Kolbert: What's the most hopeful development you've seen in recent years? What gives you reason to hope that sustainability is something we can actually achieve?
Orr: The transition I think we're seeing. Public opinion is at or near, or even just past, a tipping point. What it lacks now is leadership. And instead of leadership in Washington, which has been very slow, or hasn't happened at all --
Flora: Or has gone in the opposite direction.
Orr: Yeah, we see grassroots leaders in the student movement, in the climate change movement, in public organizations, in non-profits. I think we're waiting for a leader in a political party who recognizes this grassroots change is under way. I don't think I would have said that two years ago. It's hard to go anywhere now without seeing signs: the slow food movement, local agriculture, bike co-ops. I think we're in a race between the numbers that the climate scientists put out and public opinion crystallizing into some kind of coherent response to those numbers.
Kolbert: Before I let you go, is there anything anyone would like to ask that I didn't hit on?
Orr: I'm interested in what keeps you all going. What is your wellspring of hope and hopefulness?
Flora: Marcus and Faith, my grandchildren. Even in the most trying circumstances, I think, don't I have a little bit more in me to push it a little further for their sake, until they build up the muscles and the knowledge to get in there and start pushing themselves.
Schmidt: I used to be a mathematician, and I'd go to parties and people would ask me what I do, and I'd say, "Well, I'm a mathematician." Frankly, that wasn't conducive to my social life.
Kolbert: Going into climate modeling for your social life -- that's a new one! [laughter]
Schmidt: Now I talk to people about climate change, and people are engaged, they're interested, and they have things to add. One of the things you learn as a scientist is that if you're just doing your science and nobody pays any attention, you might as well be banging your head against a brick wall. The fact that what we're doing as climatologists is intellectually interesting and challenging and important, and that people care, that's what keeps me going.
Gelobter: I came to environmental work through the lens of justice, and a well-hidden secret is that climate change is nothing but a justice issue. It's nothing but a set of people who took more than their share of something historically and have to figure out a way to make it right. If we can settle that in a just way, we can solve a lot of other problems too.
Kolbert: David, do you want to answer your own question?
Orr: I'm with Gloria. A large part of the voltage in my line is: I've got three grandkids. For me posterity is three kids who don't deserve what could happen to them if we don't do what we need to do. Michel's right; it is a justice issue. For me it comes down to something very personal. I can't put words around it except to say, "This is the right thing for me to do." I am proud to be part of this movement. The people in it are the best people I know. I believe we may be on the verge of an ecological global enlightenment that has the capacity to transform human life on earth. If not now, when?