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Sustainability 51: Al Gore

Updated on April 9, 2010
Climate change  happening now
Climate change happening now

There are now perhaps more people around the world who recognize Al Gore for his environmental activism than that he was once Vice President of the United States. And that is probably fitting, for his interest in environmental issues came before his political career, and continues to extend well past it.

Albert Gore, Jr., son of former U.S. Representative and Senator Albert Gore, Sr. of Tennessee, encountered a seminal class on climate science on the Harvard campus in 1967, one that fostered his continuing dedication to sustainability and green concerns. Throughout his graduation in 1969 with a degree in government, his service in the Vietnam War, and his subsequent political career — U.S. Representative (1976-84); U.S. Senate (1984-93); U.S. Vice President (1993-2001) — environmental issues were never far from mind.

In the 1970s and 80s, his focus on clean air and water and related topics led to some of the earliest congressional hearings on toxic waste, climate change and global warming. Through the 1990s, in his various governmental positions, he presided over conferences dealing with growth coupled with environmental protection, while strongly supporting the Kyoto Protocol on the control of greenhouse gases.

Al Gore’s attention to the planet’s long-term sustainability took center stage once he departed the political arena after the 2000 Presidential Election Campaign. He co-founded the Alliance for Climate Protection, and began to speak out about climate change and environmental degradation.

Then, in 2006, he penned his magnum opus An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. That book became a bestseller, spawned a widely distributed 2006 documentary film (which earned its own Academy Award), earned Al Gore praise as well as criticism, gained much media attention, and secured a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 2009.

In light of his environmental activism, Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 (awarded jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). He also won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2007, for his work with Current TV (which he co-founded) and a 2005 Webby Award. Also, Gore has since assisted in promoting and organizing global Live Earth benefit concerts.     

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