Ray Duckler: Gore’s message on future resonates with Concord crowd, despite Al Jazeera controversy
Former Vice President Al Gore was at the Grappone Center in Concord on Wednesday afternoon, February 6, 2013 to promote his new book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change." (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
Al Gore had fun yesterday at the Grappone Conference Center, unlike at other stops he’s made during his current book tour.
Forget the grilling he took during recent interviews, with TV heavyweights like David Letterman and Jon Stewart and Matt Lauer, for selling his network to Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera is based in and financed by Qatar, an oil-rich nation.
Gore says he stands for a greener planet, for alternative energy sources.
No one cared about the apparent hypocrisy at the Grappone. This crowd fed the former vice president grapes, fanned him with a big palm leaf, basically gave him a back rub.
Lynn Davis, a catering manager from Plymouth, took the day off to hear Gore. She beautifully sang the theme of the day, saying, “He’s just an amazing man. He was very impressive, and I’m really inspired by him quite a bit. I wish more people would hear what he had to say.”
Gore summarized what he’d written in his new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, and the crowd of about 300 loved every minute. They nodded their heads in agreement, gave a couple of standing ovations and generally saw the world through the eyes of a man whose loss in the 2000 presidential election was as slim as a hanging chad.
Gore has emerged as the face of a movement that believes climate change and corporate greed are dragging down the country, not to mention the planet. He outlined his six points in a 45-minute presentation that included four questions from audience members.
He explained that new technology is stealing jobs from people faster than it’s creating them, the opposite of the way automation used to work.
“Now these thinking machines are getting pretty smart,” Gore said. “They are capable of doing lots of things that we always assumed would uniquely be our roles. A computer just won in Jeopardy and another won the international chess championships.”
Gore warned that special interest groups and rich anonymous campaign donors and the inequality of the nation’s income was hurting our democracy. “Capitalism doesn’t work as well,” Gore said, “when most of the benefits go to the very top, and it’s contrary to what our country is supposed to be about.”
He warned that messing with genes and cloning to mass produce a better brand of human gives him a creepy feeling. “Creepy is not the same thing as fear,” Gore said. “It’s a kind of pre-fear. You know something is going on, and it might be something that you ought to be afraid of, but you’re just not sure.”
And, of course, Gore spoke about global warming, a topic covered in his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which earned two Academy Awards. This, more than anything else since he lost to George W. Bush, has defined the man.
He said yesterday that some ridiculed him for the segment in his movie about the ocean one day overrunning Ground Zero, in lower Manhattan.
Then he mentioned superstorm Sandy and the ensuing flooding in the area where
the towers once stood. “They said that would never happen,” Gore said. “But it happened last October, a little ahead of schedule.”
Gore continued: “The Earth uses carbon-based fossil fuels for 85 percent of all energy that’s used in the world, and when you burn fossil fuel, the carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere, and we’re dumping 90 million tons every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer.”
This is where we need to stop, where we need to change direction, ask questions. This is where we need to dissect the announcement last month, that Gore had sold his former network to Al Jazeera.
Some said that this was unpatriotic, that Al Jazeera slants its news coverage to favor groups labeled as terrorists. There was little of that angle raised yesterday, although Bob Ray, a retired engineer from Dunbarton, thought it was more troubling than the oil issue.
“I’m concerned,” Ray said, “that he’s selling his network to something that’s associated with terrorism.”
Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Gore’s business deal, for a reported $500 million, with an organization fueled by Qatar’s fuel, never came up. Not by the audience and not by Gore himself.
It sure came up, though, during The Daily Show, by Stewart, who asked Gore, “Can mogul Al Gore coexist with activist Al Gore?”
And this from Letterman, usually a big Democratic supporter: “So you, Al Gore, are doing business with this country that is enabling your ultimate foe, climate change.”
Gore, who’s defended himself by saying Al Jazeera focuses attention on global warming, wasn’t taking questions after yesterday’s presentation during the book-signing portion, telling a local columnist, “I’m not doing interviews today, but maybe I’ll be able to follow up with you.”
He took the columnist’s business card and began signing for the adoring crowd.
Outside the spacious ballroom, Gore had his defenders, including Davis, the catering manager from Plymouth.
“Is there an alternate goal in mind by him doing this (with Al Jazeera)?” Davis asked. “Is there something good that can come out of this? He’s looking for the best interest of Americans and the world. He’s doing such a good thing right now, and that deal happens with anyone in politics.”
Added Ellen Hoiriis of Hampton, “When you’re a business person, you have to go where the business is. We’re at such an early transition, moving to green and changes, you can’t ignore these large businesses and industries and right them off. And they may also in the future be the agents of change we need. That’s where the optimist in me shows up.”
Optimism was everywhere. Gore could do no wrong. The world has problems, and the former vice president had answers.
Finished, Gore received a standing ovation, to which he said, “I love New Hampshire.”
The feeling, no doubt, was mutual.