Like all of his other supporters, I would like to congratulate Al Gore on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He has big shoes to fill.
On February 2, 1977, Jimmy Carter addressed the nation in a cardigan sweater and asked us all to do our part and turn down our thermostat and wear a sweater to save energy. Carter had a unifying message (which he would do well to reinvent today) and he made a pitch to the people to change their behavior, even if just a little. The sadness for me is that Al Gore gets a lot of attention for his film, which I have not seen, and he is a public figure that attracts controversy rather than standing for unity. That is not really his fault, he is a product of politics. He has been criticized for using too much energy himself and not doing enough on an individual basis to curb energy use. Does he have to? I mean, he is not Gandhi, he has taken no oath of poverty. He is rich, and he can use his wealth and influence to create a political climate that is more aware of environmental issues. Plus, he can afford to purchase carbon offset credits that give him a neutral carbon footprint. These are worthy efforts and deserve the kinds of awards and praise that Al Gore has received.
But what about the rest of us? There is a list on the website for the Inconvenient Truth that lists ten things that we can do to reduce our energy consumption. Why is that not the central message? Purchasing carbon offset credits is not on the list. The real problem with carbon offsets is that we can afford them, so we don’t have to even look at the list. We don’t have to evaluate how big our cars are or how much gas we use when we drive down the street in our SUV by ourselves to get milk. We can be extra warm and cozy in the winter and write a check for our carbon emissions. Al Gore uses a lot of energy for one person, and he installs solar panels and CFL bulbs and buys carbon offset credits so that he can continue his crusade. And I think that he should continue. He is one of few that have the power, money, and courage to fight his fight. I mentioned, however, that he is not Gandhi. It was Gandhi who said “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” There is certainly a different message. Is it fair that Al Gore be held accountable to the list that he puts on his website? Should we know whether or not he practices energy efficiency? Does that even matter?
Perhaps I exaggerate. I don’t think so, but even if I do it is to create awareness, which is the same reason that the exaggerations in Mr. Gore’s movie are acceptable. They are necessary to create awareness and bring about social change. Many scientists would dispute some of the assertions in An Inconvenient Truth, but not many would argue that it is not relevant. Sometimes, to break from an orbit, we need a tremendous amount of energy and fuel to beat the pull of the object that we orbit. Al Gore provides that energy, and we need it. We need someone to harness the power of public opinion and leverage that power to change the world.
We should join Al Gore’s crusade. We should purchase carbon offset credits for the energy that we use. We should sign petitions and write to congressmen and get informed about the issues. But we should not forget that the real change comes from a change in us. Turn off your faucet when you are brushing your teeth. Turn your thermostat up or down two degrees. Walk to the store once in a while. You don’t have to become a monk and take an oath of poverty to make a change in your lifestyle. If Climate Change becomes a real issue to you, then you should own the behaviors that contribute to it. If we do not change our energy consumption, then we will never fix the problem, no matter how many movies we watch or petitions we sign.