2019 in the spotlight

An in-depth look into protecting the planet, millennial climate change activism, and the importance of safeguarding endangered species.
30:05 | 04/22/19

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Transcript for Earth Day 2019 in the spotlight
And. Everybody welcome to the briefing room on this gorgeous Monday happier day on Devin Dwyer and Washington would deputy political director Mary Alice parks. If you're not that needs help every engine Tierney fee it is just a gorgeous it and it's amazing to check out our new friends Wilma and Zora behind us Christian Slater has got a nice. Picture of the behind there we think that's well month we can easily can smell as well on this Earth Day. But excited to have you with us today on his 49 anniversary we know that celebrations are going on all across the globe. To mark this environmental come awareness day Mary Alice and. Yet so many people are out here carrying signs it does seem sort of uplifting to see so many people caring about the environment. Yeah especially because the environment has become a total lightning rod in our politics we are seeing a democratic and it's out there on the campaign trail making it a centerpiece. Their politicking is more divisive than ever environmental protection and climate change continues to be a huge price and a sham. A top issue on the campaign trail as we look towards point one while much more coming. But coming up on the politics of climate in the environment that person. A big cat minds this morning out of the White House and for those that want to bring in higher White House reporter Jordan felt she's on the north lawn now Jordan. Hi great to see you happy Easter you were out there at the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn odd this morning and the president clearly has impeachment on his mind. He had seven the president was asked they are by a reporter if he is at all concerned about the prospect that he could be removed from office and the president said. Not even a little thick but Devin. We never had simply not true because the president has been tweeting furiously about this topic he sent off. A tweet about it just about an hour before he went out to the east straight role this tweeting about it all weekend. So this is definitely something that's playing on his mind he's. Definitely not helping make this story line go away any more than those Democrats. You are saying that perhaps the president should be impeached. It's worth noting DeVon that this is a story line that in some ways politically is actually advantageous. To president from. I it's something that he can use to cast Democrats as being unreasonable and over political and also he can use it to rile up his own base. And it seems like you know the president is not shying away from talking about this at all and and is very much welcoming this site. He had in Jordan as. As the Democrats decide what they're gonna do next in the wake of the Mueller report the president. Is also talking a little bit about that last redacted version of the report that we know some members of congress today. Got to look at for the first time right with some of that black government Syria. Material lifted up Poole who got to see at what are they sane. Dad today in top Republican on the house judiciary went over to the Justice Department today sent about two hours behind closed doors looking at this. Last redacted version of Harry port that attorney general Barr has made available. Hi DeVon this report and now let's redacted version has been MA made available to about a dozen. Members of congress it's worth noting that you're not going you see any Democrats going over to the Justice Department to check this out. They have said this is unacceptable. For them to only see a less redacted version they continued to demand that they see the full report they have subpoenaed. To see that full report. I sell the Democrats are not giving up on that battle to see the full thing here. All right much more that battle ahead this week and next when congress is back for sure Jordan Phelps thanks so much that at the White House the president Mary Alice. Hough also talking about Earth Day. Acknowledged Earth Day on Twitter this morning the White House put out an official statement. Bob let's put that up the president said that. Environmental protection is very important to him it does go hand in hand he said. With economic prayer prosperity. He said that's a strong market economy is essential to protecting. Our are ultimately our natural resources and fostering a legacy of conservation. Hot interest dean there Mary Alice as the president talks about love in the environment. But also talks about what in the economy first. Which is a buzz word to a lot of liberals environmental activists. That the president doesn't actually. I mean when he says. And right in the made it to say this administration has had. A huge hit it in terms and environmental protection and any effort to get the country closer to. Renewable energy and fewer admissions and that's been on the big issue for environmental activist. You know I can think of three big areas rats at my I had there is that all of the Endangered Species Act protections that are imported to a lot of on species like the American plays and he's to be an endangered in the united. And machine if you had an ending missing a population rebounds other top administration has out worked too slowly kind of god. Stepped back some of those protections for under the Endangered Species Act another big bucket we're talking a lot about offshore drilling from the top administration has really been a proponent of expanding the parts a federal waters. In the Arctic in the Atlantic where they could do you know more leasing or increased drilling. That's critical audit six friction between states. On the Atlantic and Pacific seaboard that are is that we're not it's dangerous and that included are a lot of red states and the ball swing states like Florida comes to mind. Florida is at