Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Message and The Messenger

Last week, Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change (better known as the IPCC) were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Nobel Foundation, the award was given, "…for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

Coming on the heels of his 2007 Oscar win for best documentary, Gore has effectively captured both the public's imagination and the respect of the intelligencia. The question that remains is, "Now what?"

While the Peace Prize was originally intended to reward the works of those working toward a peaceful and just society, according to the official Nobel website, "In addition to humanitarian efforts and peace movements, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded for work in a wide range of fields including advocacy of human rights, mediation of international conflicts, and arms control."

In his acceptance speech Gore said, "We have to quickly find a way to change the world's consciousness about exactly what we're facing." Given the accolades that Gore has received, it seems pretty obvious that climate change is already the next big thing. Public opinion polls rank the environment as number one issue in the world and the threat of climate change tops the list of environmental concerns.

Despite Gore's win, The White House (he should have rightly inhabited) has made it very clear that it is going to be business as usual. A spokesperson for The White House said that the president, while happy about Gore's win, wasn't about to adopt a more Gore like approach to the problem.

We live in a world where it's all about the packaging. It's glitz and glory. We embrace celebrity, not issues or action.

The inconvenient truth is that we don't need another hero. Canonizing Gore for his efforts is a whole lot easier than owning the problem ourselves. As long as we're applauding his efforts, we really don't need to take any action. Making Al Gore the poster child for climate change also means that we get to blame him if things get too intense, or the dire predictions aren't quite so dire after, or the economy suffers. After all, that's what martyrs are for. Media darling one day, crucified the next.

Perhaps what we need is a non-celebrity. Someone, or something, that can crawl inside our consciousness in the privacy of our own homes, and gnaw away at it until we truly understand that what we are facing is unprecedented in human history. True enduring change doesn't come from outside; it comes from within.

Enter wonderingmind42, a 38 year-old science teacher whose series of raw youtube videos cut right to the heart of the matter. His videos lay out the scientific arguments about the pros and cons of the global warming debate, including an analysis of the risk factors involved in taking action or maintaining the status quo. He even has created what he calls his Index video, that categories the various videos and provides a viewing order based on whether you're a skeptic, a true believer, or somewhere in between.

Unlike Gore, who couples star quality with the style and grace of American royalty, (to say nothing of some very expensive PowerPoint presentations); wonderingmind42's anonymity actually makes it much easier to ignore the messenger and focus on the message. His tools are a science classroom, a white board, compelling logic and passion, something that he clearly shares with Gore.

Wondermind42 takes the issue of climate change off the stage and out of the spotlight and puts it squarely, and very uncomfortably where it belongs.

"This is the most credible, most clear and pressing threat on a global scale in the history of humanity, with the sole exception of being of the brink of a thermonuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis," he says, "But this time, you, as an individual citizen, not only know about it, but you play a necessary part."

I'm sure Al Gore would agree.


Check out the brilliant logic of wonderingmind42 at

After being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore announced he would be donating his share of the $ 1.5 million prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization that he chairs.

For more on the Nobel prizes, visit


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