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c.horn: Mr. Vice President. To begin, I understand that you still stand by every word in your 1993 book, Earth in the Balance ---which warns us, among other things, that the internal combustion engine is one of the greatest threats to the planet.
Gore: Although the book has been attacked--- cheify by political opponents of the sweeping changes in policy it recommends --- no challenge to the accuracy of its facts or the fairness of its analysis has been sustained.
c.horn: Well, before we get to all that --- I was interested in a little-noticed section of you book in which you write about "dysfunctional families" You spend a great many pages discussing dysfunction and addiction.
Gore: The cleavage in the modern world between mind and body,man and nature, has created a new kind of addiction: I believe that our civilization is, in effect, addicted to the consumption of the earth itself.
c.horn: No, no --- I realize you believe our entire civilization is "dysfunctional." And by the way, you might go easy on words like "cleavage." But I'm not talking about our so-called addicted civilization. I mean ---
Gore:The froth and frenzy of industrial civilization mask our deep loneliness for that communion with the world that can lift our spirits and fill our senses with the richness and the immediacy of life itself.
c.horn: Okay. Sir, really, we'll get to that. But I was referring to the part in chapter 12 where you talk about actual people with problems. Addicts, for instance. Can you go over what you have to say on "the pathology of addiction?"
Gore: Denial is the strategy used by those who wish to believe that they can continue their addicted lives with no ill effects for themselves or others....
c.horn: Denial? And you say this starts in childhood. Such children ---
Gore: --- begin to look constantly to others for approval and validation they so desperately need. The new term "codependancy" descibes the reliance on another for validation and positive feelings about oneself.
c.horn: Well, we've heard terrible things happen when there are conflicts between the mother and the grandmother. Could the codependancy you reference include, perhaps, a spouse, later in life?
Gore: The energy fueling this insatiable search continues into adulthood, frequently causing addictive behavior and an approch to relationships that might be described, in the words of a popular song, as "looking for love in all the wrong places."
c.horn: Remind you of anyone? Mr. Vice President? Ahem. In any event, how does this sort of thing, according to your theory, typically play out?
Gore: As their lives move further out of balance, addicts invest increasing amounts of energy in their relationship to the objects of their addiction.
c.horn: Even when they're talking on the phone about, say, troop movements in Bosnia?
Gore: Once addicts focus on false communion with substitutes for life, the rhythm of their dull and deadening routine becomesincreasingly more incompatible, discordant, and dissonant with the natural harmony that entrains the music of life. As the dissonance grows more violent and the clashes more frequent, peaks of disharmony become manifest in successive cries, each one more destructive than the last.
c.horn: Well, that pretty much sums up the Starr Report.
Gore: But the moral compromises involved in corruption for personal enrichment, ugly as they are, are not the ones that cause the most damage to our stewardship of freedom.
c.horn: They aren?t?
Gore: A more subtle and prevasive temptation is the desire to attain and hold on to power, even when doing so means avoiding hard choices and ignoring the truth.
c.horn: Ah, the truth! It?s good to see that you?ve decided to be candid, sir.
Gore: But, perhaps more important, I have become very impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously...
c.horn: That bothers you now? Perhaps you should fire your pollsters.
Gore: For me, the environmental crisis is the critical case in point: now, every time I pause to consider whether I have gone to far out on a limb, I look at the new facts that continue to pour in from around the would and conclude that I have not gone far enough.
c.horn: Well, I?m a little worried that you think your call for a Global Marshall Plan, costing upwards of $100 billion, is too cautious.
Gore: On a professional level, my job happens to be politics, and I am devoting more time than ever to the effort to heal the global environment.
c.horn: By yourself?
Gore: The global environmental crisis is, as we say in Tennessee, real as rain, and I cannot stand the thought of leaving my children a degraded earth and a diminished future.
c.horn: Of course not! Who can blame you? But sir, that sounds to me a bit of gloom and doom. When did you start believing that the earth was degraded?
Gore: I have been wrestling with these matters for a long time. My earliest on environmental protection were about the prevention of soil erosion on our family farm ----
c.horn: where you grew tobacco? ---
Gore: --- and I still remember clearly it is to stop up the smallest gully ?before it gets started good.? When I was a little boy, there were plenty of examples elsewherein the country of what happened when gullies got out of control and cut deep slashs through the pasture, taking the topsoil and muddying the river. Unfortunately, little has changed: even now, about eight acres? worth of prime topsoil floats past Memphis every hour. The Mississippi River carries away millions of tons of topsoil from farms in the middle of America, soil that is gone forever.
c.horn: Now, that is sad. Much worse than New Hampshire releasing 4 bllion gallons of water into the Connecticut River for you last summer so your canoe wouldn?t get stuck in the mud. Or, I guess you call it topsoil. What else are you worried about? #reply-11159846
Gore: Some of the most disturbing images of environmental destruction can be found exactly between the North and South poles --- precisely at the equator in Brazil --- where billowing clouds of smoke regularly blacken the sky above the immense but now threatened rain forest. Acre by acre, the rain forest is being burned to create fast pasture for fast-food beef...
c.horn: I knew it!!!
