INDEPENDENCE— Last night I gave my tenth presentation for the Climate Reality Project, and have now completed 40 acts of leadership as a climate leader. This Earth week is a time to reflect on my recent experiences as part of the climate movement.
My contractual obligation with the organization may be complete, but the work will go on. Politico recently published an article based upon an interview with Al Gore, and there are some lessons to be learned.
There is no question that Gore has become a polarizing figure in the climate movement. We can’t blame him for making a living, and if he invests in companies that move the economy toward sustainability, much the better. At the same time, his $200 million net worth, and how he got it, are sticking points for many people I know and respect. That he is associated with the Climate Reality Project puts me, and others, on the defensive from the get go. I’m okay with that, but defending Al Gore is a distraction from the work, and at the end of the day, there is little about him that needs defending.
One concern expressed after my presentation was how to combat the proliferation of letters to the editor by obvious climate deniers. The answer I gave was simple. Ignore them and speak the truth. What the deniers want more than anything is to delay any change that moves us toward a sustainable future. The less we get involved in their spurious arguments, the more potential we have to advance ours. A denier with vested interests wants nothing better than to engage and distract people who seek a solution to the climate crisis.
Money is currently winning the conversation about climate, and it is not that of Al Gore or Tom Steyer, another wealthy member of the movement. The money is not from the Tides Foundation or Michael Bloomberg, which both fund environmental NGOs. The money is coming from the fossil fuels industry and from a host of foundations that want to delay meaningful government action on global warming. By contract, I work as a volunteer, where every tank of gasoline has been from my own checking account, which is miniscule compared to theirs.
The truth is on our side. Regardless of what people come up with as counter arguments, hundreds of millions of people on the planet are being affected by global warming. It is clear that the frequent droughts around the world are made worse by global warming. To an extent, it doesn’t matter that people try to deny it. At some point, and it won’t be long, the need for action will be so clear that people will rise up and take action. We are already seeing it in Syria, Egypt, and other Mediterranean countries caught up in the food shortage caused by the 2010 drought in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. We are buffered from food price spikes it in the U.S. because of our sophisticated food supply chains, but eventually environmental incidents like the 2012 drought, which caused a 20 percent decline in the U.S. corn harvest, will impact our family budget as well.
How long will it take? Al Gore, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “not long.” I am ready for the work.