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Coronavirus Surging 5 Million Cases Worldwide; AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company Can Supply 400 million Vaccines by September; Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is Interviewed About Coronavirus Vaccine; Care Homes Death Tolls; Dorothy Duffy, Lost Sister to COVID-19, is Interviewed About Care Homes; "Seat At The Table," New Show on Vice TV; Interview With Authors Ron Finley and Sue Stuart-Smith; Interview With Author Anand Giridharadas. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 21, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ONWUACHI: -- need to operate our restaurants, these Plexiglas partitions, our single use menus. There's going to be lots of additional burden that's
going to be put on the restaurant industry in total. So, we need to make sure that we have something that's there for us to access, so we have an
industry when this is all said and done.
PROKUPECZ: How concerned are you that the industry won't come back? I mean, is there real some concern if you don't get this money, that you're
going to have people without jobs? A lot of people all, right, across the country?
ONWUACHI: Yes. I mean, the restaurant industry is vast, you know, everything from Mom and Pop shops to, you know, high-end restaurants. And
the small restaurants are something that's really, really close to my heart. You know, those are the restaurants that one I like to eat in, but
also those are the restaurants that feed America. So, we need to make sure they have access to these funds so they're here at the end.
But, yes, I think we're going to come back. We're resilient. You know, we are determined and we can get back up if we fall down.
PROKUPECZ: And just quickly, how hard has this been? You employ a lot of people and how has this been for them?
ONWUACHI: It's been extremely difficult, you know, to not have the answers. You know, we watch the news and just try to see the updates to see
when our cities are opening up. And some cities are open now and some cities are looking at July.
PROKUPECZ: Right. And they're saying here, just to tell you, Brianna, we could see two months before restaurants may even reopen in many parts are
parts of the country. Here specifically in New York, the restaurant owners don't expect to open until probably August or even September in some cases.
There's just still too much to be done.
But, you know, I have spent a day here talking to the people who run this restaurant here also, they say, you know, money is the big thing. They need
more help. They want to open these restaurants eventually, but without the money they're not going to be able to do it. And that's why, you know, they
want to put pressure on Washington, on the president to try to give them the money that they're going to need to continue to employ people all
across the country.
And as Kwame said, I mean, that is the key here, right? You got to get these employees back in and they're going to need the help. So, Kwame,
thanks for joining us.
PROKUPECZ: Brianna, of course, the money here is going to be the big thing and we months to go before we see exactly what happens here, certainly in
New York City.
KEILAR: Shimon, thank you for that report.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
5 million coronavirus cases worldwide and still counting. World famous epidemiologist, Peter Piot, who helped discover Ebola joins us with the
latest on a vaccine and what he learned from his own brush with COVID.
Then a person, not a statistic. A sister's heartfelt poem giving a human face to the dead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, HOST, VICE TV's "SEAT AT THE TABLE": We are not all in it together, we haven't been and we're not all in it together in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Writer, Anand Giridharadas, tells our Hari Sreenivasan how this plague exposes inequality in America, and what Congress can learn from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON FINLEY, "THE GANGSTA GARDENER": I call my self-the gangsta gardener because to me, having knowledge is gangster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Getting our hands dirty to clean up our minds. The undeniable therapeutic that is nature and gardening.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
Coronavirus cases are surging past 5 million worldwide. And most of the new cases come from just four countries, the United States, Russia, Brazil and
India. But to be human is also to be hopeful. And the British pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, has raised hopes now by saying that it
could supply 400 million doses of a vaccine from September. The company is working with Oxford University, which is one of a of handful of places
currently holding human trials. That September date is of course entirely dependent on those trial results and a vaccine being developed.
For more on this, I'm joined now by one of the world's leading epidemiologists, Dr. Peter Piot. He co-discovered Ebola back in 1976. And
now, more than 40 years later, the virus has finally got him, that is the coronavirus, of course. And he's joining me now from his home in London.
Dr. Piot, really, welcome back to our program.
It really struck us, you know, with a shiver that when we heard that you of all people had got coronavirus. You're back. But tell me what happened. How
do you think you got it? How did it affect you?
PETER PIOT, DIRECTOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE: Hello, Christiane. Good to see you again.
And actually, it all started the last time that we talked on the 19th of March when I was in your program. And that day, I developed a high fever, a
splitting headache, muscle pain everywhere. And particularly, a growing exhaustion.
And, so that's two months ago, and I'm still not fully recovered. As you may hear, my voice is still a bit funny, it's hoarser, and I ended up in
the hospital, where -- for seven days, where I needed oxygen support. And when that was all over, I thought it was over, I developed a so-called
organizing pneumonia. In other words, there was a hyperimmune reaction of my body against the virus. It was no longer the virus and that was
infiltrating my lungs.
And so, I suspect there will be lots of people with chronic immobility with (INAUDIBLE). And, you know, it made me what, in my native language, Dutch,
what we called an experienced expert. Up to now for four decades, I have been fighting viruses from Ebola to HIV. And now I thought, OK, now a virus
got me. And it was being like hit by a bus, where the virus gets into every single cell of your body.
