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Sharing the Wealth of Nations; "Noah" on the Silver Screen; Imagine a World

Aired April 1, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

After another round of emergency meetings, NATO has suspended all cooperation with Russia. It says also there is no sign of President Putin's promised pullback from the Ukrainian border. And now NATO also plans war games with Ukraine that could put U.S. troops toe to toe with Russian troops.

Meantime, Russia whacks Ukraine again, this time the energy giant Gazprom hikes the price of natural gas to Kiev in what could be a crippling blow to an economy that's already on its knees wilting under the weight of years of staggering institutional corruption.

Now it's a scenario that lurks behind so much crisis today, just like in Ukraine, corruption, inequality and poverty shape events all across the world. From Tunisia to Egypt, the Arab Spring was sparked by economic hopelessness. Millions of people came out to demand better. But three years later, in Cairo, political chaos has just made the economy and the people worse off as unemployment climbs; people look set to select another strongman as president, General al-Sisi. But even natural forces conspire against the world's most vulnerable. The latest U.N. climate report warned that environmental changes which are underway may soon spark food shortages and that in turn could lead to violent struggles over dwindling supplies.

So how to get nations into better health and thus greater wealth? That is the herculean task of my next guest and the institution he leads; World Bank president Dr. Jim Yong Kim has set out ambitious goals to drive economic growth and also stiff reforms to make the organization itself work better for the people it serves.

And Dr. Kim joins me again today from Washington.

Welcome back to the program, Dr. Kim. Good to see you again.

JIM YONG KIM, WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: Thanks so much for having me, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So let's get right into Ukraine, the big crisis of the moment and today yet another blow to its fragile and very weak economy.

In your view, what will this energy hike do to Ukraine right now?

KIM: Well, Christiane, we're very concerned and especially since we've now been in very intense negotiations with the government. The prime minister was here in Washington, D.C., and I had a chance to talk with him. I think if you look at what they're doing right now, the reform agenda that they've set out and they've passed in the parliament, is really quite impressive. Now this particular measure is going to have an impact. And of course the people we're most concerned about are the poorest in Ukraine. Over 20 years we've put about $10 billion into Ukraine. Our current portfolio is $3.5 billion and we're promising to put another $3 billion. So we have a huge stake in trying to help this particular government get through those reforms in a way that will protect the poorest. This is a great concern now, especially for the poorest who are going to be hit the hardest with these increased --


AMANPOUR: And that in turn, you know, keeps these political -- this political chaos on the boil.

But let me ask you this. On the one hand, you are looking at making an invest into a situation that is deeply unstable right now, but on the other hand, if one doesn't help Ukraine, it is falling constantly to the whims of Mother Russia, which turns on the spigot, whether it's gas, whether it's aid, whatever it is, on and off, on and off.

So surely -- I guess where does the weight come down? Do you take the risk or not?

KIM: Well, you know, Christiane, we work in a lot of very risky places. We have a huge project in Afghanistan. We work in Iraq. There's so many places that are unstable and that are facing great difficulty and we're actually -- we were created to go into those kinds of situations. And so in this case, we have a longstanding relationship with the government of Ukraine. And so our role is to try to do everything we can to help them move forward economically. But in the short run, we're looking at some fast-dispersing (ph) loans that can go directly into the government so that they can put together programs that will protect the poorest. And these are very basic programs, health, sanitation, social protection programs. And our aim is to do as much as we can from an economic perspective to improve the stability of the situation as a whole, because increasing instability is not going to have -- is going to have impacts far beyond the Ukraine and this is why so much of the -- so many of the people in that region are so concerned about what we might be able to do in the short-term. We're concerned as well. And we're ready to move.

AMANPOUR: And the impact obviously is having reverberations in Russia as well. When we last spoke, you talked about some of the positive things that President Putin was doing, you know, making it easier and more transparent to get business licenses and the rest.

But now, of course, the World Bank has warned that the current troubles between Russia and Ukraine could actually put its growth into either a stall situation or negative growth with a massive outflow of capital.

How bad for Russia is what it's doing in Ukraine-Crimea?

KIM: Well, if there is only a very fleeting and minimal impact, we think Russian growth will still only be at around 1.1 percent or so, a very slow rate of growth. But if this continues and the disruption is more serious, we think the Russian economy could actually contract by as much as 1.5 percent to 2 percent. So the stakes are high for everybody, including Russia. And so this is why we strongly encourage all the parties involved to move toward a peaceful and mutually agreeable resolution in this region.

What we now know is that conflicts like this have very far-reaching implications. You can imagine that among our board members and the people who are watching the situation closely, this tremendous concern, we hope that by moving quickly and providing resources that we can play our own role in bringing greater stability.

