Return to Transcripts main page
Venice's Worst Floods in 50 Years; 6-Foot Tides Engulfs 85 Percent of Venice's Streets and Buildings; Henk Ovink, Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, is Interviewed About Floods in Venice and Climate Change; Climate Science Disbelief; Katharine Hayhoe, Atmospheric Scientist, is Interviewed About Climate Change; Allbirds' Carbon Neutral Products; Joey Zwillinger, Co-CEO, Allbirds, is Interviewed About Shoes. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 18, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Venice has flooded three times in one week, a first, as the global climate crisis super charges extreme weather intensity, I speak to Henk Ovink, the
world's flood prevention ambassador, and to climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOEY ZWILLINGER, CO-CEO, ALLBIRDS: The product is carbon negative. Meaning, it sucks more carbon out of the atmosphere than it takes to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How to change the economy not the climate. A footwear success story for our times. Allbirds' co-founder, Joey Zwillinger, on his billion
dollar all sustainable sneaker company.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES GATES, AUTHOR, "PROVING EINSTEIN RIGHT": It's intellectual diversity that we have to worry about because that's the fire that drives our ability
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: An award-winning physicist on why diversity is vital to science. Walter Isaacson talks to Professor James Gates, author of "Proving Einstein
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Venice, one of the world's most beloved tourist spots. It is a network of islands. It's watery thorough fares, the stuff of legend. But never in 50
years has it seen a catastrophe like this. Historic storm waters have deluged the centuries old city three times in a single week, 6-foot tides
are engulfing 85 percent of Venice's streets and buildings, including the iconic ninth century St. Mark's Basilica. All this salt water threatens to
structurally undermine a treasure-trove of architectural and cultural landmarks.
Meanwhile, floods and heavy winds are hitting much of the Italian peninsula and severe floods are hitting England and France as well. All across the
world, we see more and more evidence of how the climate crisis increases the ferocity and the frequency of floods, fires, droughts and disease.
The Italian began building a complex flood defense system back in 2003. But after many delays and cost over runs, the $5 billion project is not
operational in Venice. Global flooding expert, Henk Ovink is best known for keeping the Dutch lowlands high and dry. He's a special water envoy to
the United Nations, and he join me with some solutions from Frankfurt.
Henk Ovink, welcome back to our program.
HENK OVINK, DUTCH SPECIAL ENVOY FOR INTERNATIONAL WATER AFFAIRS: Christiane, it's great to be back. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, we're calling on your expertise today because of what we can see happening in Venice and, you know, it's happening in other parts, even
here in the North of England, we've seen it in the southern parts of France and it's exceptional, these high-water marks right now.
Just give me a quick reason as to why Venice, which is anyway on the sea, it is watery, is suffering so much at this time, I mean, there historic
OVINK: Yes. Venice has been suffering for water-related risks. It's the end of the delta, like so many deltas around the world are vulnerable. But
here, specifically in this part of the Mediterranean, water can't go anywhere, so it builds up. So, with high levels of rain, floods and high-
water levels in the Mediterranean, Venice is very vulnerable.
And this is only increased with climate change impact. Sea rise, storm surges, more ways of extreme weather are impacting these vulnerable places
around the world and Venice is only one example of many.
AMANPOUR: The mayor of Venice has declared a state of emergency and he's directly linked it to climate change. Is it, in this case, just climate
change, do you think or is it also because of bad management? I mean, we know that, you know, for nearly most of this century, they have not put
their promises, you know, where they must. They pledged all sorts of money and infrastructure and it hasn't happened.
OVINK: Well, the vulnerability is increasing because of man-made disasters. There are infrastructure put in the wrong places for so many
years. So, we -- next to not having prepared ourselves for these climate- related events. So, we have to blame it on ourselves to not be ready for climate change impacts. But climate change is part of why we're becoming
And, you know, as we all know, we are all part of increasing our climate vulnerability. So, here in Venice, being better prepared for next event is
a responsibility we all have to face and have to take on, and then it's possible. This should not be the negative side. It is adapting to climate
change, building resiliency in places like Venice with so many other places on the coast, in our deltas around the world.
It's also an opportunity for more comprehensive investments, better plans [13:05:00] and planning, and finding ways innovative forward, to build
resiliency, by nature-based solutions, for instance, we can work in all these places around the world to become better prepared.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, look, Henk, you're from the Netherlands and you've had a huge part, obviously, in preparing the Netherlands. I mean, the
Netherlands is officially under -- below sea level and yet, its sophisticated infrastructure and the gates, the barriers and all the other
things that have been built prevent it from flooding.
But, for instance, here in Venice, there are pictures of the regional city council, which is right on the Grand Canal flooded. I mean, the pictures
are incredible. You can see the water, the chairs in the water, people were in the room, they had to leave. And yet, hours before, the same
council had rejected measures to combat climate change. I mean, it just doesn't make any sense.
OVINK: No, it doesn't make sense. We can prepare ourselves for the uncertainties of the future. There are places around the world where we
have to say perhaps, you know, on the long run it might not be safe. But places like Venice, the Netherlands, Southeast Asia, the East Coast of the
United States are places where we can invest in, where we can collaborate together, public and private, on the community scale as well as regionally,
to become better prepared and invest in innovations with nature and to really prepare ourselves and become more resilient in the context of
climate change. But then we have to face those challenges and then do something about it.
AMANPOUR: I was going to say, Venice council, the leadership sent us a statement on all of this and said that, "Beyond propaganda and deceptive
reading, we are voting for a regional budget that spent $1.1 billion over the past three years in the fight against air pollution, smog, which is a
determining factor in climate change. To say we're doing nothing is a lie." And he then goes onto say, you know, that this is an exorbitant
amount for a regional situation here.
