Inconvenient truths

I didn’t watch the State of the Union Address last night. I never watch the State of the Union Address. Regardless of who is giving it – Bush, or Clinton, or the other Bush – I don’t care.

Here’s why. I view the speech for what it is – one man’s agenda for the upcoming year, skewed politically to his party’s will. Republicans are going to thump their chest and cheer and applaud a Republican President’s speech just as Democrats will do the same for a Democratic President. It’s posturing. It seems fake. It’s often partisan propaganda – after all, it’s one guy telling the nation what he’s going to do during the next year.

Of course, I can get all of the highlights the next day anyway. I’m usually annoyed that is has pre-empted something I wanted to watch on television.

No. Instead of watching the State of the Union, I saw Al Gore speak at the Augustana College Boe Forum about his work with and thoughts on global warming. And as a bleeding heart liberal with a degree in Science Education, I probably was part of the choir he was preaching to.

I left thinking to myself, “When did Al Gore learn to speak publicly?” Gore was funny. He was animated. He was passionate and emotional and gripping. He has come a long way from his failed (or successful, depending on how politically snarky you want to get) Presidential nomination.

And for good reason – he’s talking about something he believes quite deeply – something I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times in passing: we’re under informed.

As a nation, we’re not getting the knowledge we need in order to make smart decisions and, more importantly, empower the politicians that represent us to fight for those smart decisions.

It’s not because we’re dumb. It’s because we’re ignorant. The truth is out there, slapping us in the face, telling us to wake up and smell the damned coffee. But we’re ignoring it. We’re shaking it off and turning back to the mindless, easy to digest misinformation that cable television insists on pushing at us from both sides, Left and Right.

We have a global crisis on our hands – one that won’t just affect the lives of our grandchildren. Or the lives of our children. It will affect us. Each one of us. And it’s happening sooner than we expect. Global warming isn’t a random prediction – it’s a scientifically proven theory, one that makes coastal living and disease prevention riskier and riskier each year.

What Gore proposes is a wild, elephantine theory that connects conservation with economics. It’s about putting caps on carbon and putting dollar signs on the environment. It’s the only thing that the United States will respond to, anymore. Money. Finance. Conservation and economics don’t have to be exclusive, anymore – at odds with each other and backed by polar opposites: the hippie and the executive.

The only way to stop global warming is to treat it as a commodity. One of global warming’s causes can become one of its saviors.

But before we can do that, we need to understand what global warming is. Why it’s happening. Why we can no longer ignore it. And we’re all guilty – hell, this bleeding heart liberal still hasn’t changed anything since Katrina wiped out New Orleans. I never thought I needed to. I thought someone else would do it.

This is the problem. Most of us look the other way, searching for someone else to take care of this problem. Realistically, though, no one will. It’s not cost effective to be a good guy anymore – not if your competitors are still playing Mean Mister Smog down the street.

The political process, as Gore stated, is paralyzed. It’s stuck. Money drives the policies, not information. Not constituents. Money. I waited for a personal example from Gore but never received it. You have to believe that Gore knows this from experience. Money drove his bid for the Presidency just as much as any other politician.

Now, outside of the political arena, Gore can pass on information without worrying about who he’s going to piss off. He can slide the scientific truth along the rail and become animate about his passion. He can criticize the system that nearly made him President because, really, what does he have to lose?

Gore peppered his speech with a fair share of literary and political quotes. He lobbed a few jabs at the current administration and cracked a few jokes about the incompetence that seems to bleed through Washington D.C. But through it all, he kept coming back to The Enlightenment – the period of time where information became a valuable resource to everyone, not just the rich and privileged. And that changed the world. The printing press created an informed citizenry – a citizenry that could now speak out about the tortures of the world, both politically and environmentally. They could make a difference.

They could speak for themselves.

When was the last time a politician spoke for you? And when was the last time you sought to inform yourself about the dangers that face this nation? This world?

Gore put it best last night when he echoed the voices of hundreds of environmentalists: the idea of conservation isn’t political. It’s moral. There’s no policy that is blocking our way. The only block is in our minds. We are too lazy, too indifferent and too detached to care. Someone else will take care of it. Who has time to worry about he Earth? Who has time to worry about our grandchildren?

We all have a lot of changes to make. It’s about time we realized the urgency.

“The moment one definitely commits oneself, Providence moves, too.” – W. H. Murray

I ran into Aaron Mentele from charisma:18 at the Boe Forum last night. He scooped me by having his views of Gore’s speech (“Sure Al Gore’s message is a good one, but is it disruptive?“) up before mine.

I’ll link to him, but only begrudgingly.

This was lovingly handwritten on January 24th, 2007