Sept. 27, San Jose, Calif. – In front of a supportive and excited crowd the last morning of West Coast Green, vice president-turned-environmental-spokesman Al Gore recognized green building advocates for their leadership, encouraged continued diligence toward developing energy alternatives, and reiterated his ambitious goals for shifting U.S. energy sources toward renewables.
“I salute you for your willingness to devote your enthusiasm to this effort,” Gore told the crowd at the conference after he was welcomed with a standing ovation.
Gore was quick to draw similarities between the financial crisis going on simultaneously in Washington. Instead of a financial bailout, Gore said, “I think we need to bail in renewable energy and green building.” The green building revolution, he said, is the solution to the economic crisis, the debt crisis, the security crisis, and the climate crisis.
Like in D.C., where so many are saying, “We could have prevented this,” now is the time to prevent a meltdown of the environment, Gore stressed.
Will our children question what we were thinking and why we didn’t act? Gore would ask later. Or will they ask us how we found the courage to rise up and change what needed to be changed?
“The danger we’re facing is quite grave,” he said. “You are the solution to this crisis.”
The moral example we set for other countries is one of the reasons it is essential for us to act, Gore said. Developing nations, which are responsible for more than half of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions, cannot be expected to make drastic changes if the United States isn’t doing the same. “They are looking to us to make a decision.”
In another correlation with the current goings-on in Washington, Gore noted that 17 times in the last 20 years Congress allowed renewable tax credits to expire. The focus on the short term is part of “the insanity” that led to the financial crisis, he said, alluding to similar thinking—and similar consequences—with the current environmental situation.
Gore reiterated his recent challenge that the country generate 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within 10 years. He called for a national underground grid that will allow transmission of solar and wind energy affordably from regions where it is plentiful to areas where it is not.
Getting this done will require the American spirit that has served us well in the past, he said. “Now is such a time where we have to take that vision to the planet as a whole.”
“We have to start a major revolution,” he stressed. Twenty-five percent of it will come from the way we manage our forests, 25% will come from efficiency and conservation, and 50% will come from developing new energy sources. That effort will require a massive investment to transform to a new infrastructure that depends on energy that is free forever.
“The current system is just not working,” he said, “but there is opportunity to bring about massive change.”
“You are part of the solution. … You are the front lines,” Gore told the attendees. But he also acknowledged that staring down such a large crisis is not easy. “How do you maintain an adequate feeling of hope and optimism? Being an active part of the solution is a big part of the answer.”
“There will come a time when there is an incredible shift.” We’ll look around and find we are in an effective majority and things will change quickly, he said.
“Take my word: Underneath the surface of conscious awareness, there are millions of people going through a personal transformation. … This is a time unlike any other in all of human history.”