I mean, if they're spending that much money and it's still flooding, what is going wrong?
OVINK: Well, they -- in Venice too, like in other places, they try to figure out on one hand how to mitigate climate risks. So, cut carbon and
so forth and move to renewables and be on the good side of history and at the same time, prepare the city, in this case, all lagoon of violence from
flooding. And that's a big program and a project they set into motion, the most projects that did not take into account all future risks that had a
lot of problems in its implementation.
But in itself, moving forward with protecting the Venice Lagoon for flooding is a great idea, it's a good effort. But they do need to do
better. Well, these week's proof that they have to up their game when it comes to building resiliency in the Venice Lagoon. And I think it's not
impossible but Venice is also showcase that is -- well, simple solutions are not enough. We -- business as usual is not enough. We really have to
up our ambitions around the world to prepare better for climate impacts, while at the same time rigorously invest in renewable energy, cutting
carbon and safe guarding future generations as well as biodiversity of our planet.
AMANPOUR: So, you have also taken your water expertise to the United States. You were named by President Obama as a special advisor,
particularly after Hurricane Sandy, and obviously, New York is one of the great world cities that is at sea level. I mean, if it rises, those areas
of Manhattan could be very, very vulnerable.
But so, too, here in London. And so, too, in Paris. We have Thames, we have the Seine River. And I want to ask you about poplar opinion and
public consciousness because -- and I'm going to read a little bit, there was a great flood in Paris in 1910 when the Seine flooded, it was called
the flood of the century.
And after that, I think there was a lot of public effort to new dams up stream and to make sort of infrastructure that might prevent another flood.
On the Thames, also, there is the Thames Barrier that was built under assumption that future floods could be life-threatening but it might not
happen more than one every 100 years, and that was built a long time ago.
But they're saying that memories fade and people stop thinking about these things. So. how do you do what you are suggesting needs to be done?
OVINK: Yes. You can never stop working and living -- working on and living with water. This is the case of the Netherlands where we build
[13:10:00] our water democracy out of the 12th century and have been working and living with water for all those centuries. Therefore, it's
incremental. You have to put layer upon layer for resiliency.
When you're vulnerable, it doesn't mean that you can just do a one-off solution and are safe guarded forever. And the results of, you know, today
and, you know, every year showcases, more water-related disasters, shows that the vulnerability is increasing because we have to strengthen our
capacity, move ahead with our long-term comprehensive approaches and build innovative solutions every day. So, it never stops. There's no quick fix
to dealing with water risk.
And what you see, the flood in France 100 years ago, we have floods in the Netherlands and across the words 100 years ago and 10 years ago as well,
every time we have to use these events as opportunities to move ahead. Not be nonresponsive but actually use such an event as an inspiration to move
ahead, and then not look back at the floods, at the disaster, on what to do but really look ahead, prepare ourselves for that future. And the science
is there. The data is clear.
The opportunities to collaborate with the science community, government, businesses, investors and NGOs, to -- and communities of the ground to
build more resiliency is there. So, there's a real opportunity but then we have to face and accept that we have to invest in building resiliency in
our communities, and not deny or not go around it but really face the opportunity of becoming better in resiliency ahead of date.
AMANPOUR: So, you are in Frankfurt, which is where the German stock exchange is. And you've just talked about all the stakeholders who have to
be involved, including business. Have you been having business discussions about trying to do all this that you're saying?
OVINK: Yes. Today, we had a financing and water event organized together with the WWF, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange as
well as corporate investors, financial partners, really talking about the business case for water resiliency. So, that is drinking water and water
in our ecosystem, in our river basins. But, also, definitely in the context of climate change. How we can incorporate climate change in the
business models and become better prepared. So, prevent our losses but also start to add value in every investment we put in place.
This is not about a scare or something to prevent going wrong. This is how you can put your investment in border security so it starts to pay off for
society and therefore, also for businesses. These are not short-term returns though. You need a little time before these returns come in. But
if you wait, there's a business case for resilience and sustainable investments, everywhere.
AMANPOUR: It's really important message. Henk Ovink, thank you so much for joining us.
OVINK: Thanks, Christiane. Good luck with your program.
AMANPOUR: Now Professor Katharine Hayhoe runs the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and served as lead author for a U.S. National
Climate Assessment. As an educator, she's devoted to exposing diverse and often skeptical audiences to the cataclysmic climate changes happening
right before our eyes. And Professor Hayhoe is joining us now from Lubbock, Texas.
Welcome back to the program, Professor Hayhoe.
KATHARINE HAYHOE, ATMOSPHERIC SCIENTIST: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, you just heard Henk Ovink speaking particularly in light of what is happening here in Europe with the floods, Venice and elsewhere,
about all the stakeholders that need to be involved and all the innovator designs and, you know, the time consuming but necessary infrastructure that
needs to be built.
From your perspective, I just want to -- because in America, it seems, unlike in Europe, that it's much more sort of public consciousness thing.
It's much more -- you know, you've got to convince people to then convince their governments because, you know, you have the only -- I think, the only
official climate skeptic party in the Western Democratic world happening now to be, you know, presidential office.
HAYHOE: Well, sadly rejection of climate science is no longer unique to the United States. We are seeing it around the world. But the party that
is currently in power is one that specifically says climate is not changing due to human activities when it is.
We care about climate change because it's a threat multiplier. So, any disaster, including what is happening in Venice right now, is a function of
three things, exposure, vulnerability and then the climate or weather hazard. And Venice really is the perfect storm but we're seeing plenty of
perfect storms here in North America as well, Houston, Mid-Western [13:15:00] U.S., they all have that combination of exposure, vulnerability
and then, climate change is super sizing or amplifying what used to be entirely natural disasters, making them stronger or more frequent than they
have been in the past.
