Al Gore calls for the world to 'go far, quickly' against climate change
WASHINGTON - Al Gore brought his green gladiator walk to the National Mall for Live Earth day after all, and he credited an invitation from the National Museum of the American Indian for making it happen.
''Some who don't understand what is now at stake tried to stop this event on the mall, but here we are,'' Gore told a throng of thousands, a faction in Congress having previously denied him the use of the mall as a pulpit in his campaign against global warming. ''And it wasn't the cavalry who came to our rescue. It was the American Indian.''
The comparison was mostly in fun, befitting a lucky sevens date - 7/7/07 - that featured music and dance concerts by more than 100 acts on seven continents, circulated by the full battery of modern media, from television cameras to radio, print, the Internet, iPods, cell phones, wireless and word-of-mouth. In addition, Gore said, more than 10,000 gatherings took place around the country on the occasion of Live Earth. Between the entertainment, speeches and information-sharing, organizers sought to unite 2 billion people in a trans-generational vanguard against climate change brought on by global warming.
Anthony Socci, a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, was on hand to confirm that the scientific community has reached consensus on the evidence that global warming is real, and that human activity is implicated - particularly in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it lingers, absorbing heat and radiating it earthward to slowly raise the temperature of the climate, with literally a world of adverse effects.
''In fact,'' Socci said, in informal remarks following Gore's speech, ''we're a significant driving force in the warming of the planet that we're seeing. ... Basically to tackle the problem ... it has to be international and multigenerational, and we're going to have to pass the baton to the youth of today and tomorrow as well. They're going to have to be involved. ...
''I think the approach where-by they're thinking seven generations ahead, Native folks, that is the kind of thinking that we need for this problem, because climate change will play out over decades and centuries. And so we have to have a multi-generational approach to this, as a way to hand off the problem to successive generations. We won't deal with this; we won't solve it in a generation. Because climate, once it gets loaded up into the atmosphere, it has a long, what we call a residence time, of hundreds of years. And so that means it's with us for a long, long time. And if we keep adding to that burden [through carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, as they are popularly termed], the legacy is with us longer. And so that's why I say it's multigenerational. We have no choice. That is the nature of the problem.''
Live Earth in America began with Gore's speech on the NMAI plaza, hours after the overall launch event in Australia, home to a drastic drought that is the current world billboard for development practices, water-use processes and political stances that have dug in against dramatic reform. There the first peoples, Aborigines, initiated the message of Native stewardship for Mother Earth over the long haul, and Gore followed their example: ''The American Indian people, and the elders of Native cultures here and around the world, have been very eloquent in their warnings about what we're doing to the earth. They remind us that solving the climate crisis will require not only new laws and new technology, but also a new understanding that we are connected to the natural world.''
Over swells of applause that approached several roaring crescendos, he called for worldwide commitments to action against global warming, commitments both individual and collective.
''In Africa, there is a proverb that says, 'If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' We have to go far, quickly. ... Not many years from now, our children and grandchildren will ask one of two questions. They will look back at us in 2007, at the beginning of the 21st century, and either they will ask, 'What were they thinking? Didn't they hear the scientists? Didn't they see the evidence? Were they too busy, distracted or greedy? Didn't they care?'
''Or they will ask a second question, the one that I much prefer that they ask. I want them to ask of us, 'How did they get their act together and find the uncommon moral courage to rise and successfully solve the climate problem?' ... Abraham Lincoln said in the darkest hour of this nation, 'We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we will save our country.' Now again ... we must disenthrall ourselves, and then we will save our planet.''
Performances followed by country music recording giants Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks and a number of Native band and dance ensembles, including the headliner Blues Nation. On offer between the acts were a film screening and discussion on the Cherokee Trail of Tears and brief speeches on climate and the environment from Cheyenne and Arapaho professor Henrietta Mann, Mohawk traditional midwife Katsi Cook of ''Women are the first environment'' fame, Yuchi Muscogee scholar Daniel Wildcat, and Socci.
In a lull before the musical agenda got rolling, NMAI acting director Tim Johnson, gathered with his family in good cheer near the museum's main entrance, gave an account of scheduling one of the world's leading figures. By the time he issued an invitation for Gore to address a global audience from the museum grounds, the museum had already scheduled its program for ''Mother Earth: a Special Indian Summer Showcase Event in the Spirit of the Live Earth Concerts.'' Though the former U.S. vice president and winner of the 2000 popular vote for president (the Electoral College and the Supreme Court installed George W. Bush) has transcended politics with his Academy Award-winning documentary film ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' on the threat of global warming, Gore wasn't going to transcend them July 7 without what he called ''this act of grace in inviting us here today.'' The bands had already been booked and speakers had been scheduled. The ''museum with a conscience,'' as Johnson described it in introducing Gore, simply offered Gore a place at the top of the established agenda and worked with his team on the timing required for Live Earth's international schedule. It all worked out from there, Johnson said, rather understating the case for one of the museum's most visible coups since its 2004 opening.