Independent journalist and author Mark Hertsgaard presented his book “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.”

You have been dealing with environmental issues for a long time. Was there anything that surprised you when you started to write this book?

MH: I was surprised by the fact that there were already cutting-edge leaders in government and community organizations around the world who are already dealing with these issues in very ingenious and effective ways. Probably the single most hopeful story is the West African farmers, who, although they are some of the poorest people in the world and although many of them are illiterate and don’t even know the phrase “climate change, “are nevertheless adapting to climate change in a very effective way – by growing trees, a very simple thing to do. It is increasing the yield of their crops, increasing the yield of underground water tables, and the most important thing is that malnutrition in children is plummeting. If they can do it in West Africa, one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, surely we, with our technological and economic advantages, can do at least as much.

Your book talks about how the crisis will affect different areas like San Francisco and Washington state. Do you have any ideas about how the crisis will affect Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.?

MH: On the question of heat … you will be indeed be facing that by 2040. That “charming” summer that you had last year is now going to be a normal summer. It doesn’t mean you’ll get it every summer; you might get it every other summer. So that is probably the number one thing I would leave with people. Second, in terms of Washington, D.C., we have looked at sea level rise and storm surge, and essentially by the middle of the century we could easily be seeing the Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorials surrounded by moats of water because of two things – sea level rise and storm surge. Sea level rise won’t do it alone but when it is compounded by, especially summer storms, stronger hurricanes and that sort of thing will be happening. The entire western half of the [National] Mall could easily be put underwater every other year by 2050.

In reading the book I got the sense that there is not really a specific remedy for climate success, as areas vary so greatly. Should staying local be the focus or are there universal adaptations we can engage in?

MH: Adaptations are definitely more local and regional, but for mitigation it has to be all of that, and national, and global. I don’t set out to say this is what will define success, because unfortunately I can’t use the term success in that context. We are already locked in to at least a two-degree Celsius temperature rise – that’s not a success. We have to make the best of the situation and that will involve actions on both the local and national level.

We are in a unique situation as college students. We both know the past and face experiencing a different kind of future. Do you think those local efforts are the place for us to start?

MH: The old mantra, “Think globally, act locally” is still applicable. You have to have a consciousness about the global problem but where you’re going to be able to deflect the global problem is by organizing locally, and then doing things like electing different representatives to government and shutting down bad energy sources, like coal-fired power plants.

Could you apply the metaphor of a doomsday clock to the environmental crisis?

MH: In some ways we are already past midnight on the clock. It’s already too late for a lot. There are already a lot of places we aren’t going to be able to defend. A lot of places we are going to have to abandon. At this point, we are not going to be able to save every place or everyone, so we just have to do the best we can in the time remaining, however long that is.

One of the things I thought was interesting in the book is that at least one person noted that climate control, social justice and economic developments were all linked. Do you think this is true?

MH: I think they should be if we want to make progress, and I would add human rights in there, because without human rights it’s very difficult to do the political activism that’s required to really turn this situation around.

The end of the book mentions “Green Apollo.” Could you talk about that?

MH: The idea is that the nation has to make a strong commitment to a specific goal of shifting carbon fuel and creating a green economy. A 10-year timeline is the goal because it helps focus the attention. Essentially, what we do is use government leadership and some amount of government money (mainly the government money is to leverage the private sector) for citizen involvement. You’ve got to have a grass roots level. The Green Apollo program will be an enormous job producer and economic growth engineer. By changing incentives– not by spending more money, but by spending money more wisely – we can get a different outcome. Let’s stop spending money in a way that’s going to hurt our future and start spending money in a way that will help our future.

How much hope do you have for the future?

MH: Without hope, we are lost. Hope is not the same as optimism. Optimism is a rational calculation that looks at the objective facts. Hope obviously looks at that, but then, whatever those facts are, hope will help them to move in the right direction. Let’s say on the optimism scale the chances are 10-to-1 that we’re going to be able to make this. If we don’t do anything, we are sure not to make it. If we do, there is no guarantee we’ll succeed, but what is the alternative? As a dad in particular – but even before I was a dad – I would much rather give it my best effort and go down fighting if I have to, then just say it’s too hard. If it were a 1000-to-1 chance I would still fight for my daughter and the rest of generation hot.