AMANPOUR: So, also, obviously, the fires. I mean, we've seen these terrible fires that came so close to residences in the urban part of Los
Angeles recently. And we've seen over several years that terrible devastation by the fires.
But when you say that climate science disbelief, in other words, people who believe it's all a hoax, is not unique to the United States, are you saying
it's getting worse or it's always been something that's been around? Are people becoming more aware of human, you know, responsibility or less aware
around the world?
HAYHOE: Well, we are becoming more aware of the need for solutions. And so, the push back is becoming even stronger because no one truly has a
problem with science that dates back to the 1850s. What people have appropriate with are the per received solutions. So, the closer the
solutions come to reality, the stronger the pushback, not just in the U.S., but in my home country of Canada, we see it in the U.K., we see it
throughout the E.U., in Australia, in Brazil and other countries as well.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to play a little bit of a soundbite from a speech that was delivered by Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group at their conference
recently. It's about, you know, super sizing the response. We've heard, obviously, in American all about a Green New Deal, but he goes further.
And let's just play this and I'm going ask to get your take on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: There is one area where Chinese cooperation with the West right now is more feasible, and that's combatting
the advance of climate change. What we need is a Green Marshall Plan. Mainly Western funded, project that includes the best ideas of the private
sector thinkers and the state funded scientists from the West and China on how to make the policy changes and invent the technologies that clean the
world's air and water and limit the damage inflicted by climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Professor Hayhoe, there there's three main elements there. One, that it's absolutely imperative to work with China, the world's
biggest polluter on this. But two, the notion of that tried and tested and true thing that is called a Marshall Plan and make it a Green Marshall
Plan. But three, that it should be mostly funded by the West. It sounds sensible. Is it tenable, do you think? What do you think of the proposal?
HAYHOE: Well, I'm a scientist not an economist. So, I know that we need to cut carbon as much as possible and as soon as possible. And as a human,
I would add without harming people and hopefully with helping people by doing so. I also know from looking at the facts that China has more wind
and solar energy than any other country in the world. And India is one of the world leaders in green jobs. Yes, China has a lot of coal and now,
they're selling it to countries like Pakistan and helping them build their own coal-fire powered plants. So, we do need an energy revolution and need
it to happen everywhere.
AMANPOUR: And in terms of the economy, you know, we've just seen one of the political parties here in Great Britain launch its business plan, as we
have an election coming up on December 12, and they have said they're going propose a skilling tens of thousands of young British people as apprentices
in the climate economy, so to speak.
And I just wondered -- you know, I know you're not an economist, but how does it impact the science and the solutions when the major, you know,
employer in the United States has become the renewable energy industry? It is nearly 3.3 million Americans working in clean energy, which outnumbers
fossil fuel workers 3-1.
I guess I'm asking you how the economic and employment reality affects, I don't know, people's acceptance of the science and the ability to translate
that acceptance into doing something about it?
HAYHOE: It does affect people's acceptance of the science because, again, people don't truly reject 200-year-old science, they are rejecting what
they perceive to be the solutions. They perceive the only solutions to be -- to ruin the economy, to let the government tell them what to do, to let
China take over the world. But in fact, as we see, clean energy is part of the solution that grows jobs. And we know that the more people we bring to
the people with the greater diversity of ideas and solutions, the more robust those solutions will be.
So, we are already seeing this happen today. But as a scientist, I know that it is not yet happening fast enough to avoid the most serious
[13:20:00] and even potentially dangerous impacts of a changing climate.
AMANPOUR: So, President Trump is -- has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. From your perspective, as a scientist and
talking about the urgency of it, what are the immediate solution the and how quickly do they need to be enacted?
You heard Ovink said this is going to be a long-term process. Certainly, the infrastructure. But what are the immediate solutions that need to go
into effect and lifestyle changes?
HAYHOE: Well, in the Climate Solutions Community, there's often what I feel as a false debate between do we need individual action, do we need
lifestyle changes or do we need system wide change. My answer to that is yes, we need it all.
If you look at the richest corporations in the world, at the top we have Walmart, which is planning to be 50 percent clean energy by 2025, and then
you go down the rest of the list and it's oil and gas energy, energy oil and gas automotive, all companies who have made their money from producing,
processing, refining, selling or making things that burn fossil fuels.
So, we absolutely need system wide change, but systems are made up of individuals. And so, that's why as individuals we need change too. And
personally, I think one of the most important things that anybody can do about climate change is talk about it. Because when you look at public
opinion surveys, it turns out hardly anybody talks about it.
Why it matters to us in the places where we live, how it's super sizing our wild fires, our area burned, our hurricanes, our floods, our heavy rainfall
events, and what are some sensible things that we can do to fix it. We all need to be having that conversation today.
AMANPOUR: Well, very quickly, your husband is in the Christian community, you both are. And you told me last time that he was having some success
convincing some of the pastors about this necessity and, of course, they form big part of President Trump's base. Is he still having that success?
HAYHOE: Well, we've actually ran some experiments with evangelical colleges looking at providing information on how climate is changing, how
it's affecting us and what are some things we can do to fix it. And the good news is, we found that there's a significant difference in students'
opinions after they're exposed to this information, and the most conservative ones move the furthest.
AMANPOUR: Well, that is really interesting and really good news. Professor Hayhoe, thank you so much, indeed.
Now, extreme weather events are also galvanizing a new climate conscious generation of consumers. Many are prepared to commit to sustainable
lifestyles, even when it means paying higher prices to do so.
