Re­turn of the trail­blazer

In­de­fati­ga­ble cli­mat­e­change cam­paigner Al Gore is re­new­able en­ergy per­son­i­fied.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By He­len Bar­low

In­de­fati­ga­ble cli­mate-change cam­paigner Al Gore is re­new­able en­ergy per­son­i­fied.

When Al Gore fronted the 2006 doc­u­men­tary An In­con­ve­nient Truth, the film’s cli­mate-change mes­sage came as a shock to au­di­ences and in­deed to much of the world.

Sparked by a slide show about global warm­ing that the former US Vice Pres­i­dent had pre­sented around the world af­ter his 2000 elec­tion de­feat by Ge­orge W Bush, the film went on to win the 2007 Os­car for best doc­u­men­tary and make US$50 mil­lion at the box of­fice.

Later that year, Gore was awarded the No­bel Peace

Prize.

A decade on, Gore was keen for a fol­low-up that would ex­plain some so­lu­tions are in sight.

An In­con­ve­nient Se­quel: Truth to Power de­buted in Jan­uary at the Sun­dance

Film Fes­ti­val. Its direc­tors, cou­ple Bonni Co­hen and Jon Shenk, say they aimed

“to per­son­alise an is­sue that’s so im­per­sonal” by fol­low­ing Gore on his on­go­ing global mis­sion.

They tagged along with Gore, now 69, grey-haired and stock­ier than the man who fronted the first film, edit­ing and form­ing the nar­ra­tive as they went.

“Bonni and Jon were om­nipresent for al­most two years and I of­ten was un­aware they were there,” Gore says on the pro­mo­tional trailer for the film. “I was gen­uinely sur­prised when I first saw some of the scenes, be­cause I didn’t know they were film­ing them. Oc­ca­sion­ally I’d say, ‘Do you have to show that?’, and they pa­tiently de­scribed how it was im­por­tant for their nar­ra­tive. It’s their movie.”

The se­quel gets Gore away from the ex­tended Pow­erPoint

pre­sen­ta­tion of Truth, tak­ing him to see melt­ing glaciers in Green­land, wade through flood­wa­ters in Mi­ami and meet sur­vivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philip­pines.

It also shows Gore, a seem­ingly tire­less eco-guru, ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the progress in en­ergy so­lu­tions – wind and so­lar power as a re­place­ment for fos­sil fu­els.

Many of the 12,000 peo­ple Gore says he’s trained have be­come in­flu­en­tial as cli­mate ac­tivists. Among them is Chris­tiana Figueres, the leader of the Paris cli­mate sum­mit.

Figueres, a Costa Ri­can UN of­fi­cial, ap­pears in the movie’s third act at the De­cem­ber 2015 con­fer­ence, where the film be­comes a ticking-clock drama as Gore tries to con­vince US com­pa­nies to help fund In­dia’s shift to so­lar en­ergy at a time when that coun­try was about to build 400 new coal plants. Co­hen calls the movie “a high-stakes po­lit­i­cal thriller”, not­ing that “Al try­ing to find a way to sal­vage a deal is unique in any doc­u­men­tary”.

Gore’s South­ern-gent charm is in full ef­fect as he deals with politi­cians – and fans – rang­ing from Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to Dale Ross, the star-struck Mayor of Ge­orge­town, Texas, and a clean-en­ergy en­thu­si­ast, de­spite his Repub­li­can back­ground.

“In one of the most con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can cities in the US, in the heart of oil coun­try, they’ve al­ready ac­com­plished the tran­si­tion to 100% re­new­able en­ergy, be­cause it’s now cheaper,” Gore says.

An op­ti­mistic Gore had hoped US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would stay in the Paris Agree­ment. When he with­drew, the film was re-edited.

Still, Gore notes that the Pres­i­dent “iso­lated him­self from the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of pub­lic opin­ion” and that progress is be­ing made in the US in spite of the White House’s po­si­tion.

“Large states such as

New York and Cal­i­for­nia and many oth­ers are now mov­ing faster than the com­mit­ments made by Pres­i­dent [Barack] Obama dur­ing the Paris Agree­ment. Cities are now de­cid­ing on 100% re­new­able en­ergy, most re­cently At­lanta, Ge­or­gia. That’s a huge com­mit­ment, but it should be pos­si­ble ev­ery­where in the world. The mes­sage of this movie is that it’s a time of ac­tion and in­di­vid­u­als have to ap­ply more pres­sure for faster progress.”

Co­hen and Shenk say Gore seems to pos­sess a per­sonal sup­ply of re­new­able en­ergy.

How does he main­tain it?

Gore says: “Truth­fully, any­one who has work to do that feels as if it jus­ti­fies pour­ing every ounce of en­ergy you have into it ex­pe­ri­ences a cer­tain feel­ing of joy from be­ing able to have such work. And see­ing the progress gives you more en­ergy.

“I never imag­ined as a young man that this would be­come a kind of mis­sion for my life. When you lay that hope along­side the dan­ger that we face and the fact that the stakes are far higher than with any chal­lenge hu­man­ity’s ever con­fronted, how could you not pour your en­ergy into it?”

Be­low left: Al Gore’s South­ern­gent charm is in full ef­fect in An In­con­ve­nient Se­quel. Inset: Chris­tiana Figueres.

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