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Robert Redford Fights Global Warming With Poetry

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Robert Redford Fights Global Warming With Poetry

Global Health

Robert Redford Fights Global Warming With Poetry

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan, we're broadcasting today from the Knight Studio at the Newseum, Washington, D.C.'s newest museum, devoted to journalism and to the news business. Green is very important to Robert Redford, the actor, director, activist, and philanthropist, has been fighting on behalf of the environment for more than 30 years. He's produced documentary films about solar power, and he's lobbied Congress, so he's spread his message in the field and inside the beltway, too.

His most recent environmentalist project, though, may surprise some people, youth poetry. Slam poetry, to be exact. He's teamed up with Youth Speaks, a presenter of spoken word performances, to promote the green message in rhyme. So today we want to hear from young listeners. Are you still listening to warnings about global warming, and lectures about carbon footprints? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog, at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Later in the program we'll talk with White House press secretary, Dana Perino about her predecessor and former boss, Tony Snow. But first, Robert Redford joins us here in the Knight studio at the Newseum, and it's nice to have you today on Talk of the Nation.

Mr. ROBERT REDFORD (Actor, Director, Activist, and Philanthropist): Thank you, Neal. Nice to be here.

CONAN: And youth poetry, and environmentalism, these are not necessarily things that people see going together.

Mr. REDFORD: Well they are now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. REDFORD: There are three things that really come together here for this event. One is, in terms of personal interest, one is a long history of concern and commitment for the environment. Working actively for the environment. Second, is the role of art in society. Third, would be youth, and the role that youth will be playing in our educational system, and in our society at a time that I think is very critical.

Because this is a very critical year, obviously changes in the air is talked about a lot, but I think, fundamentally, a great portion of the country wants, and needs, change. And so where's it going to come from? And I think that the youth, this is a critical year for youth, because - and particularly these poets, this is their first year as voters, and they are, in a sense, new voters. And so I think the focus on new voters, and what they're priorities are, and to have those priorities expressed by young artists is a good thing. That's why I'm here.

CONAN: Do you fear, sometimes, that young people aren't actually tuning in to the message, aren't necessarily going to see Al Gore movies?

Mr. REDFORD: Well, I don't know. There's been a lot of talk over the last decade about youth involvement, or lack of it, in our social issues. I can't speak to that in terms of if that's true or not, I think there's been a concern that there's distractions that a lot of the young people who are - they're smart enough to realize that, maybe the system isn't giving them the benefits they deserve. Maybe they think they're smarter than a lot of the people in the system. And they become disenfranchised, they're focusing on other things, there's no draft to pull them into the war in Iraq.

So whether that's true or not, them being disenfranchised or apathetic, one thing I do feel, and it's kind of a gut instinct, and based on what I have observed at Sundance, at our festival, and our labs out there for young people, is that since the pendulum does swing, it could very much be swinging back in a very good direction. Where young people are going to take more active role in a system that is shaping their future.

CONAN: Let's talk to one of the young people that we've brought with us here today, Lauren Whitehead, a slam poet, and is associate director of Youth Speaks, and she's with us here in the Knight Studio at the Newseum. Very nice of you to come in today.

Ms. LAUREN WHITEHEAD (Slam Poet, Associate Director of Youth Speaks): Thanks for having me, I'm honored to be here.

CONAN: And tell us, for example, the subjects of slam poetry, at least so far as I understand it, poverty, violence, racism. Does the environment fit easily, as an issue, to that agenda?

Ms. WHITEHEAD: You know, I think unfortunately, the environment ties into those issues in very profound ways, and I think a lot of the youth are starting to come to know that. They're starting to see that a lot of the environmental issues happen in the poor, darker, areas of our nation.

And so unfortunately, they're starting to see the ties between who gets the help, who can go green, and who can't go green. And they're starting to tie it into issues of race, and poverty, and gender, and things like that. And it's quite profound to hear them talk about it, actually.

