Al Gore wrote a 558-page book about the future, called “The Future,” and somehow left out “Futurama.”
“That was a terrible oversight,” admitted the Nobel Prize winner, who has distinguished himself in many areas, including politics and climate science, but is still well-known (within a particular demographic) as a disembodied head in a glass jar on a “Simpsons”-style animated television show.
He says the show, for which his daughter was, at one time, a co-writer, earns him more glances on the street in some cities than his tenure as vice president. “There are plenty of places in this country where I can walk down the sidewalk and have people recognize me not as the former vice president, but as a guest on ‘Futurama,’ ” Gore said recently.
What that indicates about the concerns of the electorate, Gore doesn’t say. Clearly his painstakingly researched tome (subtitled: “Six Drivers of Global Change”) credits readers with the deep attention spans and thirst for statistics not associated with fans of cartoons.
Gore, 64, will speak about the book at a sold-out event Friday at the Carter Center. In a wide-ranging telephone conversation, Gore took up some of the themes discussed in the book and addressed the recent hail of conservative criticism he received for selling his television network, Current, to Al-Jazeera, the media empire based in Qatar.
Q: Were you surprised by the reaction? Weren’t you arming your political opponents with that sale?
A: I fully understand how some people reacted, but Al-Jazeera has long since established itself as a very respected, award-winning network. The net impact on America’s media dialogue is, I think, positive.
Q: You write about the impact of social media on the Arab Spring, which was poised to bring democracy to the Middle East while the opposite seems to be happening. Why?
A: Going back centuries, they never developed the kind of democratic institutions that emerged in the West. So these reformers have had difficulty embodying their revolutionary agenda into institutions that can sustain the momentum. But this is a story that is still unfolding. In Burma, revolution was snuffed out, seemingly, but the embers kept burning and flared up a few years later when Aung San Suu Kyi [the reform leader who’d been kept under house arrest for 15 years, but was elected to Parliament last year] was released. So I think its still early to reach a conclusion about where it goes from here.
Q: You warn against the ability of corporations to gather information on citizens and the loss of privacy, but aren’t Americans at an all-time low in their concerns about privacy?
A: Up until recently it has seemed that whenever people had a choice between privacy and convenience, privacy has taken a back seat. But I think that’s changing. … There was a new business launched recently called Snap Chat, like Instagram, but the popularity of the new service grew very quickly, partly because the pictures you send disappear after a few seconds.
Q: Among the solutions you suggest to combat the proliferation of greenhouse gases is a tax on carbon dioxide. Aren’t we even less likely to approve a new tax now than we were seven years ago, when you released “An Inconvenient Truth”?
A: People were profoundly affected by Superstorm Sandy and the massive drought that hit more than 60 percent of the country and is still going on, including in your area. The fact is, our country suffered from climate-related disasters last year that caused an estimated $110 billion in damage. That’s an all-time record. … I do think we’re getting closer to the point where bold measures can be enacted. … China, the largest CO2 emitter in the world, instituted cap and trade in two cities and five provinces, and they describe it as a pilot to precede a nationwide cap and trade system. … Ultimately it will require all of us working together and will require actions by the Congress, and as implausible as that prospect might be, I do think we are moving in that direction.
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