Allbirds, the company known for its seductively comfy wool shoes help drive this growing demand. Their products are carbon neutral, made of
sustainable materials from tongue to toe. The company proves the truth of the old saying "that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now,
they have built a billion-dollar business, copycat products are flooding the marketplace. So, I asked the Allbirds' CEO and co-founder, Joey
Zwillinger, why he risked pricing environmental best practices into his start up brand.
Joey Zwillinger, welcome to the program.
JOEY ZWILLINGER, CO-CEO, ALLBIRDS: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Can we start by asking how you and your co-founder, your colleague, just came up with this idea? How did you decide that, first of
all, there was a niche in the market for these kinds of shoes?
ZWILLINGER: Yes. Well, you know, it's a great partnership. My partner, Tim Brown, was a professional athlete playing soccer on the international
stage. And he have been sponsored by some of the big athletic companies and learned that splashy logos and promoting those brands is what they're
all about. The gear is nice. He had a design background.
So, he started to kind of just toy around with the concepts around making a shoe that was a little more clean and simple in design, a little more
timeless. And at that time, I was actually working in the renewable chemicals industry, and saw that there was an unbelievable opportunity and
just this rising tide of demand from consumers that wanted something that was a no comprise offering, that was wonderful for whatever that product
should do for you as a person when you buy it and what you expect of it. And that it should be sensible in the planet. And I was selling into these
brands and developing really innovative materials that they could use and no one wanted it.
AMANPOUR: Why did nobody want it?
ZWILLINGER: It just turns out that the technology exists and the consumers want it but brands are gating the way because they're in search of fast and
cheap, you're turning styles really quickly and you're moving in one season, discounting and moving onto the next one. And so, it promotes this
just fast fashion mentality. Whereas, if you slowed things down, consumers will pay you for it and they love it.
AMANPOUR: So, that's what I want to get to because I think that's so important in this era where everyone is trying to figure out how to slow
the damage that climate is doing to the environment.
AMANPOUR: So. let's just start with a [13:25:00] shoe, the one that you created, called the Runner, right?
AMANPOUR: The famous one is called the Runner. So, it's a special wool and it's a special sole.
ZWILLINGER: Yes. So, yes, we started out with merino wool, which we source from the highest quality sheep down in New Zealand and it gives you
this unbelievable comfort, it gives you really nice temperature control, keeps odor away. So, you can wear it sockless. It's a really simple-
looking shoe but it's really lot of design that went into make that simplicity stand out, and it makes it comfortable.
And then the bottom, the bottom that you mentioned, that's something that we're particularly proud of. And I hope that this is a model moving
forward that a lot of other companies embrace. So, we went down to Brazil and we understood, given my background in renewable chemicals, there's a
company down there called Braskem. And they process not only normal chemicals from petroleum but they've also made a very large effort to work
with sugar cane and make renewable chemicals.
We work with them to develop a product that was a foam, which is the largest component used in the whole sneaker industry on the bottom of shoes
and make it out of the waste stream from a sugar cane processing industry. And this means that the product is actually carbon negative. Meaning, it
sucks more carbon out of the atmosphere than it takes to create. And not only that, but it gives you an amazing feel underneath your foot. And we
developed that with that company and then we actually open sourced that so the whole industry can use it.
AMANPOUR: And that's really interesting, the fact that you didn't hang on to your patent, so to speak.
AMANPOUR: And you did this, why? For the planet? For -- or for social responsibility?
ZWILLINGER: This is why I think it's a great model. It's -- there's altruism here. If everyone uses this, there would be a lot of improvement
in the climate impact that the fashion industry makes.
AMANPOUR: Because currently, the soles that Nike and others use --
ZWILLINGER: Is plastic. Out of petroleum.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Our of petroleum.
ZWILLINGER: Yes. Just petroleum. And I mean, the whole industry, there's 20 billion pairs of shoes made every year, and it's all either hide from
animal or plastic from petroleum, and it's sad. And people don't often equate those two things together, but that's the case.
So, in innovating and using this -- a building block that's from nature, we create something that's much better for the planet. And if we share that
openly with everyone, then it's fantastic for the planet because it sucks a lot of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It's also good for business.
It drives cost down. And more people who buy it, the cheaper the price is.
And so, sharing this is both altruistic but also quite pragmatic.
AMANPOUR: And actually, the price point appears to be somewhere around $95.
AMANPOUR: And it's not massively expensive. It's not very cheap. It's not a throwaway price, but it's not what many sort of specialty shoes cost.
They could cost much more.
AMANPOUR: But it works, right? I mean, your company, in a few years, is now a $1.4 billion company. It's working.
ZWILLINGER: Yes. I mean, that's -- I think that's -- it's important to think about, you know, in a world where a lot of people who think
capitalism is under attack. Our belief is that consumers just demand more from business, they don't mind paying business. They just want business
not just to solely focus on enriching shareholders. They want people -- they want business and business leaders to care about the environment, to
care about their employees, to care about their supply chain. And then we sell directly to consumer and we skip the wholesale channel which allows us
to slow things down.
So, slow fashion, not fast fashion. And we go through albers.com or international sites, as well, and physical brick and mortar stores and we
slow it down to give a great experience to consumers. We don't discount our prices. We always sell full price. And that allows us to just not
make bad short-term decisions. And I think that's a model that I would hope a lot of other companies embrace.
AMANPOUR: We know that Stella McCartney and a few others, but her, particularly, is at the forefront of sustainable fashion and she's been
very, very vocal. But we also know, as you said, that the fashion industry is very reluctant and slow to move, to change.
