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Episode #27

Peter Beard and Richard Ruggiero

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Monday, October 22, 2012

This week on Here’s the Thing, Alec talks with two men who have spent much of their lives living and working in Africa.  Photographer Peter Beard first set foot on the continent in 1955. Richard Ruggiero, of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, began his Peace Corps stint in 1981 in the northern Central African Republic.  

“We are enemies of nature,” says Beard, whose photographs have documented the destruction of wildlife in Africa, including the plight of the African Elephant, the very topic of Ruggiero’s doctoral dissertation.  Ruggiero continues to work in Africa today and says the situation with elephant poaching right now is a “nightmare.”  That says, says Ruggiero, “People are the problem, but they are also the solution.”

READ | Interview transcript

Richard Ruggiero, 1984
Courtesy Richard Ruggiero, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Richard Ruggiero, 1984
Courtesy of Peter Beard Studio
"Under the Snows of Kilimanjaro 1986/2012"
Peter Beard
Courtesy of the Peter Beard Studio, copyright Pirelli
Peter Beard
Richard Ruggiero with a 6-month old chimp confiscated from poachers who were trying to sell the chimp on a road in Gabon.
Courtesy Richard Ruggiero, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Richard Ruggiero with a 6-month old chimp confiscated from poachers who were trying to sell the chimp on a road in Gabon.
Richard Ruggiero, at an ivory storage room in Niassa Reserve in Northern Mozambique.
Courtesy Richard Ruggiero, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Richard Ruggiero, at an ivory storage room in Niassa Reserve in Northern Mozambique.

Hosted by:

Alec Baldwin

Produced by:

Emily Botein and Kathie Russo

Comments [16]

quinn from san francisco ca

I know Peter Beard had a stroke in November 2013. His 76th birthday is January 22nd, 2014, and there is no news about his health. I hope and wish he is well.

Jan. 21 2014 09:21 PM
Robert from Sonoma, CA

How would Mr. Baldwin have reacted if Mitt Romney had said "The more AIDS the better" in an interview? Very disappointing.

Apr. 07 2013 05:40 PM

Fantastic!

Apr. 07 2013 03:17 PM
Anne from Westport, CT

Ruggiero redeems this conversation. What a thoughtful, sensible thinker. Thank you Dr. Ruggiero for giving more nuance to your account of Africa, specifically the Central/East African nations you do most of your work in - - Gabon, Kenya, DRC, Congo.
Thanks also for elaborating on the conflict between human imperatives and natural ones. This was the first I'd heard of the positive efforts of Gabon's president, Ali Bongo. We wish him + other country leaders continued work in this area, even with all the other issues demanding attention and investment.

Mar. 12 2013 05:22 AM
Anne from Westport, CT

What an awful interview. I don't know what's worse: Beard's stupidity or Baldwin's abetting of it.
"I'm not really a reproducer," Beard says. THANK GOD. This man sounds like he was scraped from the substrate of a pre-primal ooze. What a backwards boy.

Mar. 12 2013 04:51 AM
harry eccleston from mtk

intested in estate management/montauk

Mar. 08 2013 03:06 AM
Maggie from Vancouver

I thought that Alec Baldwin skipped over the AIDS comment because he felt it not worthy of discussion and I was grateful for that.

I think human population and ecology issues are worthy of discussion and we do need to overcome the skittishness around them.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now focusing on birth control access globally, which would presumably affect the human population. When women have control over their reproduction they have fewer babies, a much better method of population control than a horrific disease, with many added benefits for all. I would be interested to hear Mr. Baldwin interview Melinda Gates on this topic.

Feb. 16 2013 12:20 PM
Catherine from U.S.

He said he studied Joseph Albers, rather than Joseph Alvarez. Just a note to those reading the transcript.

Dec. 10 2012 08:21 PM
Joe from Westchester, NY

Interesting piece and subject, somwhat unexpected on this program. The only parallel I could draw was that Baldwin became interested in this subject and perhaps met Beard sometime after he spent 2 Months in Africa.

In the fantastic Billy Joel interview Baldwin mentioned an uppity man in a tweed jacket he once met at a cocktail party who questioned him about his acting career. Could that mean have been Beard? Enjoyed the discussion about "the Libertine" who comes off as sort of full of himself and entertaining. Leanign back, was dad artistic? Are you kidding me? Three times is a charm. Quite a character.

