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Does the world need more “Climate Reality”?

Posted by Meg Stout on Sep 26, 2011
Tags: climate change news

NativeEnergy was recently invited to the live broadcast of "24 Hours of Reality" - an international event organized by Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project. Here are our reflections on Gore's presentation and the trip:

It was a languid and rainy evening, but inside Manhattan Studios, the energy was sparking. People in black suits darted around, grasping tiny earpieces, and someone slipped a yellow band onto my wrist. “You’re about to enter a live set,” another said, reciting a list of rules as he ushered us toward the elevator.

Earlier that day, NativeEnergy employees Owen Glubiak, Kevin Hackett, Kirsten McKnight, and I had left a gray Vermont to drive to the biggest city in the U.S. While in New York, we planned to visit clients and attend the final presentation of Al Gore’s 24 Hours of Reality event—a series of talks about climate change spanning 24 hours, 24 time zones, and 13 languages.

At around 6:30pm, we entered a darkened auditorium, where announcer Sarah Backhouse waited at the podium and Portuguese phrases moved across a giant screen. It was nearing Hour 23, and the cameras were focused on Rio de Janiero, Brazil. A nebulous voice behind us warned, “Live in 30... Live in 10…”

Then Ms. Backhouse turned toward us and welcomed the final presenter—Al Gore. As he walked onto the stage, Mr. Gore greeted us, noting that over 8 million viewers had tuned in to the event. “The one thing that we all have in common,” he said, “is the adverse effects that the climate crisis is having on our individual communities in all regions of the world.”

During the length his presentation, we saw some of these consequences—from devastating floods in Pakistan, to droughts in China, to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in our own home state. (You can view excerpts here.) “This is not a political problem,” Gore stated. “It’s a human problem.”

But although we all stand to suffer—or are already suffering—from climate change, the issue is that we do, in fact, have a political problem. To some, the 24 Hours of Reality event felt a lot like An Inconvenient Truth, but without the optimistic political atmosphere. But Kirsten noted that “it was useful to see a compilation of the dramatic climate events in the past couple of years.”

Behind the scenes, reactions were no less complex. Presenter Katie Carpenter published an eloquent piece about her panel discussion and the challenge of communicating without producing a "rebuff response.” Chris Turner of Mother Nature Network has questioned whether Gore’s latest tactic can be effective, while the Christian Science Monitor countered that Gore is a climate gadfly that “needs to keep biting, until America again pays attention.”

During the event, I was happy that someone was sharing the facts, once again, and with 8.6 million viewers. As the Climate Reality Project has stated, “What happens when enough people want change? The world changes.” But the biggest question remains—will it happen in time?

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