Fear Is Not An Option

Fear Is Not An Option

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Diane von Furstenberg says that the greatest gift she’s ever been given was the lesson that fear is not an option.

With 2015 off to a fearful start in Paris and its impact reverberating globally, especially within Jewish communities, it’s a lesson worth exploring.

I sat down with von Furstenberg, Queen of the Wrap Dress and the DVF brand, and found a down-to-earth woman with a powerful story that resonates far beyond the world of fashion.

As a small child, von Furstenberg learned her lesson in a rather brutal way from her mother, a Holocaust survivor.

“She’d lock me in a closet and wait til I stopped being afraid,” says von Furstenberg.

Her mother experienced atrocities at Auschwitz and her challenging life shaped von Furstenberg’s to this day.

“Fear is not an option is everything: fear of flying, living, confronting the truth…fear of anything,” says von Furstenberg, who has made some courageous choices in her personal and business life, as chronicled in her new book “The Woman I Wanted To Be.”

She recounts the many periods of self doubt and challenges she faced as her career soared then flopped, rose again from the ashes, battled to stay relevant and then triumphed in China and globally, ensuring DVF a place in the design history books. She’s done it all: married (and divorced) a prince, been painted by Andy Warhol, made front page of Newsweek, survived cancer, faced bankruptcy and become a doting grandmother.

In a conversation with Maria Shriver the day before our interview, she urged women to be hard on themselves. I asked her what she meant by that. Although some journalists claim she’s impossible to interview, DVF answered my question directly.

“The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself,” says von Furstenberg. “See yourself for what you really are…for the good and the bad, whatever. Once you have accepted that, then you can also begin to like yourself.”

Along with Tina Brown and Sally Field, von Furstenberg is part of Vital Voices, a network that supports female community and business leaders around the world, both politically and financially.


The interview took place at The Foreign Cinema in San Francisco on November 20, 2014. Many thanks to Julian Guthrie and Martin Muller for the invitation.

Check out our archives of Fresh Dialogues interviews with inspiring women like Meryl Streep, Maureen Dowd and Belva Davis.

Susan Sarandon, Will.i.am on Green Design

Susan Sarandon, Will.i.am on Green Design

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Susan Sarandon and Will.i.am shared tributes to Green Design guru Bill McDonough at the Cradle to Cradle Design Innovation Event this month in San Francisco.

“We are a community of change agents,” said Sarandon. “Bringing about the world we want for our children.”

In a video tribute at the Bently Reserve, Will.i.am enthused about healthy design being a human right, and thanked Bill McDonough for inspiring him. “It’s my mission…to create products that after we use them have a new beginning,” said the popular singer songwriter, and quipped, pointing first at himself then at Bill McDonough: “Will.i.am…Bill.i.am.”

The newly crowned “Bill.i.am” came on stage  to great applause and was obviously amused by his tributes. He announced his upcoming book, “The Upcycle” (a tome on upcycling to be released in 2013)  and what he called “his baby,”  a Bill Clinton inspired solution to homelessness in Haiti and beyond.

“What if we could design a house that could be built by children and their parents in a day without tools?” said McDonough, who is well known for his visionary zeal. He showed the audience a model of a simple one room home, made of ‘upcycled’ plastic no doubt. He dreams that these homes could be shipped in flatpacks to earthquake and storm damaged areas, wherever there is a need around the world.

“What if we could do (for building) what Muhammad Yunus did for banking?” said McDonough, alluding to the microfinance guru who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work alleviating poverty in Bangladesh.

Perhaps McDonough has a similar award in mind? He’s won many awards in the green design field (including three Presidential Awards for Sustainable Development and Design), and has taken some criticism, but one thing is for certain, he’s never been short on grand vision. Witness the 6-hour long Monticello Dialogues.

He may yet succeed in taking Cradle to Cradle mainstream and making the world a healthier and greener place. With allies like Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Will.i.am who can doubt him?

Click here to see highlights of Fresh Dialogues exclusive interview with Meryl Streep at the event.

