Friday, April 4, 2008

The Big Picture: a day with Al Gore

Al Gore is in town this weekend.  He's training 200 new members of his Climate Project -- I'm lucky to be one of them.  

Tonight he gave his now-famous slide-show presentation; tomorrow he'll be leading a full-day workshop to walk us through the logic and structure of the slides, the narrative he's trying to convey to his audiences, and some helpful tips that he's accumulated over his many, many public appearances.

No, there's not an obvious link between climate change and luxury apparel.  But that doesn't mean I shouldn't get involved.  

The environment is the context for everything we do, work and play.  It's not a 'cause' or an 'issue' that I can choose to get involved in, or choose to opt out of.  

What troubles me most about the climate crisis is that all the tools we, as a human race, have for evaluating risk tells us that we need to take action -- serious action, urgently.  

How did a naked ape, totally unimpressive with regards to speed, strength, or senses, manage to conquer a planet inhabited by elephants, tigers and wolves?   Our brain.  That's it.  That's our one advantage.  Because of our brain, we have an idea of 'the future'.  The 'future' doesn't exist.  It's just an idea -- a complex idea, but one we humans can grasp and work with -- the ability to expect stuff to happen on the evidence of past experience. 

Our brain, and the tools we've built with it (like science and technology), tells us there's a 90% probability that we're causing the earth to warm, and warm quickly.  This is bad for a lot of reasons.  For example, if sea level rises 5 metres (which will happen if Greenland or West Antarctica melt entirely away, as they're trending to do), then 450 million people who live on the world's coasts will have to move.  (Can you imagine the strain that's going to put on our politics?  The conflict that mass-displacement will create...scary stuff.)  

Now, for 150 000 years, our strategy as a species has been to foresee these consequences and adjust our behaviour to prevent them (or at least slow them down so we have time to adapt).

What worries me is that, where climate change is concerned, we seem to have abandoned that strategy.

To bring all this back to Moniker: (1) Al Gore wears a very nice suit.  (2) I've signed up to make a few dozen of Al Gore's presentations to student and community groups over the next year, raising the issue of climate change.  Public speaking is one of my passions -- I honor the opportunity to influence people with my spoken words and ideas.  Maybe that's where my passion for 'professional wear' comes from.  It's when I'm in a suit that I'm doing what I love best.  

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