Earth in the Balance

al-gore-an-inconvenient-truthEarlier this semester, Nancy and I did a review of Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. In his book, he really stressed the fact that people today are so detached from nature that we view ourselves as a separate entity altogether. He claims that humans are neglecting the idea of the future and only acting in the present, making short-term goals.

I thought it’d be useful to highlight some key points from this book as well as give some facts that I took away from it which I also found interesting.

Gore made a point of bringing up the old saying “practice what you preach” and “be the change you wish to see” however I view this as a controversial point. It is difficult to practice what you preach when there are no available alternatives yet. He does admit to this as well (as he writes this book from the back seat of his limo or the recliner in the jet he’s flying across the world). Sometimes it is just not conducive to act realistically even though your actions may negatively affect the environment. We all know this, I’m sure, but it was good to hear Gore admit to his faults, too.

Something that I read which shocked me, in regards to the world population, was that “at the end of World War II, the number has risen to just above 2 billion people.” This means that in only approximately 65 years, our population has jumped from 2 billion people to well over 6 billion! If you stop to think about how quick and steep a change that is, it’s really shocking. Especially considering that it took from the beginning of recent human history all the way until WWII to get to only 2 billion. Those two sets of time scales are so very different.

One quote that Gore brings up is by Einstein which says, “Everything has changed but our way of thinking.” I think this really holds true for the environmental age of today. It is interesting to note that in my first book report for this class (Cradle to Cradle by McDonough and Braungart), the exact same quote was mentioned in the beginning pages of the book. Clearly it is a very relevant idea.

Lastly, the book ended with a very inspiring message that certainly struck a chord with me:

“The decisive factor [for change to take place] will be our political system. Enlightened governments-and their leaders-must play a major role in spreading awareness of the problems, in framing practical solutions, in offering a vision of the future we want to create. But the real work must be done by individuals, and politicians need to assist citizens in their efforts to make new and necessary choices.” (page 178)

It is always good to hear someone from “higher up” willingly state what really needs to happen. If only there were more who were willing to help and listen…

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2 Responses

  1. It is interesting the point of enlighten governments and their leader to play a major role in spreading awareness because when we are aware of the problem we are able to give solutions and taking responsibilities. The next step will be politicians and leader encouraging behavior change and practical actions.

    • This was one of my favorite points that Gore made; it really was inspiring to me. However, it remains to be seen whether this viewpoint is shared by other politicians and even more importantly, whether anyone will every actually take the initiative to act on this sentiment. There’s only so much we can do as citizens until it gets to a higher level where legislation needs to be put into place. So far though, I think as a population, U.S. citizens have done a good job banding together and putting pressure on our government and its politicians. I’ts pretty clear that the Obama administration is taking environmental issues more seriously than past administrations but I just hope that they will not just talk the talk but also walk the walk… December’s Copenhagen Summit will be very revealing in terms of this!

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