And I spoke to Anna Wintour, obviously, the editor-in-chief of "Vogue" and the creative director of "Conde Nast" about this and about how the general
community is thinking. This is what she told me about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNA WINTOUR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, U.S. VOGUE: Everybody is making a five-year plan. Everybody is concerned about the climate crisis and what should be
done to help. And obviously, we're very aware as other industries are that we have been at fault and what can we do in the relatively short amount of
time we have to course correct.
AMANPOUR: So, it's an urgency for you?
WINTOUR: It's an urgency for everybody within the industry. I feel confident in saying that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Have you found that to be the case? I mean, obviously, it is something that is really getting out into the atmosphere now, to coin a
AMANPOUR: ... that people and consumers are concerned about what they wear and what they push back into landfill and into the environment.
You know, I do think there's an urgency, because companies realize consumers want it. And whenever consumers make that clear, businesses
I would say, though, that the response has been unsatisfying and unsatisfactory. We think that the time for commitments is a bit over.
Like, we're in the crisis at the moment. And we think that action needs to be taken now.
And the way to do that, it's -- there's a recipe. It's not that hard. So you have got to measure what your impact is, and reduce it, just like you
would reduce cost as if it's a line item in a normal business.
And then, in the meantime, you should pay for your pollution. And we do so by buying carbon offsets and paying for the remaining emissions on whatever
we produce in our supply chain.
AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, you all say people don't buy sustainable products, they buy great products.
So, to that point, we're going to put an image here for us to look at and discuss, because this will be your shoe vs. one that Amazon is creating.
Clearly, Amazon, which is, I guess, the bigger online retail supermarket, has become interested and has done a version of your shoe.
ZWILLINGER: And they're one of the most valuable company in the world, and we're a pretty small, young company, so I'm not sure it's quite a fair
But they did make something that is strikingly similar, as you point out. And, you know, the thing that was frustrating for us about this is that we
open-source all the materials. If they wanted to use the materials and copy our sustainability, they had all the right to do so. And we gave that
-- we gave that away.
And I think the way Amazon works, particularly in the U.S., with over 50 percent of product searches originating on Amazon.com, they know a lot
about what is happening with consumers.
ZWILLINGER: And they obviously saw that a lot of people were searching for Allbirds. And so they started -- they started doing things like, you know,
bidding on our brand name on Google and things like that to draw people into their site and buy something else.
And, apparently, that was successful enough. So, it feels like they almost algorithmically inspired a shoe that looked very similar, so that they
could capitalize on that demand.
AMANPOUR: So, of course, this is their statement: "Offering products inspired by the trends to which customers are responding is a common
practice across the retail industry. 206 Collective's wool blend sneakers do not infringe on Allbirds design. This aesthetic isn't limited to
Allbirds. And similar products are also offered by several other brands."
This was in response to all queries about this.
What do you say to their response?
ZWILLINGER: I think it sort of feels like we're taking a knife to a gunfight, if we go that battle.
But, you know, for us, it's -- we're just putting the blinders on and keeping focus. And we continue to innovate. We have done a lot more
innovation outside of merino wool. And we have eucalyptus fibers. We have that sugarcane bottom.
And we're continuing to innovate on really interesting natural materials.
AMANPOUR: Does this use the same kind of sustainable materials that yours...
ZWILLINGER: Absolutely -- absolutely not.
AMANPOUR: It doesn't?
ZWILLINGER: Absolutely not.
And they make -- they make millions of pairs of shoes, I'm sure. And they sell many millions of shoes. And if they use our sugarcane bottom on those
shoes, we'd be delighted, costs would come down, and the planet would be a lot better off.
And that's what I would expect from someone who's taking a leadership role and has such market power as a company like Amazon does.
AMANPOUR: So have you talked to them about that? I mean, why don't you urge them to do precisely that?
ZWILLINGER: I hope they're watching.
But, yes, it's a good point. We should reach out directly, and we should tell them to do it, and make it absolutely no excuses that they know all
about it, and here's the recipe, and make the intro.
Yes, we should.
AMANPOUR: That's a really important conversation to have with massive behemoths like Amazon.
ZWILLINGER: For sure.
I mean, it's an -- they have such a great podium to go and speak to. And I think -- you know, look, I'm not holding my breath, but I think that, if
they took that opportunity, it would make a big difference.
You know, the week that this shoe came out from to 206 Collective, they had made a big pledge to be better on the environment. And there was even
protests, I think, from employees at their company, just saying that it was not a sufficient response to the crisis that we're in.
And so I think even their own employees are stating that to their leadership, and, clearly, consumers are listening. And, clearly, lots of
consumers go to their platforms.
This is a big opportunity. And it's a -- and it's a big crisis, and we should be addressing it. We'd love to partner with Amazon to do that.
Love to partner with anyone.
AMANPOUR: One of these articles says -- it quotes you, in fact: "It's different when people like Amazon don't follow the same practices that we
do. We source wool," as we said, "from the most humanely treated sheep in the world. We're 100 percent carbon-neutral as a company. These knockoffs
are trying to siphon off demand."
Here's the important thing -- "demand that we have created for this category of product. And they're really not taking the same care for their
impact on the environment."
I mean, look, there's huge demand for this, undoubtedly. And is there still demand for the cheapest possible product you can get? Absolutely.
I think what's interesting to us is that we are seeing a shift. When we started the business, we believed that everyone who bought our product
bought it because it was beautiful and really comfortable and had a great price, and we have great service.
Now we're actually starting to see people buy it because of how good on the planet it is. And, I mean, this should give a lot of -- everyone a lot of
And once this truly becomes evident to larger companies, I think we're going to see a whole lot of response from not just the fashion industry,
So, I am optimistic. I think, look, business can be part of the solution. We also need wonderful policy and leaders, particularly in the U.S., being
the largest economy in the world, need to step up and do more.
