Al Gore is rumored to be a recipient of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize when it's announced this Friday, Oct. 12.
The last American to be so honored, Jimmy Carter, won on the very same day the U.S. Senate voted to give George W. Bush authority to use military force against Iraq....something about weapons of mass destruction. The crowd in Oslo has a wicked sense of timing, eh?
Gore's achievement will ensure that the mental stability of his detractors hangs more precariously than a Florida chad. (Bachelor Rush Limbaugh, whatever you do, don't reach for that weekend shack pack of OxyContin in the glove box of your $335,000 Maybach. It ain't worth it, pal!)
All of us share earth's air and water, so a win by the former veep highlights the crucial link between a healthy global environment and the quest for global peace. Climate change affects resources, and we're approaching a precipice. Countries take up arms over resources, or hadn't you noticed?
The broad implications of Gore's focus these past years hit home Sunday, and came from a veteran observer. Jay Barbee, longtime NBC newsman who has covered every NASA flight since Alan Sheppard's in '61, was a guest on Meet The Press.
In discussing the Columbia tragedy of '03, he noted that officials saw the foam fall during liftoff but later opted against using spy satellites to check for damage. If they had they'd have seen the bowling ball-sized hole in the wing and kept the astronauts at the space station. Atlantis, already stacked and in the barn back at Cape Canaveral, could have been wheeled out and sent up to get them, Barbee said.
Then, out of the blue, the old reporter added the following analogy to his tale of the gravely wounded shuttle:
"The bottom line comes down to this. This is an 8,000-mile diameter spacecraft we're on. We're all astronauts. We're all living in a life support system that is only 10,000 feet in thickness, that's keeping us alive on this planet. The day will come, if it's not a genetic virus, if it's not global warming, whatever, the day will come that we can no longer live on this planet. The only solution is to step off it to colonization of the moon or onto other planets. There are 150 or so planets that we could live on that in the coming years we'll be able to reach."
Wow. What a clear and linear thing to say; how fragile and tenuous our hold. I immediately thought about Americans who comprise the modern ideological Right Wing, who act as if this looming disaster is somehow science fiction or millennia away, and who treat "environmentalism" as vaguely communist and "global warming" as speculative liberal fantasy.
Conservatives are not inherently stupid, any more than those in the middle or on the Left. Images of 1,000 year old ice shelves the size of Rhode Island, radically melting and shrinking across the planet in recent decades, are as obvious to a Righty as a Lefty. The potential meaning of such melting is obvious, too.
That's why I'm convinced that the main reason the Right denies global warming is not because they don't recognize plain evidence, but because they do. They know it's not like cleaning up a polluted river. They know it's a systemic, planet-wide problem that requires a systemic, planet-wide response to reverse it, and that means friend and foe alike working peacefully toward a unified goal of healing the body before it dies.
Yet as today's Right sees it, acknowledging this fact would be a step toward what the elder Bush once promoted as the "New World Order," not to mention the economic toes that might be stubbed. The idea that all the world's stakeholders must now collectively save Mother Earth from the very real downside of industrial progress is frightening to them. It smacks of something the "go it alone" gang on the American Right can't begin to accept.
After all, they've already dismissed the multilateral approach to the so-called global war on terror, and it's a disaster. And then there's Katrina. If they bring their management skill set to global warming, it really will be time to abandon ship and book that flight to Alpha Centauri as newsman Barbee suggested!
Gore's Academy Award-winning, fact-filled documentary An Inconvenient Truth made clear that earth's atmosphere is getting hotter, and at a faster pace, thanks to ever-increasing man-made greenhouse gases. The concentration of invisible, odorless, tasteless carbon dioxide alone (C02) in the atmosphere is now 30% greater than before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. That's astounding.
Meanwhile, 200 years late, China's one billion people (that's billion with a "b") and her burgeoning economy are just now joining the fray.
Speaking of what's called "Asia's Womb," Tom Friedman of the NY Times reports that China is constructing the equivalent of two coal-fired power plants every week, and these are the old style kind, the leading worldwide villain in spewing uncaptured C02 into the air. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."
I think that's a fancy way of saying we humans are the guilty party.
Playing dumb on global warming -- its causes and impact -- is not an option. The science is in, and the planet is literally weeping. Gore may or may not take Nobel gold on Friday, but the prize is much deserved. It will send a strong international signal that it's time for all nations to come together and get serious. The clock is ticking.
Go, Al, go!