Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Republicans and Democrats Have to Live in This World Together"

Credit: Michael Stewart / Getty Images

“During my time as governor I became very much aware of all the statistics on how much we destroy our environment with fossil fuels,” says Arnold Schwarzenegger. Considering the crucial point we are in in our environmental crisis and dangerous rhetoric by parts of the incoming administration, programs like the National Geographic Channel’s Years of Living Dangerously, for which Schwarzenegger serves as executive producer, are as important as ever. For his part, the former governor makes the point that this is an issue that transcends political parties.

“This is the people’s issue,” Schwarzenegger says. “We were able to accomplish great progress in California because we worked together, both Republicans and Democrats. We have to live in this world together.” For this week’s episode Schwarzenegger steps in front of the camera to visit United States Army bases in Kuwait and investigate the actions being made by the military to reduce its own carbon footprint. Here Schwarzenegger discusses his goals for the series, the dangers of inaction, and his hopes for the American people. You can watch the episode Wednesday at 10 p.m. EST on the National Geographic Channel.

How did you become involved in this series?

Jim Cameron and I got together, as two people whom always felt very passionate about the environment. We decided that in order to be successful around the globe we had to do what we did back in California, which was to make the people our partners. There is nothing without the people. The reason that we were successful was the people demanded we pass those laws. There was the perfect partnership between the people, the private sector, and the non-profit sector.

Why did you decide to do a show with hosts, instead of a straight docu-series?
The big problem in getting this message across is that the environmentalists have a way of talking that goes over most peoples' head. The scientists are even worse. They start talking and you want to fall asleep, like [taking] a sleeping pill. So what we had to do is reach out to the people and get them involved in a way that they care about.

How have previous efforts to raise awareness failed in the past?
You can’t speak to the people about something that is going to affect them in 25 years, because most minds are not wired to think that way. They care about what matters today. They want a job and they want to feed their family today. Those are the issues for them. So let’s not talk about what this issue means in 25 years, let’s talk about why it is an issue today.

How would you communicate the issue to the people?
Seven million people are dying from pollution-related illnesses every year. That is today. But nobody talks about it. Both the president and the environmentalists are speaking about climate change and how it melts the ice. The people say, "So what?" But if you mention that more people are dying from this now than all the car accidents, suicides, ISIS, and war all together, that is going to create the right urgency.

How has the show changed in its second season?
The first season was more about the problems that are here, and this year is more about the solutions that are possible. Jim and myself are very adamant that we needed to talk about the solutions.