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Carl Pope is Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Since Pope’s appointment in 1992, Sierra Club has added 150,000 new members, bringing the total membership to 700,000. Pope has a[…]

You would’t last long without nature, says Pope.

Question: How does nature fit into a good life?

Carl Pope: I wouldn’t advise you to try living without it. You wouldn’t last very long. The fact is the services that make the planet habitable are provided for us by several million species all making their own living in their own way. The difference . . . There’s actually . . . Somebody this weekend was saying . . . I can’t remember who it was now. But the Earth and Venus in many ways are very similar. They’re about the same size. They each have about the same amount of carbon in their planetary system. Big difference is on earth most of the carbon is sequestered underground, and the temperature is about 59 degrees Fahrenheit. In Venus all of the carbon is out in the atmosphere, and the temperature is about 850 degrees Fahrenheit. Primates . . . People, even chimpanzees cannot sequester a single ounce of carbon dioxide in their lives. The only thing that can is little animals like the ones in the ocean; grasses; plants. We are absolutely dependent . . . Every time we burn fossil fuel, the only reason most of it gets sequestered is that living creatures provide these services for us. So we are a part – and we’re by and large and not a contributory part – of this incredible planetary balance wheel that works together to make Earth not Venus. So nature is incredibly important. It also happens to be incredibly beautiful, but I think we get confused. It’s not important because it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because it’s important. The reason we like it is because in an evolutionary sense it’s what keeps us alive. We are hard wired to respect and love our parents because they keep us alive. And we are hard wired to respect and love nature because nature keeps us alive.


Recorded on: September 27, 2007.