Text excerpted from the book: PROTECTING THE PLANET-Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change (ISBN 978-1-63388-225-6)
Budd Titlow & Mariah Tinger
An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim about former US Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate citizens about Climate Change and Global Warming. To accomplish this educational endeavor, Gore presents a comprehensive slide show that he estimates he has given more than a thousand times.
Premiering at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opening in New York City and Los Angeles on May 24, 2006, the documentary was a critical and box-office success, winning two Academy Awards for “Best Documentary Feature” and “Best Original Song”. The film grossed $24 million in the U.S. and $26 million in the foreign box office, becoming the eleventh highest grossing documentary film to date in US history.
The idea to document Gore’s efforts at educating the public about the hazards of Global Warming came from producer Laurie David who saw his presentation at a town-hall meeting which happened to coincide with the opening of the feature film, The Day After Tomorrow. Laurie David was so inspired by Gore’s slide show that she, along with producer Lawrence Bender, met with Guggenheim to adapt the presentation into a film.
Since the film’s release, An Inconvenient Truth has been credited for raising international public awareness of Climate Change and reenergizing the US Environmental Movement. The documentary has also been included in science curricula in schools around the world, which—as you might expect—has also spurred significant controversy.
In fact, since its release, “An Inconvenient Truth” has had a pronounced dual effect—sharpening the understanding and sense of foreboding in believers while further polarizing and alienating deniers.
Al Gore—Communicator / Leader
If we were asked to select a “poster boy” for the Climate Change movement in the US, that person would be former Senator and Vice President Al Gore, Jr. In a highly unusual move among typically image-conscious politicians, Mr. Gore stood up and—with his PowerPoint presentation turned into a 2006 Oscar-winning documentary film entitled An Inconvenient Truth— told the world that Climate Change was real, that humans were responsible, and that we needed to take action immediately to preserve our quality of life on the planet. In the process, he endured a barrage of slings, arrows, hate mongering, and insults unlike few other US politicians have ever had to contend.
Al Gore making one of his more than 1,000 presentations of “An Inconvenient Truth”.
As a creature of the Washington, DC establishment, Al Gore, Jr. has been involved in politics his whole life. He was born on March 31, 1948 and raised in Washington, DC where his father, Al Gore, Sr., served on Capitol Hill from 1939 to 1971—first as a US Representative and then as a Senator from the State of Tennessee. As a result, the junior Gore spent his boyhood attending prestigious private schools in the District of Columbia with summers working on the family farm in Carthage, Tennessee.
Then as a student at Harvard University during the 1960’s, Gore roomed with future actor Tommy Lee Jones and actually stumbled into the issue of Climate Change and associated Global Warming. In his senior year at Harvard, he took a class with oceanographer Roger Revelle, who sparked his interest in Global Warming and other environmental issues. Gore grasped the Climate Change science quickly and—as his political star rose—never relented in his determination to alert people that we’re baking our planet and ourselves with our lust for fossil fuels.
Beginning his career in public service in 1977, Gore was elected to represent the State of Tennessee in both the House and then in the Senate, serving from 1977 to 1993. Early on, he became one of the first politicians on Capitol Hill to grasp the seriousness of Climate Change. In fact, he held the first congressional hearings on the subject in the late 1970s.
During his tenure in Congress, Gore also co-sponsored hearings on toxic waste in 1978–79, and then organized more hearings on Climate Change/Global Warming in the 1980s. In 1989, while still a Senator, he published an editorial in the Washington Post, in which he lamented, “Humankind has suddenly entered into a brand new relationship with the planet Earth. The world’s forests are being destroyed; an enormous hole is opening in the ozone layer. Living species are dying at an unprecedented rate.”
In 1990, Senator Gore presided over a three-day conference with legislators representing over 42 countries seeking to create a “Global Marshall Plan”—”under which industrial nations would help less developed countries grow economically while still protecting the environment.” In 1992, he wrote his first book, Earth in the Balance. It became the first book written by a sitting Senator to make The New York Times “bestseller list” since John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage.
While serving as Vice-President in the Clinton Administration, Gore launched the GLOBE program on Earth Day 1994. This was an education and science activity that— according to Forbes Magazine—”made extensive use of the Internet to increase student awareness of their environment”. Then in the late 1990s, he strongly pushed for the passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which called for reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions. As we have previously described in Part Three, despite Gore’s staunch efforts, the US totally botched the Kyoto Protocol.
In 2000, Gore famously lost one of the closest Presidential elections in U.S. History to George W. Bush. Having an election as the world’s most powerful leader in the palm of his hand only to see it mistakenly and churlishly—in his mind and the mind of many Americans—ripped from his grasp, initially devastated Gore.
While fate may have kept Al Gore from the US Presidency, his tenacity created something few politicians ever achieve: a genuine cause that they feel passionate about. In Gore’s case, of course, this passion was Climate Change. In 2005, he founded the “Climate Reality Project” (originally the “Alliance for Climate Protection”) which is a non-profit organization devoted to solving the Climate Change crisis. Through grassroots leadership trainings, global media events, digital communications, and issue campaigns, “Climate Reality” works to spread the truth and raise awareness about Climate Change. Today, Gore serves as the group’s chairman and works with the organization to promote awareness of the ongoing dangers posed by Global Warming pollution and to develop solutions for Climate Change.
Gore also created a global media brand around his An Inconvenient Truth, which became the fourth highest-grossing documentary film in US History. A 2006 book with the same title became a bestseller.
In October of 2007, Gore was named as joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize—together with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As part of the award, he was recognized for being “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted to combat Global Warming.”
In recent years, Gore has remained busy traveling the world speaking and participating in events mainly aimed towards Global Warming awareness and prevention. His keynote presentation on Climate Change consistently receives standing ovations, and—according to his writing in, An Inconvenient Truth—he has presented it at least 1,000 times.
Author’s bio: For the past 50 years, professional ecologist and conservationist Budd Titlow has used his pen and camera to capture the awe and wonders of our natural world. His goal has always been to inspire others to both appreciate and enjoy what he sees. Now he has one main question: Can we save humankind’s place — within nature’s beauty — before it’s too late? Budd’s two latest books are dedicated to answering this perplexing dilemma. PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, a non-fiction book, examines whether we still have the environmental heroes among us — harking back to such past heroes as Audubon, Hemenway, Muir, Douglas, Leopold, Brower, Carson, and Meadows — needed to accomplish this goal. Next, using fact-filled and entertaining story-telling, his latest book — COMING FULL CIRCLE: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America — provides the answers we all seek and need. Having published five books, more than 500 photo-essays, and 5,000 photographs, Budd Titlow lives with his music educator wife, Debby, in San Diego, California.