repeatedly told determine his administration. Kinda back off. And an end you know the last big bucket aren't they isn't just an actual land monuments we've seen a number of national parks. And natural monuments that the Obama administration. Out of green let that we've watched its front administration starts to roll back protections for. Literally shrinking. From the maps around those national monuments so you have Narmada protectionists an accident saying that. This administration is really going in the opposite direction especially compared to the Obama administration that was really. Pushing the envelope in yes. And a lot of those environmental activists using this day this annual Earth Day to shine a spotlight on our politics and on this president. Africa's policies when it comes to the environment and the earth. We caught up of one of those are activists just a short time ago Dennis Hayes is a co-founder of Earth Day back in 1970. He was here today to talk about what that day means now and what he has planned for its fiftieth anniversary next year it will. That's great to meet you thanks for for talking with us so 49 years of Earth Day what's the impact them when you look back at the legacy list. The impacts her multiple. Certainly the creation of the EPA thousands of cleaner out. The clean water it was safe drinking water act the Endangered Species Act of marine mammal protection act of course correction. Superfund national talked figured. The legislative impact has been spectacular tens of trillions of dollars have been spent in. It's also has its act with greater awareness caused by these kids yes and in fact very big twelve could who could took. Pieces of legislation that were unthinkable in 1969. And made them literally unstoppable. In 1970 the Clean Air Act which was proposed by the oil industry the coal industry the automobile industry the electric utility industry the steel industry. Pass the senate unanimously for the House of Representatives with one dissenting vote. Mean they're able to get mobilized yes. We've heard about it and people are mobilized now there is this greater awareness you heats in 49 years in the making and yet. You hear from Burma on the slick and suffer the situation. How do you reconcile those two things people or more where they're conserving more and yet it's gotten pretty good. Campbell when we had. In 1970 were things that were visible than they were immediately impacting people. So the error ten Pittsburgh Gary Indiana and Los Angeles very much like the and then people their kids couldn't do it for recess because there was some residents it's the Cuyahoga River was catching on fire. The bald eagle was endangered when when you've got that sort of commitment thing that is visible it's it's easier to get people page. The problems now are global and where as. We all think that America should be the leader out there leading the world of solving the climate crisis. There is a body of opinion that says why should we do it until everybody else jumps in the bond with us at the same time. Which cancers are we jumping first we can develop and sell all the technologies that are part of their revolution but that's not the where president season. Well in. Know how slow the legislative processes can be in this country and I'm just getting us to jump in cancer seems to bear through an effort. You got the rest of the world as well I mean. You sent some pretty stark warnings about the state of affairs right now are are we past the point of being able to fix it and stop so. You know we we we are past the point of not having more frequent and more powerful cure cancer in the past the point of last month having. To record setting floods and I would destroy the livelihood of farmers have been there for her son for her generations. The past the brunt of not having forest fires ripping up and on the West Coast but we're not out of the courtroom were facing an important human extinction. The other great massive. But when that window is closed and so what we're doing in the year 20/20 is not just in the United States but around the world we'll have events accords under. Your take eightieth anniversary of Earth Day it will be and a big thirtieth anniversary of it being an international thing where after 980 countries. And I think we'll be getting a few billion people will be make no images that yes film industry we have more than a billion last. Expect for public I would more than a but. To hear directly address your question of having that affect national things as much harder now than it was then so where we are open. So far the most effective as it states that city sir great many states and city California Californians want spectacular it's got. A timetable and steps between here and 100% renewables but when he 45. And then you've got some of the things going on and lots and lots of places. What we need to do now is Mary that was what we're calling the vote hurts. And a big part of the system. Take the environment and climate in particular up and make it a voting issue when lissouba bullets. As Asus millennial voters eighteen between nine year olds have climate change and topped their list as we have. 120 also offers the presidential elections won't lift talked about. Real Earth Day. Penal action. Yeah those being the actual April 22 of course is right smack in the middle of primary season part of level helped elevate the issue as people are going into it. You know in the past you've had a rough time getting we grieve not succeeded in getting a single question about climate introduced into the presidential debates. And when he twenty we want to have an entire debate that is devoted to Horton heat I'm not some fluffy yes I care about the climate and I want to make the world a better. But a place where candidates actually have to discuss what it is they plan to do. And I think I think we're gonna pull that off in the United States and there are sixty other countries have elections over the course of an. Next two years when Tony is going to be