CONAN: Yet some people, you'd start talking to them about melting glaciers and rising sea levels, and their eyes glaze over.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: They do get a little bored. I'm not going to lie. But there are things to talk about. I know one of my co-workers does a workshop that's called, God, the Devil, and the Corner Store. Where she talks about how it's a green issue, that in some of the most urban parts of the nation, there are no grocery stores. There's only corner stores, that sell bags of chips, and you know, candy bars. And so they can't even get a healthy snack, and their options are limited, depending on where they live.

You know, there's fast food, and there's, you know, there's not necessarily an organic grocery store where they can go and get the most high produce that they can find. There's not necessarily farmers markets happening in these areas. So I think that it does tie in, and there's ways to get them to talk eloquently about the experiences they had, in terms of what that has to do with going green, or not going green.

CONAN: You do - do you get some people that would say, wait a minute, these issues aren't necessarily relevant to our lives, to our neighborhoods, that we've got more important things to talk about?

Ms. WHITEHEAD: Absolutely. Without question, that it's hard for folks to understand that the hole in the ozone layer has anything to do with whether or not they have books in their classrooms. Whether or not they, you know, their bus system runs on time.

So I think it's very hard to get folks to even care about things that don't seem like they're immediate issues. I know from myself, personally, it was kind of difficult for me to write a poem about global warming. Because I was like, you know, I have things to do. Got to talk about my black womanhood, for instance. You know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WHITEHEAD: So, you know, things that seem like epic topics that are much more important in the immediate. In terms of how am I going to get a job in corporate America, and things like that? You know, I'm not necessarily worried about whether or not the next tidal wave is going to come, and what I can do to defend that.

I sometimes feel quite powerless, but I think that's a lot of the work that we do. To sort of combat this feeling of powerlessness, about issues of race, and gender, and you know, poverty. And the environment is definitely an issue that's coming up on the same level as these other things lately.

CONAN: We're talking with Lauren Whitehead, associate director of Youth Speaks, with us here at the Newseum. Also with us, Robert Redford. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we'll begin with Mike, and Mike's calling us from Cleveland in Ohio.

MIKE (Caller): Hello, Mr. Conan. I'm a first time caller. I'm very excited.

CONAN: We can tell you're a younger person, because you called me Mr. Conan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MIKE: I just graduated high school here in Cleveland, and all of my environmental education, actually comes from environmental studies class we had in my high school. And it's a - it was a pretty progressive high school, so like the assemblies, and the slide shows, and the announcement they would make about, you know, recycling your cups, and about hyper-miling, and little things like that. Is really where all of my green awareness comes from, and most of my fear of global warming.

CONAN: And did you find that your classmates, the people there with you, took this all pretty seriously, took this to heart?

MIKE: Well, a lot of my friends actually take global warming incredibly seriously. It's like something that's legitimate, and human based. A lot of it came from just great leadership from teachers. So I think that the majority of our awareness on global warming comes from our education as opposed to, you know, sorry, Mr. Redford, media outlets.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That's OK, Mike. He'll still let you into his next movie.

MIKE: You can only hope.

Mr. REDFORD: If there is one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, thanks very much for the call, Mike. And next time you can just call me Neal, OK?

MIKE: Yes sir.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You must get that a lot. Yes, sir. I wonder, reaching people like Mike who just called, I think one thing he did say, great leadership, is vital. And finding new ways to talk to people, not just in the classroom, though was obviously important to him, through poetry, among other things.

Mr. REDFORD: Yeah. I think, first of all I appreciate, I was very happy to hear him speak. And I was very happy to hear about his curriculum because, you know when I was a kid there was no such thing. And certainly there was no concern for the environment, because we were still living in, you know, Manifest Destiny, it was all for the taking.

What's interesting to me in terms of leadership, I mean I'll be pretty direct about this. We haven't had it in terms of the environment. Not only have we not had it, but it's pretty much been either ignored or undone, which is even worse. And when I think about the role of young people and how education and young people and art come together. I think about the laws that were passed in the early '70s, on the environment. They came from the grassroots. And they came in lieu of leadership, a lacking in leadership. Those laws are pretty powerful, the EPA, and Clean Air, Clean Water Act and so forth. Some of them I was involved with.

