Friday, November 6, 2009

Al Gore on NPR today

We should credit Al Gore for changing the tone, message, and acceptance of climate change's reality in the American popular imagination and zeitgeist. Without An Inconvenient Truth, we might still be shucked with and shackled by the power broker arguments of Exxon-Mobil and Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma). Some powerful interests, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, still try engage in denialism of the worst sort and that's a great shame. But Gore changed that and he deserves credit.

Today, in an NPR interview, Gore called on Obama to be a leader at the Copenhagen Climate Summit this December.

They feature some material from his new book if you're interested. Here is an excerpt:

"I know that we waited too long. I wish we had acted sooner. But the outlook for your future is now bright. The wounds we inflicted on the atmosphere and the earth's ecological system are healing.

"It seems ironic now that our commitment during the Great Transformation to a low-carbon economy was what restored economic prosperity. Once the world embarked on the journey to heal our world and save your future, tens of millions of new jobs — including whole new professions — began to emerge.

"I ask only one thing of you in return for what we have done on your behalf: pass on to your children the courage and resolve to act boldly and wisely whenever the future is at risk. You will be challenged, as we were. But I know that you will not fail those who come after you, as we did not fail you.

"The choice is awesome and potentially eternal. It is in the hands of the present generation: a decision we cannot escape, and a choice to be mourned or celebrated through all the generations that follow."

I applaud Gore for his leadership and his fight. And yes, I think that he should have won the Nobel Prize with the IPCC.

But I should note that Gore thinks that we "consumers" can make the difference in the "greening" of our "choices," those being consumption choices. I doubt that very much. So long as we are hitched to a "consumer" market that supports a growth economy we are committing ecocide (outlined nicely in Jared Diamond's Collapse, Speth's Bridge at the Edge of the World, or in the writings of Illich, Sachs, and others) which is, to my mind, collective suicide. The alleged efficiency shifts in lightbulbs, faucets, and cars are not enough. They're good.

But unless Americans change our diets, where and how often we travel and how we get there, what we think is acceptable lighting in the first place, what we think our fair share is, and too many other things to list here, talking about consumers as consumers might not be helpful unless we deliberately make this culture about consuming less. And all that can yield a more abundant and flourishing life for more people.


If you are interested, Newsweek features Gore on its cover and in a long article in the latest issue. They call him "the thinking man's thinking man." We report. You decide.

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