It is ten past five in the morning and I have finally completed a draft of the first of the articles on climate change and democracy that I'm working on. In the process, I came across a couple of interesting accounts of speeches by Al Gore - and given that I spent most of my last post whining about getting thrown out of his presentation, I thought I'd show a little maturity and post some of the passages that caught my attention.
For one thing, I was impressed to find a politician namechecking Habermas and Adorno. Gore has a whole theory about the corruption of American democracy, which he sees as echoing Adorno's characterisation of the rise of the Third Reich as "the reconfiguration of all questions of truth into those of power". Alastair McKay provides an edited version of his remarks at the Edinburgh International Film Festival:
In order to solve the climate crisis we have to address the democracy crisis. Especially in the US... I believe that a campaign that’s based on a very large set of ideas focused on the future and the public interest now faces such a withering headwind that a higher priority is to change democracy and open it up again to citizens – to air it out – and to democratise the dominant medium of television, which has been a form omf information flow that has stultified modern life.
On the same trip, he told the Edinburgh International TV Festival, "What is needed is to reverse the flow and find ways to use the Internet to give individuals access to the public forum, which is television." (Some video clips here - though they rather give the lie to the idea that he's metamorphosed into a brilliant public speaker...)
Also, I'd had the impression from seeing 'An Inconvenient Truth' and watching the Guardian webcast from the Hay Festival last year that he was strong on selling the urgency of the crisis, but soft on the detail of what action it's going to take. But this policy speech he gave at NYU School of Law last September is a lot more detailed. There's stuff in there which needs challenging - for example, the implications for world food supply of the big growth in biofuels he's proposing. But he's clearly thinking in some detail about the technical challenges - as well as the political ones:
This debate over solutions has been slow to start in earnest not only because some of our leaders still find it more convenient to deny the reality of the crisis, but also because the hard truth for the rest of us is that the maximum that seems politically feasible still falls far short of the minimum that would be effective in solving the crisis. This no-man’s land - or no politician zone - falling between the farthest reaches of political feasibility and the first beginnings of truly effective change is the area that I would like to explore...
Finally, I was really interested to read Serge de Gheldere's account of travelling to Nashville to train in Gore's Climate Project. (For any other ex-Southwesterners, there's just a shade of déja vu!)