Al Gore in Earth in the Balance

On Environment: Our beaches mirror the degradation of the environment

Needles, dead dolphins, and oil-soaked birds - are all these signs that the sores of our familiar world are fast eroding, that we are now standing on some new beach, facing dangers beyond the edge of what we are capable of imagining?
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 21 Jul 2, 1993

On Energy & Oil: The effects of global warming on polar ice are significant

Indeed, global warming is expected to push temperatures up much more rapidly in the polar regions than in the rest of the world. As the polar air warms, the ice here will thin; and since the polar cap plays such a crucial role in the world’s weather system, the consequences of a thinning cap would be disastrous.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 23 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: America is not responding to environmental danger signals

Even though it is sometimes hard to see their meaning, we have by now all witnessed surprising experiences that signal the damage from our assault on the environment - whether it’s the new frequency of days when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees, the new speed with which the sun burns out skin, or the new constancy of public debate over what to do with growing mountains of waste. But our response to these signals is puzzling. Why haven’t we launched a massive effort to save our environment?
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 27 Jul 2, 1993

On Energy & Oil: Global warming is a strategic threat

Global warming is a strategic threat. The concentration of carbon dioxide and other heat-absorbing molecules has increased by almost 25 percent since World War II, posing a worldwide threat to the earth’s ability to regulate the amount of heat from the sun retained in the atmosphere. This increase in heat seriously threatens the global climate equilibrium that determines the patterns of winds, rainfall, surface temperatures, ocean currents, and sea level.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 29 Jul 2, 1993

On Government Reform: Politicians address immediate problems, not long-term ones

One reason many world leaders have difficulty responding to the environmental crisis is that the worst of the predicted effects seems decades away [while] millions of people are suffering in poverty right now. These are urgent problems. how do we at the same time acknowledge and confront a problem that seems to lie in our future?
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 46 Jul 2, 1993

On Immigration: Global warming will cause Third World flight to the West

Among the most dramatic effects [of an environmental crisis], if the historical record is any guide, will be massive migrations of people from areas where civilization is disrupted to other areas where they hope to find the means for survival & a better way of life-but with unpredictable consequences for those areas. About 10 million residents of Bangladesh will lose their homes and means of sustenance because of the rising sea level, due to global warming, in the next few decades. Where will they go?
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 73 Jul 2, 1993

On Government Reform: Our leaders are ignoring the threat to the environment

Even after highly publicized warnings from virtually the entire global scientific community that the current pattern of our civilization is creating dramatic changes in global climate patterns. we are doing nothing to address the principal causes of this catastrophe in the making. We know from the history of climate changes that they can cause unprecedented social and political upheavals, especially in fragile, densely populated societies.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 77 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Half of all American waters are polluted

Despite the progress made in the industrial world, many problems remain, from high concentrations of lead in drinking water, to the common practice in most older cities of mixing waste water with drainage runoff whenever it rains heavily, forcing a bypass of sewage treatment facilities; the rainwater and sewage are then dumped, untreated, into creeks, rivers, and the ocean. Almost half of all American rivers, lakes, and creeks are damaged or threatened by water pollution
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 109 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: If we do nothing else, save the rain forest

The most dangerous form of deforestation is the destruction of the rain forests, especially the tropical rain forests clustered around the equator. These are the most important sources of biological diversity on earth. For that reason, most biologists believe that the rapid destruction of the tropical rain forests and the irretrievable loss of the living species dying along with them, represent the single most serious damage to nature now occurring.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 116 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Americans generate too much waste

The American people have become embroiled in debates about the relative merits of various waste disposal schemes. Now, we must confront a strategic threat to our capacity to dispose of - or even recycle - the enormous quantities of waste being produced. there is only one way out: we have to change our production processes and dramatically reduce the amount of waste we create in the first place and ensure that we consider just how we intend to recycle or isolate that which unavoidably remains.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 145-146 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Industrialism has led to tremendous waste and pollution

The waste crisis is integrally related to the crisis of industrial civilization as a whole. Just as our internal combustion engines have automated the process by which our lungs transform oxygen into carbon dioxide, our industrial apparatus has vastly magnified the process by which our digestive system transforms raw material into human energy and growth - and waste.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 147 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: In the U.S., chemicals constitute most hazardous waste