a really big here fiftieth anniversary of first day of presidential elections while densities in some much protection DeVon it was a pleasure thank you. And our thanks to Dennis Hayes and indeed this. 49 years after the first Earth Day it does seem to focus on climate is much more significant now and our politics. He suggested perhaps to be a climate focus democratic primary debate is that something that you see as we possibly. Absolutely there's been a lot of buzz about that as a possibility and I think that's for a few reasons we're seeing Democrats on Capitol Hill and really push this issue. Just today in the senate there as he announced that there is a new environmental justice caucus forms in the house speaker Pelosi has that new. Select committee on the climate crisis. And Democrats argue that we are at a crisis point in this conversation you know the UN put out a report the end of last year that said that the worlds and a global community. Only has a decade lad to get carbon emissions under control to avoid. Catastrophic consequences. So Democrats are saying that god now remember we got to do something and driving the. Conversation driving a lot of energy in the Democratic Party at least it is. The younger statement at that party younger people are are really. Watching and calling on their political leaders to make climate change a top priority a new poll out today affirms that finding. This one from Harvard university institute of politics take a look at the top line very interest instructors millennial eighteen. It's 29 said that protecting the environment should be a top all of US or foreign policy at 34%. Highest of the generation. They also found that 46% of Americans. I think that the government should do more to curb climate change even at the expense of economic growth which of course the president talked about today look at that job. From just four years ago. Up ten points more than ten points fourteen points. In calling of the government to do more that is young people driving this conversation. And we've seen some of those youngest members up on Capitol Hill out of an aircraft apart at dinner do things sweeping legislation to push this agenda forward. I mean her legislation would. Creates totally zero emissions net zero admissions the United States by 2050. Lot of Democrats recognize that as pretty as operational that is hard to achieve in a short time prints. But she's up there saying what we got we gotta have big bull and obviously she is that youngest member on Capitol Hill to your point and I think young people are largely driving a spot. Station and a lot of young people also suing the federal government right now we're gonna talk to one of them as well trying to keep up the pressure in the courts but first. Our producer Mara went out on the street talk to some tourists on this Easter Monday in New York City young people about what they think a climate change what they're doing. To stay green tickle us. Party political climates in. I'm very excited about it scarlet and you'll work. I mean. Jesus UT. And makes and everything. These guys are going to bring you guys recycled. That's the continent and it passed. Doesn't like money in order to get cash in cause saying. I'm trying to help smiling happily. They're just being aware of we're. What's acceptable and getting paid this anyway. We've read your card to reduce our carbon footprint. Plastic being the go green beans like who the containment and up I don't back it. I've got a lot of trove of those Bagger myself months. Sort of occur. A crazy recycler and Mike all about saving everything the home we've been trying in our house Thornton limit plastic used. And it's amazing when you start keeping track and she asked how much class Daniel nodded and is the bottles but. The lid back every Starbucks cup every plastic straw. I do think that we'll see millennial continue to push. In the consumer space and push companies to be a little bit more environmentally conscious now make a big difference. Gotta get used to those paper straws that are Amman there yet knows and can. Deaths that bring into this conversation now a couple of bright young environmental activists. Who have unique perspective on this debate in this conversation that Isa Flores Jones. As a senior at harbor university joins us now she's. One of the under grads that participates in the environmental justice group also. Highs Friday at Harvard and number of universities to divest from fossil fuels Isa great to see you. What are your thoughts on this Earth Day and how to come in with your effort to get Harvard to to cut off the fossil fuel use. Hi there I think so much for allowing it to contribute to this conversation because I feel a sense. From my vantage points on one of the biggest things at this. Key gimme a thick. Yeah we got you Austin. Time is his feeling. Sort of helplessness and and apathy that we're really trying to fight. Com. As individuals and to use our power and is. Is students in a campaign to be able to you ask when it world's largest endowments to tide us from fossil fuels. And snowed the campaign on the part of it is is asking for Harvard University bridge which has an endowment of 39 billion dollars. Which is larger than not at Coca alone and almost as big as that spoke on its asking for the endowment to relinquish its holdings oil fossil fuel actual acts. Com. Counting. Ink and what what is your response then he's what what has what is the university. Generally been saying is there any openness on their part to considering your arguments. I think the response from the university is pretty much to direct our efforts towards those smaller scale measures that and leaders were mentioning a little bit earlier to talk about. Replacing the trees in the dining hall for example. Perhaps turning off the lights. Comment recently went to you I attended I'm one of those activists attended meetings quits the president of the university. To which umps who often direct dust huge university use. Energy consumption and stable