For my write-up today on Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, I’ll start with something that Al Gore says on pages 247-248:
“Meanwhile, religious conservatives might be surprised to find that many deeply committed environmentalists have become, if anything, even more hostile to overreaching statism than they are. The most serious examples of environmental degradation in the world today are tragedies that were created or actively encouraged by governments—-usually in pursuit of some notion that a dramatic reordering of the material world would enhance the greater good. And it is no accident that the very worst environmental tragedies were created by communist governments, in which the power of the state completely overwhelms the capabilities of the individual steward. Chernobyl, the Aral Sea, the Yangtze River, the ‘black town’ of Copsa Mica in Romania—-these and many other disasters testify to the severe environmental threats posed by statist governments.”
I’m not sure how I would have reacted to this passage had I read it in 1992, back when I regarded Al Gore as someone who supported a big government, statist environmental agenda that was contrary to individual liberty. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Gore thought that the government should do certain things to help the environment. Nowadays, as I read this passage, I appreciate Gore’s attempts to form a bridge between environmentalism and a cause from the “other side”, if you will: less government. I saw something similar when I watched Gore’s 1992 appearance on the 700 Club, which is on YouTube (see here). Gore not only praised Pat Robertson’s organization for planting trees in the Third World, but Gore also said that he opposed world government—-and Gore’s appearance on this program was later than Pat Robertson’s book against the new world order. Gore may have had Robertson’s book in mind, or Gore may have simply been aware that there were conservatives who feared a one-world government—-Gore talks about that later in his book, and I will blog about that when I get to it. But, again, I admire Gore for seeking to build a bridge with the other side. That differs from how I often have conceptualized Gore—-as one who smugly looks down his nose on those who disagree with him.