The video was recorded at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Gala, the Bently Reserve, San Francisco on Wednesday November 14, 2012.


Meryl Streep: Green Inspiration

Meryl Streep: Green Inspiration

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

The first thing that strikes you about Meryl Streep is her grace and poise. Like a true royal, she glided into the throng of green designers and architects gathered at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Gala in San Francisco this week, completely unruffled by the crush of fans; the flash of cameras and smart phones; and the fierce security guards. Yet instantly, like a chameleon, Streep can switch from serene queen of the movies to cozy confidante.  I found myself standing next to her and shook her hand. As you know, she’s renowned for her authentic accents in every exotic role she’s played, so I asked her, “Can you do a good Scottish accent?” She immediately leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I love the way they say murdererrrr!” Rolling those r’s as only a lass from Scotland – or Meryl Streep – can do. Then she laughed with that infectious burst of effervescence. Now that would make even The Iron Lady melt a wee bit.

But enough trivia. The best part is, I found her later that evening and she agreed to a Fresh Dialogues interview. We had a lively conversation about her green design guru and close friend William McDonough; and why she’s become an activist for the environment. Enjoy her hilarious tribute to McDonough below and check out the highlights of her interview…

Interview highlights

Why should we care for the environment?

We’re all part of the ecosystem. We’re all connected. You can’t go around in a bubble…

On why Bill McDonough inspires her

Unlike so many environmental messages which are negative: “don’t this…don’t that!”  Bill approaches things in a positive, restorative, beneficial way…with a focus on abundance. His mantra is a beautiful thing: “Designing a safe, healthy and delightful world for the love of all children, for all species, for all time.”

He’s a fervent optimist. His cup is never half empty or even half full. It’s always full of water and air. We were both profoundly affected by similar things: Silent Spring (the book by Rachel Carson) and concern for the impact of toxins on children. He’s the consummate multi-tasker. He leaves me breathless.

On the roots of her environmental consciousness

It all goes back to being a mother. That’s the most invested relationship. You pay attention, perhaps for the first time. What is going in your child’s mouth? What’s her environment like? What will the future be?

In 1989 Streep cofounded “Mothers and Others” to raise awareness of toxic pesticides used in food production.

On how playing acclaimed chef, Julia Child influenced her green journey

We need to think about the provenance of our food. Where does it come from? Is it produced locally and with concern for the environment?

During her hilarious speech in San Francisco, Streep praised the work being done by Brad Pitt, William McDonough and Tom Darden through the Make it Right Foundation in New Orleans and beyond. The group began building green-designed houses for low income families displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2008.

Does Streep consider herself a green activist?

In an interview with USA Today, she said, “We are all activists every day that we make a purchase. We vote daily with our credit cards; we demonstrate with our dollars.”

Today Streep helps raise awareness of toxins in food and the environment by supporting the work of the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and is known to shop at Whole Foods and prefer locally produced goods. Her home in Connecticut is fueled by geothermal power.

The interview took place at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Gala at the Bently Reserve, San Francisco on Wednesday November 14, 2012. The institute also announced a $250,000 Product Innovation Challenge to stimulate eco product designs for the affordable housing market; and the incoporation of its C2C certification as part of the new LEED Building Standards.


Neil deGrasse Tyson on Climate Change

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Climate Change

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

He’s known as the “sexiest” astrophysicist alive, host of Nova ScienceNow on PBS, and Stephen Colbert’s favorite intervieweeNeil deGrasse Tyson may be more comfortable talking black holes and cosmic quandaries, but on Friday evening in Silicon Valley, Fresh Dialogues asked him to weigh in about climate change and he didn’t disappoint. Beginning – like any good scientist – with the facts (evidence from chemistry, biology and geology); he made this challenge to climate deniers:

“You have to be mature enough to recognize something can be true even if you don’t like the consequences of it. That’s what it means to be a mature adult.”

