So what was Al Gore’s message in Montreal? by Felix von Geyer
Al Gore pulled his punches as he renewed his existential call to action that “Political Will is Renewable.” While he tapered the length of a spine, he fell short of straightening it in a rambling narrative that touched on technology, democracy, no-growth economics and global warming at McGill University’s Beaverbrooke Lecture in Montreal on Tuesday evening.
Technology is democratization said Gore as he recounted the fallacy of Luddite thinking that technology was a negative force to societal and economic progress. However he only alluded to the power of oil and coal corporations in today’s society, inferring they are today’s Luddites restraining technological progress in addressing climate change. Effectively the former US Vice President desribed these corporations comprise today’s equivalent of the feudal landlords of medieval times then in league with the Church who controlled society in a way that ”today would be unimaginable.”
For Gore, technology is a democratizing force providing low-cost entry fees through the internet for today’s society to liberate future generations from the tyrannical corporate-classes controlling the political message, just as he attributed the Guttenberg press of the late 1400’s as allowing the spread of thought that rid Western civilization of its feudal power structure ”within decades,” he said. The television era was expensively prohibitive, excluding the participation of ordinary man, instead reducing him to consumer status of the message-board space that only the oil and coal barons could afford to rent from the media gatekeepers. Gore failed to mention that companies like Verizon and AT&T are soon set to challenge so-called net neutrality that allows them to prioritize traffic.
But in addressing climate change, Gore fell short of equating fossil fuel companies and chemical companies as the new global landlords of a new global feudalism who have controlled the energy debate. Again, he referred to the tobacco companies’ campaign to obfuscate the link between smoking and lung cancer but did not point to the biggest marketing spend in history that, according to James Hoggan, author of Climate Cover-Up, seeks to disinform the science of climate change that Hoggan claimed was orchestrated by ExxonMobil, Philip Morris and Weber Shandwick.
Gore even added that technological roll-out could help save the day in the advent of ever lower solar photovoltaic prices while enabling developing countries to leapfrog developed countries. However, despite this optimism, he offered no clue of how to avert the International Energy Agency’s warning two years’ ago that the world has until 2017 to avoid being locked into an energy future that will take it to beyond 2 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures. Gore himself warned that even in 10,000 years 20% of anthropogenically caused greenhouse gas emissions would still remain in the atmosphere.
In calling for everybody to become involved in shaping the future they want, and heralding the new generation of technology, Gore used the analogy of the Qwerty keyboard to criticize economic thinking. Where Qwerty’s original design purpose is defunct with no old manual typewriter keys to stick together anymore, today’s generation uses Qwerty ”because that’s what we learned,” he said.
“We have a Qwerty keyboard in our concept of growth,” he announced, attacking the supposed Holy Grail for measuring economic progress by recounting how even Simon Kuznets, the economist behind the concept of growth, pleaded with world leaders after World War Two not to use this as a measure for economic progress.
And growth for Gore also means a growth in pollution “where every one kilogramme of grain produced sends one kilogramme of topsoil down the Mississippi River,” he said. The negative externalities of growth were not measured.
“The fact that you’ve destroyed your future will not be found on the balance sheet,” said Gore who took no time in his speech to criticize Canada for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol and looking on-target to exceed its 2020 emissions target of 612 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year that it pledged undert the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. Instead Canada will likely reach 734 million tonnes according to a new Environment Canada report.
He did, however, decry the lack of leadership and governance required to address these issues. “In this day and age, the clothes have no emperor,” he said.
If there was one message to take away, it was for today’s generation to fill those clothes of the abdicated emperor, and ”get involved” in an “Occupy Democracy” movement. ”We love in the most exciting time in humanity and it is for us to change its future,” he declared.