Ruggiero and Beard are both on track with good causes and clearly fond of eachother. The elephant attack and Cheryl Tiegs are the real highlights. People are focused on the AIDS comment? It didnt offend me, there was a larger point and these gentlemen are well intentioned. All in, this was another refreshing interview. Baldwin's terrific and always well prepared and gets the most out of his subjects.

Nov. 21 2012 09:36 AM
Linda from NYC

That Peter Beard believes that "the more AIDS the better" in Kenya is disgusting but not particularly surprising - but Baldwin's failure to challenge that notion is shocking. I can't imagine his not reacting if Beard had made the same reference in regard to North America - where environmental abuses and over consumption also abound. I felt queasy very early on in the conversation when I realized Africa was being discussed as a state of mind - a dream land - if only there were no Africans. Whether he's using a gun or camera - Beard appears to have a classic case of" Great White Hunter"syndrome. Mr. Baldwin you're smart enough to have interrogated that . Why didn't you? I'm all for the idea of entertaining conversation with interesting people but if sitting at Beard's table inhibited a response to his loathsome comments you may want to think about that.

Nov. 17 2012 12:25 PM
Becca Schwartz from Accra, Ghana, West Africa

I actually listened to this podcast from "Africa," Accra, Ghana to be exact, and I can assure you, the "Africa" that was referred to countless times during the course of the two interviews is made up of numerous, distinct countries. It is not a country in itself as the intro insinuates.

I have been living on this continent, for over 6 years and the stereotypes that I find myself fighting all the time when it comes to Americans' perceptions include it being a place filled with poverty, war, disease and wild animals. This podcast, while bringing real issues to light pertaining to those wild animals, did not do any favors generally for the American public's astounding ignorance about this vast, diverse and evolving place.

I found many of the comments made by both guests to be frustrating because they made these complicated issues seem so simple - the African people are causing the destruction of precious wildlife. What about the Batwa people who were forced off of the land where they lived for thousands of years in Eastern Congo, Southern Uganda and Rwanda, so the governments of those countries could form national parks? What about the Masai herders who lose cattle to lions all the time? It really isn't as simple as you have made it seem.

It is also important to note that the example of Gabon is not a very good one; Gabon was ruled by the current president's father for 41 years and now his son has taken over. Its GDP per capita is more than 5 times that of other African countries because of it's oil industry. Gabon can afford to devote some time and energy to its wildlife.

I urge you to do have a follow up show with a few people who can speak intelligently about Africa, its triumphs and challenges. What about Kofi Annan, Chinua Achebe, James Shikwati or Dambisa Moyo?

Nov. 11 2012 04:50 PM
Brad Grace

I switched the podcast off after Beard's "the more AIDS the better" comment. Actually, I switched it off after realizing that Mr. Baldwin was not going to challenge that comment, and I'm inclined to unsubscribe to the podcast for this reason. I'm sure that Mr. Beard has forgotten more about overpopulation in Africa than I will ever know, but the idea of an old WASP tossing off this comment and his interlocutor proceeding with his "light lunch in Montauk" is repugnant. "Here's the thing" indeed.

Oct. 27 2012 09:51 AM
Nan from Santa Fe, NM

Thank you for bringing this terrible reality to light with such interesting and distinguished guests. I think there should be many of these interviews alerting people to the plight of the elephant. I try to think of what I can do as an individual to help save elephants from extinction. Richard mentions Ian Douglas Hamilton. He has an organization called Save the Elephant in Kenya. Check it out. For now, donations help, of course.

Oct. 24 2012 11:59 PM
kevin from upper LS

@Eric from WT

where should the "light lunch" have been? people will snipe at anything i guess.

Oct. 24 2012 10:33 PM
Eric from Windsor Terrace

An interesting show, for the most part, although I felt badly for Ruggiero. Beard's a tough act to follow.

I was curious as to why there was no discussion of Beard's point about AIDS and its "role" in Africa. There's something insidious about this, although I can't put my finger on it. Alec seemed to skip over this controversial point instead of taking time to examine its implications.

Lastly: not sure I needed to know the interview was taped over "a light lunch in Montauk." Then, I suppose being Alec Baldwin has its privileges.

Oct. 23 2012 09:22 PM
Joan from L.I., N.Y.

Very entertaining interviews with Peter Beard and Richard Ruggiero! Thank you Alec. I also hope to visit Africa someday. Interesting conversation in regards to the value of elephants and wildlife in Africa. Everything that God has put on the earth has a value! Let's hope and pray that all animals, such as elephants and other wildlife, will come to be recognized for the true value, beauty, and contribution that they bring to humanity!

Oct. 22 2012 12:14 PM

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