Skip to main content

Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Working to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons with Beatrice Fihn

Not long ago, the idea of global nuclear disarmament seemed impossible. Yet a recent groundswell of support from young people, organizations, local governments and countries around the world has built momentum around eliminating nuclear weapons. In this episode of Breaking Boundaries, Annelise Riles discusses this movement with Beatrice Fihn, the former Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Under her leadership, ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize and played a key role in the adoption of the landmark United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Beatrice Fihn headshot

If the consequences of your weapon cannot be contained in time and space, it will impact the next generation. It will impact people who live far away from the place where you use it. You will harm civilians that had no part of the conflict. So that is a war crime. It is never a proportional response to use nuclear weapons given the mass civilian and casualties that it will cost.”

— Beatrice Fihn

Background reading


Subscribe to Breaking Boundaries wherever you listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode:spotify-podcast-badge-blk-wht-165x40.png en_google_podcasts_badge_2x.png us_uk_apple_podcasts_listen_badge_rgb.svg us_listenon_amazonmusic_button_white_rgb_5x.png stitcher.jpg

Read the transcript of this show

[00:00:00] Annelise Riles: Welcome to the Breaking Boundaries Podcast. I'm Annelise Riles, Executive Director of Northwestern University's Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs. The Northwestern Buffett Institute is dedicated to breaking through traditional silos of expertise, geography, culture, and language to surface novel solutions to pressing global challenges. Today we're talking about United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 16, which is Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Global nuclear disarmament is more important than ever. Recently we've seen a groundswell of support from young people all around the world and local governments and countries outside the nuclear powers who are stepping up and taking a position on this issue. Now, how did this happen? Was it just a coincidence? I don't think so. Our guest today is a force behind this change. Beatrice Fihn is the former executive director of ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Under her leadership, ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize and played a key role in the adoption of the landmark United Nations Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. And I have to say, I'm a little starstruck today because Beatrice is changing the whole playbook. How international law works, how civil society leans into its power, how we bring together hard-headed multilateral negotiations with activism for the Instagram era. Beatrice is going to join us today and talk about her work mobilizing civil society to ban nuclear weapons, and how such a ban could help us to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Welcome, Beatrice. It is such an honor to be in conversation with you.

[00:01:58] Beatrice Fihn: Thank you so much, Annelise. What a, what an introduction! I'm almost blushing. Thank you.

[00:02:02] Annelise Riles: Well, it's truly an honor to be with you because you truly have changed the world. I'd love for our listeners to know a little bit about you. How did you lean into this work?

[00:02:12] Beatrice Fihn: Well, I'm Swedish and I currently live in Switzerland, so I come from a small country and you know, a country without a lot of power on the global arena, but yet I grew up also in kind of suburbs of Gothenburg on the west coast where there was a lot of immigrants coming and refugees from the whole world. So I grew up in a very multicultural area. Even though Sweden was very safe and, you know, peaceful, a lot of my friends, my best friends growing up came from conflict areas or their parents came from conflict areas who were fleeing revolutions, or poverty, or starvations, famines, war, for example, dictators, in different ways. So I just really had this kind of sense growing up that despite living quite remotely up North in, in Europe, what happened in the rest of the world really had an impact on us as well, and we were part of this world. And I think in particularly the Balkan war. You know, I was, really young, but just remembering over the summer, like we had all these students coming to my school and they were, from Serbia, Kosovo Albanians, there were Croatians, they were Bosnians. And I remember as a child being very confused because just thinking about you know, there was just so many types of people from former Yugoslavia and I couldn't really forget who are the baddies and who are the goodies. And you know, just really early kind of recognizing that, huh? There, might not always be baddies and, goodies. And it's not just two sides, and it's very complex, these things. And they are, you know, this impacts us in Sweden as well. The international issues came from there. But I also think, as I said, Sweden is a small country and I studied international relations and was really looking toward things that the United Nations as a really kind of prestigious attractive place. Because for Sweden to have influence in the world, we have to work through diplomacy. We're not like the United States that has this massive army right, to dictate and tell people what to do with the world. We had to work through diplomacy. So I think that for smaller countries, multilateralism and diplomacy and international law, and this like global rules, that's our defense. That's our way to keep secure in the world.