at each had a tapes that but I think. What is a part of our theory of change. And alrighty out not what we can all be doing collectively to make this transition how Venice ousted these institutions. On teams their models of investing. And as well but it's not all of the individual accounts. To be quite honest. I don't have a lot of money I'm a student in means at my place is not really hurt on the music. I'm not really it. Admit axes to the same sorts of halls of power. Un and I think that all of us right now especially on this campaign are ridiculous figures easing. On disability to YouTube colonists institution to be able to make that change to answer your question I hadn't really been listening. And and and what's aligned for you know is it just drill laying did put pipelines in that category howry you sort of explaining to Harvard what you're standard would be. Yes so right now Harvard the majority of their money is actually not invested directly into this business is that you're talking about two pipelines. Com. Into suits that its coal mining operations. One of the season they are doing what they are directly invested is actually in large and produce whether it's eating in the past international sounds. On to essentially buy land from third party tigers use exit from indigenous collectively managed. Tom operator is and often in soybean. And other kinds its large agribusiness on into that area essentially displacing people for the direct investments aren't. And so part of the campaign is pushing Saddam to seize back not suspect the majority of the campaign is focused on these indirect investments since asking Harvard. Tear essentially change the model of investing and to pull their money out of these commingled fund news on the Elvis is extremely opaque. Into orbit asking is for more transparency from the university transparency you'd against you aren't here on the campus. Transparency community around the college on transparent beat everybody who think about how. Higher education at the model of leadership I'm asking for them to essentially got bounced from the Muqtada fossil fuel industrial comp I truly are which is every part of this stop. He's a stand by speaking of transparency want to bring in nick Barrett student at. University Wisconsin Madison who is part of that group of students are suing the federal government in court. From not being transparent enough about the threats and dangers of climate change also not doing enough. NIC great to see you you're also particularly worried about rising seats and that's been a focus of your advocates see there. Tell us about what you're doing and that part. Yeah so I've been a part of the lawsuit since I lose. Sixteen years old and in high school. Eat now a lot of what you're going to be a part of the lawsuit is doing crime acting isn't New York City and seeing how crime acting as soon as related to environmental. Racism and how climate change has a lot of systematic and then I'll eat institutional. Ways that it manifests and other people's lives disproportionately. I'm and I sizing up my own identity is being. Social Lanqing being briefing. Which is an Afro indigenous communities it is Hun days. And us being coastal people who exists on the coast and seeing that might cultures things that really mean a lot to me could be completely decimated cannot exist in history books. Did things I see you polarized that is totally being on. There's actually bends in a moment of native people indigenous people across the World Bank to gather over environmental protection we've seen that from. Rural Alaska to. Tribes in the rain forest can you talk a little bit about that community that's forms globally. Yeah. It's definitely been huge coming together the indigenous people from all over the world that exist in their own culture is. You know burying thousands of miles away but have the shared identity is being really vulnerable to these issues but also always being stewards of the land always be. The people that can't about the land. And look who should be turning to for solutions on how we move forward socially culturally if when it comes protecting higher than what we put into dealing that. He's a floor Jones back at Harvard on this Earth Day what's one small thing all of us can do. To help protect the environment on this date will you give us one piece of advice from your to a book. He outlet mean I think immediate thing that we're asking people to do want to assist us. Come out to you are particular mass movement which is this Friday as flood harbored rally at 230 Beverly it's to show up for those mass movements that are happening. On across the country really across the world and they take so much inspiration both from the work of indigenous on environments activists. And also from presently extinction rebellion instead of showing us how did you option to step out and I think combating that apathy. In any way that's possible. And Beck what I Yale where are you telling your friends and neighbors who are concerned who want to be involved. I think that Reilly start with people is definitely from a place in education. And I think that people can do the actions that are necessary. How Leno and being on a college campus to its not just changing the straws and changing betrays its not looking at the institutional fundamental fundamental systemic things and perpetuating this Christensen let a little bit more about those things gives you more tools to actually reveal the top tier politicians about that they that they can be doing other than. Just don't eat red Herring ordered him. Very high visible but low impact things. All right Vic there are a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison thank you so much sir for joining us are also one of those. Suing the federal government in court will keep an eye an act court case great to have you thank you for sharing. Are your perspective with us also want to thank you so floors Jones joining us from Harvard university and her efforts there for environmental justice