Thirty years later, when the situation is more difficult, the world is smaller and the resources have shrunk a lot more, to have leadership not only not lead us in the future, but to try to undo those laws, where is it going to come from? Where is the leadership going to come from? Well, it's going to come from the grass roots and what voice in the grass roots is going to lead it? And I can't think of a better voice than a voice of youth. So what kind of voice is that going to be? And then I get partial about the role of art and the voice of creativity. And so really that's why I'm so excited to be here with this group, you know, Brave New Voices Speak Green, because it's their voice speaking out about concerns and passions they have, that are going to be shaping their future when leadership did not help them.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Rachel. Rachel with us from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

RACHEL (Caller): Hi. I'm getting a Masters in Art at the moment at Washington University in St. Louis. And I've really seen the impact that the visual arts as well as the verbal arts have on reaching younger people. I've been making work that has some, that you know has a commentary about, you know, the environmental impact of our actions. And this work has become a way for me to have conversations with people who are younger with me and have them be able to connect to the work. And also because I'm getting a Masters, I'm teaching, and I'm seeing more and more students come in at the age of 18 and 19 and they're also making work about these things, and finding a voice in a way to really explore these issues and voice their opinions, but then also be able to kind of figure out what the solution is for them in their life.

CONAN: And we just have a few seconds before we have to go to a break, Rachel. But you find that people will, you get through to people, they talk to you?

RACHEL: No, definitely. I think that if you make work that's accessible, that has a clear statement about, you know, this is what, you know, fuel emissions are doing, and you make this work that's visually compelling, that says something, it creates a conversation, it can't help but do that. The key is, it has to be good work or good poetry. It has to be something that people can connect to for it to be successful.

CONAN: Well, we're going to get a chance to hear some poetry when we come back from the break. So stay tuned with us, Rachel. Thanks very much for the phone call.

RACHEL: Thanks so much.

CONAN: And good luck with your work. We're talking about youth and the environment. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. Stay with us, I'm Neal Conan, it's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation, I'm Neal Conan. We're broadcasting today from the Knight Studio inside the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: And if the applause sounds a little bit more enthusiastic than on your average Wednesday, well Robert Redford is here in the studio with us. The Academy Award winner is talking about his new green poetry project, along with slam poet Lauren Whitehead, who's also the associate director of Youth Speaks. We want to hear from you. Give us a call. 800-989-8255. Young people, does the green message resonate with you, or do you roll your eyes every time you hear the phrase parts per billion? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also check out our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

And we have another slam poet with us here today, Simone Crew is participating in Youth Speaks' Brave New Voices 11th international youth poetry slam. And today she's with us here at the Night Studio at the Newseum. Nice to have you with us today.

MS. SIMONE CREW (slam poet): Hi. Thank you so much for having us.

CONAN: And I understand you've brought a poem for us.

MS. CREW: I did.

CONAN: All right. And we've set up a microphone. She's accustomed to performing standing up, so just in front of the desks we have - for those of you in the radio audience, there's desks in the front of the room here in the Knight Studio, and we've set up a microphone in the well in front of the audience who's here with us at the Newseum. And I would estimate, well maybe around a hundred people with us in the studio today. So, anyway, let me introduce Simone Crew.

MS. CREW: This poem is called "Yasmina."

I'm no one's mother. Yet to find my eyes in someone else's skull, my hands don't fit perfectly with another's. I do babysit. Between the toothbrush game, where I narrate the bristles hugging their baby teeth, and my just so lenient iron hand - I'm a favorite.

I'm no one's mother. But when Yasmina's large, brown hollows, rounded like steaming mugs of coffee widening realization, I find myself afraid. She's scared they'll be no more polar bears or penguins. That her skin will be perpetually sunburnt. But I want Yasmina to see glaciers, for her to travel and love mangos. And she is one of those really, really annoying smart kids.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CREW: You know that wants to explain things to you, even when she knows that you know already. Hip jutted out and head to the side like at eight, it's already too heavy to stand upright.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CREW: Who calls my name as I'm drifting to sleep on her quicksand green couch to ask me to define a word I cannot identify. There's nothing more poignant than seeing her blanket. Pink cotton hovering over her globe as she plays global warming at the kitchen table. She's folding it in half. Ten years, she glances at me for approval. Folds the blanket again with an emphasis on the years. Gently placing the material over the only version of the world she may ever know. Twenty years, 40 years, 60, 80, 100, 110 until only one tiny point of the fabric is kissing the earth's surface, caught dipping into the Atlantic Ocean. Until one day - her lecture continues - they'll be no more of this ozone-thingy left. Right, Simone?

