Songwriter Jill Sobule was challenged to write an appropriate song to introduce Al Gore. She’s got a pretty little ditty with the chorus “Everyone’s out in merry Manhattan in January”.
Al Gore’s the comedy relief. No, seriously. He’s really, really funny. After apologizing to Majora Carter for slighting her – and offering her a seat on the board of his new initiative -he gives a standup routine on the challenges of being an ex-Vice President. “I flew on Airforce Two for eight years – now I have to take off my boots to get on an airplane.”
He and Tipper were driving – themselves, he notes with a sniff – when he discovered something amazing. He looked in the rear-view mirror and discovered that there was no motorcade! “You’ve heard of phantom limb pain. Imagine the pain of a phantom motorcade.” They pulled into a Shoney’s for dinner, where the waitress made a big deal of his presence. Talking to the next table over, she said to the customer, “That’s former vice-president Al Gore.” To which he resonded, “Boy, he’s really come down in the world.”
A day later, after flying on (someone else’s) Gulfstream to Lagos, he tells this story to a Nigerian audience. They thought it was pretty funny. But he realized the impact when they stopped for refueling in the Azores. A man ran across the tarmac carrying a sign “Call Washington”.
Al wondered what could be so wrong in Washington… then realised “quite a bit”. So he called his staff and found out that a Nigerian wire service reporter had posted a story which had Gore saying, “My wife Tipper and I have opened a low-cost family restaurant called Shoney’s and are operating it ourselves.” Unsurprisingly, this moved across late night TV rather quickly, resulting in a handwritten congratulations from Bill Clinton. “We like to celebrate each other’s successes in life.”
Shifting quickly from humor to his serious subject, he offers suggestions on what we, as individuals, can do to help save the planet. He offers the following list:
– Reduce emissions in your own home
– Buy a hybrid car
– Be a green consumer, especially for efficient appliances
– Live a carbon-neutral life, reducing your footprint and offsetting your impact with carbon credits, pointing us to Climatecrisis.net
– Promote and share his slide show, which will be a move called “The Inconvenient Truth”
– Become politically active
– Use tools of mass persuasion, including impact ads, to share the message
His big idea is one inspired by trying to help his daughter with debilitating migraine headaches. Ultimately, she was treated with biofeedback – looking at a visualization of brain waves and being told “make the bar go down”. We need the same sort of biofeedback for the planet. He talks about putting a satellite at the L1 stable orbit point between the Earth and the Sun, measuring how the earth absorbs and radiates energy, allowing us to detect enegry going in and out. Until we have a measure of this energy, we can’t measure how well we’re “making the bar go down.” This satellite exist – it was built in 1998 and slated for launch in early 2001, but it was cancelled. This is precisely the type of feedback we need to figure out how we can save our world.
Editorializing: I’ve long been an an admirer of Jimmy Carter, who’s done so much more for the world out of office than he did in office. It’s pretty clear to me that Al Gore may well be the next Jimmy Carter, being so much more powerful AFTER he’s been the second most powerful person on the planet.
Wow, that sounds like exactly the same routine described in this new yorker article from two years ago:
Also, I can’t help but wonder if he’s ever considered how many additional hybrid cars it would take to balance out the fuel and emissions from that private jet flight to nigeria alone…
But I agree that I’ve enjoyed seeing the new Al Gore, and that he’s in a great position to do good for this country and the world. I’ve also really appreciated your reports from TED. Thanks.
I’m curious about something. Please interpret this as respectful and trying to figure things out, not as critical or snide. I hope placing it in a public comment isn’t inappropriate.
In a quote from Richard Clarke, reported in the Wikipedia article on Extraordinary Rendition (ER), Vice President Gore is described as playing a pivotal part in President Clinton’s decision to authorize the practice and first use of ER, to apprehend a terrorist suspect. (“That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”) Whether or not that particular vignette is accurate, he must have been complicit to some degree in ER activities during the Clinton administration.
On the other hand, you seem to have a reasonably positive opinion of the current Al Gore, based on what you’ve said in your blogging of the TED conference. You don’t actually say “He’s a good guy”, but that seems implied… Or am I reading too much into your comments?
(You probably know where I’m going by now.) You’ve told me you find ER outrageous, “cynicism at its deepest, darkest and most criminal”, so how do you reconcile your present reaction to Gore with his responsibility for the practice of ER?
The question strikes me as important because if Al Gore is principled and generally “good”, and if he was okay with ER while in office, and if he’s fundamentally the same person now and then… then perhaps ER doesn’t look as heinous to someone on the “inside”, with all the information available there, as it does to you and me. Maybe we just don’t know enough to judge.
Though, to be honest, I’m finding that pretty hard to swallow.
(I will grant that the practice of ER seems to have exploded beyond all reasonable or moral limits since 9/11. Whether that’s due to 9/11 itself, the personalities in the Bush administration, the CIA going rogue on us, or all of the above is something I don’t feel qualified to answer.)
:: Ian ::
P.S. I’m now connected to Gore and all the other TED luminaries by a mere two degrees of separation. Whee!!! =8-]
Totally fair line of inquiry, Ian, and you’re right to point out the inconsistency. I suspect I’d have a hard time finding any politician I admire who I can support unreservedly and without reservation. Despite some fondness for Clinton, I found his decision to bomb the Sudan outrageous and his failure to intervene in Rwanda inexcusable.
As for Gore – I wasn’t aware of his role in advancing the technique of extraordinary rendition. My observation was primarily that, outside of the context of the White House, he appeared to be smart, engaged and approachable. Does this mean that he’s a different guy out of office? Or that it’s a contradiction that he could be both “a good guy” and someone who signed off on extraordinary rendition?
I think what it means is that these situations are complicated and that, as you suggest, it’s hard to judge from the outside the decisions made from the inside. I think ER is wrong, but perhaps I don’t have the right picture. I hope Gore had a hard time and a moral conflict before enabling the US to use ER. If not, you’re right, I’m disappointed.
I think the appearances that Al Gore has made at TED have been beneficial to the country and the world as a whole. If he had learned to relate to people as well as he does now through humor while he was still in office, I think he would have been an unbeatable candidate for president. After all, Bush didn’t win based on being more competent. The vote Bush got was based on the “common man” being able to relate to him. Gore was too aloof and removed for the common man to relate to back then. I am certainly glad that he, like Carter, continues to grow personally and contribute globally now that he is out of office.
Moving toward a sustainable world is no simple thing. I am reminded of the several years when I was the staff adviser to MIT’s Solar Cr Team. It is easy to get angry and burn out in championing a cause like the environment. I burned out after a couple of years and took a few more years to recover equilibrium and start being effective at things that mattered to me again.
I had a different point in my life where I burned out for and took a while to get back on track after working hard inventing and bringing out the game Laser Tag. For me, both burn-outs had to do with reactions to greedy powerful people.
One of the most important things that both Carter and Gore do is to keep going.
It’s a weird coincidence reading about Gore’s daughter benefiting from biofeedback to get over migraines. I have been working on a product to help people who have morning migraines or sore jaw from grinding or clenching their teeth in their sleep. Perhaps I am destined to work with Al Gore on something some day.