Look at what Al Gore did to me!

Yes, I saw An Inconvenient Truth and, yes, I was deeply moved.  Like so many others, I left the theater frightened for the future of my four month old son and determined to make whatever lifestyle changes I could to reduce my carbon footprint. But that’s not the story…

A week or so after seeing the film, I received an unexpected message from a close family friend. “Give us a call as soon as you can.  We need to talk with you about something.” I could hear the excitement in his voice but wasn’t sure if there was something seriously wrong with him or his wife, or if they simply had some exciting news to share. And when I immediately called them back, I was surprised to be greeted with a question:

“Have you seen the Al Gore film yet?””Yes,” I replied, confused. These aren’t people that I would typically shoot the shit with about climate change or anything environmental, for that matter. Not their thing at all.

“What did you think?”

So I proceeded to give one of my admittedly long-winded answers to a simple question.

“Listen,” he cut me off, impatient. “Here’s the thing.  We’ve got a proposition for you. Are you and K (my wife) interested in working on this? I mean, we just saw the movie a couple of hours ago and I’ll be honest… It completely shook us up. This is a big problem, and it’s going to take a lot of people and a lot of approaches to fix it before it’s too late.” He paused. “Look, I don’t need to tell you that. You know it…

“Here’s what I’m trying to get at. On the way home we were talking about what we could do. And we realized that we needed to do something, and that we were willing to put some real resources into it. But here’s our problem. What? What should we do? We don’t know what the best thing to do is or who’s doing good work on this. And we don’t have the time to try to figure it out. So, we thought about it and realized that you and K would be perfect! We know you. We trust you.  You guys are talented and experienced and you care. And why should we give our money to some organization we don’t know what they’ll do with it, where a big chunk of it will go to overhead or whatever? So, here’s what we’re thinking… We’ll pay you guys whatever salary you get right now for a year and then take it from there. You do the research… you come up with the idea. All we want to know is that you’re doing something that has measurable change. The rest is up to you.  If we like what you’re doing, we’ll talk about whether or not to continue… Are you interested?”

Did I hear that right? Did my wife and I both just get a completely unsolicited offer to quit our jobs and work instead to address the most serious threat to our planet?  Apparently I did.

To make a long story short, my wife and I spoke… we met in person with these friends to iron out the details further.. we debated and we debated… and we went for it. Now, you might think that this would be an easy decision to make. How lucky were we to get such an incredible opportunity?!?  And that’s true. But both of us were already doing important and meaningful work.  I ran a youth volunteer program that engaged about 700 teens every year in community service. My wife was the director of an organization that taught nutrition, science and healthy choices to kids through school gardens. And we just had our first child. This would be a risky move. What if it didn’t work out?  Could we provide for our family? Would be able to return to our respective lines of work? And who were we to work on climate change, anyway? Sure, we try to live conscientiously—we bought local foods and fair trade, recycle, had worked with various nonprofits for years, were engaged politically, etc.–but we weren’t environmentalists and we certainly weren’t poster children for climate change.

But a few things sealed the deal for us:

  • How often in life does the world throw at you a completely unexpected opportunity to make a difference, and with a completely blank canvas to work with?
  • We knew that we would always wonder “what if…” if we didn’t do it.
  • The issue of climate change is so big that it takes every ounce of effort and time that we can give. It’s the uber-issue, if you will…
  • How could we look at our son later knowing that we could have done something, anything, to fix the mess he inherited but chose not to?
  • And just imagine the lesson we could teach him: That we live on this earth to care for it and others, even if that means taking risks.

And so here we are, incredibly blessed to have this opportunity and deeply motivated to make the most of it. I wanted to share this story with you for two reasons:

  1. To remind you that while life is full of horrifying and tragic events, it’s also filled with amazing opportunities, gifts, risks, challenges, and hope.
  2. To get your help.

So, how can you help?
Well, beyond the obvious (do what you can to minimize your own impact on the planet), I’d love to hear your ideas, knowledge, perspective…

My wife and I are working our butts off to get a handle on this incredibly fluid and growing movement of addressing global climate change, but it’s a challenge. I feel like I’m standing at the peak of a mountain… to one side lies a future in which efforts to mitigate global warming fail in the face of political cowardice, consumer ignorance, human shortsightedness, overpopulation, and the peak of oil and natural gas. The more I read about the effects we’re already experiencing and the ones to come, the more I experience moments of absolute panic and desolation.

But the alternate view is of a future in which individuals make choices balancing resources with their needs and wants… where energy is produced through innovative, renewable technologies… where people are once again connected to their communities… where food is grown locally by people you might actually know… where social justice and environmental justice are connected and understood to be part of one overarching Justice… where economic systems are a reflection of human values and not the other way around.

This is the first time humanity will have to work together, globally, to face a common challenge. We’ll either fall flat on our faces, winding up a bump in the earth’s evolutionary path, or create new frameworks with which to live collectively. I know, I know… sounds a bit melodramatic but I believe it, nonetheless.

There are literally thousands of fantastic individuals, organizations, and entrepreneurs out there fighting for solutions from all sides—progressive state and federal policies like AB32 in California, cool technologies like plug-in hybrids that’ll get 100 mpg, electricity from renewable sources of energy, carbon caps and exchanges, etc. To learn more about some of these solutions, watch or read the transcript of the speech Al Gore gave at NYU last month.

My wife and I hope to be humble but effective players in this worldwide movement, to either augment something that big players are already doing or fill in a gap.

And now to my original point (see, I am long-winded!): If you made it this far, I’m hoping you’ll stick around to share with me (us) any ideas, suggestions or resources you have, no matter how wild or unformulated. Ok, want to hear one of my totally random ideas?  Go after the ultimate expression of Americans’ meaningless and wasteful pursuit of entertainment–auto racing–by building a biodiesel race car that can go toe-to-toe on the NASCAR circuit and hopefully, in the process, spread awareness of alternatives to fossil fuels…

So, what strategies have you heard about that you think would be particularly effective or the most promising? What do you think is currently missing or needs to be considered? And, last but not least, if you were in our shoes, what would you do?

Maybe you even have an idea that you think is too off-track to work or you’ve put it aside because you knew you didn’t have the time or ability to make it happen. Who knows, maybe we can help translate that random idea you have into something that has a real and positive impact? If you’ve read this diary you’ll know that stranger things have happened. Try us.

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