And it shows also that COVID-19 is more than -- you know, lots of people get a bit of a flu and then 1 percent die and then often they say, oh, it's
only people over 70 and I'm 71 or people with underlying diseases. No, there's a lot of people in between and a lot of people who, you know, will
suffer from lung infections, from heart problems, kidney problems and so on. So, that has really -- gave me new insight. Yes?
AMANPOUR: Yes, I was going to ask you, you got there before me. I was going to say, did you learn new stuff about COVID after experiencing it and
seeing the after-effects on yourself? And clearly, that seems to be the case.
PIOT: Yes, absolutely. This is not like somebody say, oh, it's like influenza, it's like the flu. Influenza doesn't give you this prolonged,
you know, exhaustion for months and morbidity of, you know, any organ can be affected by this coronavirus, which is totally new. But also, you know,
it makes a big difference whether you've experienced something yourself or when you're studying it or fighting it.
I mean, I learned that from people living with HIV, who are often, you know, telling us what works, what doesn't work, or women who survive breast
cancer. So, it's time that we are not only going to communicate about figures and some, but also people's experience. But also, it made me, of
course, even more determined to fight the virus.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, the obvious question is how. I just want to read a little bit, because you did write a very effecting article about your
experience. Partly you said, I've devoted my life to fighting viruses, and finally they get their revenge. For a week, I balance between heaven and
earth, on the edge of what could have been the end.
You know, it really does sound terribly dramatic. And I just wondered whether you can just explain also, I don't know, the psychology if you had
any space for that, what was it like being in a hospital? We hear about the loneliness, the separation between those who are ill and their loved ones
and just the unique qualities of this particular disease.
PIOT: Yes, first of all, you're totally exhausted. So, there is not much, I have to say, space even in your brain for lots of things. Your world
shrinks and it shrinks, like, you know, thinking of my wife, maybe, and my kids, and that was about it.
But also, I was there with three other men who were suffering from the same problem, hardly any communication, because we were completely exhausted.
But it's the isolation. We couldn't get out of there. We could not receive visitors. But I was saying, OK, fortunately, we have technology today.
There is the mobile phone and we can even -- you know, we can see each other.
If this would have happened, let's say, 30, 40 years ago, no cell phones and even 10 years ago, very difficult to have, you know, a video
communication. So, that really helped. But it's the loneliness. And fortunately, I was not. You know, intensive care where people die, just
completely on their own, and that's terrible.
AMANPOUR: And quickly, Dr. Piot -- well, not quickly, explain to us, because you also say that you were just dreading the idea of a ventilator
being, you know, intubated into you. Luckily -- well, fortunately, you needed oxygen and not a ventilator. But you see, this is really
interesting, because ventilator, ventilator, ventilator has been the mantra since the beginning, but you were afraid that if you actually got it, you
might die with a ventilator.
PIOT: Well, yes, there's no doubt that ventilators, when they're needed, that they can save lives. But, you know, what is far more needed is oxygen.
Oxygen, that's what most people can, you know, get most people through. There are, you know, very low oxygen saturation levels.
And with ventilators, we should be very selective. So -- and I'm thinking particularly about low-income countries with (INAUDIBLE) we work a lot in
Africa and in India, and they always say, we need ventilators. Well, there's no oxygen. And I think with oxygen, we'll be able to -- you know,
to save far more lives than with a few ventilators, although both are needed. So, we have to put these things in perspective.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, that's really important. And let me just repeat that I'm not just asking an eminent epidemiologist about his experience, you are
the world's leading virologist, epidemiologist. And you and your school were responsible, along with Imperial College, for, you know, the models
that led to a late, but nonetheless, a lockdown here in Britain.
You had these models that showed that if there wasn't a lockdown, there were going to be potentially hundreds of thousands of dead here and maybe
more than a million in the United States. The lockdowns have prevented that.
So, I want to ask you, since you are Dr. Peter Piot, what you make of the latest in terms of vaccines. We've heard the president of the United States
and now, AstraZeneca, we're heard Moderna in the United States, basically, the human trials are taking place and I want to know from your perspective
when you think that they will be available, the vaccines.
PIOT: Well, when you -- we hear a lot about an exit strategy, you know, and that's really important. But the only real exit should come from
science, I think, and that's from a vaccine, which will protect us from becoming infected and from becoming -- from dying.
There are about -- as far as I know, there are eight candidate vaccines now in clinical trials in people, in so-called phase I and about maybe 30 that
are -- you know, will soon go into clinical trials. So, there's a lot of activity going on. And this week, there were some encourage encouraging
news that both the Moderna vaccine, candidate vaccine, which is based on injecting the genetic material, the passenger RNA in the body to -- so that
the body will produce its own vaccine, that they said that in mice, it prevents pneumonia and also, that in a small number of people, in eight
people, it elicited so-called neutralizing antibodies, these are antibodies that neutralize, that kill off the virus. And that is one of the usual
requirements for a vaccine to work.
And then there's a totally different vaccine that was developed by Oxford University, as you mentioned, with AstraZeneca now, and that's also an
approach that is being used by a company in China, CanSino, and by Johnson & Johnson. And they have demonstrated in macaque, in monkeys that the
vaccine protects the monkeys from pneumonia. However, the monkeys also continue to excrete the virus, you know, from their noses.
