the art & adventures of tracy durnell


October 15, 2007


Leadership: Al Gore, climate change, America

As promised, today I blog about the environment! (Obliquely.)

In case you missed it, Al Gore and the IPCC (who I mentioned in the last post) won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change.

“We would encourage all countries, including the big countries, and challenge them to think again and to say what they can do to conquer global warming,” Dr. Mjoes [lead member of the peace committee] said in Oslo.

The four other members of the peace committee generally refuse to comment on the thinking behind the award, which in recent years has moved toward issues at a degree of remove from armed conflict, like social justice, poverty remediation and environmentalism. But in a telephone interview, Berge Furre, one of the four, said, “I hope this will have an effect on the attitudes of Americans as well as people in other countries.”

Also, Thomas Friedman wrote an interesting article contrasting Al Gore and George Bush's leadership styles.

Never has so much national unity — which could have been used to develop a real energy policy, reverse our coming Social Security deficit, assemble a lasting coalition to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq, maybe even get a national health care program — been used to build so little. That is what historians will note most about Mr. Bush’s tenure — the sheer wasted opportunity of it all.

My parents just returned from the East Coast; my mom showed me a few of her pictures, including some WWII propaganda posters asking people to save rubber, fat drippings, and gas (by driving slowly - what would the bumper sticker be, "Everyday Sunday driver for war relief"?). Today, the government asks us for little besides taxes and civic obedience, and Americans have lost the habits of conservation and reuse. Two articles in the NYTimes last week argued that: a new life phase - odyssey - is developing between the stable, structured phases of adolescence and adulthood; and that my generation is willing to pursue our idealistic notions, but too complacently. Twenty-somethings have a latent energy and desire for change, but are lost in conflicting drives to pursue change and life stability and demoralized by the seeming immutability of big-business- and sound-bite-controlled politics. Thomas Friedman appeals to us:

America needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage (it must be in there) of Generation Q. That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country. But they can’t e-mail it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon neutrality won’t cut it. They have to get organized in a way that will force politicians to pay attention rather than just patronize them.

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual.

So help us help the country. Give us leaders who are ballsy enough to listen to broke college students. Convince us democracy is real and effective. Give us viable options to contribute to society while learning and surviving: AmeriCorps pays $8 an hour, more than minimum wage but tight as a living wage; going door-to-door or manning telephone banks for Greenpeace pays minimally, is a dead-end occupation, and garners little respect for anything but our youthful idealism.

Better yet, maybe someone my age will throw off the lazy mantle of internet activism (says the blogger), and unite my generation, assuaging our political hopelessness or apathy.

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