A Generational Moment

Al Gore’s Global Energy Initiative

“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that has to change.”

“Today I am challenging our nation to commit to producing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon free sources within ten years.”

“People are ready for a new, different and bold approach to genuinely solve our problems.”

“This is a generational moment.”

-Vice President Al Gore, July 17, 2008

How can a ten year goal proposed by someone with no high office, with principled, progressive stands on politics, expect to succeed in a divided nation? CBS News called it “an audacious dare” and said he “laid down the green gauntlet,” not quite the level of inspiration associated with JFK’s moon landing challenge.

Those were headier times, the early 1960s. We were still a nation glowing from the victorious pride of World War II, thrusting our chests out at our ability to match the Soviet Union in the nascent “space race.” President Kennedy set a goal with his challenge, one that “the greatest generation” had no doubt we could achieve.

Even in language, Kennedy said in his May, 1961 speech, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” He too spoke of commitment, but in the sense of achievement and national pride, not in the face adversity.

What made the moon landing embraceable is that we relied on the commitment of a few intensely passionate scientists and bureaucrats to carry us through. Beyond the financial commitment, our role was to cheer them on, and we did, crowing along with Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley.

But Mr. Gore’s challenge means we all must contribute, in our own way. The group We Can Solve It ( a project of Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection) says on its website, “This, really, is a political and cultural challenge. We can do this quickly if all Americans — every single one of us — embrace this and insist on it. Every scientist, every teacher, every investor, every family — there is a role for each of us.”

The reason for that statement is self evident. That is, our individual commitment requires a very, very important adjustment to our consumer culture. If in the face of expanding renewable, carbon free energy development, the oil industry chooses to lower the price of oil to lure us back, will we hold to this commitment or will we say, “Oh good. Cheap gas. It’s easier to fill my tank with this than to wait for technology, “?

This is why Mr. Gore’s goal is our challenge: we will be committing to give up the fossil fuels we know and love, to do something for the future of our country and the planet, rather than capitulating to the “I want it now” mentality that ad men and politicians will continue to throw at us like a somatic aphrodisiac.

The cure for this unhealthy desire is commitment. Say “I commit” and join with the million-and-a-half people that have signed up in support of the “bold approach to solve our problems.”

Every time you grab your car keys, every time you sit down in your driver’s seat, say to yourself, “I am committed to a fossil fuel free future.” Write it on your keyring. Put it on a Post-it note in your car. Remember that you are helping to restore a healthy planet.


One thought on “A Generational Moment

  1. It’s ironic that Gore may have more of an impact working outside of government than he might’ve had as President. As large an impact as he’s had, this is indeed a bold pronouncement. If he pulls this one off I don’t know what we’ll do…we’re running out of awards!


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