So, we have to really go in an all-out effort to make sure that we can develop a vaccine. And there are many things that have to happen there.
First of all, you have to demonstrate that it works, that it protects. Not only young people, but the most vulnerable in society, in other words,
older people and sometimes vaccines, you know, are less effective. So, they have to demonstrate that. And the only way to find out is to do these
large-scale human trials.
But secondly, there's also a safety issue. You mentioned that a promise of producing a few hundred million vaccines, but the truth is that we need
billions, not millions. We need probably 5 billion to 6 billion doses of this vaccine, and that means it has to be absolutely safe. Again, that
requires quite some long, long trials.
And thirdly, we need to manufacture billions of vaccines. The capacity, at the moment, is not necessarily there. So, we shouldn't wait until there we
know whether a vaccine works or not, we already have to make sure that that manufacturing capacity is there.
And then lastly, we need to make sure once these vaccines are there. And when I talk about billions, we need to make sure it's the nitty-gritty, are
there billions of small glass vials to put these vaccines in? Probably not. So, we need to produce all of that. And then lastly, we need to make sure
that everybody who needs it gets this vaccine and that it's not really limited to a few countries that produce these vaccines.
AMANPOUR: From your experience, do you think that will happen, that very important fact? China has said that it must -- you know, that it would help
and support a people's vaccine. In other words, thing that's available to everyone. Others have said so. We don't know whether it's going to be
available to everyone regardless of their, you know, ability to pay for it.
PIOT: Well, there is something a new word now that's coming up and that's vaccine nationalism, where countries will say, OK, the vaccine that's
produced in our country will go to our citizens. And I understand that, that's a concern for every government. But vaccine development and
manufacturing is a very, very restricted business in the sense that very few companies do it. And so, most countries in the world do not produce any
vaccines. So -- and they also should have access.
That's why some initiatives are really important. For example, on the 1st of May, Ursula von der Leyen the president of the of European Commission,
together with a number of countries, with the Gates Foundation, with the Wellcome Trust, with SEPI, with W.H.O announced an initiative and raised
money for it, already up to now to $8 billion to make sure that not only that these vaccines and therapeutics also and diagnostics are being
developed, but also, that they would become available for those in need. In various European countries, because that's, you know, our domain,
politically, but also in poor nations such as in Africa, which all will need to have access to this vaccine. So, this is going to become, I think,
a big political issue for the future.
AMANPOUR: And if you're looking now at the future and you see this first wave in many countries, is being wrangled right now, you see easing of
lockdowns in many parts of the world, what do you predict for the next, I don't know, in the fall and then in the winter and where, where do you
predict this virus will go and what is the key now, without a vaccine, without the therapeutic, to a safe exit?
PIOT: Yes, it is predictable that we will see several waves of infections with these vaccines. The good news is that now that many countries, at
least in Asia and Europe and some states in the U.S., that a number of new infections and the number of deaths is going down. That allows for a trade-
off with, you know, resuming societal and economic activity and it will always be a trade-off. So, that's the good news.
However, we need to learn some lessons from the initial responses because they will be very important for dealing with new outbreaks that will come.
And the first and most important lesson is act early. When you look at Europe, for example, a country like Germany was very early on, massively
testing, acted very early on and has, you know, low number of infections and particularly, low number of deaths.
Other countries, including the U.K., we're a bit late. And we'll need to apply the same thing. You know, when we need a massive surveillance, by
that I mean massive testing, to know where, you know, in the fall, in winter, wherever, that new cases are appearing. And as soon as there is an
increase, we need to put in place really serious measures. Not necessarily a lockdown. I think if we are massively testing and we know where the
epidemic is, a new outbreak is, we can isolate people, we can look for contacts.
By that time, we may have some therapeutics that could be given to the contacts of people. So, as kind of preventative measures, so-called
prophylactic. So, that -- all that will be important. So -- and then, I think, here, technology is going to be extremely important. Not only
testing, because testing is not available in many countries. And -- but that's a matter of logistics of organizing it. But also having an army of
contact tracers, people who look for all of those who have been in touch with the case.
But also, technology, the apps that are now being, you know, developed and being introduced in many countries that tell you whether you've been close
to someone with, you know, COVID-19 infection. And so, that will be really, really important for early detection and early action. But that early
action depends on strong leadership. It's not enough to have the technology and the data if there's no action on it. And people have to be involved in
all of this.
So, that is really the new phase that we are going into. But it will be less of a bulldozer approach. We are in, you know, lockdown of entire
societies, but more, really, targeted. We still have a big problem in care homes in this country and in many other countries. Many people become
infected in the hospital. You know, health care workers who then infect people in their community, in the little prisons. So, we need to
concentrate our efforts where the virus is. And then we can make a difference. But that requires absolutely up to date information and lots of
AMANPOUR: Yes, I hear you very loud and clear. Testing, tracing, surveillance. They must get that up and running. And we hope they will do
that sooner rather than later, obviously.
Dr. Peter Piot, thank you so much for joining us. And we're glad that you're on our program for the first time since you're better. So, we're
very pleased to have you back. Thank you so much.