[00:04:09] Annelise Riles: One I just want to ask you, first of all about nuclear weapons. Because we're living at this strange moment at which many of the people who've experienced the horrors of nuclear war firsthand are passing from the scene. And there are fewer and fewer of us, who have had the firsthand experience of what these weapons actually can do, what kind of destruction they can bring. We hear a lot of talk now even about small so-called tactical nuclear weapons. As if it's just really no big deal. Kind of loose talk about using a nuclear weapon here and there. Could you share for our listeners just a little bit about why nuclear weapons are so dangerous? Why are they different from all other weapons? What kind of destruction does a nuclear weapon wreak on a community?

[00:04:53] Beatrice Fihn: I mean, nuclear weapons really, it's a weapon of mass destruction. I mean, it's in the name there, mass destruction. It has this incredible power to kill so many civilians in one go. And I think it's important to remember that this is not a precision guidance weapon that targets a military installation. It's a weapon that is built to wipe out cities, populated area. That's really what it's intended to do. And what's really unique about nuclear weapons in that sense is of course the radioactivity. It is a massive bomb. So it's bigger than other conventional weapons in its explosiveness, but also the fallout adds another level of suffering afterwards. I mean, an explosion is an explosion, and you can have a big one or a small one, but the radioactivity that comes after. So, you know when a nuclear weapon is used on a city, you will have the first explosion, I think the core of a nuclear bomb, the heat is like 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It will melt, evaporate anything at the epicenter. And then of course the, pressure wave that the kind of knocks over buildings, any humans will be completely just sent flying cars, vehicles, things like that. Then comes the firestorms, which is also kind of an overlooked consequence of a nuclear weapon, is enormous because it's so hot, the bomb, that it also, it will burn anything flammable. And not that, but also the kind of oxygen that those fires then drags in will kind of create this almost hurricane force winds of firestorms. Enormous devastation. And then comes the fallout. That will poison people immediately, of course, but also for decades after. What we've seen from places like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the many nuke test sites around the world is that people develop cancers, leukemia, different diseases long, long after the nuclear bomb. So even if you survive, by sheer luck, the initial bomb, you'll still live your whole life in fear of dying from the consequences afterwards. So it's really, it's an absolute horrible weapon. It would be a war crime to use them in any context. And I think that's important to kind of talk about. I think also that we, talk about these small nuclear bombs, there aren't real small nuclear bombs. For example, there's been a lot of talk in the context of Russia using a small tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. And I think it's important to recognize that Russia has a wide range of tactical nuclear weapons. The vast majority of them are between 10 kilotons and a hundred kilotons in its explosive powers. That's the tactical nuclear weapons, not the big strategic bombers, but the tactical ones. The Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 were 15 kilotons. So it's the small of the small ones. That's not a small bomb.

[00:07:23] Annelise Riles: I think that's really, really important for people to hear. I just want to underline what you just said about war crimes. Can you explain why the use of a nuclear weapon would constitute a war crime?

[00:07:35] Beatrice Fihn: It's prohibited under the Geneva Conventions to deliberately target civilians and cause excessive harms to civilians. And, you know, nuclear weapons are made to do that. If you don't want to cause excessive harms, you don't use nuclear weapons. I mean, it's just as simple as that. But also because of the specific consequences in terms of their radioactivity that can be picked up by the wind and be spread to other areas of course. And also the time, right, that the radioactivity stays there and impacts people in the long term. Which means that, if the consequences of your weapon cannot be contained in time and space, right, it will impact the next generation. It will impact, you know, people who live far away from the place where you use it. You will harm civilians that had no part of the conflict. So that is a war crime. It is never sort of a proportional response to use nuclear weapons given the mass civilian and casualties that it will cost.

[00:08:26] Annelise Riles: So we have a weapon here that can only be used in a way that would constitute a war crime. We have nine countries that we know of that now possess nuclear weapons. There might be more, there might be other organizations that have them as well. How do you assess the risk that a nuclear weapon would be used in the fairly near future at the moment?