Right now, policy is a bit of a laggard. And so, in that vacuum, consumers are looking for business and the private sector to do more.
And we would love to play a role in that. We also -- we also would love to help and talk on policy stuff to whatever degree we can.
AMANPOUR: It's really interesting.
Joey Zwillinger, thank you so much, indeed.
ZWILLINGER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And we sought further comment from Amazon about issues the raised in the interview, but they declined to respond.
We now turn to facts, evidence and a revolutionary physicist who changed our understanding of the planet, Albert Einstein, of course.
Professor James Gates has spent his career pioneering modern physics and diversity in science. His most recent book, written with novelist Cathie
Pelletier, is about how scientists proved Einstein's groundbreaking theory of relativity all those years ago.
And our Walter Isaacson sat down with him to find out just how they did this and how his own upbringing played such a pivotal role in his success.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Professor Gates, thank you for joining us.
S. JAMES GATES, CO-AUTHOR, "PROVING EINSTEIN RIGHT: THE DARING EXPEDITIONS THAT CHANGED HOW WE LOOK AT THE UNIVERSE": Walter.
ISAACSON: This is an amazing book. It's about an international your group of adventurers who go around the world to look at eclipses to see if they
can prove Einstein's theory of relativity.
Why did we need eclipses to prove it?
GATES: Well, first of all, Walter, thank you for the invitation to be here.
Why did we need eclipses? Well, because -- let me just talk about how -- what they were after.
If I had a glass full of water, and I passed it between the two of us, it would look like your face was moving just from the glass. Why? Because
the light bends as it moves through the water.
And so you have to -- the astronomers were trying to see if the sun could produce that effect. But since the sun is very bright, in the day, you
can't see it, so you need an eclipse to actually see the moving...
ISAACSON: So, in other words, Einstein tells us that gravity bends light waves.
ISAACSON: And so the gravity of the sun would bend it, but you can't really look and see the light from a star going by the sun, because the sun
gets in your eyes.
GATES: Too bright.
ISAACSON: So you got an eclipse, right?
GATES: Need a total eclipse to see this.
ISAACSON: So what did they do?
GATES: It was a number of people, first of all.
They went to places where there are total eclipses. A total eclipse, the moon completely covers the face of the sun. And, therefore, you can see
the bending around it. And they wound up going to like a series of a total eclipses, because, every year, eclipses actually happen someplace in the
So they would go too far-off lands. They might wind up in Africa, in South America, Australia, which, back in the early 1900s, was a far-off place.
And even in the middle of wars, in 1914, they tried to actually measure the eclipses, even though there was a war going on.
So you just go, you point a camera at the sun, and you take a picture of the stars around the sun, and then ask, is -- are they in the same place or
were they -- if the sun was there or not.
ISAACSON: The most famous of the expeditions was the one organized by Sir Arthur Eddington.
Describe what he does. Where does he send people and how do they announce it?
So, when it's successful, it's the year of 1919, as you mentioned, and he - - there are actually two different groups that he's the head of. So he goes to -- he goes to Africa, actually, in a small island off of the west
coast of Africa.
And then two other British astronomers actually wind up going to Brazil. They -- both sets of them have relatively comparable equipment. And on
eclipse day, they point their telescopes at the sun, looking to see if they can measure these locations of the stars.
ISAACSON: And until then, we did not know if Einstein's theory of general relativity was correct or not.
GATES: That's absolutely right.
One thing people often do not seem to appreciate about physics is that it is an observationally based science. That's what stops it from -- I like
to tell people, we're not a faith-based organization.
GATES: Because we look at -- right? We look at nature and see what she says.
And so no one had actually been able to make this measurement until 1919, even though people had started trying to make it as early as 1911.
ISAACSON: Now, what happens when they get all the data? And there's a pretty famous scene at the Royal Academy where they announce it.
The results are announced starting with the comments from Frank Dyson, who was basically Eddington's patron.
So, Dyson begins the process by talking about the importance of the measurement and the how it had sort of built up. And then Eddington gets
up and makes the presentation. He talks about comparing Newton to Einstein.
And the thing that's really interesting is, he doesn't go all in his presentation. What he does is says, our observations support the law of
Einstein, but not the theory. He explicitly doesn't say the theory of Einstein.
And so, therefore, he's leaving a little bit of wiggle room for the future.
ISAACSON: But let's be clear here. Every other data set subsequently has proved Einstein right.
GATES: Absolutely. In fact -- absolutely.
So, although there was some controversy about this set in 1919, an American astronomer in 1922 by the name of William Wallace, who later went on to
become the president of Berkeley University, made a set of measurements in Australia. And they absolutely vindicated everything that Eddington had
ISAACSON: The other thing that I love is when Einstein gets the news, because he's not there at the Royal Academy.
He gets a telegram. And he's with a graduate student. And the graduate student, a woman, says to him, that's great that they proved you right.
But what would you have felt had the results been otherwise?
GATES: And, as you well know, from your excellent...
GATES: ... the response was: "I would feel -- I'm -- this is paraphrasing, roughly, but he said, "I would have felt sorry for the good lord."
ISAACSON: Because the theory is correct.
GATES: The theory is correct.
ISAACSON: Right, right, right.
So, tell me about yourself a little bit. You grew up sort of with an Army background and your parents, but you went to a segregated school in
GATES: A high school, yes.
So, my whole life is actually kind of weird and interesting. As you mentioned, I was -- I'm the son of an Army veteran. He went in during
World War II, served for 27 years.
And so I was born around the military. I spent the first 11 years growing up on military bases as a dependent. And then, at age 11, my biological
mother died from breast cancer.
At that point, about a year later, my dad remarried. I had a stepmom. And my stepmom lived in Orlando, Florida.
