editorial (2006-21)

Gore on a Mission

His advocacy for environmental concerns shows statesmanship

Gore on a Mission

Albert Gore Jr. isn’t exactly making a name for himself. He already had the name. The former journalist, congressman, senator and vice president who lost the presidency by a whisker, is using the prominence he earned on the national and international scene to spread concern for the environment on a worldwide scale.

The Tennessee Democrat, who describes himself as a “recovering politician,” authored a book as vice president, Earth in the Balance , that is only now beginning to be widely understood and respected. He is on tour today promoting his documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth , drawing attention to the calamity that global warming promises to all nations.

The documentary dramatizes Gore’s new role as favored son (he won the popular vote in 2000) on a mission. If he had been elected president, he might have a better platform on which to help lead the world toward a cleaner, more vital environment. But he would have been busied with other issues. And he would have been hampered by the demands of that segment of American industry and energy production that still wishes to ignore the implications of climate change.

Being out of public office has its advantages. Tennessee’s Sen. Lamar Alexander, who counts himself an environmentalist and who is outspoken, by Republican senatorial standards, in his demands for more effort to clean our air and water, came out this week with a plea for our state to assume leadership in production of ethanol fuels. Already called “Liberal Lamar” by his detractors, which is a joke to those who understand Alexander’s conservative bent on most issues, his rhetoric is stifled by the necessity of maintaining broad appeal if he wishes to be reelected.

Alexander would likely be accused of being hyperbolic if he used Gore’s terms to underscore the risks to much of humanity posed by global warming. Gore, however, can preach the doctrine of environmental protection in pulpit style because of his standing as a statesman who needs to coddle no voters or self-interested contributors.

Global warming and the massive challenge it poses to mankind to minimize it or cope with its effects, requires the constant assertive leadership of a person who understands it and is passionate about raising the profile of its ugly implications to all Americans and to citizens all over the world.

The fragility of the ecosystem that sustains us all should be a given, under today’s circumstances, and Gore presents himself as a “lifelong defender of the environment.” That may be so, but he was distracted by other political realities for most of that time in a lifelong pursuit of the presidency.

Now that that’s over, Gore appears to have made the environment his single-minded focus, urging others to acknowledge the planet’s vulnerability and to take up the cause to see what can be done to protect what’s left of it. He plans to conduct a special training session in Nashville later this summer to teach methods he sees as best employed to convey the message of climate change.

We all will be asked to change course somewhat: to abuse our finite energy resources less, which will result in fewer greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere; to waste less in our everyday lives, preserving more of those resources for future generations while reducing, as best we know how, the global-warming patterns; by giving encouragement through our tax distributions and our purchase choices to those who research and develop alternative fuels and conveyances to meet our transportation wishes.

Democrats may wish he were in the White House and may prod him to run again. But the simple fact is that, if he continues to devote his considerable energies and intellect to defending the environment, he may exert a greater effect on more people, at home and abroad, than he could as president.

The current occupant of that office has other priorities. President Bush is only just beginning to accept the concept of global warming and to talk of seeking ways the private sector may be stimulated to develop alternative fuels. It wasn’t until the price of oil drove him to it, seemingly, but if he’s willing to commit a sustained effort through the rest of his presidency to get the federal government to provide incentives for fuel development and disincentives for oil reliance, more power to him.

Bush’s reaction to a question on whether he expects to see the Gore documentary, though, may be politically telling:

“I doubt it,” Bush said.

We may have to let him fight his wars and wait until he’s out of the way before we can achieve a national administration with a real commitment to solving the environmental problems that threaten us all.