AMANPOUR: You know, you are tasked with helping the world's poorest, the poorest 40 percent in the world, in these various countries.

What do you think of the sanctions, then, are they going to hurt the oligarchs and the power center or are the sanctions going to hurt the Russian people?

KIM: You know, it's still too early to tell, Christiane. But of course, you know, we're watching this very closely. We have a very strong working relationship with the Russian government. And we've been working with them on a number of issues. You know, they have improved. They were the third biggest mover in terms of improvement in their business environment. There's real seriousness about improving the business environment.

But like many large countries, middle income countries that are growing very quickly, Russia has problems delivering basic services, for example, to the outer oblasts and so they're both trying to contain costs, for example, in health care in the cities, but at the same time provide health education, social protection in some of the oblasts that are not getting as much as attention.


KIM: So we are intent on keeping a good relationship with Russia, but there are going to be implications if that economy contracts.

AMANPOUR: I just want to point out an incredible piece of research that you drew on, that you know, 24 percent of economic growth over the world was spurred by improving health of people. So the money going in to improve people's health actually has an incredible effect on economic growth.

But I do actually want to ask you about looking inwards in reform of your own institution, because it's all well and good demanding this and that from the countries that you helped.

But for instance, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a former business man, Justin Welby, has said that actually the World Bank and the IMF, he said, needs to do a much better job of policing itself. Looking less like a police force and more like a fire brigade, it said.

What reforms do you think the World Bank needs to do to make it more accountable to the people it serves?

KIM: You know, Christiane, the World Bank has changed a lot. And let's take that health issue in particular. Twenty years ago, I was actually on the streets, protesting against the World Bank. I was part of the "50 years is enough" movement. And we wanted to shut down the World Bank on its 50th anniversary. I'm very glad we lost that argument.

And here's why. You know, 20 years ago the World Bank wasn't focused so much on health and education. You know, the World Bank was saying, well, let's just make the economy grow and then once the economy grows, then we can think about health and education.

But today, as a result of reports like this, this was a report that was headed by Larry Summers, we now know that investing in health and education is critical for economic growth. So in many ways what's great is that the World Bank does rely on evidence. And in the case of health and education, the evidence has caught up with the ethical argument of investing in health and education --


AMANPOUR: Well, then, let me ask you this.

KIM: -- this is a very different bank.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I hear you. So what about the political paralysis or whatever you might want to call it in the United States? We just had this report over the last week of how Congress basically stopped certain reforms in the IMF and that in turn has hindered some aid and money and help in this regard to Ukraine.

How deeply does politics affect what you're trying to do in this regard?

KIM: Well, in the case of the United States, so if you -- if you look back, the first time in August of 2011 when the U.S. almost got to the point of defaulting, even though they didn't get to the point of defaulting, the impact on developing economies was significant. Borrowing costs went up and stock markets were depressed for more than six months.

So even a close call in the U.S. can have an impact in developing countries. The good news is that it looks like the U.S. in the U.S., it moved away from these kinds of budget issues in terms of having the discussion that they're having between the two parties.

And that's really good news for the global economy. Politics always does matter. You know, as a World Bank group, are forbidden by our constitution from getting directly involved in political issues. But on issues of governance and corruption, we're very involved. And all of those things matter a lot. The countries that are governed better do much, much better in terms of economic --


KIM: -- much, much better investing in its people.

AMANPOUR: And what about the looming issue, the present issue of climate change, the latest U.N. report is pretty alarming in its extreme predictions of violent struggles over dwindling supplies.

How much do you pay attention to that in what you're trying to do?

KIM: Well, so Christiane, to get back to an earlier question, you know, we're looking at everything at the World Bank group. We're cutting our expenditures; we're going to cut by $400 million. And this is just an integrity exercise. We know we can be more efficient and we're going to be more efficient.

But we want to be fit for purpose to tackle issues like climate change. So right now we're working and we're doing a great job throughout the world. But the question we had to ask is can we get much, much better? And we were convinced that we can.

So on the issue of climate change, we've got to look at everything in our portfolio and ask ourselves, are we doing enough to make sure that we're building cleaner, more livable cities? Are we doing enough to make sure that the great innovations in agriculture, that can actually put more carbon into the ground, are we ensuring that those programs are being scaled up?

Are we making the kind of financing available for renewable energy that now is being demanded in places like Africa? And what we've learned was that we're not there yet. So the change process we're going through is to make us fit for purpose specifically for tackling problems like climate change.

You know, the new report was really striking. It said two things that we've really got to wake up to. The first is we've really got to get serious about reducing carbon emissions. But the second probably underappreciated is that we're not doing enough to help especially poor countries and poor people adapt to the climate change effects that we're already seeing. We're already seeing the impact of climate change and countries have to be prepared. And they're not right now, especially the poorest ones.