The amount of chemical waste dumped into landfills, lakes, rivers, and oceans is staggering. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 650,000 commercial and industrial sources of hazardous waste: two thirds of all hazardous waste comes from chemical manufacturing and almost one quarter from the production of metals and machinery.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 148 Jul 2, 1993

On Government Reform: Polls and technology dominate politics, not substance

Aside from its uninspired response to the environmental crisis, our political system itself has now been exploited, manhandled, and abused to the point that we are no longer making consistently intelligent choices about our course as a nation. Thirty-second television commercials and sophisticated public opinion polling can now do more to manipulate the opinions of voters in two weeks than all the speeches and debates and political organizations together can accomplish in ten years.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 167 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: The US should lead the global environmental movement

If the history of this century is any guide, it is safe to say that if we do not lead the world on this issue, the changes of accomplishing the massive changes necessary to save the global environment will be negligible. If the United States does choose to lead, however, the possibility of success becomes much greater. there would almost certainly be substantial economic and geopolitical benefits for the United States.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 176-177 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Environmentalism can only thrive where democracy thrives

Men and women must be politically empowered to help effect remedies to ecological problems. As the dramatic environmental problems in Eastern Europe show, freedom is a necessary condition for an effective stewardship of the environment. Almost wherever people at the grass-roots level are deprived of a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, they and the environment suffer. I have come to believe that an essential prerequisite for saving the environment is the spread of democratic government.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 179 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Calculate environmental impact when measuring profit

The heavy use of pesticides may ensure that the grain we grow achieves the highest possible short-term profits, but the excessive use of pesticides poisons the groundwater reservoirs beneath the field. When we add up the costs and benefits of growing the grain, the loss of that freshwater resource will be ignored. And largely because we have failed to measure the economic value of clean, fresh groundwater, we have contaminated more than half of all the underground reservoirs in the US.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 184 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Economics does not account for the cost of consumption

Every time we consume something, some sort of waste is created, but this fact is conveniently forgotten by classical economists. When we consume millions of tons of CFCs each year, are they gone? If so, then what is eating the hole in the ozone layer? When we consume 14 million tons of coal each day and 64 million barrels of oil, are they gone? If so, where is al the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere coming from?
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 187 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Internal combustion engines interfere with earth’s cleansing

When we seek to artificially enhance our capacity to acquire what we need from the earth, we do so at the direct expense of the earth’s ability to provide naturally what we are seeking. We frequently ignore the impact of our technological alchemy on natural processes. When we manufacture millions of internal combustion engines and automate the conversion of oxygen to CO2, we interfere with the earth’s ability to cleanse itself of the impurities that are normally removed from the atmosphere.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 207 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Civilization and the earth are increasingly in conflict

The disharmony in our relationship to the earth, which stems in part from our addiction to a pattern of consuming ever-larger quantities of the resources of the earth, is now manifest in successive crises. The loss of 1-« acres of rain forest every second; the acceleration of the natural extinction rate; the ozone hole; the possible destruction of the climate balance that makes our earth livable-all these suggest the increasingly violent collision between human civilization and the natural world.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 223 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: The world must unite to save the environment

The world is once again at a critical juncture. We are invading ourselves and attacking the ecological system of which we are a part. As a result, we now face the prospect of a kind of global civil war between those who refuse to consider the consequences of civilization’s relentless advance and those who refuse to be silent partners in the destruction. The time has come to make this struggle the central organizing principle of world civilization.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 294 Jul 2, 1993

On Energy & Oil: Global Marshall Plan must include the First and Third worlds

The model of the Marshall Plan can be of great help. for example, a Global Marshall Plan must focus on strategic goals and emphasize actions and programs that are likely to remove the bottlenecks presently inhibiting the healthy functioning of the global economy. The new global economy must be an inclusive system that does not leave entire regions behind. The new plan will require the wealthy nations to allocate money for transferring environmentally helpful technologies to the Third World and to help impoverished nations achieve a stable population and a new pattern of sustainable economic progress. To work, however, any such effort will also require wealthy nations to make a transition themselves that will be in some ways more wrenching than that of the Third World.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 297-301 Jul 2, 1993

