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an interview with

Ted Turner

founder of

The United Nations Foundation

and Turner Broadcasting System (CNN)

Ted Turner was interviewed by Gabrielle Kelly at the State of the World Forum, hosted by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and produced by the Gorbachev Foundation/USA in San Francisco.

Ted Turner is one of the world's leading philanthopists Gabrielle Kelly: Do you think it's possible for global media not to take such a steam roller effect over local cultures?

Ted Turner: I really don't know. Ideally we should preserve all the individuality and cultures that we possibly can, but there has been a homogenization of cultures around entertainment and news and the interchange of information that I think is a bit inevitable. So it's a conundrum really.

Gabrielle Kelly: Can you think of people that you've come across that have given you a sense of real hope in the future?

Ted Turner: There are hundreds and thousands of those stories. Hope for the future is natural in all living things.

So it's more natural that you have the hope for the future than that you have a pessimistic view of the future. But I think at the current time there's at least as much reason to be pessimistic about the future of the human race as there is to be optimistic. I put our chances of survival at somewhat less than 50-50 with humanity and civilization. My fear is -- well, a lot of fears, but that we'll have kind of a Rwanda or a Bosnia situation in the world when resources become so scarce that people are fighting over food and things like that.

—from the documentary "On the Edge--a wake-up call."

Gabrielle Kelly: Can you give me a couple of examples that have made you feel hopeful?

Ted Turner: People like Captain Cousteau and Mr. Gorbachev. We did end the Cold War. There was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, peace in South Africa, in the Middle East, in Central America. There is a whole lot of good work the UN does, the conferences, the body of knowledge in many areas expanding. There's really no excuse for us to be in the condition that we're in. It would be relatively simple for us to educate all the woman in the world and give them equal rights. It would be pretty simple to limit, through voluntary and educational means, the rate of births and create stability in the human race. All the things that are necessary for our prosperity and survival are here, but all the things that are heading us for disaster are here as well and they're coming at a very rapid pace.

Gabrielle Kelly: Communications is driving change. What do you think that means for the future?

Ted Turner: Well, it's a question of what kind of communications. Are people truly listening? Will having the knowledge motivate people to make the necessary changes, or will they just gloss over it and keep on doing things the way they've been doing them, like having six, eight, ten children per woman? Will they improve the status of women in the places where the status of women is not equal with men, which is over half the world?

Gabrielle Kelly: Is communications itself and the rate of change of communications having an impact on society?

Ted Turner: One of the things that gives us cause for hope is that not only do we have the knowledge but it is being disseminated. Whether it's received and leads to change is not something that governments can do on their own. Six billion people have to want to do it, or at least the overwhelming majority of them. Most of the people in the world are too concerned about just getting through the next day to worry about where the world will be in 20 or 30 years. We have the information. Noah had the information that the world was going to be flooded but he was the only one who built a boat because nobody else believed it.

Gabrielle Kelly: Radio began roughly 60 years ago. What is your vision for communications in the year 2055?

Ted Turner: If we don't make the necessary changes on a global scale in the next 20 years, there isn't going to be very much happening in 2055. Catastrophe will have struck the human race. It has already struck one out of four people in the world who don't have enough food to eat or don't have clean drinking water or don't have adequate health care. Those people live in catastrophic conditions. Another half of the people live on the margin. Probably only one-quarter of the people in the world live decently by Western standards. Everybody would like to have running water, safe drinking water, and adequate educational opportunities for their daughters and their sons.

Gabrielle Kelly: Some people say jokingly that the Berlin Wall only came down because people wanted to shop. What do you think about consumerism?

Ted Turner: Unfortunately, it's something that the media in the free world has supported to no small extent.

Advertising tries to get you to buy things. And there's no counterbalance to that that says you should use less. Nobody ever buys commercials that say -- it's a constituency that doesn't exist. So consumerism is pushed all over the world, and it's very, very simple for people to fall for that, that things make you happy, and certainly to some extent they do. It's one of the things that flies against what we need to do. We need to consume as little as we possibly can. The odds are that we're going to not quite get there. But on the other hand, there's still a fighting chance for us, and I don't think we really have any choice but to fight for our survival.

—from the documentary "On the Edge--a wake-up call."

Gabrielle Kelly: Do you think it's possible for the media and the advertising industry to adopt the notion of sustainable consumerism?

Ted Turner: Well, if they don't they're all going to die, but I don't see any sign of it. Anything is possible. If the gods, and I say gods because there are so many different religions in the world, if the gods had made us ten percent smarter and ten percent nicer, we'd be okay. That's the margin that we're missing by. So the question is can we get that other ten percent? And can we do it in the next five or ten years? Can we do it immediately? Because the longer we wait to straighten out the way we're living, the less alternatives we have, the worse it's going to be for more and more people.

Gabrielle Kelly: How are you working on that ten percent nicer, better for yourself?

Ted Turner: I try and do it both with contributions through my foundations and programming on our networks like the World Report every weekend and our global media. I try to do my best. I also go around to meetings like this. You can't deal with it 24 hours a day or you'll go mad. You have to lead your life too. I try to spend about half my time making the world better and the other half just living.

Gabrielle Kelly: How do you see yourself living your life for the next 20 to 30 years?

Ted Turner: Well, I don't know whether I'll make it. I just take it a day at a time. I try to be as much of a force for good and join with the forces of good against -- the forces of light and goodness against the forces of stupidity and prejudice and darkness and evil. I see it as a conflict between intelligent people and a bunch of dummies.

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Interview with Ted Turner © Concensus Designs, Inc. For permission to reprint portions of this interview, please contact East Beach® Productions.

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