Earth Day at 50: An Interview with John Kerry

In a video interview with F&ES Dean Indy Burke, former Secretary of State John Kerry reflects on five decades of environmental progress since  the first Earth Day and the difficult work ahead.

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

After returning from service in the Vietnam war in 1970, John Kerry ’66 immediately jumped into civic life. But his first foray into advocacy wasn’t as an outspoken critic of the war, a role that would bring him into the national spotlight; it was helping to coordinate the first Earth Day celebration in Massachusetts.

Over the next five decades, Kerry, a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, has been a champion for environmental issues at the local, state, national, and global levels. In 2017, after serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration, he came back to Yale to run the Kerry Initiative, an interdisciplinary program that tackles global challenges through teaching, research, and international dialogue.

This week, F&ES Dean Indy Burke spoke with Secretary Kerry about why he first got involved in environmental issues, the progress he’s seen in the past five decades, the biggest challenges ahead, and how his new coalition, World War Zero, which promotes climate conversations across the political spectrum, can be part of the solution.