Interview: President of the National Wildlife Federation

  • Larry Schweiger says that we as a society are losing connection with nature, but those who are in nature every day are seeing the changes of global warming take place. (Photo courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, David Parsons)

The head of a hunting, fishing and bird-watching group has written a book that indicates to save nature as we know it, we have to come to grips with climate change. Larry Schweiger is the President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation and author of the book “Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth.” Lester Graham recently talked with him:


Graham: You write in your book, “like it or not, global warming is the defining issue of the twenty-first century,” but you also note that there’s a significant amount of what you call “cynical obfuscation” of the science on global warming. If the overwhelming amount of science supports the fact that climate change is happening, and burning fossil fuels is contributing to that change, why is skepticism among the American public growing?

Schweiger: Well I think you need to look at how much money’s being spent by the fossil fuel industry, the oil and coal industry, to confuse the American public on this issue, and they have done a masterful job, as we’ve seen, in creating doubt, sending signals of confusion…

Graham: Most scientists tell me the effects of global warming are happening faster than first predicted, but those effects are often lost on the general public. Your group, the NWF represents hunters, fishers, bird-watchers, people who are out in nature. Are they noticing changes?

Schweiger: They are, and they are helping us to communicate to congress, and helping us to get the word out about what’s taking place. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans today spend 7 hours or more in front of a computer screen or a TV screen, or in some other way disconnected from nature. The average child, for example, spends some 7 minutes a day in nature, so we as a society are losing connection with nature, but those who are in nature each and every day are seeing the changes take place ‘cause they’ve watched it over their lifetime.

Graham: Your book not only makes the case that the world of nature as we know it is worth saving, but you note some things that everyday folks can do—you can protect natural areas near you, talk back to news media, push the politicians, get your hands dirty, literally, by organic gardening at home, but I get the impression most of us are looking to someone else to solve this global problem, I mean after all, the earth is just too darn big for any one of us to make much of a difference.

Schweiger: Well that’s a very important question because in America we assume that our government is gonna just solve our problems, but really what we need to do as Americans is we need to give voice to these problems, and demand that we see action. I think we need to step up and tell our lawmakers what we believe, what we want to see done.

Graham: Now you’ve spent some time in the halls of congress. We saw the house pass climate change legislation last year. The senate has kind of scrapped that whole thing and now senators, Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham, are working on a new plan. When do you think we might actually have some policy put into law that will help us deal with this climate change situation?

Schweiger: Well let me first say that the three senators working on this legislation are doing the type of legislating that we need because they’re working together, it’s a tripartisan bill—

Graham:–Alright, Kerry’s a Democrat, Lieberman an independent, and Graham is a republican—

Schweiger: –Right. So we have all three working together. And I particularly want to acknowledge Lindsey Graham—he has bucked his own party saying we need a new energy policy in America, we need to wean ourselves from dependency on foreign oils, very powerful things, and I think it’s very influential in the way it’s playing out here.

Graham: Larry Schweiger is the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, and the author of the book ‘Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth.’ Thanks very much.

Schweiger: Thank you.

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