Book review: “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
December 1, 2017
Though the consensus has long been that climate change is indeed taking place, and at an alarming rate, there still exist some skeptics who refuse to accept the overwhelming accumulation of data that counters their narrow-minded or ill-informed thinking. Yet, since Al Gore's landmark documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" was released in 2006, there has been a shift of understanding that time is of the essence when considering the best steps to take to reverse the planet's current course into unchartered climate territory.
Gore's passion for the environment has only increased over the years, highlighted by his recently released follow-up movie and its companion book, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power." Though released into a world that has not made the forward progress he advocated for a decade ago, the tone of this latest book is still hopeful. Despair, he says, "is simply another form of denial and can serve to paralyze the will we need to fight our way out of this crisis."
And if anything, 2017 has emphasized how deeply into crisis-mode the planet has shifted. Just the news of the past year's weather is enough to remind us of the escalation of systemic changes. Historic storms have unfolded, one after the other, each one breaking records; fires have raged across the western United States for much of the year, consuming 2 million acres of land, and damaging or destroying iconic landmarks, towns, and cities. Countering this, but serving as another stark reminder of how serious the global community is taking the warnings of the world's leading scientists is the all-hands-on-deck commitment to the Paris Climate Accord by every single one of the nations on Earth — minus one.
In spite of the lack of political will in the United States, Gore still sees a way forward. "Because many governments in the world — especially the United States government in 2017 — are still controlled by fossil fuel interests, the growing citizen activist movement pushing for more rapid change is actually the most important." Where the U.S. is failing to lead, states and cities are stepping up, as are other countries who are motivated by the alarming changes they are seeing within their own borders.
For example, parts of the world that rely on monsoonal moisture for agriculture are suffering, and vital aquifers are being depleted at alarming rates. Water pollution — run-off from pesticides, fracking chemicals, as well as waste from heavy industrials are harming water supplies, viruses and diseases, like Zika, and West Nile, are spreading, and air pollution around the world is reaching unsustainable levels. While countries like the U.S. are arguing about saving the coal industry, some poorer areas of the world are "leap-frogging" over developed nations, wisely bypassing the dirty effects of fossil fuels to head straight for the cleaner technologies.
Renewable energy is booming, and Gore insists that the "Sustainability Revolution" is where the real profits lie. The solutions are ready, the will and commitment are now needed. Since leadership from the top is not happening in many places around the world, people like Al Gore have been focusing their efforts on a more local, community-based level. Much of Gore's book highlights his Climate Reality Project, a decade-old training program, designed to train and arm people with the data and resources to address the problems of climate change that are impacting their own corners of the world.
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The Climate Reality Project's stated mission is to "catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society." The Project's many symposiums and conferences are designed for "people who come as concerned citizens" and who "leave as world changers." Much of this, Gore says, is done "one conversation at a time."
People are stepping up, collectively and individually, with money, talent and time. The vanguard of those who seek to prevent the worst impacts of mankind's love affair with fossil fuels and the rampant consumption of natural resources include people like Elon Musk, who is determined to bring energy independence to every household and indigenous populations from around the world who, following the showdown over the Dakota Access pipeline, are leading their own "Water Is Life" initiative.
Climate denial is manufactured by those who would suffer the most financially if their "obfuscation" is dismantled. It is time, Gore says, to take back the narrative; in a facts versus fear debate, the facts will win out, and when they need a nudge, Gore says it is time to use your power as a voter and a citizen to force change. Additionally, if you cannot appeal to someone's values and better impulses, then appeal to their pocketbooks. "Vote with your money."
Since climate change is a collective problem, it needs to be a collective solution; Just as every human consumes and makes waste, every human can step up and do something positive to make change. It is time to "walk the walk." Set your own goals for yourself, be it at home, at work or how you move yourself about the world, and how and what you choose to consume. Hold your elected officials' feet to the fire — write, call, demand action. Run for office and educate the next generation to participate in a greener future. Give them time in nature, where they can learn by getting dirty, and bring that reality of science into the schools.
In spite of the daily doses of downer news about the state of our planet, and the willful blindness of some world leaders, Gore remains optimistic, and he delivers his final message of hope through the words of Nelson Mandela: "It is always impossible until it is done."
It's time to get it done.
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