Was I really in Boise, Idaho with 10,000 people aching to hear Al Gore’s presentation on global warming? It makes you wonder if the true appetite for this message in reddest Idaho was north of 15,000. The feeling in that arena was electric. It was the largest live audience ever to hear this message.
Rolling Stone has published an article on Gore’s prospects of converting from prophet to president. It mentions the Boise speech as evidence that the climate-change message is catching fire.
The instant, almost vitriolic negative reaction from the Idaho right was predictable, and the list of angry criticism spread like noxious weeds. Letters to the editor and blog comments complain Gore is “a politician not a scientist,” that he’s preening for a presidential run, that he must be a tool of California’s environmental cabal, that he’s scaring the children, or that we can blame it on China. You get the picture.
In Idaho we get the unabridged and unfiltered views from the right, so we see some nasty message points circulating around the fringes. We were even treated to debunking news releases from the religious right and a pre-emptive strike by Idaho’s senior senator, Larry Craig, before Gore hit town.
Some of the naysayers and anti-Gore folks had nothing better to say than the sold-out arena was merely a progressives’ night out on the town.
Gore surely provokes negative reactions after every speech. As the first wave of intemperate reaction from the right washes over us, we have the opportunity to re-examine our own views towards the message Gore dropped on our doorstep.
The immediate attacks on Gore say something else to me: panic.
It’s reminiscent of the mad dash to Terry Schiavo’s bedside by the far right, who tried to send a message to Americans that Congress should butt in and tell us how to handle our personal and private end-of-life decisions. Tom DeLay and his band of absolutists thought they had the moral high ground, only to discover Americans resented their interference and could figure out their own morality, thank you very much.
Our free society presents us with choices. We have on and off buttons. We can consume or save. We can join or sit on the sidelines. We can vote or not vote. We can recycle or not recycle. We can buy big or we can buy little. We can rebel or remain passive. We can reduce greenhouse gas – or we can ignore it.
The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily require a law, treaty or band of morality cops on the beat in our living rooms. Armed with the facts, Americans will make the right choice.
I have worked for the largest public relations agency in North America. You can bet consultants across America are advising clients to catch this wave and never look back. America is on the move to scrub its neighborhoods, and corporate America doesn’t want to get left behind. We’re at the intersection of cleaning up the planet while having a positive impact on the corporate bottom line. It’s okay – even advantageous – to be green.
Ten thousand people showed up in Boise to hear Al Gore because they believe America can do a better job protecting our precious earth. We all define that more precisely in our own lives. The race to accumulate “stuff” seems to be decelerating. Baby boomers are mature enough to know the difference between needs and wants, and they possess the good sense to act on their convictions. The explosion of communications has created a new ethic among people of all ages, sensitizing us that something is amiss in our environment. Most of us are looking for ways to dial it down a notch or two in our lives, families, communities and country.
Movements don’t necessarily follow political ideology. They emerge, catch fire, attract champions, gain critical mass and become part of our culture. They don’t always take shape in a statutory framework. Oftentimes, legislating a “fix” is a sure-fire way to blunt a movement.
Al Gore has started a movement. No matter how you view it, at this moment Americans are approaching the tipping point in their desire to find ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
The knee-jerk reaction from the right wing is comical. It reeks of desperation. Once again, they claim to be our shield from international organizations, multi-lateralists, one-world government, humanists and secularists – their tired old masks to put a monkey wrench in Al Gore’s message.
I sense this movement is a runaway train, and the right will be left standing bewildered at the station. The reaction from a majority of Americans will be the same as when the right wing interfered in the Terry Schiavo case. Butt out! We can handle it.