Tyson shared plans for “an experiment” he will describe during his next appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (slated for next February). Here’s a preview:

“All climate scientists should announce they’re going to take their entire life savings and invest in industries that will thrive under the conditions of  global warming. All those in denial of global warming – which tends to be some of the wealthier people of the nation – won’t do that. As global warming unfolds, that will be the greatest inversion of wealth the world has ever seen. That’s all it takes,” said Tyson, adding with a smile and a shrug, “I could get rich off this.”

He then got serious, “I’m a public scientist and it’s not my goal in life to exploit your ignorance ’cause I’ll get your money, because you won’t believe what I’m telling you. I’d rather you recognize the value of scientific research and we all move into the future together.”

Fresh Dialogues wonders if Tyson has shared his plan with green economy investor Al Gore, who’s been criticized for “putting his money where his mouth is.” Some say Gore is poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire.”

Dr. Tyson was in Silicon Valley as part of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Speaker Series, hosted by Dr. Dick Henning. This story was picked up by the Huffington Post on December 9th, where it sparked quite a heated debate (see comments section).

Next year, Tyson will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage TV series.

To watch an exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview with Robert Ballard, the acclaimed ocean scientist of Titanic fame, click here.

Read transcriptssee photos and check out other exclusive interviews on Fresh Dialogues with Charlie RoseTom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Vinod Khosla and many others

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Tom Brokaw: Climate Change is Real

Tom Brokaw: Climate Change is Real

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Days before the Global Climate Conference in Durban South Africa, NBC’s Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw delivered a  strong message in  Silicon Valley for those who deny climate change. “It’s real, we see it in our weather systems,” he said and made a somber call to action, saying everyone needs to take a part. Brokaw, who has hosted two documentaries about global warming for the Discovery Channel, says he’s planning an expedition to Antarctica with a team of climate scientists to record the glacial melting next January.

Brokaw cited carbon based fuels and energy consumption as major issues, and stopped short of making specific policy recommendations, but said that the Obama administration missed a valuable opportunity to do something substantial about energy and jobs. “People could have got allied with that,” he added.

He acknowledged his part in contributing to the problem (long commutes in polluting LA traffic to visit his beloved mother), but is now doing what he can to be greener. He recently adopted solar in his Montana Ranch, recouping his capital investment in only three years. In this intimate video, he waxes lyrical about the piping hot water and heating system – even during long Montana winters.

Brokaw ended on an upbeat note, saying that he thinks the younger generation will change things for the better.

The video was recorded on November 21st, 2011 at the Commonwealth Club  in Silicon Valley, moderated by KGO TV’s Dan Ashley. Brokaw is promoting his new oeuvre The Time of Our Lives, a conversation about America; Who we are, where we’ve been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American Dream.

Read transcriptssee photos and check out exclusive interviews on Fresh Dialogues with Charlie Rose, Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Vinod Khosla and many others

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Maureen Dowd: Talks Green

Maureen Dowd: Talks Green

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This week, we take a look at the Fresh Dialogues archives. Last April, I met with the enchanting Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Maureen Dowd. We had an animated conversation during a green-themed morning in downtown San Jose. Over cups of delicious mint tea, we discussed Maureen’s Irish heritage and how that inspires her fiery prose. We also discussed her belief in America’s green future.

In this excerpt, we discuss fellow New York Times Columnist, Tom Friedman (whom she describes as “her office husband”) and his new book, Hot, Flat & Crowded.

“I try to get advice from Tom Friedman who is Mr. Solar around our office. He’s done a new book which is very involved with energy and his whole house is solar designed… I ask him and he’s trying to coach me in how to be more environmentally correct.”


Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview


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“This was the first campaign I’ve ever covered where I’d go and watch Hillary and Obama in the primary and they were both competing to come up with a plan for green jobs and for me it’s very exciting because for the eight years that Bush and Cheney were in it felt like we were going backwards in every way. You know we weren’t coming into the 21st Century and we were kinda like the Flintstones – we were just not moving forward. So I love all that.”


To read the TRANSCRIPT of the full interview click here

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For a full archive of interviews with Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Martin Sheen and many other celebrities click here