An Education Strategy For The Al Gore 2000 Campaign

Ladies and gentleman, My fellow Americans,

Tonight, at this, the start of the primary process for determining the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, I've asked for your time to make the following announcement.

I am seeking your support in order to become president in order to serve our great country. The presidency is the pinnacle of service for which I have been in training my whole life and with your help, and in the great tradition of this Democratic party of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy, I will endeavor to lead America into a prosperous, safe and secure new millennium.

I've asked for your special attention tonight because I am announcing a radically new approach to campaigning for the presidency. I am making this country a promise: I will use the primary campaign as an opportunity to put what I believe are the real issues facing Americans squarely upon the public menu for debate. And I will unequivocally state my proposed solutions or processes for addressing these issues.

Over my lifetime I have been a successful politician, elected in all five elections I have contested. How to choose issues and words, to carefully keep my natural constituents while winning new ones, especially from the great American middle, has become second nature.

But the really important problems involving our very survival on this Earth will not, cannot be addressed in this particular form of politics. As a member of the executive, with both the resources and unique management perspective that comes with this position, I have been made forcefully aware that the government and the American people are not addressing the environment threatening problems which endanger all our futures. Like a father preoccupied with business, our governments and leaders are not giving adequate attention to these grave problems which threaten our family.

I am so convinced that you need to know the full dimensions of life threatening problems such as global warming and species extinction that I am willing to risk political suicide by openly addressing these complicated problems and by proposing difficult controversial solutions.

I am an optimist: I believe that we can solve these problems if we confront them, understand them and take appropriate action. I want to be president so that I can help solve them. I also realize that by taking the easy road and staying quiet and running on the laurels of the past eight years of prosperity I may become president - but this conventional campaign would not give me the mandate needed to address these problems.

What are these problems?: Global warming, species extinction, the degradation and loss of ecosystems. Over this primary campaign I will put them squarely before you to the best of my ability in their many dimensions, but for the moment consider these two examples:

For the past several years something has been happening to salmon in the North Pacific Ocean before they return to spawn in Bristol Bay in Alaska or Puget Sound in Washington State. Or to the Columbia River. A wall of unusually warm water is causing ever increasing ocean mortality. This warm water is devoid of food because nutrients for plankton in the salmon foodchain have been blocked from upwelling with colder water from deep in the ocean. Salmon are cold blooded and the increase of water temperature increases their metabolic rate , so that as well as removing salmon food, this warm wall of water burns up vital energy the salmon will need to battle up river to spawn .

Salmon have come home to spawn from the Pacific since well before there was a Bristol Bay; returning to spawn from a time millions of years before there was a Columbia River. But today walls of warm water compounding the effects of dams, fisherman, pollution and devastated spawning creeks could very well spell extinction for salmon.

This accidental alteration of critically necessary temperatures, of diverse chemicals or nutrients, of critically necessary ecosystems, could very well spell extinction for man too.

Global warming isn't going to fry you like an egg on the sidewalk or even kill many of you in a heatwave in Texas or Indonesia - global warming's insidious danger is to those fragile membranes, lifeforms and ecosystems that will succumb long before us, those membranes or lifeforms that form our spacesuit, the ecosphere, that is absolutely critical for our survival on Earth

Oh sure the skeptics say global warming is unproven. It is impossible to prove global warming with certainty.

Is the wall of warm water caused by the emissions from your car? Nature's natural fluctuations are extraordinarily complex . Your individual contribution to greenhouse gases and hence to ocean warming and hence to the threat of salmon extinction cannot be quantified . But the hypothesis that human production of greenhouse gases should raise atmosphere and ocean temperatures with potentially devestating results is basic cause and effect science and there is no shortage of evidence that the climate is heating up.

Let's do something unheard of. Lets go back and look at how we maybe dodged a very lethal bullet and actually force ourselves to face a horrible reality and face up to our ignorance and try to learn a 21st century lesson

In 1972 , fifty-seven years after their introduction, scientists figured out that a small supposedly benign class of synthetic chemical compounds, chloroflourocarbons (CFCs), were floating up and corroding the thin membrane of ozone that shields humans and all life on the Earth's surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. A completely unexpected and unconsidered byproduct of the search for better refrigeration and aerosol technology, each CFC molecule had the potential to destroy one hundred thousand ozone molecules. Vast amounts of CFC's had been manufactured over six decades before anybody knew that something was dreadfully wrong.

Fortunately, even though the vital ozone layer is a very tenuous thin membrane, the amount of CFC's previously released were only enough to damage and not destroy the ozone layer. Several hundred thousand people worldwide will get skin cancer and an estimated tens of thousands of people, maybe you, will die prematurely because of ozone depletion, but an international convention was signed to eliminate CFC use and scientists predicted that by the year 2100 without other corrosion the ozone layer would return to normal.

