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You must really read this book
on 30 January 2004
Senator Al Gore won high praise for this book from Bill Moyers because he "faces honestly the unremitting evidence of science"; from M. Scott Peck for "clearly pointing the way we need to change to assure the survival of our grandchildren"; and from Carl Sagan who tells us that "mitigating the crisis will require a planetary perspective, long-term thinking, political courage and savvy, eloquence and leadership - all of which are in evidence in Al Gore's landmark book." As a child the author watched eight acres an hour of top soil being carried away in the Mississippi River while his mother explained the implications of Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring'; as a student his professor explained the profound and disruptive change in the global climate due to the carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere measured at Mauna Loa; as a serviceman in Vietnam he learned of the results of using Agent Orange; as a Congressman he investigated hazardous waste dumps such as Love Canal and learned of our leaders' powerful and determined opposition to the truth and their unwillingness to think about the comprehensive nature of the response needed. After reflecting on his own personal role in determining the course of his nation and civilization he ran for President focusing his campaign on global warming, ozone depletion, the ailing global environment and nuclear arms control only to discover that no one was interested in these issues and that the media would not provide coverage. It was a lesson in how political motives and government policies have helped to create the crisis and frustrate finding solutions; it was a lesson about leadership and evasion of responsibility, timidity of vision, avoiding important issues, and postponing difficult choices. He concluded that "Each of us must take a greater personal responsibility for this deteriorating global environment; each of us must take a hard look at the habits of mind and action that reflect - and have lead to - this grave crisis. The more deeply I search for the roots of the global environmental crisis, the more I am convinced that it is an outer manifestation of an inner crisis that is, for the lack of a better word, spiritual." Gore concluded that the search for truth about the crisis and the search for truth about himself are in fact the same search. Mahatma Ghandi said "We must be the change we wish to see in the world" but Gandhi could say that only after he was asked to tell a boy to stop eating sugar, stopped eating sugar himself for two weeks and only then spoke to the boy. Gore concluded that he had to deal with his own hypocrisy in such things as using CFCs in his automobile air conditioner before he could hope to convince others of the hypocrisy in their lives.
Gore examines the crisis from the perspective of the earth sciences, economics, sociology, history, information theory, psychology, religion and from his vantagepoint as a politician. Although very difficult changes in established patterns of thought and action will be required, success is within our capacity and desirable in the interest of social justice, democratic government and free market economics. But we must adopt an attitude similar to that which brought success in World War II where the central organizing principle was total commitment to the defeat of fascism. Following the war and through 1989 the central organizing principle of government policy and society was total commitment to the defeat of communism; this was the reason for the Marshall Plan, MacArthur's blueprint for Japan, the 1947 decision to give massive aid to Greece and Turkey, NATO, foreign aid, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the nuclear arms race, and arms sales to dictators opposed to Soviet communism - all served the same central purpose of defeating communism. Even the interstate highway system, federal aid to education and the space program were tied to the defeat of communism. The Marshall Plan concentrated on fixing bottlenecks impeding growth. Today we need total commitment to a Global Marshall Plan concentrating on five strategic goals - stabilizing world population, environmentally appropriate technologies, changes to the economic rules, renegotiated international agreements, and educating the world's citizens about our global environment - and emphasizing actions and programs aimed at removing the bottlenecks to creating a healthy global economy.
This book gives much more than the environmental facts; it helps us understand why our leaders fail in their responsibilities even when presented with indisputable evidence; it helps us understand that we need more political savvy; it helps us understand that you and I are the problem and we have to do as Gandhi tells us - WE must be the change we want to see in the world. Finally it helps us to understand that if we are to take greater personal responsibility, we must be committed. Gore quotes W. H. Murray who is actually partially quoting Wolfgang Goethe who I quote in full because it is only when we accept Chico Mendes' level of commitment that we will work the miracle that is needed to save our world.
"Concerning all acts of initiative and creation,
there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which
kills countless ideas and splendid plans;
that the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Providence moves, too.
All sorts of things occur to help one,
That would otherwise never have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
Raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and
Meetings and material assistance, which no person could
Have dreamt would have come his or her way.
Are you in earnest?
Seize this very minute!
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it!
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."