thank you both. Interesting conversation and I yeah it is not a big banner that you're like Irish cop and I I'm hostage tried. And he said we have to think a lot bigger army she said you know Harvard you put this should challenge from Harvard and Harvard comes back this is what changed the trades rent in the cafeteria and that it is a good reminder from those two that this is so much bigger than that we ought to think bigger. And certainly our television or as little as well. Interesting footnote the conversation we're having earlier just learn the past few minutes that one of the democratic point three contenders governor Jeanne Hensley of Washington State was built the campaign. On his presidential campaign on this idea of active aggressive approach that the climate. Is now calling on all 27 democratic nominees to participate in a climate change only. Debate so we'll see we're tart what you think it's quite likely but he's leading the way on this. At silly he has been pushing those issues in his home state Washington State actually were I grew up he's been pushing the idea of a possible carbon tax. Trying to increase renewable energy in there in Washington State. And and is did sell it that we think of it is very gloomy and a big beautiful mountains. It's not a lot of issues as wow I'm I think about the Oracle whales that are really struggling. In his state so he is well aware and answered in that conversation and your right pushing the other democratic candidates to join him on the debates. It's hard moving away from politics now we are at the national zoo is as your zoo it's from by the Smithsonian. Hot institute here wash it clean my mom bought it and he ran a man. Great crowds here today out for this Earth Day also happens we national park day. Our friends Wilma and store are back here. They're chicken little map they just had lunch it's hot out is very good handle we wondered today before we got here. What's your wallet just are thinking about climate change and the impact that it has. On animals in this country. We caught up a little while ago is now stronger as you apologists here at the zoo. Who told us what to look for two groups. There are several things we're already seeing when it comes to climate change were seen just shift in how to tat so often a reduction in habitat for species. We're seeing changes in migration terms of locations and also a rival. And so we're expecting that to continue. Potentially leading to community sick and stationed them interactions of species so. Compounding the facts. I think. It's especially were worried about pandas that specialize so they specialize in habitat or particular type of food. And they've giant pandas are good example of that they are of course using bamboo they're using bamboo forests. And they're existing on the east not mountain islands. And what we expect the climate changes that these islands are going to get steadily smaller and we have left space for the Kansas currently what's the hardest hit is really be Arctic regions where rehab. Loss of sea ice and this is impacting what was seen. Most is the polar bears because they first need the sea ice in order to get their prey in order to connect their habitats. And so we're already seeing some dramatic changes in their habitat there's a lot we're doing in terms of trying to understand what habitat me. Understanding how much spacing how they're moving in this different habitats. And that we can use that to model how they're potentially going to end be impacted when their habitats are changed by climate change. And that we can use to try to mitigate those impacts. All right thanks again ML songbirds you all just here at the national zoo and a reminder it's not just humans that are suffering from the impact of climate change but. A lot of animals I was shocked to learn that one of our fifty states Hawaii. In the epicenter of a lot of extinctions in a number rare birds and rare fish species. And a and right here in our country. Import reminder there. Here at the national zoo it's not just about animals on this earth David thought it's about families on this Easter Monday a big tradition. In the DC community that goes back I decades Erica Kane joins us now one of our producers who spent the morning talking with African American families. Here at the zoo on Earth Day Erika great to see you we're telling us that this is. A big deal on the community here to honor days tell us why happy Easter Monday guy. I'm so I finest cell fascinating because this tradition began backing 1870. Me. According to these Smithsonian national museum of African American culture. In his streams. They began yesterday Sheen because African American keenly east worked a lot on Easter Sunday still they allowed. Then to use celebrate Easter sending on Monday and also during the segregation Aaron. And African American families are not allowed to celebrate. And the annual White House Easter April still again disease opened his door. And there natsios. David that they came to select you caught up with some of the people over here salaries hey let's move some of those books. Watch as does the best place to be book plays the Monday it did yeah expedition youth group to come here happy yeah yes. Heading into thinking that. I mean cook you up he happy. Yeah I. Yeah. And and yeah. And gave. He ain't bad Maggie Kuhn. Somebody that there's are cleared they Wear and the last broke slowly her mom actually told me that she as a child. A celebrating Easter Monday that she's passing down. That tradition who. Not analysts here today as well holding most conservation side so many conservation as well thank you so much. I'm mr. people watching us here in the briefing room on ABC news live a B download the ABC news app to follow the latest on climate change and all the political stories and talked about today. For to have Erica Kane with us now Hart senate Devin Dwyer Washington. We'll see tomorrow.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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