At that time, and it had been the tradition, segregation, even though the law had changed, had not really changed in terms of practice. So, I wound
up going to Jones High School. It's the traditional African-American high school in Orlando. It's over 100 years old. It still exists.
And that's where I spent all of my grades seven through 12.
ISAACSON: And in 11th grade, you take physics.
GATES: In 11th grade, I had to have one of the country's best physics teacher, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Freeman Coney.
And I was the only junior in the class because, well, sort of, I was kind of the -- I was known as a smart kid at school. So I was running through
classes, getting them a little bit earlier. So I was the only junior in the class.
So, seniors -- Mr. Coney, who was in love with physics, afire with physics, and he had at least one student in the class who loved it as much, and that
ISAACSON: What intrigued you about physics in high school?
GATES: Because I -- to this day, Walter, I say this is the only thing I have ever seen in life that looks like magic, you know, magic, like in
"Harry Potter" magic.
If you go to a "Harry Potter" movie, people learn to say Latin expressions, and the world changes around them.
In physics, it's mathematics that plays a role of the incantations, and I had always been fascinated with mathematics from a very young age. But I
always thought of mathematics as a game whose rules teachers taught you to play in school. That was all it was to me.
I didn't think it had much to do with the real world, until I saw it in the class. And then, suddenly, I recognized, like in "Harry Potter," that
mathematics allows you to create spells that affect the world around you.
ISAACSON: So then you get admitted to MIT, which was probably unusual from an Orlando school.
GATES: I was the first person from my high school, I believe, admitted to MIT. And -- but I'm sure Orlandoans had others before me.
ISAACSON: But you go to MIT, both for your bachelor's in physics, and you get a doctorate from MIT in physics.
Do you think affirmative action played a role in getting you in, and do you defend that?
GATES: Well, first of all, I don't think it needs a defense.
GATES: But, absolutely, it played a role. I'm convinced of that.
Let me just -- the way I tell people is, I was extraordinarily lucky to be born in 1950. Why? Well, because if I had been born earlier than that,
there's probably no circumstances that I can imagine that would have allowed me to be admitted to Mr. MIT.
1969, the year I graduated from high school, was really the first time that majority institutions decided, hey, let's take a chance on these black kids
and see what they can do. And so I was in that leading class.
And so, absolutely, it played a role.
And the other thing that, to me, was really interesting about the experience was, although I was aware of this sort of shift in our society,
I didn't think of myself as being particularly different from so many other of the students that I went to high school with.
I went to a fantastic high school, lots of talented kids. One of my classmates became an opera singer, for example.
GATES: So, we had an incredible range of talents there.
And so I just happened to be the kid who could play with math best. That's the way I thought of myself, right?
GATES: So, I go to MIT and I actually, in four years, got two bachelor's degrees, one in math and one in physics.
And it kind of confirmed to me what I had thought when I -- before I lived in a black community, because, remember, I told you, I grew up on Army
bases. And this is in the '50s, where the only parts of our society where diversity actually existed was the military.
So I'd started school with kids who were Asian, European American, Hispanic. And so I know from my early childhood experiences that all of
the propaganda about African-Americans not being capable of this, I -- from my lived experience, I knew that wasn't right.
ISAACSON: And you have been a defender of diversity, and even in scientific articles explained why diversity matters.
ISAACSON: I remember Chief Justice Roberts said something about diversity, and you said, no, let me explain it to you.
GATES: Yes, exactly.
I wrote an essay in 1995 called "Equity vs. Excellence: A False Dichotomy in Science and Society."
So, why does it matter? Well, what I argued in this piece was, let's look at nature and ask, where is diversity and what does it do? And so the
first thing I did in the article is say, I know one place I can see it, in genetics, because, if you are looking at a species, and the environment
becomes hostile, it is the genetic diversity of that species that allows it to survive and change and mutate into something that has a better chance at
So, diversity, you can see it right there in genetics, is -- the lesson is writ broad. Then I said, well, gee, can I see it someplace else in nature?
And the next place it was obvious was actually what we call the Green Revolution, because there it is the diversity of the botanical stocks that
allowed the world to feed itself at a level where we had been worried that we would not have enough food.
So I have now identified what diversity does in nature. The next thing I did is say, OK, so I have a good grounding in understanding this concept in
nature. Let's go to something more complicated.
And the thing that occurred to me was, although I didn't have the language at the time, genes, everybody understands. Memes, people nowadays ascribe
to the Web, but memes actually have an original meaning, which is actually that it's essentially a set of collections of ideas that mimic the behavior
So, I was ask...
ISAACSON: In other words, they are ideas that replicate and spread.
And so I said, well, gee, let's see. Let's follow this. And the most obvious place I could find evidence for the same kind of behavior I saw in
nature was in music, because -- especially American music.
ISAACSON: Especially jazz.
GATES: Especially jazz.
I have spent now over 30 years traveling around the world. And one of the things that -- I'm sure you have had this experience too. One of the
things that's really clear as you are an American traveling around the world is how our music influences people around the world from different
cultures to look at us.
And so there's a kind of vitality about American music that is suggested by this behavior.
So, where does that actually come from? Well, as you mentioned, jazz, but let's go all the way back. It -- really, the first time where you see what
I call the kind of merging that I saw in the genetics rule, in music, is actually ragtime.
And it's Scott Joplin and that period. So you get ragtime. Then you get jazz later. You get rock 'n' roll, which is really big. You get R&B.
And so you can see it's the infolding of two traditions, European traditional forms of music, African ideas about music. You put them
together, and you get American music.
So, how could we have gotten there if the -- if we're just ignoring half of it? And that's the argument I have made about science and innovation.