[00:08:47] Beatrice Fihn: It's extremely difficult to know because we don't know all the information. And I think this is also one of the difficulties with nuclear weapons is that, the point of them is to keep it sort of secret and unpredictable. It's never actually rational to use nuclear weapons. They're so destructive. They're so harmful for civilians. There are, and I'm like doing my quotations marks "better weapons" to use. I mean, it depends on what you think of weapons in general, but , you know, warfare is going in a very different direction. The main point of carrying our warfare today should not be to wipe out whole cities. I mean, of course there are people who do it. We've see in Ukraine now, for example. And we've seen it in Syria, we've seen it in other places. But to achieve your military objectives, wiping out whole cities should not be the kind of most logical strategy. It also will harm yourself, your own soldiers for example. So it's very rarely logical. But the problem with nuclear weapons is that people aren't always logical. People are not always rational As long as they exist, there is the risk that someone will use it. And even in a country like the United States, the president has the sole authority to use these weapons. In Russia, Putin can decide to use these weapons. We saw, for example, in, Nazi Germany at the end when Germany was clearly losing the war, Hitler still gave orders to commit absolute, massacres in certain places. And even took actions that harmed more Germans in the end. So, you know, these people aren't always rational. We just don't know and I think that's what stays. But what we do know is that the risk certainly has increased since war in Ukraine started. Since Russia launched it's invasion of Ukraine. And we have seen very negative trends the last decade with the new nuclear arms race. We've seen North Korea tests more nuclear weapons. We are seeing huge monetization programs in all the nuclear arm states. We're seeing China increasing their nuclear arsenals. We've seen the UK increasing their capital nuclear arsenals. Definitely these things contributes to increasing the risk. There was a statistician, a professor at Stanford University, who I think in 2019 calculated that a child born in 2019 is more likely than not to see nuclear war in its lifetime. And that was before the war started.

[00:10:53] Annelise Riles: That's devastating I had the honor of hearing you speak in Vienna last summer, and I remember you said, “Deterrence theory assumes that leaders are rational. And I think we all know that leaders are not rational.”

[00:11:04] Beatrice Fihn: Yeah, but it also assumes at the same time, I mean, I'm very fascinated with deterrence theory, because it's such a made up concept. It relies on a level of irrationality at the same time because, it's never rational to use nuclear weapons. So if it's never rational and they stay rational, then they will never use them and then the threat doesn't work either because you know that you're not going to follow through. So it's a very, like, you know, it almost hurts my head sometimes thinking about it. None of it makes any sense when you start picking it apart.

[00:11:31] Annelise Riles: So under your leadership ICAN led civil society to push for the coming into force of the United Nations treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. And this is the first international treaty to comprehensively ban or prohibit prohibit nuclear weapons and also prohibit research and development and investment in nuclear weapons. Can you tell us a little bit about how this treaty is different from the existing regime? Because I think a lot of people say, why do we need a new treaty? We already have lots of treaties about nuclear weapons. 

[00:12:04] Beatrice Fihn: Well, this is what this fascinating part is, right? First of all, like, it's one of the positive side of this issue is that only nine countries have this weapon. And we take that for granted sometimes. But given the way the nuclear armed states talk about it, including the United States, 'this is the most important thing for our security.' It's really remarkable that not more countries developed it. And in the 1960s, I think it was John F. Kennedy who said, within 20 years there would be 30, 35 countries with nuclear weapons. That didn't happen. So that's really, a huge progress. But what, happened then instead, was that they made this agreement, the non-proliferation treaty, that sort of froze the current situation. In 1970, I think it entered into force. So the five countries that had developed nuclear weapons already, then the US, Russia China, UK, and France, they were sort of recognized as countries with nuclear weapons. And all the rest of the world agreed to not develop their nuclear weapons in exchange for a promise for these five countries to disarm their nuclear weapons. So in 1970, we made a promise to disarm the whole world from nuclear weapons. The problem was, and this happens of course a lot in negotiations, we started with Paris Agreement on climate change, there are no deadlines. There's no concrete specifics on how or when. So they just say like, yeah, we're working on it. And then they're doing the exact opposite of course, in reality. So that treaty, it didn't include a prohibition of nuclear weapons. It just said that all the rest of the world are not going to develop this weapon, in a change for some time in the future, at some point when they feel comfortable the five countries with nuclear weapons will get rid of theirs. But it doesn't really say that nuclear weapons are bad and shouldn't exist and that they're prohibited. It still keeps the legitimacy around these weapons. And then we followed on with all this. And I think of it a little bit as a, almost like a whack-a-mole approach. Like they've been trying to stop all these other countries from doing what they're doing themselves without tackling the fundamental problem that these weapons are still seen as, you know, really attractive and good for your security and legitimate tools to use to threaten with. And that was really what we wanted to change with the treaty. Like, if we are going to eliminate these weapons at any time we're going to have to agree that they're bad and that they shouldn't exist. So that's really what the treaty on the prohibition of new nuclear weapons is about. That, you know, it, bans them completely saying nobody should have these weapons. They're not legitimate instruments of warfare.

