I finished Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.
It was a heavy book to read in that it had a great deal of sophisticated discussion about science and policy. Consequently, there were probably things that I missed or failed to absorb as I read it. I was pretty much expecting this to be the case when I started the book. But, overall, the book was rewarding in terms of what I learned. I especially appreciated Gore’s discussion about what policies towards the Third World do not work, and which policies might work better instead.
But there were a number of things in the book that took me by surprise. For example, Gore talked at great length about such issues as history, addiction, relational dysfunction, and even his son’s accident changing his family’s life—-and he related those things to the environment, often in an analogical sense. Consequently, this book had somewhat of a poetic feel. Did I like that? Well, it was different! There were times when I wondered what Gore was driving at, or where exactly he was going, and I felt like he was getting into distractions. But, as I reflect more, there was part of me that actually enjoyed his holistic treatment of environmental issues.
Something that took me slightly by surprise was Gore’s ideological flexibility. I already knew going into the book that Gore did not believe that we had to choose between a strong economy and the environment. I also had a hunch that the way that many Republicans have characterized his book is not entirely accurate, the same way that Democrats sometimes (Republicans would say “often”) caricature Republican positions. But I didn’t entirely expect for Gore in this book to seek common ground with conservatives who oppose big government, or the Catholic church and pro-lifers on addressing over-population in the Third World. Moreover, Gore actually sought to address the arguments of climate-change deniers (particularly those with credentials) rather than casually dismissing them or crying conspiracy. As one who long regarded Gore as a pompous ideologue who looks down on those with whom he disagrees, I was pleasantly surprised.
In terms of where I was disappointed, I wish that the book had gone more into green technology and how that could create jobs—-particularly how other countries are achieving success in the area of green technology. Perhaps he covered that more than I remember, and I missed it, but I don’t recall him going into this issue all that often (though he did recommend cheaper and cleaner equipment on quite a few occasions). That surprised me, for I can tell that he regards it as an important issue because he has brought it up in a number of settings (i.e., on talk-shows, in debates, etc.). Perhaps my problem is that he did discuss this issue, but not in a manner to which I’m accustomed.