PopPolitics: Ted Danson on Climate Activism, Ignorance and 2016 (Listen)

Ted Danson, a longtime environmental activist focused on the oceans, says that he’s actually optimistic action will be taken despite dire warnings about climate change and other threats like overfishing and offshore oil drilling.

“I am not just spinning this, the state of the oceans now needs a lot of work, but for the first time in the 35 years I have been doing this, I see that there is a way to do it, and people’s attention is beginning to be focused on it, and the will to do it is there for the first time,” Danson tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM.

He’s less enthusiastic that such environmental concerns will become talking points in the 2016 campaign. “You know, I’d be excited to see a talking point about anything, to be honest,” Danson says, noting that the race so far “is all entertainment right now and has very little to do with substance.”

Danson is on the board of Oceana, and appeared at the Clinton Global Initiative on Monday, speaking on a panel about the sustainability of the oceans.

When it comes to overfishing, he pointed to Oceana’s effort to press for changes in the top 20 “fishing nations” by going “country by country” to establish catch limits and habitat protection to help the population recover.

“It was really more of the logic of, ‘This what we have been doing, this is how you do it.’ And you can go country by country. You don’t need another United Nations, another unwieldy international body, to do it,” he says.

The dire predictions about climate change actually can have the effect of being so overwhelming that it is easier to just ignore it. Danson says that when it comes to activism, what he’s found is “you do the best you can, and you need to do it with a light heart and some joy, or you will drop out. You will become overwhelmed.”

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Danson says that to get attention for a cause, what he’s learned is you “have to humanize the situation, put a human face to it, and all of the sudden people are now understanding it, getting behind it and funding it in a very big way.”

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Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen are longtime friends and supporters of Bill and Hillary Clinton, but he says that at this point of the campaign, “everyone wants to make it a horse race right now, so let’s talk about e-mails.”

“If you are really concerned about the e-mails, I am probably not going to change your mind because you probably have a mindset about Hillary Clinton,” he says. “But if you are not totally locked in to your beliefs there, then take all of the resumes of everyone running for president of the United States, the leader of the free world. Black out the name on top and just look at the resumes and tell me who you want to lead the armed services, be president of the United States and to lead this country. I think the answer is pretty obvious.”

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Uniquely Nasty

Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, talks about his documentary “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays.” The project, which screened recently at USC and at the National Archives, mined government memos from the 1950s and ’60s to tell the story of the FBI’s “sex deviates” program, which collected files on the sex lives of American citizens. It also shows how gays and lesbians were barred from working in the government and were deemed a national security risk in executive directives that were not officially lifted until the 1990s. “Uniquely Nasty” is available online here, and features the voices of Matt Bomer and George Takei.

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The Pope’s Popularity

Josh Ginsberg, CEO of Zignal Labs, talks about the overwhelming attention that Pope Francis received in the media during his visit to the United States, and how that played out the week afterward, when it was revealed that he met with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Ginsberg also talks about whether campaign strategies to bypass traditional media for late-night and daytime talk shows are proving to be effective.

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“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is replayed on Sunday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT, and available on demand.

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