Her understanding of the ozone layer, the Earth's sunglasses, as I told her, is more real than many others. It really is quite sad, you know, Simone. People really, truly, should recycle more. No Al Gore movie or overenthusiastic environmental club meeting or breaking story about new cancers in our skin and our brains and our breasts has ever made me as scared. I've seen Yasmina telling me about how the polar bears and the penguins will have to move to New York City soon if we aren't careful. I don't have the heart to tell her that NYC might not cut it either.

I'm no one's mother. But Yasmina's eyes are caffeinated, lively and addictive. It doesn't take a mother. Her hands don't fit perfectly into mine, but we cry syncopated teardrops, our jawbones won't match up, but she could change the world, if there's still one for her to fix. You, you don't have to be the revolution. Glaciers break your back if you try to carry them alone. Just find a Yasmina, and recycle in anticipation of their breathing. I mean, I babysit. I have never been a revolution, neither have I made one. I know not of being a Mother Earth, mountains never borne onto my back. But like sinking topography Yasmina's face sinks into a pout when bedtime arrives. And when she's falling asleep I fold up the pizza box, searching under the sink for the recycling bin. I'm not the revolution, but I'll have my share of the glacier for Yasmina to feel the cold.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: That was Simone Crew, a slam poet and a participant in Brave New Voices Youth Speaks 11th international Youth Poetry slam. And I just wanted to ask you about it. It was a brilliant an idea to put that thought through the eyes of a small child.

MS. CREW: She's a brilliant child. You know that actually happened.

CONAN: You really do babysit.

MS. CREW: I really do babysit, and I babysit a young woman named Yasmina who decided to play global warming one day.

CONAN: And where did she get the idea for playing Global Warming?

MS. CREW: That's the scary thing. That's the idea, at the core of this poem to me at least is the idea that children are learning to play Global Warming. And it's so around them.

CONAN: When you decided to write that poem, was it in response to, well, an assignment or was it spontaneous?

MS. CREW: It, in fact, was spontaneous. I've performed this before, I knew about this green event that's being put on.

CONAN: And so you had material ready.

MS. CREW: I did.

CONAN: Hey, ding-ding-ding. Let's get some more comments. There's a question here in the audience at the Newseum.

Ms. MARY OSORIO (Audience Member): Aloha, my name is Mary Osorio(ph) and I'm so glad to be here. I'm actually in Washington for Brave New Voices with the Hawaii team. And I'd just like to say - being around poets for a long time now, I've seen a lot of pieces with environmental messages. I know that they're sincere, that the poets believe this. But I really want to challenge poets and everyone else. The poetry is so powerful, people are listening, but it's more than believing in it. You got to take action. And I see kids write really tough pieces about, you know, being true to saving the environment, and not really caring about something as easy as recycling. So that's my challenge, is don't, you know get people to listen with what you say, and get people to do it by what you do.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, and thanks for dropping by while you were here in town.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Lauren Whitehead, the Hawaii team? How is this working?

Ms. LAUREN WHITEHEAD (Associate Director, Youth Speaks): The entire slam, is that what you're asking?

CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: So, we have invited 45 teams from across the country, and even teams from as far as the UK, and Trinidad and Tobago. And they participate in a week-long festival of writing workshops and they see performances. And at the end of the festival, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, they participate in a poetry slam. You know what a poetry slam is?

CONAN: I have some idea of what a poetry slam is, but you may have a better one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WHITEHEAD: OK. So the idea is that each poet gets three minutes to recite an original piece of work. And that piece of work will be judged by five random judges in the audience. They'll give him a score on a scale of zero to 10. Ten being the best poem they've ever heard in their life ever, zero being somebody that should never write a poem again, ever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WHITEHEAD: And the highest score and the lowest score are dropped and the three scores in the middle are added up to thirty and you get a score out of thirty points. All that is to say is that each member of the team will get a chance to perform a poem. They will compete against four other teams, and the top ten teams make it to semi-finals. And then the top four teams after that, make it to the finals. So from 45 we go to 10, from 10 we go to four, and from four we go to one.