[00:14:13] Annelise Riles: That's really interesting. And, I guess another thing that is different about this treaty is who authored it. It was authored in part by the countries that do not have nuclear weapons, the countries from the global south. It was authored by NGOs, by civil society groups. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came to be and how ICAN was able to bring together so many disparate actors who may have thought, I don't have any power in this. I can't do anything about this. Only the countries with the nuclear weapons have the authority or the legitimacy to do anything in this space, and give people the confidence that something could be accomplished.

[00:14:49] Beatrice Fihn: It's really about kind of just flipping the perspective, right, about who matters in this question. If there's nuclear war, every country on earth will be impacted. If there's a big nuclear war between the US and Russia, I mean, that's humanity threatening. Humanity as we know it will end if it's a full-scale nuclear war. But even if there's a smaller kind of regional nuclear war, say between India and Pakistan, the research have shown that, I think a hundred nuclear weapons each if they use that, the amount of, soot and smoke in the atmosphere would create this kind of nuclear, two- three years of nuclear winter. It will completely decimate global crops of corn, rice, vegetables it would be mass starvation. And researchers have predicted that, billions, one or two billion people globally will die of starvation because of that. So, instead of just looking at the nine nuclear arm states, the problem countries, as the only ones who can act on this, we have to look at the ones that are impacted and make them act. And in order to make people to sort of understand the logic, I'm thinking a little bit about as the smoking ban, right? Imagine if we waited to ban indoor smoking until every single smoker has stopped smoking. I mean, you would wait forever, right? So what we did instead, it was like, well, all the non-smokers, like, I don't want to be, getting cancer because of passive smoking. And the restaurant workers don't want to die from cancer because of like the customers smoking. So you're going to have to go outside. We're banning it in here, like out shush-shush, on the street with you. And that has massively reduced the amount of smoking. So we are trying to do kind of the same way. So what we did was first, talk about the consequences of nuclear weapons and how it will impact others and everyone. The people who are going to die from the weapon needs to have a say in how we shape the rules to prevent that. And we worked really hard with sort of mobilizing governments. We were very much inspired by other examples, such as the treaty prohibiting landmines, for example. That was really a remarkable effort from the other governments, like not the P5, not the five members of the security council, but other governments taking the lead in creating a norm and creating a treaty that has an impact even on the countries that don't sign the treaty, maybe initially. And we really took inspiration from that and worked with governments, worked with international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, for example, on the United Nations Humanitarian agencies, the doctors, the first responders, those that would actually respond in warfare and be the ones who are tasked with solving the problems of nuclear weapons. They are the ones whose voices should be really elevated in this process. So, yeah, we built really a great alliance with these different governments and international organizations and civil society to get this to happen.

[00:17:20] Annelise Riles: On just that point. I'm wondering if you could speak to audience members who may be in the United States and who think, you know, the US is never going to ratify this treaty. I feel like this is so hopeless. I don't know what I can do about this. Now that this treaty is in place, what can I as an ordinary citizen of a country that is a nuclear power do to further the cause here?

