Friday, April 9, 2010

A radical transformation

Al Gore -- "I used to be the next President of the United States" -- came to Duke Thursday to deliver the Duke Environment and Society Lecture, and lots of people, both receptive to his message on global climate change, and hostile to it, turned out to watch.

"If you are running a corporation, as long as you can drag your pollution into the air like an open sewer, then you have always have an incentive to work against anything beneficial to the environment," said Gore, who has been awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and an Academy Award for this work.

Caption: Former Vice President Al Gore met with Nicholas School of the Environment students Eric Ward, Kim Novick, and Angie Lee in the green room of Page Auditorium just prior to Gore's presentation. Photo by Chris Hildreth/Duke Photography

Although many apparently expected a recap of his "Inconvenient Truth" talk, the Duke appearance was more similar to his latest book, "Our Choice: How We Can Solve the Climate Crisis," and included many verbatim quotes from it.

"One hundred and fifty one years ago, two things happened: the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania, and at the same time another scientist discovered that carbon dioxide (reflects) infrared radiation. The birth of climate science and the oil age coincided."

Justin Ko, a Trinity sophomore and a Premed student said afterward that Gore's philosophies would make him a great President. "He is extremely passionate about protecting the environment and I like his radical ideas about global warming," Ko said. "Adding a cost to pollution is justified morally, socially and politically. However, his efforts are not very effective right now. That's why he needs to re-enter politics and enforce policies at a broader level."

Gore highlighted four major instruments to combat the environmental disasters, especially global warming. "We need to focus on educating children, empowering women, raising the child survival rate, and improve fertility management."

Further, he added that "we need to make a decision to move wholly into renewable energy, and include forestry and agriculture in our solutions."

Vysak Venkateswaran, a Pratt sophomore and a Biomedical Engineering major, feels that this argument needs to revised a bit. "You simply cannot achieve longstanding change in the market of climate change without significant government intervention. Bringing up the topic of investing in newer and more expensive technology in the current recession is not the best idea. Even if the government does decide to go full out in developing green technology, there is going to be a lag time."

The audience, heavy on Nicholas School faculty and students, gave him a standing ovation both entering and leaving Page Auditorium.

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