WAMC for August 30 2012
Dr. Steven Leibo, Professor of International History & Politics at the Sage Colleges archives his radio commentaries at Leibo’s World Watch
“The Inconvenient Truth Revisited”
So there I was just last week, back in my home town at a big hotel just outside the San Francisco airport helping Al Gore and his scientific colleagues train another group of climate crisis presenters to go into their churches and schools, public libraries and community groups to help their neighbors understand the challenge humanity faces from our having accidentally disrupted the heat balance of the planet with our prolific burning of fossil fuels over the last two centuries.
While the rest of us old timers, people Gore had trained years ago served as mentors helping the new group learn enough of the material to be effective — a huge crowd really, literally from all over, from 57 countries and 47 states, all eager to take in enough science to help their families and children avoid the worst. And I should add that everyone of whom already understood that we are all in this together rich and poor, developing world and developed.
Indeed sitting to my right was a guy from Hanoi, a concerned citizen from a country, then North Vietnam, that Mr. Gore himself had struggled against during his service in Vietnam. While just in front of me sat Bette Midler, and the Divine Miss M. did not sing a note for the days she was there. No, she just sat there taking close notes, occasionally nudging what appeared to be her daughter just like any other parent concerned about their child’s future.
Just people on a planet in danger, trying to save something for our children. For me of course, as someone who gives regular public lectures and teaches classes on the climate crisis the material itself was not all that new. Sure, it’s good to see old friends. Wonderful to hear about all the progress humanity has made. 2010, for example, was the first year global investments in green energy exceeded those in fossil energy.
And there was even a sub meeting of countries not struggling against the denial propaganda machine so well funded by the fossil fuel industry, an industry struggling to save its profits as its corporate brothers once tried to save tobacco profits by denying the links between tobacco and cancer. Imagine that, a meeting of people from countries who could just focus on the problem of converting to green energy instead of wasting time, like Americans do, arguing over whether the combined concerns of all the national science academies of all the countries have gotten the threat wrong.
But hanging over everything was the one fundamental difference between Mr. Gore’s accumulated science slides, so many made famous in his academy award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and what we worked with last week. Because back then, now almost a half a dozen years ago, the presentation was about the science of what we had done, accidentally thicken the planetary belt of greenhouse gases that has kept the planetary global temperature average stabilized. And a lot of animations, built on projections of what was likely to happen in the future.
But now half a dozen years a later our narrative was very different. The animations were gone, replaced by the graphic images of more recent climate reality. Images of horrific examples of extreme weather tragedies some of course I knew from personal experience.
Like the drought inspired fires of Texas that recently burned down My cousin’s former home in Bastrop. Or the memory from this time last year when the first day of my Sage Colleges climate crisis class was cancelled as not one but two hurricanes barreled into the upstate New York.
Not animations or projections; just examples of the recent record of climate reality. Yes, that was what really stood out. The accumulated history of recent climate tragedy, A tragedy that will keep growing until we get our act together. And sweep aside all those slowing our effort to conserve the future.