Gore: As I learned when I went there in early 1989, the fires are set earlier and earlier in the dry season, with more than one Tennessee's worth of rain forest being slashed and burned each year. According to our guide, the biologist Tom Lovejoy, there are more different species in each square mile of the Amazon than exist in all of North America --- which means we are silencing thousands of songs we have never heard.
c.horn: Boo-hoo!!! Okay, so now it's a Tennessee-sized chunk of rain forest a year. For ten years, I have heard people say things like that: the rain forest is disappearing at a rate of fifty acres a day. Or a football field an hour. At this rate, wouldn?t it be gone by now?
Gore: The loss one and one half acres of rain foreat every second, the sudden, thousandfold acceleration of the natural extinction rate for living species, the ozone hole above Antartica and the thinning of the ozone layer at all latitudes, the possible destruction of the climate balance that makes our earth livable --- all these suggest the increasingly violent collision between human civilization and the natural world.
c.horn: Whoa!! The possible destruction? Is it or isn't it?
Gore: Living species of animals and plants are now vanishing around the world one thousand times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years. A hundred extinctions each day.
c.horn: Okay, what is your specific evidence of this?
Gore: One doesn?t have to travel around the world to witness humankind?s assault on the earth. Images that signal the distress of our global environment are now commonly seen almost anywhere. A few miles from the Capitol, for example, I encountered another startling image of nature out of place. Driving in the Arlington, Virginia, neighborhood where my family lived when the Senate was in session, I stepped on the brake to avoid hitting a large pheasant walking across the street. It darted between parked cars, across the sidewalk and into a neighbor?s backyard. Then it was gone. But this apparition of wilderness persisted in my memory as a puzzle; Why would a pheasant, let alone such a large and beautiful specimen, be out for a walk in my neighborhood?
c.horn: Do tell!
Gore: I didn?t solve the mystery until a few weeks later, when I remembered that about three miles away, along the edge of the river, developers were bulldozing the last hundred acres of untouched forest in the entire area. As th woods fell to make way for more concrete, more buildings, parking lots, and streets, the wild things that lived there were forced to flee. Most of the deer were hit by cars; other creatures--- like the pheasant that darted out into my neighbor?s yard --- made it a little farther.
c.horn: Hmmm.. Kind of like what happened when they bulldozed the forest to build your home?
Gore: Now I remember that pheasant when I take my children to the zoo and see an elephant or a rhinoceros. They too inspire wonder and sadness. They too remind me that we are creating a world that is hostile to wilderness, that seems to prefer concrete to natural landscapes. We are encountering these creatures on the path that we have paved --- one that ultimately leads to their extinction.
c.horn: Sir, I hate to contradict you, especially after that fascinating personal anecdote, but pheasant are not extinct. Do you have any other evidence?
Gore: While scuba diving in the Caribbean, I have seen and touched the white bones of a dead corral reef. All over the earth, coral reefs have suddenly started to ?bleach? as warmer ocean temperatures put unaccustomed stress on the tiny organisms that normally live in the skin of the coral and give the reef its natural coloration... In last few years, scientists have been shocked at the occurrence of extensive worlwide bleaching episodes from which increasing numbers of coral reefs have failed to recover. Though dead, they shine more brightly than before, haunted perhaps by the same ghost that gives spectral light to an elephant?s tusk.
c.horn: Stress --- it?s a killer
Gore: And what about all the other mysterious mass deaths washing up on beaches around the world? French scientists recently concluded that the explanation for the growing number of dead dolphins washing up along the Riviera was accumulated environmental stress, which, over time, rendered the animals too weak to fight off a virus.
c.horn: So which was it --- stress, or a virus? You know, I get the sense that you are not too much fun at the beach.
Gore: With our backs turned to the place in nature for which we came, we sense an unfamilier tide rising and a swirling around our ankles, pulling at the sand beneath our feet. Each time this strange new tide goes out, it leaves behind the floatsom and jetsom of some giant shipwreck far out to sea, startling images washed up on the sands of our time, each freash warning of hidden dangers that lie ahead if we continue our present course.
c.horn: Any good news?
Gore: At the very bottom of the earth, high in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, with the sun glaring at midnight through a hole in the sky, I stood in the unbelievable coldness and talked with a scientist in the late fall of 1988 about the tunnel he was digging through time. Slipping his parka back to reveal a badly burned face that was cracked mand peeling , he pointed to the annual layers of the ice in a core sample from the glacier on which we were standing. He moved his finger back in time to the ice of two decades ago. ?Here?s where the US Congress passed the Clean Air Act,? he said. At the bottom of the world, two continents away from Washington, D.C., even a small reduction in one country?s emissions had changed the amount of pollution found in the remotest and least accessable place on earth.
c.horn: The Clean Air Act!!! You think the Clean Air Act showed up in the ice? Sir, if you see things like that in the ice, what do you see in the sky?
