Al Gore brought his environmental message to Atlanta, and at times, it wasn’t pretty.
“What is going on in the public square right now is more important than any time since the Civil War,” Gore said. “We are facing an ecological crisis that can bring about the end of civilization.”
But the former U.S. vice president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient also offered hope – at least in Atlanta, a city known for its smothering traffic.
“Atlanta is emerging as a leader among cities,” Gore told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I am extremely impressed with the leadership of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the work that she is doing in the environmental space.”
Nearly 2,000 people were at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday for the opening of Gore’s Climate Reality Project, a three-day event to train attendees on climate issues and how to build programs in their communities.
The 2000 Democratic presidential candidate found allies among local church leaders and Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson at a time when the White House and many Republicans continue to question the role of humans in climate change.
Following his keynote address, Gore sat down with the Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, who had invited him to Ebenezer Baptist Church for an interfaith mass meeting Thursday night.
Gore and Warnock were to be joined at the “Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis” by the Rev. William J. Barber II, who rose to fame with his own Moral Mondays campaign and by reviving Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.
“Young people get it in a sense that they know that the great ugliness of our policy makers not yet addressing this fully says that you care more about your present than your children’s future,” said Barber, who was set to preach at Ebenezer Thursday night.
Gore brought SNL’s Davidson on stage earlier Thursday to talk to trainees, and the comedian compared the climate to dating.
“Pretend the environment is a girl you’re in love with who just got engaged to someone else,” Davidson said. “The situation is dire but there’s still time.”
President Donald Trump has rolled back many of former President Barack Obama’s environmental policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting environmental pollution. Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who heads the Environmental Protection Agency, has disputed there’s a crisis.
Gore, who followed his 2006 Academy Award for his film “An Inconvenient Truth” with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his environmental advocacy, said the country was “crossing an important political tipping point right now” with the environment.
He likened the Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal aimed at climate change and economic inequality, to an aspirational statement and conversation starter.
“It is similar to the nuclear freeze proposals, because it serves as a vehicle,” said Gore, referring to disarmament efforts in the early 1980s.
Many evangelical Christians have questioned climate change, some dismissing it as a liberal hoax.
But religious leaders who participated in Thursday’s events alongside Gore tried to draw parallels to Atlanta’s history of civil rights efforts and environmental justice.
“Atlanta has historically been a leader for social change,” Warnock said. “It is important that Atlanta understand the fight for civil and human rights and the fight for environmental justice are connected.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.