ISAACSON: But Chief Justice John Roberts sort of said, OK, that might work in music, but why would that work in science?
ISAACSON: And what was your answer?
GATES: So, the last time there was a major hearing on college admissions and diversity, during the arguments before the chief justice, he asked a
very pointed question, which was, what benefit does a minority student bring to a physics class?
And I was astounded by the fact that he would raise this question in my discipline. But a number of people wrote responses. None of them
And so what I did is, I wrote an essay that appeared in "Science."
And what I did in the essay is to talk about what I had seen in my then 30 years of teaching what diversity does. And I did this in the form of a
If you want to hear the story, I will...
ISAACSON: Tell me a story.
So, the way it goes is, one day, I was teaching a group of students in a summer program that I run, things that are typically beyond undergraduates,
I mean, stuff that they will run into graduate school in the ordinary course of affairs.
So I had a different -- I had different groups of students at the board. I had sort of given them hints, like bread crumbs. I said, OK, you folks,
show me what you can do.
And in one of the groups, there was a minority student. Most of my students are European American or Asian, very few African-Americans. But,
in this one group, there was a minority student.
So, I have the students. And, at the board, they're arguing. They're making a little bit of progress.
And my alpha guys, because you're always going to find some guys that are showing off, right?
GATES: So, my alpha guys are going at it, and they're -- but they're stuck, and they're just spinning the wheels.
And so the minority student is actually very reticent to engage in the conversation. But, at some point, the student goes to the board and writes
something. Everybody else in the group ignores the student, until they have sort of run out of gas.
And then one of them looks at the board and says, "Hey, that's -- that's right."
And then they start again making progress.
So, a few days later, we see exactly the same sequence of events. The minority student is reticent to engage in the verbal discussion, but, at an
appropriate point, goes to the board. This time, the discussion immediately stops. Everyone turns, looks at what the student has written
on the board. They understand almost immediately that it's right.
And what this demonstrates is that the learning becomes more efficient with the input of this minority student, who, if that student had not been
there, maybe that wouldn't have happened.
So it's intellectual diversity that we have to worry about, because that's the fire that drives our ability to innovate.
And I have some strong suspicions that, like in music, intellectual diversity, or, in the case of music, musical diversity, is probably
connected with people's backgrounds and cultures and histories.
ISAACSON: A federal court recently upheld the notion of diversity in college admissions in the Harvard case.
It also revealed that 43 percent of the white students who get admitted are either legacy or athletes or staff.
Tell me your reaction to that decision and why diversity matters in that case.
So, as I said to some friends, we're encouraged by the decision, because, if the case had failed at that level, then it meant that people like me
will simply not be allowed to emerge in a society.
More generally, however, it -- the thing that worries me most about the possibility of the lawsuit being upheld is that it will ultimately hurt my
country's ability to innovate, because it's -- the whole issue about music is pretty innovative.
In fact, I recently asked a group. I said -- of students. I said, music over here, physics over here, which is most innovative? They said, oh,
why, music. I said, well, why do you think that is?
And a couple of students thought for a moment. They said, because everybody does it.
So that's what we want for our science, technology, engineering, mathematics. We want that same level of vigor in terms of ability to
ISAACSON: And it is true, starting with Einstein, in his own way, being Jewish in Germany at that period, being an outsider gives you a slight
advantage for seeing things differently.
GATES: That's exactly right.
Einstein himself comments on the little bit of an advantage that an outsider has in trying to reason through a very complicated situation where
the rules are not understood or known.
And that's the important thing to understand about this whole argument. Most people think -- and, in fact, when the chief justice asked the
question, I could imagine he was thinking, oh, it's about teaching kids rules, they memorize them, and then they show you that they -- that they
know the rules.
But if you're going to have innovation, it's not about the rules. It's actually about the ability to go beyond where the rules guide you. And for
that, I like to say it's like composing music. How do you get great music? Well, you let people practice the part of something that is embedded in
That's why I'm a lover of classical music. I love Satie and Debussy. I love Grieg. I love Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky.
All of these are different forms of music, but all of them are great, but they all emerged from the cultures of the people that produced them.
ISAACSON: I have one simple question I have always wondered about maybe you can answer. How did the universe begin?
GATES: You call...
ISAACSON: And why?
GATES: You call that a simple -- well, first of all, the why question is outside the realm of science. So I can't answer that one at all.
But how it began, we think Albert Einstein gave us a very valuable clue. It's this thing we call the Big Bang.
Now, math -- math -- what's really weird about the Big Bang is, it's a piece of mathematics, actually. The Big Bang -- the first idea for the Big
Bang actually starts with a piece of mathematics.
It was, by the way, not introduced by Albert Einstein, but by an Augustine priest of the name -- by the name of Lemaitre. So that's where the Big
Bang idea actually starts.
In fact, when Lemaitre proposed the idea, and Einstein first heard about it, he said -- he tried to brush it away. And it was only later that he
came to accept that, hey, wait a minute, this priest actually understands my equations better than I do.
ISAACSON: And he's a priest who is a great mathematician.
GATES: But he's a priest, but a great mathematician, absolutely.
So, that's where the Big Bang was actually -- the actual idea of the Big Bang, how it came to us. So, it starts with math, but where a man of the
cloth who was trained as a mathematician looks deeply into the equations and then brings it to this guy named Albert and says, hey.
And Albert says, what?
ISAACSON: Dr. Gates, thanks for being with us.
GATES: Walter, thank you so much for this opportunity.
AMANPOUR: An important take on encouraging diversity in the sciences.
But that's it for now. Tune in tomorrow for our continuing coverage of the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill.
And, remember, you can listen to our podcast and see us online at Amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.