Gore: On some nights, in high northern latitudes, the sky itself offers another ghostly image that signals the loss of ecological balance now in progress. If the sky is clear after sunset -- and if you are watching from a place where pollution hasn?t blotted out the night sky altogether --- you can sometimes see a strange kind of cloud high in the sky. This ?noctilucent cloud? occasionally appears when the earth is first cloaked in the evening darkness; shimmering above us with a translucent whiteness, these clouds seem quite unnatural. And they should: noctilucent clouds have begun to appear more often because of the buildup of methane gas in the atmosphere.
c.horn: Also known a natural gas. As in natural.
Gore: Even though noctilucent clouds were sometimes seen in the past, all this extra methane carries more water vapor into the upper atmospheres, where it condenses at much higher altitudes to form more clouds that the sun?s rays still strike long after tsunset has brought the beginning of night to the surface far beneath them. What should we feel toward these ghosts in the sky?
c.horn: You?re talking about the clouds, right?
Gore: Perhaps we should feel awe for our own power: just as men tear tusks from elephants? heads in such quantity so as to threaten the beast with extinction, we are ripping matter from its place in the earth in such volume as to upset the balance between daylight and darkness.
c.horn: Excuse me I want to follow you here. You mean clouds?
Gore: Shouldn?t it startle us that we have now put these clouds in the evening sky which glistens with spectral light? Or have our eyes adjusted so completely to the bright lights of civilization that we can?t see these clouds for what they are --- a physical manifestation of the violent collision between human civilization and the earth.
c.horn: I don?t know, I see clouds as clouds.
Gore: What does it mean to redefine one?s relationship to the sky? What will it do to our children?s outlook on life if we have to teach them to be afraid to look up.
c.horn: Nobody should be afraid to look up. Wouldn?t it be prudent, sir, for you to do a little more research before you leap to such extreme conclusions?
Gore: Research in lieu of action is unconscionable.
c.horn: Actually, no. Research first; then decide whether or not action is warranted.
Gore: A choice to ?do nothing? in response to the mounting evidence is actually a choice to continue and even accelerate the reckless environmental destruction that is creating the catastrophe at hand.
c.horn: What ?catastrophe?? You are advocating that people go off half-cocked, if the Clinton Administration will pardon the expression, on the strength of a half-baked theory.
Gore: The theory of global warming will not be disproved.
c.horn: Remarkable. Sounds as if you are asking for a leap of faith.
Gore: The insistance on complete certainty about the full details of global warming -- the most serious threat that we have ever faced --- is actually an effort to avoid facing the awful, uncomfortable truth; that we must act boldly, decisively, comprehensively, and quickly, even before we know every last detail about the crisis.
c.horn: The most serious threat we have ever faced???? What about the Soviet Union? What about World War II? You?re not talking about the internal combustion engine again, are you?
Gore: Hundreds of millions of automobiles ... We now know that their cumulative impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likly to confront.
c.horn: Well, I wouldn?t rule out the Chi-Coms.
Gore: The struggle to save the global environment is in one way more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies.
c.horn: Hitler? You can?t be serious!!!
Gore: Today the evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of breaking glass in Berlin. We are still reluctant to believe that our worst nightmares of global economic collapse could come true....
c.horn: With all due respect, sir, I must object to this attempted analogy. It is an insult to the victims of the Holocaust to compare that horror to a claim of increased methane.
Gore: I have referred so often to the struggles against Nazi and communist totalitarianism, because I believe that the emerging effort to save the environment is a continuation of these struggles, a crucial new phase of the long battle for true freedom and human dignity.
c.horn: Please, let?s move on. I am struggling to be polite here. How about discussing the ?sweeping policy changes? you recommend. Seems to me your ?Global Mardhall Plan? is a utopian pipe dream to reorder the whole world.
Gore: The new plan will require wealthy nations to allocate money for transferring environmentally helpful technologies to the Third World and to help impoverished nations achieve a stable population and a new pattern of sustainable economic progress.
c.horn: The price tag --- $100 billion. You want to put a tax on carbon. You want a ?network of training centers around the world, creating a core of environmentally educated planners and technicians.? You want a Strategic Environment Initiative? (SEI) instead of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Sir let me be the first to call your global plan what it is: a ?risky scheme.?
Gore: It ought to be possible to establish a coordinated golbal program to accomplish the strategic goal of copletely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a 25 year period.
c.horn: There you go again. I think the American people want to know: Why do you want to get rid of their cars?
Gore: The total volume of all the air in the world is actually quite small compared to the enormity of the earth, and we are filling it up, profoundly changing it?s makeup, every hour of every day, everywhere on earth.
c.horn: Okay, you think we?re using up the air.
Gore:In the end we must restore the balance within ourselves between who we are and what we are doing.
Gore: We must make the rescue of the environment the central principle for civilization.
c.horn: You do that..
Editors Note: All of Al Gore's commants in this satirical "interview" are taken from his book, Earth in the Balance; Ecology and the Human Spirit by Vice President Al Gore (New York: Penguin, 1993)
I'd like to personally thank Rush Limbaugh. Without his help this "interview" would have not been possible.
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