[00:17:43] Beatrice Fihn: Well, I think that that's really, how we tried to flip this, it's like, well, it's not really about getting the US to sign or not sign the treaty. I mean, of course that's what we're going to work on at the end of the day. We hope that they will at some point. But what we have to do is shift the image of nuclear weapons. We see the treaty as a really good tool, to do that because things that get prohibited internationally get stigmatized and they become more difficult to maintain and more shameful, and it kind of removes a bit of the power. And I think it's particularly an effective strategy when it comes to nuclear weapons because most of the power from nuclear weapons is not in its actual use. It's in the threat to use. So they're only powerful if we think that they're powerful. Nuclear threats and nuclear deterrence only works if we believe that they will have it. So challenging the legitimacy of this and really pushing, say, this is unacceptable, this is illegal, really removes the power from the threat. I think that we are seeing that with Russia right now. That a lot of people in Ukraine, for example, they are not deterred by Russia's threats. So I think that the treaty can be really helpful even if your country isn't joining the treaty. For example, we work a lot with divestments getting companies, and banks, financial institutions to not invest in weapons systems and not participate. Like for example, banks not loaning money to the companies that are part of producing this weapon. And in particularly given the financial markets are so international we for example, have the Irish Sovereign Wealth Fund. They sold off all the investment in some companies that make nuclear weapons when they ratify the treaty. So there's a huge amount of money that was being made available to weapons contractors that no longer is available to them. Even the Norwegian state fund, for example one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, no longer allows for investments in any nuclear weapons related companies because there's an international treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. So that's a really good way to do it. It also means that we can sort of use it. I mean, there's a lot of universities here in the United States that participate in building these weapons of mass destruction. And it's also something that we can use to kind of get people in the universities to think about, like, are we participating in building tools for war crimes? I mean, would we be comfortable building biological weapons? Would biological scientists for example, be comfortable building biological weapons? No, that's unacceptable. Inhumane. I don't want to be a part of that. We should feel the same way for nuclear weapons. Of course. So there's a lot of work to do for universities on this. We also worked a lot with cities. Cities are the targets of these weapons. I'm pretty sure that Chicago is on the list of targets of Russia, for example, or North Korea or China. I'm not saying that they are specifically targeted, but we know that the big cities are of course, key targets. And cities have a responsibility for, you know, the firefighters that are going to try to put out these firestorms or the hospitals that will try to treat patients afterwards and are clearly unable to handle a nuclear attack. There's no city in the world, there's no country in the world, not even the entire international community could handle the needs of a nuclear war afterwards. So lots of organizations and campaigners around the world have gotten their city councils to adopt resolutions and motions, for example. And that really shows the groundswell of support and helps with the stigmatizing and de-legitimizing of nuclear weapons. That helps also to foster this new culture where we don't accept weapons of mass destruction and we don't allow our own country to, use it as a bargaining tool or to threaten to use it or build more. So there's a lot of things to do.

[00:21:01] Annelise Riles: Wow. So you've said dozens of really important things just there, and I think one I just want to underline for our. Listeners is what a different vision of international law you're presenting because when I was trained in international law, the actors were states and the whole idea was to get states to agree to do this or that, but you're talking about a whole range of actors, cities, universities, ordinary people, companies, and they're all important here, and that's a really different vision of who the treaty speaks to, which is really exciting. I think the other thing that you are saying, which I think is really powerful is, that you're right, it used to be almost cool to work on nuclear weapons. Like it was elite and complicated and technical and prestigious. And you're presenting a vision of let's make it totally uncool. In fact, let's make it disgusting so that the smartest, most brilliant people don't want to go do that anymore. And that will change things in and of itself.

[00:21:54] Beatrice Fihn: We've already seen that, for example, in the military where being stationed on these like missile silos, for example, is not particularly attractive. It's not the high-level jobs that the military wants because basically what you're sitting waiting for the call to start ending the world. I mean, it's extremely depressing. And I think that what we've seen these last few years is an enormous amount of, you know, people want to do good with their lives and then people want to do nice things and be a part of things. And we've seen how norm shifts. And to your comment about international law, I mean, international law is all about norms and what we decide is acceptable. And the world has changed a lot since 1945 about who gets to influence the world. People with TikTok accounts can influence and shape people's opinions on things. Companies. I mean, there is companies that are much more powerful than governments for better and worse in many cases. So I think that we have to also look at international law as, changing in many ways. And when we're talking about norms, everyone can play a part from an artist, to a banker, to a company, to a TikTok influencer. Everyone has a role to play in shaping kind of the norms of society today.

[00:22:59] Annelise Riles: So you mentioned TikTok, and I want to ask you about that because one of the things that I really admire about ICAN is just how successfully you've navigated the shift in media to digital media. What do you think is the influence of new digital medias on the possibilities of movements like ICANs? And what advice would you have to perhaps young people who are interested in other movements as well, whether it's environmental movements or racial justice or socioeconomic justice, or anything else about how to use these technologies effectively.

[00:23:32] Beatrice Fihn: They're massively important because that's where a lot of people are, and particularly young people. Now, I don't think that you can convince Putin by, you know, being really active on TikTok, right? We have different audiences and different platforms and different sort of tools for different groups. But I think long term we have to communicate with people where they are. And a lot of people are on social media, and that's how they get news. So that's of course a massive opportunity to speak to them, to hear about what they're thinking about things and see it as a dialogue. You know, nuclear weapons is clearly not content that generates a lot of views. You know, there's a lot of, funny cat videos and dance videos and makeup tutorials and things like that, that are a lot more interesting and engaging. So what we are trying to do is like, look at social media and like what works and what do people get engaged with and how can we use that to, talk about nuclear weapons. So we've been really. just looking at ourselves as well, like, what makes me want to follow someone or what makes me want to think about getting involved? When I think about what we should do to reach people on nuclear weapons, I think a lot about how I react to other causes , for example, climate change is one of those issues that I'm really interested in. I'm really terrified about where we are heading and I want to do something, but I also, it's not my expertise. So I'm a little bit, ugh, what, what should I do? There seems to be so much out there. So the way I feel about climate change, I can imagine that people feel like that about nuclear weapons as well. We're trying to say like, okay, so what questions do I have about climate change and how do we use that on nuclear weapons? In general, I think it's just talking to people, whether that is digitally or that's in person. That's how you hear their questions and hear what they want to know more about or what their criticism of things or their arguments, and then you just have to use that to kind of meet them where they are.

