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Book Review: The Future

The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change is Al Gore’s twelfth book, his fourth since having lost the presidential election of 2000.  I guess I always knew the former vice president was a pretty smart guy, but his burst of productivity since that epochal event has surprised both cynics and supporters, I suspect.   An academy award and the Nobel Peace Prize - in the same year, no less?  A fortune valued at $300 million, grown from $2 million in 2000?  Co-founder of Generation Investment Management and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project?   To re-iterate: four books?

Talk about your late bloomer!  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by The Future, but I do think it stands apart from his previous work.  Where Gore seems  to have “toned down” his prior attempts at impressing his audience with the seriousness of climate change (I am purposely avoiding use of the term “dumbed down,” because I think it would be inaccurate), this time we’re seeing the unabashed geek throwing himself at this issue – among many - full bore.  Gore knows as much as just about anybody, when it comes to the topics of climate and global change, and he feels it’s his duty to make sure you are equally well informed.  Brace yourself.
Replete with diagrams and endnotes, Gore’s latest is not for the faint of heart.  He characterizes the now-intimate workings of the global economy as “Earth, Inc.”: part façade, part nano/molecular innovation.  The Global Mind comes next, accompanied by yards of jargon like world brain, Moore’s Law, Big Data, Twitter Earthquake Detector, Global Pulse, etc.  The good, the bad, the cyber – it’s all here.  (A word to the wise?  Expect to be hacked!)

The vacuum in world leadership left by an ethically faltering United States is juxtapositioned with the rise of corporate power everywhere.  Perhaps most fascinating of all, I learned that our president of 1876 – Rutherford B. Hayes! – was prescient in pronouncing “this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer.  It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.”  And that was before lobbyists!
Population control, a.k.a. fertility management, gets the careful consideration it should, especially in light of its direct impact on global warming.  Amongst the many tidbits to be gathered, Gore has convinced me that the time has arrived when I should be fertilizing my vegetable garden with my own “effluent.”  Ahem.  With barely enough time to catch her breath, the reader next explores increased human longevity, genetically engineered foods, Colony Collapse Disorder, and antibiotics.  Lest there be any doubt, it’s a complex world we live in.

The quickening pace of climate change and its multitudinous effects is given very current, thorough coverage.  The litany of awfulness grows longer with each book, yet the author’s patience in relating how far we have to go in order to consider the problem mitigated (the days of stopping climate change are behind us now) seems endless.  Gore’s contribution to this most important of all conversations is impossible to exaggerate.  His generosity in sharing with readers so much of what he has learned over the years matters very, very much.

What we do with his gift is up to us.


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