Now, there are reports that the number of those who have died from this unforgiving virus is important that we do so, because they are not just
statistics. We want to pause now to think about the people behind those numbers. More than a quarter of coronavirus deaths here in the U.K. have
been in care homes. And in the United States, they account for 20 percent of the death toll.
But behind every statistic, of course, is a life cut short, and a person who loved and who was loved. Rose Mitchell was 81 years old when she died
from COVID-19 in a care home here in London last month. And afterwards, her sister wrote a powerful home. She said, my sister is not a statistic. And
that was to memorialize her life. Dorothy Duffy joins me now from her home here in London.
Dorothy Duffy, we're very pleased to have you on our program. You just heard from the greatest virologist around that care homes have been a very
difficult place and your sister, sadly, died there. I just want to know, from you, personally, what was it like when she was sick? Were you able to
have any contact? What was the situation for you and for her?
DOROTHY DUFFY, LOST SISTER TO COVID-19: My sister was moved from hospital into a care home within a few days of lockdown. And so, very quickly and
not long after she had moved in, we were advised that we couldn't actually see her. So, she was blind and she was becoming quite forgetful. So, trying
to help her conceptualize what lockdown was, what COVID-19, it was like something from a science fiction novel, for her to understand.
So, we were unable to see her in person. Her daughter, Karen, had filled her room with all of her familiar clothing, her pictures, even though she
couldn't see them. We wrote her e-mails and letters and the care home staff, who were wonderful, read them out to her. So, we were telling her
about what was happening in our daily lives and how much we loved her, et cetera.
But it was heartbreaking and heart rending not to be able to see her and to know that she couldn't fully comprehend why it was she wasn't able to see
her children, especially, and her loved ones and her grandchildren. But we were in contact by phone and we were in contact by letters, which the staff
read out and one that her daughter wrote to her.
The care home manager, Dominic (ph) rang her and said, I've just read your letter to your mum, and she's just fallen into a lovely sleep. It just
reminded me that it was a bit like a bedtime story.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And it's so important, because you're talking about the human -- you know, the human contact and how so many of the carers were
such humanitarians and really did try to do everything they could for people in their care.
You've also, though, said, you know, talking about it afterwards and writing your poem, you called the sort of daily, you know, focus on it,
sort of like the daily deathometer, the statistics, you know. And you are a family who, you know, humanized those statistics and you've said, your poem
to Rose who was 81, you know, you referenced throwaway lines, platitudes, the description of the dead as an older person with underlying health
And I wonder if you could maybe read for us a little excerpt of the poem that you wrote for your sister afterwards.
DUFFY: Yes, of course. My sister is not a statistic. Tomorrow, when the latest deathometer of COVID is announced in sonorous tones, my sister will
be among those numbers. Among the throwaway lines, among the platitudes and lowered eyes, an older person with underlying health conditions, a pitiful
way to lay rest the bare bones of a life.
My sister is not a statistic. Her underlying conditions were love, kindness, belief in the essential goodness of mankind, uproarious laughter,
forgiveness, compassion, a storyteller, a survivor, a comforter, a force of nature and so much more. My sister was not a statistic. She died without
the soft touch of a loved one's hand. Without a feathered kiss upon her forehead. Without the muted murmur of familiar family voices gathered
around her bed. Without the gentle roar of laughter that comes with memories recalled, evoked from a time that already seems distant, when we
were connected by the simplicity of touch, of voice, of presence.
AMANPOUR: It's really beautiful. And of course, I can hear your grief and your sadness in your voice. I just want to know, lastly, what you hope that
publicly reading this, having publicly posted it and it went viral all over the place, it was very well received, what do you want people to know and
has it helped you with your grief?
DUFFY: I want people to know that my sister had a full long wonderful life and a zest for living. She loved people. She was probably the kindest
person I've ever met in my life. And she gave so much to people and she got so much back.
So, when those daily statistics come out, and I know that the people who have lost loved ones will feel it, that those -- they're not statistics,
they are loved ones that have now left a hole in someone's life, in a family's life, in a loved one's life. And the manner in which they died
meant that towards the end, they weren't able to be with them.
And I would just -- it has helped me in my grief, because I've had so many messages from people who said that it articulated what they felt. And I
just hope that when the process for dealing effectively with the ongoing transmission of this virus, that it is done in the memory and with love for
all of those who have died, whether or not they had underlying health conditions. They should not be defined by that and they should not be
remembered by that. They should be remembered as being loved ones who had a life and were loved.
AMANPOUR: Well, Dorothy Duffy, thank you so much. You have really made that message and sent it loud and clear to all of us. Thank you so much.
And of course, with all of this grief, the stress and the loneliness, ahead on the program, we have a little bit of an anecdote. Really the incredible
medical benefits of connecting with nature. That's ahead.
But first, this pandemic has prompted a lot of us to reflect on how the world works and importantly, who it works for. That's at the heart of a new
program called "Seat At The Table" on Vice TV, from writer and best-selling author, Anand Giridharadas.
He has made a career of questioning the seat of power and money in American. And now, he tells our Hari Sreenivasan why our society really
needs to adapt or fail.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
Anand, thanks for joining me. This entire period seems like a strange time to start an entirely new television program. But what has been revelatory
for you? What are you talking with your guests about?
ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, HOST, VICE TV's "SEAT AT THE TABLE": It's interesting. We conceived of seat at the table and set it up right before we realized
what was going to happen with the pandemic. So, we had a complete briefly sketched plan for a normal world TV show.
And the idea in that phase was thinking about power, thinking about the fact that the central issue in American life, in my view, is the imbalance
of power, the concentration of power, power allied with wealth, and that that was often reflected in what you see in a lot of cable news, the kind
of interests of power, the ideas of power reflected more than those of the powerless.
And we wondered if we could change that. Then the pandemic struck. So there was a logistical element of that. Suddenly, we're all dispersed.
Everybody's on Zoom and figuring out, can you make a TV show when everybody's separate on Zoom?
Turns out you actually can, thanks to the remarkable technologies you have in this time. But, actually, the mission didn't have to change at all,
because I think the thesis about power was amplified by the pandemic, rather than changed.
You know, we often say the pandemic is unprecedented. It's not unprecedented. It's a building on the mega-trends of the last 30 or 40
years, including the growing consolidation of power. And another thing we say is, we're all in it together.
We are not all in it together. We haven't been. And we're not all in it together in the pandemic. And so those have become the issues we're digging
into even more deeply, trying to understand why the pandemic has unfolded the way it has in America, which is different from South Korea, different
from Germany, as you know, different from all kinds of other places.
The virus wasn't a product of plutocracy and oligarchy in America, but the way in which the virus has affected us is very much a product of those
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you say, we're not all in this together, you mean, what, that we're all impacted differently,
the that's how it's separate for us?
GIRIDHARADAS: In many ways.
First of all, just in terms of who is dying from this plague, in many parts of this country, it is literally a black plague. It is a plague that is
killing African-Americans at substantially higher rates than other communities.
And that is for a whole host of reasons, including the health access people have, including doctors not listening to people, and so on and so forth. So
we're not all in it together in terms of who is living and who is dying.
But we're also not in it together in terms of everybody else who doesn't have the thing, but is affected by the economic and social upheaval that
this is. You know, who gets to be someone who works from home? That is not evenly distributed either.
If you look at even racially, the fraction of white people who have a job that allows them to continue working from home vs. the fraction of blacks
and Latinos who can do that is just really, really different.
And if you look at the precarity of employment in the last many years, the increasing precarity, the rise of the gig economy, Uber drivers are kind of
all of us, as Silicon Valley has deepened its hold on the economy and you have this notion of people, you know, being contracted out to work through
apps that actually often steal some of their money and steal their tips.
Well, you know, we have now realized that employing millions of people in this precarious way results in massive social calamities that are a choice,
right? The virus isn't a choice, but to have tens of millions of people with instantly no security, no savings out on the street, so to speak, is a
product of social choices we have made that other societies chose more wisely to do differently.
SREENIVASAN: When you talk about choice, there's also -- one of the segments on your program recently was called, I think, the war on
There's a pretty sizable movement among supporters of the president that seems pro-freedom. It also seems anti-government. We recently had the
author and professor Tom Nichols on. And he said, you know what? That kind of freedom is confused with the type of freedom that children have.
But you also went on in your program and talked about how there is a certain tyranny in life with no government at all.
GIRIDHARADAS: You know, many Americans have a childlike understanding of freedom, as you say.
And what that consists of is an understanding of freedom, which in many ways goes back to our founding, a freedom obsession, I would say, these
Americans have, in which freedom is defined as the absence of government.
Now -- or government doing as little as possible, a government leaving you alone. Now, I would be the first to say that is an element of freedom.
There's a whole bunch of things, right, that I don't want the government intervening in my life. And I share that. I think everyone listening to
this would share that.
But, for a great number of Americans with this infantile understanding of freedom, that is it. That is freedom. Freedom is being left alone by
government. And it's being paranoid about government being way more interested in you than you are actually interesting, right?
Government is coming for your guns. Government is coming to regulate your food away. Government is coming to tell you who you can meet. Government is
coming to manipulate you through its allies in the fake news, this kind of paranoid attitude, government coming to get you.
And the point we made on the segment was, what this has done is obscure the way in which a large aspect of human freedom is actually not threatened by
government, but by private actors, right?
A bank screwing you over, speculating in ways that lead to you losing your home is also a threat to your freedom. It doesn't mean government is not a
threat to your freedom, but the threat can also come from over there, right?
A company dumping toxic chemicals into the creek where your kids play, right, is also threatening your freedom and their freedom, but it's not
government. And what we have often failed to understand as a culture, and certainly these members of Americans who feel this way, is that, when the
threats actually come from private actors, your best bet against those kinds of threats are the government.
If you are hungry because you're paid seven bucks an hour, instead of 15, the government is your best bet to make sure you get paid 15. There's not
another easy way to make that happen.
And so this childlike freedom obsession that tens of millions of Americans, unfortunately, have is literally killing us in this pandemic, because they
are so focused on government oppressing them through lockdowns that they don't understand that you can end up way more oppressed by a virus, you can
end up way more oppressed by not having economic security.
