I had the privilege of recently attending Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project conference, the purpose of which is to train ecowarriors.
He was on stage for much of the two and half days and to me he is the Paul McCartney of the movement to preserve our blue and green gem of a planet. His dedication and passion is unparalleled.
First, I am acquainted with Al Gore. He has been a customer at my restaurant, Buck’s, over the years and I have spoken with him at TED a number of times. I once looked deeply into his eyes and asked him if he really believed we could solve the climate crisis. He looked back at me steadily, without hesitation, and said, “Yes, absolutely!” Me, I’m not so sure.
At the Climate Reality Project conference some 400 of us were in a huge ballroom where it was about 65 degrees. If you dozed off you would be found in the spring melt. But no one was dozing because Al Gore is electrifying. Meanwhile, outside, were the teeming streets of Las Vegas and we were right in the middle of The Strip. It was 111 degrees . My hotel was across the street from the convention center which in this town is about a half a mile. Walking there was like traveling through Dante’s Inferno. I had to pass hundreds of people sitting at gaming tables or robotically pulling levers all the while being assaulted by millions of flashing colored lights along with bells, horns and a veritable jungle of jangles.
Then I passed through the shopping mall with Gucci and Bulgari stores fighting for space with tee-shirt shops. Nearly everyone I passed was in very poor physical health. Many were dressed in a dazzling array of curious attire and some folks were getting tattooed with some oh-my-god-what-was-I-thinking? designs right in the display windows of the shop. Then I can across a Taco Bell with a massive wall of multicolored alcohol-based drinks in sizes from 24 to 72 ounces (72 seems like a lot to me). The drinks were dispensed into creatively shaped vessels ready to set sail upon the sidewalk-sea with sturdy plastic straws that could choke a humpback.
I had to pump my well of compassion nearly dry to not be judgey of these people who were making lifestyle choices that didn’t conform to mine. All of these folks were yearning for a good time but for many this would not materialize especially after losing at the tables and waking up with a splitting head and a distorted picture of a soon to be ex girlfriend engraved into their bicep.
Out on the streets there were ginormous (surprisingly this is a real word) blinking billboards proclaimed that everyone was having fun, that there were endless places to eat and that going to see Penn and Teller would be un-for-gettable! Me, I would rather have seen the white tiger chew on that one fellow but I don’t think that show is still playing. I’m not a fan of animal shows except for miniature poodles dressed as French prostitutes or toy dachshunds in hot dogs bun costumes.
Back at the conference Al presented for the umptillionth time (not a real word) his spellbinding slideshow illustrating how unsatisfactory things are in terms of Global Warming. First, let’s set aside the term Climate Change. It’s warming that’s the problem. Specifically, warming of the oceans. He showed us examples of how dire things are in short videos, some from the week before.
Al told us about Lytton, a town in British Columbia about 95 miles northeast of Vancouver, which set and broke successive high-temperature records for three consecutive days topping out at 121.2 degrees and then the town burned to the ground on the fourth day.
Now I’m pretty tuned in but I had no idea we have dug such a deep hole into our climate reserves. This planet is burning up at one end and drowning from cyclonic rain bombs at the other. The seas are rising far faster than predictions from just ten years ago. This is due to several factors; the biggest, at about 40%, being fossil fuel combustion.
After what seemed like an eternity of gloom Al delivered, as he promised, solutions: wind, solar and conservation. He pointed out that recycling plastics has very little impact. It might make you feel good (and feeling good is a benefit) but it will not slow global warming and has not prevented plastics from fouling the land, sea and our very bloodstreams. Only about 11% are recycled.
Al explained that with current technologies we could cut our emissions in half by 2030 and get to net zero by 2050 as many countries have agreed to do. There have been countless international climate conferences over the last 30 years but the world seems to just blow past the self imposed limits time after time.
Here’s my dilemma. I don’t see the will to reduce consumption on either a personal level, nationally or internationally. Oil companies knew about the devastating effects their products produced and, with malice and forethought, suppressed reports about the outcomes that they themselves paid for.
The very term carbon footprint is a scam dreamed up by British Petroleum and used by the oil industry to lay the blame at the consumers’ feet telling us we need to do better while they haul in record profits, raking in government subsidies all the while making no tangible progress.
I don’t see the tide turning. For example, the U.S. Congress only recently passed an anti-lynching law that was first proposed fifty years ago (and it wasn’t even passed unanimously).
But here’s the thing. In Ukraine the people have risen up and fought back against the Great Bear, Mother Russia. The Ukrainian people have demonstrated to the world what it’s like to punch a bear in the nose even when the bully threatens you with nukes.
I say we punch the bully of environmental decline in the nose and if we get punched back so be it. Well what am I going to do? I have a plan and it’s underway. Along with me, a team of like-minded bully-punchers have launched a new project to inspire international awareness, engagement, and action around global warming, ocean plastics, and wildlife species loss.
Our project will be announced in the next issue of Pacific Voyages. It’s bold and audacious as you might expect, considering the source.
So, in closing, I just want to say….
Well, hells bells, high school was hard!