March 30, 2016

Climate Optimism

Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President and long time climate activist, made his first Ted Talk ten years ago. Also in 2006, Gore released his book, and the very influential documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Far from being his first work on the global climate crisis, An Inconvenient Truth served as a prominent punctuation in Gore's 40+ year career working to raise awareness about, and find solutions to anthropocentric climate change. You remember the terrifying movie, right?

I remember when I first saw An Inconvenient Truth. Already studying climate change in the middle of falling down the rabbit hole of discovery and finding my career path within the field, the documentary solidified my conviction. It also made me quite deeply sad. It is a scary movie, if you let the information sink in.The truth is all that needed to be said. 

A decade later, Al Gore returned to the Ted stage with a slightly different tone. In February, 2016 Gore gave a talk titled "The case for optimism on climate change." Similar to talks he has given in the past, Gore, who has moved from politics into the business field, covers the tragedies that climate change incites, bringing the viewer up to date with events over the past ten years and giving an overview of the lengthy list of things that climate change is and will affect in our natural environment and human society. In the second half of his most recent talk however, Gore takes a turn and talks about why we should be optimistic about our situation and our future. He talks about the changes to industry, and innovations in technology that will help us break our reliance on fossil fuels. With a stable hold of reality and our dire situation, Gore still has an optimistic view and reminds us that there is reason for hope and continued targeted climate action. 

There is a good message in this talk. Climate change is terrifying, dangerous, and sad. What human's have done to the planet and ourselves is justifiable cause for some deep soul searching, as well as financial investment towards finding a better way of living on Earth. We could allow climate change to be the end of us. We could stick our heads in the sand and wait it out. However, if we allow it, climate change can be our largest spark of inspiration and ingenuity. If we allow it, climate change can be the one issue that we all unite around, know that it affects us all indiscriminately. It is not a partisan or national issue, despite some's effort to frame it as such, it is a universal issue. It is also an issue that has rallied people around the world at formal events and small gatherings, in board rooms and science labs, in places of worship and at city hall. Climate change could be our end, but as Gore points out, there are many signs that humanity is not complacent enough to let it.