Ted Turner, the billionaire and philanthropist who started CNN, told a sold out crowd of students Wednesday night at the Jack Morton Auditorium the environment is, “the most difficult challenge the world will face.”
Turner said the environment is at risk from overuse of fossil fuels. If society doesn’t work to sustain healthy levels of carbon dioxide emissions, he said, than the world will face “catastrophic consequences.”
“People don’t understand that if we destroy the environment, we’re dead,” Turner said. “When you destroy the environment, you die.”
Though Turner said the world is currently on the wrong path for environmental sustainability, he told the crowd of GW students and administrators there is hope to reverse the effects of climate change.
“Anything can be done,” Turner said. He added that the fate of the world, “rests in the hands of your generation,” referring to the student audience members.
Frank Sesno, a GW professor and former colleague of Turner at CNN, moderated the event, which was a part of a series hosted by the Public Affairs Project at the School of Media and Public Affairs.
Sesno asked Turner a series of questions about the scope of today’s environmental problems.
“Climate change is bigger than Iraq,” Turner said. “We need to do whatever it takes to get off of fossil fuels. It is the most complicated challenge we face.”
But Turner told GW students not to worry.
“If I could do CNN, anything can be done,” Turner said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Referencing climate change, he added that “If we start right away, we can fix this thing.”
Turner said his advice for solving the climate change problem is political activism.
“Be politically active and vote,” Turner told the audience. “Don’t accept anything less than human survival. We deserve to save this planet.”
In order to do his part in protecting the environment, Turner said he is investing his money in alternative energy sources and specifically solar power.
At one point in the evening, Sesno said the conversation between himself and Turner seemed more like “a conversation between Abott and Costello” than an interview. Turner talked over Sesno and made it difficult for Sesno to ask questions a number of times during the event.
Sesno and Turner also discussed Turner’s philanthropic endeavors. Turner is famous for donating $1 billion of his personal savings to the United Nations.
“If I could, I would give most of (my money) away,” Turner said. “It took me a while to learn how to (donate). I used to be an obsessive compulsive giver. I almost gave it all away, but I kept one or two billion.”
Sophomore Alexa Feldman went into the event not knowing much about Turner, but she left with a newfound respect for his ideas.
“He’s incredible,” Feldman said. “He’s accomplished so much and has changed so much in our world.”
Hallie Forman also went to the event not knowing much about Turner. “I thought he was hilarious, but even through the jokes he made some pretty serious points,” said Forman, a sophomore. “He’s done his part (in helping better the world), and yet he’s not going to stop. I think that shows a lot.”