San Francisco, CA -- Page proofs were spread across Al Gore's hotel room last Saturday. The former vice-president's PowerPoint presentation on global warming, which is now a motion picture, will soon be turned into a book by the same title: "An Inconvenient Truth." Gore, in town to screen his film on Earth Day, was putting the finishing touches on the manuscript. I kidded him that he had invented a new multimedia model in which the book comes last.
It is extraordinary -- a book based on a movie based on a PowerPoint presentation on a very complex topic -- but somehow the passion and knowledge Gore brings to the subject makes it work.
As the New Yorker's David Remnick wrote about the film:
"An Inconvenient Truth" is a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide. "An Inconvenient Truth" is not the most entertaining film of the year. But it might be the most important.The film was the surprise hit the Sundance Film Festival, receiving three standing ovations. And the 125 environmental leaders who watched the screening in San Francisco greeted it with equal enthusiasm.
The film opens officially on May 24 in LA, and I assured Gore that the Sierra Club would do everything in its power to fill theatres. As tireless as Gore has been in spreading the message through his PowerPoint (he has reportedly shown it 1000 times), it obviously won't reach enough people. The movie, however, has the potential to reach many millions of viewers. "An Inconvenient Truth" may seem an unlikely blockbuster, but then who would have guessed that a movie about a penguin migration would have done so well at the box office?
There is one missing ingredient in "An Inconvenient Truth." While the film concludes with the contention that all we need to solve the problem of global warming is political will ("a renewable resource," says Gore), it focuses much more on the problem, than the solutions.
That Sierra Club is hoping to fill that gap. Our Earth Day focus this year was on "Cool Cities." The idea is this: Since about two-thirds of the country's energy is consumed in cities, if enough American cities decide to cut global warming pollution, the country can move forward, even without leadership from Washington.
So far 224 cities, including Arlington, Texas -- home of the president's former ball club -- have agreed to meet America's obligations under the Kyoto Protocols the federal government declined to ratify. Going forward, the Club has taken on two missions: to double the number of "Cool Cities," which currently are home to 43 million Americans, AND to make sure that once cities embrace cooling it on climate, they get support in meeting their goals.
On Friday I blogged urging people to get involved in making their cities cool -- and people responded. In Winston-Salem, the city rejected a proposal to buy 25 Chevy Colorado pickup trucks and 15 Ford Taurus sedans and settled instead for the purchase of three Honda Civic Hybrids, the adoption of a far-sighted new fuel efficiency policy, and the re-evaluation of further sedan purchases under the new policy. In Lawrence, Kansas, public officials laid out to the city their plan to reach Kyoto targets. In South Florida papers called "Cool Cities" the best way for the region to deal with the growing threat from hurricanes.
We got over 12,000 hits on our Cool City website over the weekend, and 7,500 hundred people took the Cool Home Tour we offered. President Bush came to California for Earth Day and even he had to talk about his hydrogen solution, but the media reported that Governor Schwarzenegger -- and the state as whole -- kept their distance from the president's energy policy, which now ranks as his least-approved-of policy arena -- which is saying something. His energy policies have a dismal 23% approval rating -- about as low as you can get.
"Luck," the former vice-president reminded me over his Diet Coke, "is when preparedness meets opportunity." Maybe the planet is about to get lucky. We've been getting prepared at the Sierra Club -- maybe the opportunity is about to come.
Follow Carl Pope on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CarlPope