[00:25:14] Annelise Riles: You mentioned universities and we've been really interested here at Northwestern Buffett in the role of universities as global actors and how we can play a role. What role do you see for universities in the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons?

[00:25:28] Beatrice Fihn: Oh, I think it's incredibly important. I mean, first of all, there's so much knowledge and so much research and every time I go to a university, I feel like I'm meeting people who have studied super interesting angles on nuclear weapons. It's an issue that does have a lot of science and research around it. There's a massive amount of knowledge that needs to come out to the public and to decision makers more. And I think that universities are a great place to have these conversations about nuclear weapons, to look at the issues critically, because one of the things that I find most frustrating about nuclear weapons is how this kind of standard talking points on the deterrence, oh, it ended World War II and you know, it kept the peace and there's no evidence for that actually. Yet that's kind of framings that get stuck in people and has been taken as truth. So universities have a huge role to play, I think, in unpacking these kind of narratives that might not be real and might just be sloppy sort of conclusions taken in 1945 but isn't actually relevant anymore. And I also think that they're unique because they don't operate within, like, they're of course located in countries, but they are, you know, connected to cities and they operate globally. I think so many of these challenges, climate change, pandemics, nuclear weapons, it's all global issues. They will have local impacts and no national government right, can solve this on their own. So I think universities have these incredible networks and knowledge and they talk to each other very much. Right? And it's a huge source of power to have those connections. We saw, for example, during the Cold War in the 80s, a huge amount of engagement between researchers and scientists, between Soviet and the US. It was really this kind of, innovative approach of communicating between the two countries when the governments were like locked into a conflict. I would love to see more of that even under extremely difficult conditions right now with Russia being engaging in the illegal war, that makes it very complicated. But for China, for example, I think it's really, really important. I think the scientists and research University, they can meet in a place where governments can't, and we can kind of create shared understanding based on facts, which I think is incredibly important today.

[00:27:32] Annelise Riles: How well said. Beatrice, you are truly an inspiration, brilliant, just also so creative and such a model of what a principled life can be about. I want to end by asking the question I ask all my guests, which is, as you think about the future, what keeps you up at night? What are you most worried about at the moment? And also what gives you the greatest amount of hope?

[00:27:55] Beatrice Fihn: I think what I'm really, really worried about is the sense of defeatism that I feel in people and I think in particularly young people that the world is getting worse and there's nothing we can do about it. I mean, in many cases, especially climate change. Yes, it is getting worse. But in many other issues, it's not actually getting worse. I think we're sometimes tricking ourselves into thinking the world is a lot worse than it is. There's also an enormous amount of great things that are happening and connections that are being made and people are, you know, really empathetic with others struggles. I think we're giving ourselves as humanity a bit of a hard time sometimes lacking confidence. So I'm really worried that people, this kind of defeatism is self-fulfilling in that way. That we don't act and we don't try to do good things because it's all awful and nobody does us good things and we talk our way into something really negative. But I am really hopeful because, when you talk to people face to face or even online on computers, most people are really good. Most people want the world to be better. And that's a really incredible thing, and most people are really willing to help others. Again, this false narrative that we are bad like naturally, it's, it's not true. And any, big catastrophe is evidence that people will even risk their own lives to help others. I mean, we see remarkable things happening every day when people go out of their way to help people that they might not even know or, you know, share, like really experiences with each other and share resources with each other. It's when we lose that humanity and in human sort of connection that it becomes, easier to dehumanize others. So I'm really hopeful that most people want to do good and we just need to find the confidence to do it.

[00:29:37] Annelise Riles: Well, Beatrice Fihn, you give me hope. Thank you so much for today and for all you do.

[00:29:41] Beatrice Fihn: Thank you so much.

[00:29:43] Annelise Riles: For more information on this episode and on the Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, visit us at