"The answer to the first question-- what were
you thinking? -- is almost too painful to write:
"We argued among ourselves. We didn't want to believe
that it really was happening. We waited too long.
"We had so many other problems crying out for attention.
I know this is of little comfort, but we did try. I'm sorry."
The second question-- how did you solve
it? -- is the one I much prefer that we answer, and here is the answer I hope we can give:
"The turning point came in 2009. The year
began well, with the inauguration of a new president, who immediately shifted priorities to focus on building the foundation
for a new low-carbon economy. The resistance to these changes-- especially by corporations what were making a lot of money
from coal, oil, and gas-- was ferocious.
"But the truth about the global emergency
gained ground. The evidence presented by the scientists accumulated, slowly at first, but then a few of the opponents of change
"Whatever happened, it made a powerful
difference when these former opponents became passionate advocates for a new direction. The momentum shifted. One by one,
others joined in a powerful consensus that we had to act, boldly and quickly. At the end of 2009, the United States passed
legislation that changed the way business and civic leaders made plans for the future.
"By putting a price on the pollution that
had been previously ignored, the United States established powerful incentives to begin the historic shift. The new incentives
to shift our energy production from fossil fuels to solar, wind, and geothermal sources unleashed a wave of improvements in
"All over the world, as awareness of the
climate crisis grew, people concerned about you found ways to put pressure on their leaders. Hundreds of thousands, then millions
of grassroots networks emerged.
"Although leadership came from many countries,
once the United States finally awakened to its responsibilities, it reestablished the moral authority the world had come to
expect from the U.S.
"The most important change that made this
transformation possible is something that is hard to describe in words.
"Our way of thinking changed. The earth
itself began to occupy out thoughts. Somehow, it became no longer acceptable to participate in activities that harmed the
integrity of the global environment.
"I know that we waited too long. I wish
we had acted sooner. But the outlook for your future is now bright. The wounds we inflicted on the atmosphere and the earth's
ecological system are healing.
"It seems ironic now that our commitment
during the Great Transformation to a low-carbon economy was what restored economic prosperity. Once the world embarked on
the journey to heal our world and save your future, tens of millions of new jobs-- including whole new professions-- began
"I ask only one thing of you in return
for what we have done on your behalf: Pass on to oyour children the courage and resolve to act boldly and wisely whenever
the future is at risk. You will be challenged, as we were. But I know that you will not fail those who come after you,
as we did not fail you.
is awesome and potentially eternal. It is in the hands of the present generation: a decision we cannot escape, and a choice
to be mourned or celebrated through all the generations that follow."
(from Al Gore's essay,
"The Plan That Saved the Planet-- a Reality That's Still Within Reach.")