And so if you use sunblock and wear a hat there is nothing more to fear? Unfortunately, no. And this is why the responsibility of the presidency is such a weight and why I am not just going to run on a platform telling you things are great, America has never been better off.

CFC's and other ozone depleting chemicals are still being produced - an estimated 250 million dollars worth of CFCs were smuggled into the U.S. this year. The potential crop loss due to increased UV damage to just US production is estimated to cost billions of dollars per decade . UV damage to our immune systems may be setting up increasingly vulnerable human populations to a range of epidemics and large scale auto-immune illnesses. But these are minor details.

The damage to the ozone layer could still turn out to be fatal to lifeforms that we depend upon for survival. Ozone depletion caused by CFCs still in the pipeline will not peak for several decades.

Amphibians are dying at an alarming rate. The same plankton that is a vital constituent of the salmon foodchain is the foremost photosynthesizer on the planet. We will die, we risk extinction, without plankton and recent studies suggest that plankton ,which are very susceptible to damage from UV radiation, are being effected.

Like the salmon, we may be facing an increasingly hostile environment threatening our very survival because of unanticipated accidental byproducts of our increasing technology.

But the most troubling aspect of the CFC-ozone depletion problem - and put yourselves in the position of someone seeking the presidency - is our lack of learning and inaction considering that, by accident, we could have destroyed a key membrane protecting life on Earth.

CFC's are but one small class of over ninety thousand synthetic compounds now in production. Over one thousand new and largely untested synthetic compounds are introduced each year.

Did we learn from what hopefully is only a near fatal accident? Did legislators and governments learn and insist upon urgent scientific studies to check out all synthetic compounds for potential damaging interactions with vital membranes or lifeforms such as the surface of the oceans, or cell walls, or DNA, etc. and mandate careful testing and guidelines for introduction of new chemicals?

We did not.

Over the next months of this campaign I am going to tell you some very disturbing things about our world. Because you need to know. Because we need to change. The only way we can make the change to a sustainable way of life is to wake up to the problems building in our unsustainable present lifestyles.

There is a safer, better world of high quality lifestyles possible. And we have to change.

By the end of this campaign you will know why we have to change. For each part of the campaign my staff and I have developed powerful vehicles for presenting such topics as global warming and species extinction.

I will not shy away from proposing a range of programs for solution to these problems.

For only one example, even though I expect to probably alienate every voter in America and endanger all of my election funding, I'm going to propose a Draconian tax on gasoline.

We must wean America from the car and provide both investment and incentive to hasten a change to sustainable energy sources. I think I can convince you that we'll have a better world, even a better time in our cars, if we bite the bullet and innovate.

Many will argue that a gas tax risks stalling the economy and our economic competitiveness and prosperity. This presidential candidate thinks that we as a nation will be better off for reasonable debate about this issue.

My staff and I are setting up a communications network for both your responses and for your innovative proposals concerning each of the problems and solutions presented. We think dialogue and debate about these problems is the all important step to solutions.

And, of course, we fully expect to answer your questions on conventional concerns of presidential candidates.

I think that vision, openness and honesty is the type of leadership necessary to be president in the 21st century. I hope you will agree but, if not, after my primary campaign you will at least be better informed about serious problems that the American government should be concerned with. I'm not promising you a rosegarden but I honestly believe that we can work towards healthy quality lifestyles if, eyes open, we choose to.

Goodnight and thanks for your time. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.

Hello I'm Bill Henderson, the author of this speech. I wrote the speech as a consciousness raiser. I'm a Canadian, and while us Canadians make superlative U.S. watchers, my speech for Mr. Gore does not pretend to have gotten the words right. I have only sketched what I think Mr. Gore should say with examples that I would hope he would adapt in his own words.
Many of you could probably write a better speech for Mr. Gore addressing with courage the present limitations of American politics in addressing the life threatening problems of global warming , species extinction and ecosphere degradation.
Some of you could improve the speech and deliver it as a speech looking the camera right in the eye with just a hint of a combative smile when you get up front about a gas tax.
I hope that some of you consider working in this genre as a consciousness raiser and develop global warming and biodiversity speeches for Mr. Gore's primary campaign. I'm working on a Growth speech using Paul Romer's ideas about good growth as a hopeful room to grow in the coming millennium, and Robert Costanza's ecological economics as a means of eliminating bad growth: the cancers of sprawl, greenfielding and speculation.

E-mail Mr. Gore about this speech. E-mail me with your comments, and visit my Sustained Yield Web Site to learn more about some of the environmental issues raised in this speech.

Or you can return to Pacific Fringe .


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