Al Gore at TED

Safety sign

The Technology Entertainment Design Conference takes place annually in Monterey, California. At the most recent one, Al Gore presented an updated version of his climate change slideshow, made famous by his film An Inconvenient Truth.

It seems a bit remarkable for me that when I first saw that film in Oxford, I wasn’t yet convinced about the full extent of the threat of climate change. Since then, I have devoted the majority of my time and attention to this issue. If you have not done so yet, I encourage you to watch the video linked above, and perhaps read some of the posts in my climate change index.

It is not unrealistic to say that climate change will be the defining issue of the next century, and possibly far beyond. Gaining a strong understanding of it is the least we can do as educated people today.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

14 thoughts on “Al Gore at TED”

  1. “I’m optimistic because I believe we have the capacity at moments of great challenge to set aside the causes of distraction and rise to the challenge that history is presenting us. Sometimes I hear people respond to the disturbing facts of the climate crisis, by saying ‘oh, this is so terrible, what a burden we have.’ I would like to ask you to reframe that. How many generations in all of human history have had the opportunity to rise to a challenge that is worthy of our best efforts? A challenge that can pull from us more than we knew we could do.”

    “I think we ought to approach this challenge with a sense of profound joy and gratitude that we are the generation about which a thousand years from now philharmonic orchestras, and poets, and singers will celebrate by saying ‘they were the ones that found it within themselves to solves this crisis and lay the basis for a bright an optimistic human future.

    Let’s do that.”

    -Al Gore, speaking in front of a live audience for

  2. “Changing lightbulbs is important, but what’s more important is changing the law”

    Can be reformulated as,

    “If placing the focus on changing the lightbulbs keeps us from changing the law, then changing lightbulbs isn’t important at all but a distraction from the real task at hand”.

    He doesn’t say this explicitly, but it’s there in the subtext when he talks about “Oh yes, I’ve changed the lightbulbs and drilled the geo thermal wells and that’s all important but [not actually] because what’s [actually] important is instituting a carbon tax.

    The actions of individuals AS individuals does nothing. The actions of individuals as citizens, as activists, has an effect. The reason why you should not loot is because it’s your duty not to act as an “individual” that obeys its drives (one of which is the guilt drive, and it is certainly this drive that fuels the sale of Priuses), but to act as a citizen, a moral agent, to obey the duty that is imposed on you from outside by the situation.

    It is exactly this duty, which Gore wants to show is also a great opportunity, which is imposed on us by this situation. It is not a duty imposed on us by thought experiments and idealized subjects, but by the concrete world we live in and its relation to our bodies, and the immanent demand that relation puts on us as the kind of beings that wish to keep existing in the ways that we value.

  3. I really like the shadow play in this picture. And the sign looks so crisp!

  4. Tristan,

    Both you and Gore are right to emphasize the critical citizenship role. Someone who quietly cuts their energy use in half, without mentioning it to anyone else, isn’t doing as much good as they could be. Provoking public debate about things like air travel is part of that citizenship role; so is doing what one can to drive climate policy and public opinion in the right directions.

    I maintain that thought experiments are a vital tool for thinking about climate change. So many of our decisions need to be guided about expectations of what will happen decades from now. We need to think hard about future situations – prairie droughts as we understand them becoming the new norm for summer, etc – if we are to make good choices about choices that are presented to us now – building another coal power plant, or similar.


    Thanks. Like most of the photos I post here, there has been an unsharp mask applied. That isn’t really cheating because all digital cameras apply them to one extent or another and it is better for them to err on the low side – in terms of the degree of sharpening. It is much easier to sharpen a photo than it is to fix one that has been oversharpened, if the latter is even possible.

  5. What is with the new ‘industrial decay’ theme in your photography?

  6. I have long been a fan of rusty old industrial equipment as a subject for photography.

    The partial disappearance of the snow around Ottawa has made walking around in search of photos more pleasant, as well.

  7. I think I’ve miscommunicated my distaste for theoretical moral reasoning – what I mean is not that we shouldn’t sometimes use thought experiments, they are a useful tool for thinking, but that we should recognize that in the thought experiment the moral duty is imposed by the situation we spell out in the thought experiment – in other words we need thought experiments about situations not thought experiments that abstract an ideal chooser from any given situation.

  8. Does that mean there can be no general ethical principles? That every ethical decision must be made at the margin, in consideration of one specific situation. If so, how can we evaluate the correctness of choices?

  9. “Does that mean there can be no general ethical principles? ”

    No, of course there are general ethical principles. However you don’t get to know whether they apply or not, or how they apply in a given situation until you are in that situation.

    “how can we evaluate the correctness of choices?”

    Strictly speaking, we cannot determine the correctness of any choice absolutely – we could always be wrong. We can still speak intelligently about it – and we can be more certain (never absolutely certain) the more we understand both the situation in which the choice was made and the principles which were appropriate in that situation.

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