You can end up way more oppressed by having the kind of health care system that encourages people to stay home, instead of get tested.
SREENIVASAN: Right now, we are in an unprecedented time of government spending. We have passed literally trillions of dollars out the door.
Has the government stepped up to help with this stimulus package?
GIRIDHARADAS: The stimulus is not only a question of amounts, but about how wisely you disburse the money.
So, you can have stimulus that is cornered by big business, as happened with the Paycheck Protection Program, or you can have stimulus that really
goes to regular people.
I mean, I have been seeing stories across Europe where freelancers just suddenly woke up to money being deposited into their accounts by the
government, because it recognized that freelancers would need it in this time, right? That's just a -- our society could work that way. We just
choose to have it not work that way.
And then there's this notion of conditionalities. Economist Mariana Mazzucato talks about this. It's the notion that if you're going to be
giving companies a lot of money when they're desperate, they're on their knees begging for the government's money, this is an extraordinary time to
ask them for a couple of things. Right?
Normally, in the absence of a crisis, companies have a lot of power and they have got these lobbyists, and it's hard to get regulatory things done
Well, when you're begging, it's a good time to ask for what you want. So, you do conditionalities. Conditionalities are, OK, you want this paycheck
protection plan, you want this kind of bailout of whatever, we would like you to institute these environmental protections. We would like you to not
spend money in politics.
We would like you to pay your workers this much. We would like you to commit to these kinds of retraining programs after the pandemic.
People -- like, you can ask companies for what you want. That's kind of the whole idea, because taking the money, they don't have to do it, right? It's
actually your money to -- you are giving companies money, which may be a shock, if you don't have a lot of money, that you're actually giving
companies money, but you are.
And so if you're giving companies money, like the airlines, it's time to ask for some things you want. You know what? I don't like those overhead
charges. I don't like the fact that you bust the unions of the flight attendants. I don't like the fact that I can't change my ticket when I have
a problem in my family without spending $500.
And you just say to the airlines, you want this bailout money? Here's what we want, the people who are giving you this money. It's a very basic
concept that should be understandable to anyone who's ever watched a mafia movie.
But somehow this idea of conditionalities hasn't really dawned on the United States Congress. And it's very, very important that it does in any
SREENIVASAN: This is also an era where we're seeing largess by billionaires.
And you have written about this extensively for your book "Winners Take All." When you look out at press releases, proclamations, initiatives
funded by billionaires, what goes through your mind?
GIRIDHARADAS: You know, the virus, again, has only amplified what we have been seeing for the last many years, which is, some of the richest and most
powerful people, you know, stepping up with these pledges of lavish help.
But I think one of the things I found from missing from a lot of this conversation that I have been trying to articulate is that this very
billionaire class that is stepping up to help in the pandemic is in many ways responsible for why the pandemic unfolded in the way it has in
SREENIVASAN: Explain that.
GIRIDHARADAS: So, if you look at why government has been discredited, intellectually discredited, defunded, defanged from a regulatory point of
view, why do we shut down preventative offices, for example? Who does that? Working people?
Is there working people advocating for dismantling government? It is very much a product of corporate interest lobbying in Washington, sometimes
succeeding under Democratic administrations, more often succeeding under Republican administrations, to yank out regulation, cut funding, cut taxes,
so the government can do less. Right?
The way the pandemic has unfolded in America is inseparable from that discrediting, defanging and defunding of government.
So, when I see the very same class of people stepping up, I see arsonists returning to the scene of a fire and putting on a costume and claiming to
In many ways, what they are doing is trying to buy mercy on the cheap, so we don't actually fix this society in a way that reduces their power and
makes us not so vulnerable the next time a pandemic like this or something else rolls around.
SREENIVASAN: I can hear a CEO or someone who's justifying the market saying, they're just responding to shareholders. They are acting in their
rational self-interest, as stewards of specific companies, that we don't necessarily have a system right now that rewards excess capacity in
hospitals or having extra masks on hand.
How do you change that?
GIRIDHARADAS: Many ways.
But, first of all, if we -- you are right about one thing very important right here, which is, if we want companies that take care of the commons,
we should change corporate law to require stakeholder capitalism, right?
The Business Roundtable, big lobbying group for the biggest companies, last year claimed to do a big deal statement where they said, the purpose of
business is no longer just to make money for shareholders, but to account for all stakeholders.
Unfortunately -- and I confronted Jamie Dimon about this when he reached out to me to address my skepticism of this, and I said, you know, Jamie,
why don't you -- there are legislative policies, proposals out there to take this statement and make it the law.
Elizabeth Warren had one, where it would be the law of the land for companies of a certain size to take stakeholders. Jamie, this is perfect
for you. You said you want this in a statement. You have got Elizabeth Warren, who wants to take your statement and do the ultimate retweet of it,
which is put it into the law.
Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, that -- no, no, no, we don't want to -- we wouldn't want to be a police force.
These people are not serious. Jamie Dimon is not serious. There's not a seriousness around actually having this be how capitalism works. So, they
want the moral glow of voluntary virtue, but they don't actually want it to be a rule that companies have to -- you know, can't hurt workers, hurt
communities, hurt the planet in order to make money.