CONAN: And how did you decide on the theme this year of the environment?

Ms. WHITEHEAD: Actually the whole theme of the festival is not the environment. Just one portion of the festival. It's called the Speak Green competition. And that portion of the festival features, out of a hundred poets that applied, features 12 poets that sort of made the cut and get to read in front of people like Robert Redford, and other winners.

CONAN: I thought he was going to perform.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: I think so too. I think that's something that should happen.

Mr. REDFORD: I already have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WHITEHEAD: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Lindsey. Lindsey with us from Boise in Idaho.

LINDSEY (Caller): Hi. I guess my comment is I feel like going green is becoming kind of trendy, rather than taken seriously by people my age. And I guess I was wondering if this poetry slam, like I think it's a great idea, I think poetry's a great medium to try to express yourself and express how you feel. But is it going to be, you know, just something that people listen to and then don't pay attention to, or something that's like cool to write about but not really to do? And I don't know, I guess just the trendy thing gets to me.

CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: Trendy and expensive.

CONAN: Yeah. Yeah, trendy and expensive, Lauren.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: Yeah. And so I think you're right, I think that's a very poignant comment, that it is kind of the cool thing to be talking about, and it's the in sort of phrase and sustainability is the buzzword of the century, and you know everybody wants to sustain something. And I think it's rough, but I also think it's important that these kinds of words are sort of on the tips of our tongues and that even if we're not necessarily putting them into action, I think at some moment - actually the piece that I wrote is that in some moment we're going to have no choice about whether or not we can participate in going green.

It's like kind of Mother Earth is going to either treat us like the dinosaurs and wipe us out, or we're going to do something to sort of you know, repent against all the damage that we've been doing thus far. So I think that while it is trendy, I would rather be trendy than sort of non-existent at all because it's absolutely pertinent that at this point we sort of pay attention to all the things, the damage that we've all ready done and sort of try to take two steps back.

CONAN: Robert Redford?

Mr. REDFORD: Real quick. A couple of points brought up that are - if I can pull them together. One is the trendy thing. I couldn't agree more. It's scary. I remember being scared when green hit a tipping point. I've been involved in the environment for about 30 years, and suddenly when you have the coming together, the congealing of Al Gore's film, you had Wall Street realizing there was money to be made by going green, and also the evidence of what had been warned for several years was now coming home to roost with some people. Suddenly that created a tipping point, and then fashion I think scares me.

And when something becomes fashionable, it's doomed. And I worry that the word green, green, green, was going to start getting to the point where it was very attractive in the beginning but it will get to that point where it will be mocked. So the caller's right about the concern. On the other hand, Ms. Osorio said something about well, words are words and where's the action? Well words are just words without action. But I think what we're seeing here today with these poets is the beginning of action.

And so that's why I think this group is important because storytelling is really the key. When you said one in a billion? That would have glazed me over, as a kid. Well if you tell the story in a better way, then that's going to make sense and it's going to hit somebody hard, and then they're going to think about maybe what can I do about it? And when you show what can be done - when the poets come out and say here's the clarion ring. Now right behind that come these groups, these environmental groups, these green groups, that are saying forget the doom and gloom because that's not America's way. Here's what you can do about it that's exciting and productive and can lead to this sustainable future - excuse the expression.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: It's said to be the word of the century.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Here's an email we have from Jessica in St. Louis. I have never rolled my eyes at global warming or the phrase parts per billion. I have volunteered for several environmental organizations, yet have never even thought of using the topic in any of my poems. Slam poetry needs passion and fury and eloquence. My anger about poverty and violence does not extend to global warming. I don't think I can scream at recycling like I can racial profiling or discrimination. And Lauren I suspect she's not the only one who feels that way.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: I mean I think it's true, but I also think that in some ways that there are you know - the first caller that we had talked about having an environmental awareness class in his high school, and I just for a fact know that there are high schools in Oakland that they don't have an environmental awareness class. They don't have anybody that's sort of trying to teach them anything about recycling, and they have the recycling bins in the hallways but all that's in there are Doritos bags and you know, nacho cheese. And so that's kind of you know - I think there's a level of privilege that goes alongside of going green and being able to be sustainable. I mean there's houses being built that are solar powered that rotate to get the most sort of - what am I trying to say? To get the most energy from the sun. And there are some people that are living in one bedroom apartments with six other people.

