By: Debra Lynne Katz www.debrakatz.com
I’d like to highlight the work of Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States. Gore has done more than just about anyone else to raise awareness in the United States and everywhere else, of the approaching cataclysm brought on by what, not too long ago, was an approaching global warming crisis and now appears to be upon us. He serves as a role model who is doing his part, despite defeat, controversy, and challenges to do what he can for ourselves and for future generations. He has done this by using his own skills, strengths, and privileged position to get the message out in every way he can.
Al Gore has been one of the most public and effective champions of the environment since his first documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 1991. His second film , “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (2016) shows the changes that he predicted in the first film. His assertions that the newly constructed foundation of the One World Trade Center would flood due to global warming were highly criticized and disregarded as being ridiculous, and yet this is exactly what happened, less than a decade later.
Meanwhile, he demonstrates how temperatures all across our planet are continuing to rise year after year, accumulating with the highest temperatures in 2016. He shares that most scientists believe these are due to green house gases, and the impact of carbon dioxide on the ozone layer of our plant. It is also changing the balance of humans and diseases. Ziki virus is spreading so fast within the United States, that scientists are recommending people not get pregnant over the next couples years. In Greenland, where scientists measure the surface mass balance, 10 meters of ice has been lost since 1990.
The impact of the melting glaciers shows that the water rushes underneath the ice sheath, and it begins to push it towards the ocean, forming hundreds of rivers in the glaciers that were not there before. Gore asks “where is all this water going? The camera cuts to water pouring into the streets of Miami due to these higher tides, hurricanes, etc.
In fact, Miami is now having to elevate an entire street by twelve inches to stop the current flooding. The local officials acknowledge that this has never been an issue in the history of Miami until now. Gore says: “it’s very frustrating that for many years I’ve said we have to do something to stop this, but it’s just not happening enough. I feel like this is a personal failure on my part”. He also points out that the very governor of Florida continues to acknowledge this is not an issue at all.
I am just completing an ecopsychology class as part of my Ph.D. program at University of West Georgia. I wondered prior to taking this class what ecology and environmentalism has to do with psychology. Now, that seems like such a silly question. I’ve watched for years as many politicians, and therefore many citizens, continue to deny the science and the evidence. What are the psychological factors involved that cause this denial when science has been so revered in all other areas for the last century? Why is it, that when Al Gore finally got funding to launch a satellite that would have measured and photographed the effects of global warning, the Bush administration headed by Dick Chaney cancelled this, took the photographic equipment off of the satellite, and “put it into storage” as Gore tells us in the second film.
My question is, what is the thinking behind this? And more importantly, how do we combat this staunch denial? Al Gore started a training program for people to become trainers in these areas. He started with 50 people and this program has blossomed to graduate thousands of trainers as efforts to make a difference. However, given Donald Trump just withdrew the Paris Agreement, in which hundreds of countries have agreed to lower their emissions over the next several years to halt the devastating consequences, it’s clear that this is not simply a matter of needing more education. Something much deeper, insidious and pervasive is at play, something that I believe should fall to the psychologists given the extent of time and energy they’ve put into date studying deviant human behaviors!
I loved how just as “An Inconvenient Sequel” was coming to and end, and I was feeling rather powerless, the words flashed across the screen, “Use Your Voice”; “Use your Vote” Convince your town – your business – your university – your college to switch to 110% renewable energy….” . This was followed by the slogan, “If our leaders refuse to lead, our citizens will” These are actions, that while challenging, seem a lot more doable as they involve starting locally and moving out from there.
Gores closing words showed that he too can fluctuate between despair and hope. His words “Fight like your world depends on it. Because your world depends on it” chased away my own pessimistic thoughts. I liked how he equated the environmental movement with the Civil Rights movement, as we do need so much encouragement in the darkest of times, like there has been in other dark times in history, where people persevered. He declares that laws eventually started to change when the younger people asked the older people and leaders, “Why is Ok to have laws discriminating against people simply because of their skin color?….. and there were no good answers”.
I also loved Gore’s conviction at the conclusion of his second film, when he states “I know I am right. I know what needs to be done. I am not confused”. This wishy-washy idea many well-meaning, and compassionate people have of “Well I know if I can just show you enough scientific evidence, you’ll come along” needs to be replaced with an intolerance for anyone who isn’t willing to step forward and take these issues seriously. My favorite part of the film was when Al Gore quoted Martin Luther King, who responded to a weary person’s question “how long is this going to take?” and Gore, ventriloquizing King, replies: “How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever”, (Gore, 2016).
If you’d like to get involved as a “climate change leader”, visit this website:
https://www.climaterealityproject.org/training. I just did!
Gore, A. (2006). An inconvenient truth: The Crisis of Global Warming. New York: Viking.
Gore, Al. (2017). An Inconvenient SequelTruth to Power. Simon & Schuster Audio