So, if you really want companies behaving that way, you got to change the law.
Number two, there's a bunch of smaller regulations along the way that are not as big as just the underlying corporate law that actually help people
make those decisions in better ways.
If you're paying people 15 or 20 bucks an hour as your minimum, you're just not going to have as many billionaires having as many billions, right?
You're not going to have the kind of outsized leverage that big companies have, if you have way more working people with way more disposable income
contributing to political campaigns, as they have been in recent years.
We have, in every phase of American life, designed a system that is almost bespoke tailored to serve rich people's interests. And the wakeup call is,
it doesn't have to be like this.
So many other countries are not like this, and they still have capitalism. This is what's so shocking to Americans. Do you know that Germany has
capitalism? Do you know that all the Scandinavian companies have capitalism -- countries have capitalism?
They have great companies there, right? Do you know that those countries with universal health care, you talk to business people there, they love
having universal health care. You know why? Because they don't have to pay for it. Their companies, they don't have to actually think about it.
When they're starting a small business, they don't have to have this huge expense of paying for people, right? When they're trying to recruit people
to their small businesses, they don't have to deal with this problem of people not wanting to leave a big company because they're going to lose
their health care.
It is actually better to live in a decent society. And when Americans start to wake up to that in greater numbers, it's going to be a great day.
SREENIVASAN: The new show is called "Seat at the Table" on VICE TV.
Anand Giridharadas, thanks so much for joining us.
GIRIDHARADAS: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Annan keeping them honest there. That show is going to be must- watch television.
Now, and, finally, during this pandemic, many of us are struggling, of course, in such uncertain times. Looking at our mental health is, of
course, more important than ever now.
Studies show that connecting with nature can lift our spirits and much more, something our next guests know all about.
Sue Stuart-Smith is a psychiatrist and she is an author. She's just written "The Well-Gardened Mind," which will be released in the United States July
7. It's already out here in the U.K. And also joining us, Ron Finley, AKA, the Gangsta Gardener. His TED Talk has been watched by millions. He's
inspired dozens of community gardens around Los Angeles, where he lives, and he's also given a Master Class.
And they both join me now.
Let me start with you, Sue Stuart-Smith, "The Well-Gardened Mind."
It's an amazing book to come out right now, when everybody is either baking bread or trying as much as they can to connect in some way with nature.
SUE STUART-SMITH, AUTHOR, "THE WELL-GARDENED MIND": Yes.
AMANPOUR: Not everybody has that opportunity.
So I just want to ask you some of the real sort of touchstones and analysis and science that you have found writing this book about what it can do to
people's mental health.
Well, it's no surprise, really, that people have been turning to nature in such a big way in response to this crisis. And if we look at history, it's
a recurring theme. During wars, following wars, following natural disasters, we need to turn back to the land. And nature's powers of
restoration and national beauty is very sustaining to us.
So, it's something that's happened before many, many times over. And, as you mentioned, the pandemic has opened up the divide, the social and
economic divide, between those who have gardens and those who don't, because, for people who have them, they have been able to appreciate their
gardens more than ever before.
And I hope that, in some measure, that might lead to an understanding of how restorative gardens can be for mental health and, you know, lead to
things like horticultural therapy being taken a bit more seriously.
AMANPOUR: Yes, well, let me just ask Ron, because I want to get back to the psychology and statistics with you in a second, Sue.
AMANPOUR: But I want to ask Ron, who's joining us now from Los Angeles.
Ron, you called yourself the Gangsta Gardener. And it's -- you know, you have done something in L.A. that probably nobody did. You have turned
verges and highways and various land into thriving gardens.
Why did you decide to do this? What sort of led you to that place?
RON FINLEY, "THE GANGSTA GARDENER": Real simple, beauty in, beauty out. And how are you?
Because people think health is just what you put into your mouth. And it's not. Health is your environment. Health is what you see every day. Health
is, can you smell beauty? Can you look at beauty every day? So, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to beautify my community.
AMANPOUR: And it wasn't just beauty, though, was it?
Because I think, you know, you talk about -- many people talk about a food desert in L.A., but you have talked a little bit about, you know, a food
prison. And you're trying to get people to also understand about, as you say, beauty in, beauty out, but what -- the quality of what you put into
FINLEY: Well, it all goes together.
It's just most people don't know, the single most important thing to your life -- they will tell you their family, their daughter. The single most
important thing to your life is air, oxygen, but nobody seems to know that, because we don't value it.
But what I'm -- what -- it's not a -- it's a shotgun blast. It's not a single bullet. You have to affect a lot of things at the same time. And,
yes, the health disparities are -- in my communities, in black, brown, red communities across the planet, are, a lot of times, worse than they are in
other communities, with other persuasions.
And that's by design. So, I'm a designer. So, I'm trying to change the design. You shouldn't have to be well-heeled to eat healthy food. And
that's why I started this, yes.
The liquor stores are by design. The fast food places are by design. Why aren't they in these other affluent communities like that? And it's
constantly making us sick.
AMANPOUR: Talking about sick, Sue, you are a psychiatrist.