And so I think that there is - I think what's outrageous about it is that sort of you need to have money to sort of do things to be sustainable, to buy a hybrid car. I can't even buy a hybrid car, you know? So, I think money is necessary not so outrageous to me that it has to tie into race and poverty as well.

Ms. SIMONE CREW: I mean environmental racism you know, all of these things do connect and to me with the poetry - you know slam poetry movement, my hope is that you can you know. Why you people can't get angry because they're not informed about their own potential to make change. For me, and a lot of things that we will tag as being apathetic, I think is a lot of people giving up because you know, we're not taught that recycling can make a difference and that we have a power in this revolution, because a lot of young people haven't considered our movement. And I think part of slam poetry will be like to own it for us.

CONAN: Simone Crew and Lauren Whitehead who are slam poets.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: And participating in Brave New Voices: Youth Speaks 11th International Youth Poetry Slam. Also with us is Robert Redford. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Roxanne. Roxanne with us from Austin in Colorado.

ROXANNE (Caller): Yes.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

ROXANNE: I'm a grandmother and I'm not young, I'll always be young, but I was just standing about a half hour in a movie store looking for something for the pre-teen set. You know I've got five grand - five kids that I'm going to have tonight at my house and I couldn't agree more that the storytelling is just so important for these young kids. My grandkids have just done a project where they've read books, and collected money, and bought water buffalos and goats for people in Africa and AIDS. Which is such a great thing and I'd love to see that continue, but I'm just going to ask is there - are there any projects coming up that would make more films for young people, you know, the pre-teen especially? They're so impressionable. And I'll take my answer off the air.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call. Robert Redford anything from Sundance this year or coming up that you know of that might help her out?

Mr. REDFORD: I can tell you about something that came from this and how I got involved in this group. About three years ago we had a conference at Sundance for mayors on global warming. And the idea of bringing mayors into that was that they were closer to the ground, closer to the problems and so forth. And therefore they needed to be educated and be educated by each other. So anyway, in that conference of elected officials we connected with Youth Speaks in San Francisco.

And we brought it because of my involvement and interest in art, an effort to try to insert art into the political process, into social processes. We brought a couple of members of Youth Speaks over with Jamie Katz(ph) and I watched and we filmed it. We filmed what the poet was doing. And we go back and forth to the audience's reaction and back to the poet and it was so powerful and the audience, these elected officials, were shook to the quick.

And that led to a whole new attitude about involvement and that young people, the responsibility that older people have to a younger generation because of the voice that was raised. Out of that conference to make a long story short, our role at Sundance is to use art to record what people are doing, particularly young people. So the idea of filming it became a big deal. So we decided, a coalition, in the next conference a coalition of mayors was formed in the districts.

And one group of districts in Texas was about to start to try to fight a coal fired, a big fast tracking coal fired power plants in Texas, 49 of them, and they were going to be using pulverized coal which is the worst and most polluting. So the coalition decided to go out and try to form another coalition of lawyers and environmentalists and ranchers, and so anyway we recorded that effort and it turned into a film called "Fighting Goliath" and that "Fighting Goliath" goes on to the Sundance channel, goes into distribution.

CONAN: May not be able to find it in Blockbuster though.

Mr. REDFORD: Well, look carefully.

CONAN: OK. All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much all of your time, Lauren Whitehead and Simone Crew. Good luck to you both in the slam competition.

Ms. WHITEHEAD: Thank you.

Ms. CREW: Thank you.

CONAN: And they're participating in Brave New Voices: Youth Speaks 11th International Youth Poetry Slam. You just heard Robert Redford who's here and says he listens everyday. Does he call?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Anyway Robert Redford thanks very much for your participation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: When we come back from the short break, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino will join us to remember her mentor Tony Snow. He died on Saturday. That's next. Stay with us. I am Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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