On Energy & Oil: Global Marshall Plan: Five strategic goals

    In my view, five strategic goals must direct and inform our efforts to save the global environment:
  1. stabilizing of world population
  2. the rapid development of environmentally appropriate technologies
  3. a comprehensive change in the economic “rules of the road” by which we measure the impact of our decisions on the environment
  4. negotiation & approval of a new generation of international agreements
  5. a cooperative plan for educating the world’s citizens about our global environment.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 305-307 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Every individual should take responsibility for the earth

This crisis will be resolved only if individuals take some responsibility for it. By education ourselves and others, by doing our part to minimize our use and waste of resources, by becoming more active politically and demanding change. each one of us can make a difference. Perhaps more important, we each need to assess our own relationship to the natural world and renew. a connection to it.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 366 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: A balance between civilization and the earth is needed

The key is indeed balance - balance between contemplation and action, individual concerns and commitment to the community, love for the natural world and love for our wondrous civilization. I hope and trust we will all find a way to resist the accumulated momentum of all the habits, patterns, and distractions that divert us from what is true and honest, spinning us first this way and that.
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 367 Jul 2, 1993

On Environment: Welcomes criticism as “too environmental”

After Earth in the Balance was published, I had a personal encounter with that verse from the Bible, “Would that mine adversary had written a book.” Adversaries, some of whom I suspect haven’t read it, love to hate this book and attack it as “too environmental.”
I welcome that. I believe the environment should be a central issue in the year 2000, because, like it or not, the environment will be a fateful issue in the next decade and the new century.
In the 8 years since the first edition of this book, we have made some real progress. We’re cleaning up the great American rivers. We’ve strengthened the Superfund to clean up hazardous chemical waste sites. We refused, despite all the special-interest lobbying of Congress, to let up on big polluters who have a responsibility to clean up hidden poisons in our neighborhoods and on land where our children play.
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. x Apr 23, 2000

On Environment: Ozone protection is working; keep up diligence

Even as we seek to decrease ozone levels near the surface of the earth, where they harm us, we have made great progress in restoring the ozone layer high in the upper atmosphere, where it protects us. Our worldwide ban on ozone-depleting substances is beginning to heal the delicate stratospheric ozone layer, which acts as a shield against cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. In the last two years, we have measured an actual decrease in these substances in the stratosphere. If we remain diligent, we will be able to say in the future that because the world joined together to face this global problem head on, banning the chemical culprits and developing low-cost substitutes, the ozone hole over Antarctica will close by 2050, over the next two generations.
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xi Apr 23, 2000

On Principles & Values: Earth in the Balance is a call to action and hope

This book is a call to action and hope. Whether our purpose is to preserve the simple pleasure of fishing in a mountain stream on an autumn morning, or the simple security of knowing that our children’s drinking water is safe, we have it in our power to restore the earth’s balance before the growing imbalance inflicts its greatest potential damage on our children and grandchildren. Today the human species is the only one with the self-knowledge and the capacity to protect its own future.
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xii Apr 23, 2000

On Environment: Big Lie: good environment is bad economics

The argument made against this book is that “excessive” protection of the environment hurts the economy. The lobbyists’ definition of excessive is almost always the same: any measure that gets in the way of short-term gain for their clients. It’s never stated this way, but it’s often little more than an appeal to tolerate profits that depend on ignoring pollution. The big lie in this debate is that a good environment is bad economics.

We ought to seek, and we can find, sustainable growth that doesn’t undermine human health or the natural ecosystems that support life. The Clinton-Gore administration has been committed to that ideal. We have our environmental critics, but I think it’s fair to say that in these years, we’ve had the strongest economy in the world, while we’ve repeatedly strengthened environmental protections, all across the board.

The bottom line is that there is not only an environment to be saved but money to be made in reducing the buildup of greenhouse gases.

Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xiii & xviii Apr 23, 2000

On Energy & Oil: Global Warming is a clear & present threat; but preventable

Global warming is no longer a distant threat; it’s as real, as clear and present an issue, with profound effects on people’s lives, as war and peace or recession and poverty--and the effects are only just beginning to be felt.
There are still some scientists--a shrinking but vocal minority, invariable invoked by special interests--who deny or doubt climate change or its relationship to carbon dioxide pollution. The flaw in the argument this time is that if the skeptics are as wrong as it appears, and if we do not act now, the crisis of global warming will inflict enormous, even irreversible damage. And it is preventable if we act now, wisely and boldly.
It is worth remembering that big changes can occur quickly. There will probably be some climate surprises. Melting of the arctic tundra could release huge quantities of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, which would greatly amplify climate change. Who can afford to wait?
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xiv-xvi Apr 23, 2000

On Environment: Strengthen CAA; polluters pay for air cleanup

Last November, under pressure from utility lobbies, the majority in Congress sought to write dozens of loopholes into the Clean Air Act, weakening enforcement of the law against old and dirty power plants. Instead, we need tough standards for soot and smog, with reasonable flexibility but a real timetable for implementation. In the Environment Decade, polluters should pay to clean up the pollution they’ve created rather than impose the burden on taxpayers.
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xix Apr 23, 2000

On Energy & Oil: Kyoto goals are an indispensable first step

As record floods alternate with record ice-storms, as record-breaking hot months are followed by even hotter months a year later, who can afford to wait? The US took the lead in convincing other nations that a voluntary international agreement to reduce carbon pollution was no longer enough--that we needed to negotiate a binding timetable to meet specific goals. When I led the US delegation to the Kyoto Conference in 1997, we worked with 180 other nations to put the world on track to reduce the carbon pollution pouring into the atmosphere. The Kyoto agreement isn’t the final answer to global warming, but it is the indispensable first step.

Our next step is to seek meaningful participation from developing nations and submit the Kyoto agreement to the Senate for ratification. I will stay and fight on this issue until we overcome the special-interest opposition, abroad and at home, that threatens to extend and worsen global warming. The Kyoto goals are both practical and economically beneficial.

Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xvii Apr 23, 2000

On Technology: Promote $500B market for energy technology

The Kyoto goals are both practical and economically beneficial. The increases in our investment in renewable energy and conservation that the Clinton-Gore administration has fought for and won from Congress will not only cut down greenhouse gases but reduce energy costs and result in a new generation of environmental technologies that American companies can sell in the world market for pollution control, which is already worth $500 billion a year and is already dominated by the US. We have doubled environmental technology exports over the last four years, and we will do it again in the next four. Markets for new energy technology will burgeon to $10 trillion worldwide in the next two decades. The US can and must capture a significant share of that total through a strong program of research, demonstration, and deployment of technology.
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xvii Apr 23, 2000

On Jobs: More bio-energy means less greenhouse emissions & more jobs

By tripling US use of bio-energy and bio-products by 2010, we can keep millions of tons of greenhouse gases out of the air, generate $15 billion in new income for our farmers, and create another set of new technologies to be marketed to the world.
By requiring every federal agency to cut greenhouse emissions by 30%, so that the government itself lives by the rules it negotiated at Kyoto for American companies, we can save American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
By creating a Clean Air Partnership Fund, we can support state and local projects to reduce both local pollution and global greenhouse gases.
We have to strengthen, not weaken, environmental protections across the board, from global warming to stabilizing world population.
Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xviii & xix Apr 23, 2000

On Environment: Replacing internal combustion is possible & will create jobs

I was criticized for suggesting in this book that we should move away from the internal combustion engine over the next quarter-century. The attack was never more than smoke and fumes; I was calling not for an end to the car industry but for new types of cars. Now the automakers themselves are investing heavily in alternatives to internal combustion; they are acknowledging that fuel cells and other environmentally preferable alternatives are key to future competitive success, at home and overseas.

For those who want to attack my view, let me save you the trouble of reading the entire book. On pages 325-6, I wrote, “It ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a 25-year period.” It is possible; it needs to be done; it will create more jobs, not destroy jobs. I’m proud that I wrote those words in 1992, and I reaffirm them today.

Source: New foreword to Earth in the Balance, p. xviii & xxiv Apr 23, 2000

The above quotations are from Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, by Al Gore.
Click here for other excerpts from Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, by Al Gore.
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