AMANPOUR: And you, for parts of book and basically your research over the years, you went to Rikers Island prison in New York, where I think there's
something like 8,000 inmates there.
What did you discover about those who could garden and those who couldn't? Just what did you discover about some of the key stats that everybody
worries about, about prisoners, you know, when they're released, re- offending rates and the like?
STUART-SMITH: Well, the program in Rikers Island is run by the Hort, the Horticultural Society of New York.
And what their program shows is that the prisoners who complete their program and who go on to, and the community program, called the Green Team,
have a much lower level of re-offending. The usual rate of re-offending is about 60 percent. And for the Green Team participants, it's as low as 10 to
15 percent, which is a remarkable difference.
Some other prison projects have similar findings as well. And I think key to it all is actually this very accessible form of creativity and an
empowering and self-esteeming effect that comes from being able to make something good happen, to grow pumpkins or to grow tasty tomatoes, or
beauty, as Ron is saying, that there are lots of beautiful flowers in the eight gardens in Rikers.
It's not all about produce. And that's extremely important, I think, just in terms of allowing someone to feel that they might be able to make a
change or make a difference to their life.
AMANPOUR: And it does, in fact -- the beauty and some of this basically affects neural pathways, right? I mean, there's a scientific correlation
between this and mental health.
STUART-SMITH: Yes, there is. Yes. Yes. Yes.
No, there is. And I think it's very easy to underestimate how, as Ron is saying, about simple things, how crucial they are to our neurological
functioning, as well as our psychology.
So, for instance, beauty is very interesting. And there's a neuroscientist called Semir Zeki who has conducted brain scans. And these shows,
regardless of the form of beauty, that the pathways being fired in the brain are the same as those in romantic love.
And that means that beauty stimulates neurotransmitters, like endorphins, our natural opioids, serotonin, dopamine. It stimulates our reward
And these are all motivating and invigorating and calming, actually, too. I mean, that's the remarkable thing about gardening, is, it has this combined
effect of being both calming, but vitalizing as well.
AMANPOUR: Ron, there's an incredible statistic.
You know, it says, basically, Americans, on average, spend 93 percent of their time indoors or in a vehicle. And I just wondered what you have
noticed, whether you have noticed how kids react? And are you trying to kind of get them at a young age and teach them about nature and gardening
in your community?
How's that going?
FINLEY: If kids grow kale, kids eat kale, period.
If you expose them to this, that's what's going to happen. I'm trying to teach them that they are nature, that nature is not something you go into
the forest to see. When you look in the mirror, you look at nature. We decompose, just like a leaf does. We decompose, just like Bambi does in the
We are the forest. We're carbon. And that's the lesson that we should know. What changed me, what changed my thinking was making compost.
This is supposed to be dead stuff, so how is it 150 degrees? How does that happen? You know, we're energy. So, if we were taught what we truly are, I
think it would change a whole lot of how we look at this planet.
Everything on this planet is alive, including the mountains, everything, this planet. And we try to put everything in a box, and you can't do that,
because if you're in a box, just like a plant, you put it in a box, and the roots don't have anywhere to go.
So, what are they going to do? They're going to suffocate and choke that plant, and it's not going to get the growth that it needs to.
We have to -- do need to teach these kids that they have a responsibility to nature, because, if you take care of your mother, you take care of
AMANPOUR: And you had an extraordinary -- well, first of all, I think I read that you have barely had to leave your own garden during the lockdown,
because you have pretty much grown everything you have eaten over the last couple of months.
But you also have a remarkable story about when you first tried to do this. I think the authorities came and tried to uproot your gardens.
FINLEY: Yes, I was -- I became a criminal because I planted tomatoes.
Could you imagine me being in jail and guys say, yo, homey, what you in for? Yes, I planted some tomatoes on the street, dude, so back off.
It's like, it was the dumbest thing that you could imagine. And, fortunately, I was able to get that law reversed. And now in the whole city
of Los Angeles, you can plant veg -- edibles on your parkway.
My thing is, they need to advocate for it. They need to tell people that. And they need to have a team to show people how to do that. We should -- no
one should have to fight for food. No one should -- there's no reason that we should have a Skid Row, with all the money and all the resources that we
And that's why -- that's why I say, it's all by design. And we can -- we're designers. We can change these designs and make these communities where
they are healthy for everybody, everybody, all the kids.
So, we do. We have to get to the kids.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes.
And we understand that kids also, when they go to these forest schools, they get to kind of learn and discover on their own outdoors, find
But finally to you, Sue, you have written in "The Well-Gardened Mind," "In this era of virtual worlds and fake facts, the garden brings us back to
STUART-SMITH: It's exactly the kind of realities that Ron is talking about.
We have to engage with the natural life cycle. We form a relationship, a very close relationship. Gardening is an intimate relationship. And so we
engage in that in a way that becomes about give and take, actually. I think it's that recognition of how we need to care for the planet, to care for
ourselves at that basic level.
FINLEY: Take care of your mother, you take care of yourself.
AMANPOUR: And, boy, if we haven't had a signal now, yes, to care for the planet, this is it.
STUART-SMITH: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Sue and Ron, thank you so much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: That's wonderful.
And that is it for our program tonight. Thank you both very much.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.