AMANPOUR: World Bank president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, thank you very much for joining me from Washington.

KIM: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And of course dire predictions of changing climate and rising waters date back to the Old Testament, when the God of Abraham washed his hands of the human race and sent a great flood to cover the Earth.

According to the Book of Genesis, God spoke to Noah and told him how to save his family and two of each kind of animal. Here's how comedian Bill Cosby -- imagine that Biblical conversation taking place -- back when he was just starting out.


BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: "I want you to build an ark."



"What's an ark?"


AMANPOUR: That, of course, was during the '60s, when Cosby was a young man.

But today, Russell Crowe stars in the Hollywood blockbuster, "Noah," and not only answers that question but raises many others relevant to our own time and tribulations. Director Darren Aronofsky tells us why in the name of God he chose to make a Biblical epic without ever mentioning God's name. That's when we come back.





AMANPOUR (voice-over): Thousands of years ago, the Bible says, God flooded the world. The only survivors, one man, his family and hundreds of animals, two by two, on the ark he built.


Noah's story, shown there in Hollywood's new Biblical blockbuster continues to inspire people as I found when I made the documentary, "Back to the Beginning." A Christian business man, building his own life-size replica of Noah's ark in the Netherlands and even scientists like the deep sea explorer Robert Ballard, famous for discovering the wreck of the Titanic, he's tantalized by the tidbits of truth. He says no one will ever find Noah's ark, but they can find evidence of the great flood and the civilizations it covered in Turkey's Black Sea.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): They unearthed an ancient shoreline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we actually dated it about 5,000 B.C.

AMANPOUR: And that is about the time that the Bible says --


AMANPOUR: -- Noah and the great flood happened.

I mean wow.


AMANPOUR: And now the film director, Darren Aronofsky, famous for "The Black Swan," has taken on the Biblical epic. When I sat down with him ahead of last night's U.K. premiere here in London, I discovered the other great passion that drove him to this story.


AMANPOUR: Darren Aronofsky, welcome.

DARREN ARONOFSKY, DIRECTOR, "NOAH": Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

AMANPOUR: Let me start with some of the criticism and the climate issue, because I know that you're very passionate about what is happening to our world.

Some of those who didn't even see the film started by saying you're just an environmental whacko.

ARONOFSKY: No, they called the film -- Noah in the film an environment whacko, not me. But I mean, it's in Genesis. You know, first of all, Noah is saving the animals. He's not out there saving innocent babies. He's saving the animals. He's saving Creation. In Genesis 2:15, the first thing that God tells Adam to do is to tend and to keep the Garden. It's right there in Genesis.

So it's very clear to us that there was an environmental message. To pull that message out of it we think would have been more of an editing job than just sort of representing what's there.

AMANPOUR: So do you think this is a story for our time, given the incredible environmental changes that are happening right now?

ARONOFSKY: You know, it's like the first cautionary tale. It's actually if you are wicked, if you fill the world with wickedness, you will get punished. And you look at what's happening right now, the fact that here we are today and that U.N. report came out, you know, it's very powerful. You know, the water's rising and we already saw it once. You know, we are living the second chance that was given to Noah.

AMANPOUR: And could lead to the kind of violence and destruction that actually was in the time of Noah as well.

ARONOFSKY: But I think that violence is already happening and that destruction is happening. It's not just climate change. It's we're destroying all the large mammals on the planet. We're destroying all the forests. We're destroying the water. We're destroying all the fishes. We're destroying everything. We've just changed everything. And people are always talking about the end of the world in their times. But there is the impact and the dominion of man over the planet, is so clear and so present right now that you have to say, OK, what's going on?

AMANPOUR: What made you do "Noah?" Are you pious.

ARONOFSKY: Well, it started off actually when I was 13 years old. I had a magical teacher. My 7th grade English teacher. And one day she said, "Take out a paper and pen and write something about peace." And I ended up writing a poem that was on Noah. It was called "The Dove." And it ended up winning a contest.

Actually, not ironically but kind of karmically with -- it was a contest for the U.N. And I ended up in front of the U.N., reading the poem a few weeks later. And it sort of sent me down the path of storytelling.

So Noah's very much been a patron saint in my life for all these years for storytelling. And as soon as I got to L.A. with my first film, "Pi," I started thinking about why has no one made a Biblical epic in 50 years or an Old Testament film in 50 years?

AMANPOUR: Now we actually found a YouTube clip of that teacher of yours and you gave her a cameo part with Russell Crowe. And we're going to play a little clip.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then Darren said, now when Russell comes in, give him your dirty teacher look.

I said, "What?"

He said give him your -- at me. And Russell Crowe together in a scene. So here's my scene.


Camera, you are Russell Crowe. Ready?


That's it.


