Harrison Ford says US Congress must sign Biodiversity Convention

Posted: 30 October 2010

Interviewed by CNN in Nagoya, Japan, at the global talks on the Convention on Biological Diversity, actor and conservationist Harrison Ford said nature was at a 'tipping point' and called on the US Congress to ratify the treaty without further delay. Here is a transcript of what he said.

CNN Correspondent Zain Verjee (ZAIN): What are you hoping to achieve as part of this conference in Japan?

Harrison Ford at the Nagoya Conference
Harrison Ford at the Nagoya Conference.

Harrison Ford (HF): Well I hope we can persuade the 192 nations that are here to create more protected areas. to preserve more the reservoirs of biodiversity that provide essential things to the human community. We’re trying to get 25 per cent of land mass and 15 per cent of the oceans in protection. It doesn't mean they're fenced off, but we require that much land and that much ocean in order for the natural systems to be healthy and prosperous.

ZAIN: What is your one overarching message at this conference?

HF: That time is short, that nature is at the tipping point. That we have to act decisively and boldly now. We have to be efficient with the use of our resources. We have to be directed and focused on the most important things and places. We have to preserve the places that provide the greatest reservoirs of biodiversity and greatest services to the human community.

ZAIN: The United States isn’t taking part at this conference. You’re an American – how do you feel about that?

HF: I’m embarrassed. In fact we’re taking part. The United States is the largest contributor to biodiversity conversation in the world, but we’re not a voting member of this congress. 17 years ago President Clinton signed a treaty but it has to be ratified by congress. It isn’t a national priority right now. To fully be represented here - to have an effect on the decisions - WE have to have congress sign and ratify the treaty. They have to advise and consent. We’re meeting all of the conditions – the business community has been assured that there interests are protected. We have to step up to the plate now and get this done.

ZAIN: This particular conference is stalling – on cash and on targets. There is some concern that this is not the political will of some countries there.

HF: It’s very early on. We have 3 more days. These things don’t happen immediately. It’s a process of consensus building. We’re very hopeful that If we target what needs to be done and present the science and reasoning for it, then we’ll get this protection of 25 per cent of the landmass and 15 per cent of the oceans on the table and make congress committed to this goal.

ZAIN: Some viewer questions for you how you first got into the conservation effort and What areas of environmentalism are most important for you?

HF: I became involved with Conservation International 20 years ago. I wanted to see where I could make a contribution to some of the issues that face mankind. I thought preservation of nature was really important. I thought conservation international was a particularly strategic and important organization. I was impressed with the people involved. I became a member of the board 20 years ago.

The most important thing is the preservation of biodiversity. Because Nature provides services to human community that we cannot afford to create technical solutions to provide for yourself. Nature provides us with fresh water, healthy soil, food crop, a fresh supply of pharmaceuticals that can help prevent disease. It’s got to be protected.

ZAIN: Scott Fagan asks which NGOs and organizations you think could use the most help right now in this environmental cause? Just name one!

HF: Let me spell it for you: Conservation International. I mean it’s the one I’ve chosen to work with. But we all have to work together. In fact I have a particular gripe that I feel like we in the environmental community haven’t really done as much as we could do. We approach things on an issue by issue basis. We all have our specific agendas. We need to form together to create a political will in our countries to get things done. We need to work together to focus on things that can be done, must be done. We need to have a real impulse to getting the job done quickly and effectively.

It’s got to be a blend of energy sources – we need to use all the technologies available, solar and wind. All the potentials. We need to commit to the development of alternative sources of energy. We‘ve got to use the non-renewable sources of energy in a more efficient way.

ZAIN: Nina wants to know what you consider your greatest accomplishment thus far?

HF: Mine?


HF: Surviving.

ZAIN: On a similar line – Paul asks what you hope to leave behind as your greatest legacy – and you can’t say surviving

I’m the father of five children. I think we all have a moral responsibility to our children to leave the world in a better condition than we found it. We’ve used the earth’s resources unsustainably in the 50 years I’ve been aware of what’s going on around me. We have to allow nature the potential to help us heal itself, and to provide an environment to prosper. The pressure of population. We’re now 6.2 billion people. In 30 years we will be 9.2 billion people. The way we’re using our resources it will take 2 more planet earths to provide what we’ll need. So we have to save what we have now. We have to allow it to prosper. Allow it to provide us with the services that nature provides.

ZAIN – one question I want to know because many watching might not be focusing on the conference – what is it that you could say that would tell people why they should care.

HF: It is in your self-interest. Mankind, human beings are part of the natural world and the natural world requires all of its component - just like the body it requires all of its organs working together. It requires all the elements of life working together in order to be healthy and prosper. There’s a big job to be done. There’s a wonderful opportunity now. We just need to step up to the plate and get the job done.

ZAIN: We’ve of course had some viewer questions from major movie fans. Vicky asks if there’s a role you haven’t taken on that you like to?

HF: I feed opportunistically. I don't think about it in general that way. I look for a project that has a good story and good people involved.

ZAIN: Do you have a favourite role?

HF: No. Quite frankly I just love to work. I love the challenges of movie making. I love story telling.


To watch the CNN video of the interview, go here.

Apart from Andorra and the Holy See, the United States is the only country in the world that has not ratified the Convention of Biological Diversity. Japan, which hosted the meeting in Nagoya, has promised an investment of $2 billion to help developing countries in their conservation efforts  For a report on the outcome of the talks see World hails historic deal to tackle extinction crisis.