To the Point

To the Point

A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The conversations are informal, edgy and always informative. If Warren's asking, you want to know the answer.

Presidential campaigns aren’t just on TV anymore, they’re on countless digital platforms.

Despite mounting evidence, Republicans in the House and the Senate are defending President Trump or keeping their heads down. Veteran GOP conservatives accuse them of sacrificing morality for short-term political gain. Meantime the Trump Administration calls the impeachment inquiry “unconstitutional,” while legal scholars point out that it’s part of Article II. And how did Ukraine, an obscure former Soviet republic, become so important? Money.

66 million years ago, an asteroid caused Earth’s Fifth Extinction, destroying the dinosaurs and most other life forms. Now Earth is facing another extinction, as fish, plants and animals vanish forever. But this time, it’s not the asteroid, it’s us. This week, hundreds of people, both young and old, took to the streets in cities all over the world to begin weeks of protest called the Extinction Rebellion. In the natural course of evolution, the decline and disappearance of a life form takes thousands of years. In the course of a human lifetime, not even one species might disappear. But now, some 28,000 species are vanishing all of a sudden. Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker magazine has written a book called “The Sixth Extinction.” She says, “Extinction rates are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times higher than what is known as the background extinction rate that has pertained over most of geological history.” In her words, “You should not be able to see all sorts of mammals -- to name just one group -- either going extinct or on the verge of extinction. And that is a tipoff that something very, very unusual, and I would add, very dangerous, is going on.” “We’re running geological history backwards. Fossil fuels that were created over the course of hundreds of millions of years buried a lot of carbon underground. We’re now combusting it, putting that carbon back into the atmosphere over a matter of centuries. So we’re taking a process that hundreds of millions of years to run in one direction and then, in a matter of centuries, running it in another direction.” We’ll hear what that means now and for the future of life as we know it.

A cartoon on the cover of the Economist says it all: leaders of the world’s two foremost democracies are scrambling to hold on. President Trump is faced with the possibility of impeachment. In the interests of Brexit, Boris Johnson is accused of lying to the Queen and defying Parliament. In both countries, voters are losing trust not just in their elected leaders but in their governments. The UK and the US aren’t alone, as the ideals of western democracy are being challenged by demagogues in other parts of the world.

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “Talking to Strangers,” is out, while he’s hosting the podcast, “Revisionist History.”

Greta Thunberg inspired Fridays for Future--school strikes around the world.  Were the leaders of major polluters paying attention? Not according to what they told the United Nations.

Students are cutting class, and workers are striking worldwide.   At the UN, governments will be held accountable for promises made in the Paris Accords.

Climate change is an existential crisis. If Americans cut just one hamburger from their diet every week, it would be like taking 10 million cars off the road every year. After cutting energy use, less meat and more plant-based food add up to the easiest--and healthiest--way to reduce your carbon footprint. From the land and water needed to raise feed and the methane produced at the end of digestion, “Cattle are actually mini fossil-fuel, greenhouse gas producers.” So says Sujatha Bergen, head of health campaigns at the NRDC. As her title suggests, eliminating beef from your diet--in addition to pork and lamb-- is also better for you. She explains the trade-offs for helping to reduce climate change and says, “Starting with your fork is much less daunting for many people.”