AMANPOUR: And that is hilarious. It was really, very, very funny.

Your teacher was obviously a big influence on you.

What was it like for her being in the film?

ARONOFSKY: She's almost 80 years old and I just got an email from her daughter, who was just like, you basically validated all those years of her as a teacher.

And since then, she's become part of the social media and all these other students that were affected by her are reaching out to her. And she has influenced a lot of really kind of successful people, which is great.

AMANPOUR: Why did you choose Russell Crowe and what message do you send by having that star be Noah?

ARONOFSKY: It's a good question. I needed someone who was truthful. And the thing about Russell is you believe him, you know? And it is so real that everything around him, he kind of grounded it and pulled it down for us and made it dignified and real. And that's what Russell gave us.

AMANPOUR: Like all great religious epics, this one is controversial even before your film was out. You had the Christians who said that you weren't close enough to the Bible; you have the Muslims who say that, hang on, this is a prophet and you can't put a prophet's image out there and we're going to ban it in all those Muslim countries.

But that's good, right?

ARONOFSKY: Only three or four countries.



ARONOFSKY: It was a very small response.

AMANPOUR: Are you worried about that? Or is --


ARONOFSKY: No, well, look. Now that people are seeing the movie, it -- the issues are really evaporating. In fact, it's being embraced a lot by all different religious groups and people are excited by it because I think we deeply honored the words of Genesis. There were only four chapters that we could base this on. And so we studied every word. And everything in the film has a reason for being there.

And if you look at it as poetry, you can really be inspired. It's like the story of Icarus. You know, we don't question the fact if you put feathers and wax, how was he able to fly close to the sun? But we all understand the message of hubris.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of this line from "The New York Times," that "The riskiest thing about this movie is its sincerity."


ARONOFSKY: Well, I get that all the time. But you know, that's -- I had that when I did a film called "The Fountain" a few years back. And I guess I'm kind of earnest.

But I feel like the situation is a bit dire on the planet right now and it's time to like, you know, make entertaining films. And at the bottom line, Noah is entertainment. It's a very thrilling, exciting film. But if you can sort of actually connect to the cautionary message that's in the Bible, that's great.

AMANPOUR: The cautionary message is about the environment, about the planet, about taking care of Creation --


ARONOFSKY: And also violence between people.

AMANPOUR: Right. So I was going to say, this is a God who's portrayed in this book and in this Noah story as a vengeful God, as a destroyer.


AMANPOUR: As a God who was going to wipe out and frankly did until he had second thoughts.

ARONOFSKY: Well, then he had -- yes.

AMANPOUR: The whole human race and the animal race.

ARONOFSKY: Yes, absolutely. But then, it -- but it's a beautiful story because He also has mercy. At the end of the story, He finds grace and mercy and forgiveness. That's the rainbow, the first rainbow is that moment. So it's a great characteristic arc, an arc with a C, which is from a place of anger and violence to a place of mercy. And that, to me, was the core of this film, to start off with someone who understands the wickedness of the world and wants justice and then finds a place of mercy and forgiveness and a second chance. And we are living that second chance right now. And that's inspiring. That basically this happened before, believe it or not, live it or not, we are living that second chance right now. And what are we going to do about it?

AMANPOUR: That seems to be a perfect place to close.


AMANPOUR: Darren Aronofsky, thank you for joining me.

ARONOFSKY: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: And the film opens here in the U.K. and around the world later this week.

Meantime, as this cartoon illustrates, the story of Noah's ark continues to resonate. "Relax," says the cartoon, "it's only a climate change April Fool's Day stunt."

And after a break, another disaster of Biblical proportions. It happened over three years ago when the one-two punch of an earthquake and tsunami hit the northeastern coast of Japan. The survivors, like Noah's children, are now returning to the land of Fukushima. That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Noah's voyage ended with a rainbow and a divine promise that the Earth would never again be destroyed by a flood. But of course many people living in low-lying areas are terrified of rising seas and the latest U.N. climate change report. But now imagine a world where the waters of a modern flood have receded, still leaving the planet in peril.

For the first time since Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami more than three years ago, residents are beginning to return to their homes in a nearby community, as they rebuild their houses and their lives, the specter of Fukushima's meltdown remains, not just for nervous neighbors, but for nations across the globe.

It was once hoped that nuclear power could be an antidote to carbon emissions and climate change. But the Fukushima disaster unleashing radioactive material and turning villages into ghost towns caused nuclear energy advocates like Germany to rethink their programs. And the ripple effect is even complicating Germany's relations with Russia, critical of Moscow's moves in Ukraine and yet dependent on its vast resources of fossil fuels. And meantime, even as Fukushima's survivors come home, the Earth remains threatened by man's mismanagement of his environment after the flood.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.