Peace and Justice Summit: Environment

CATHERINE: Good morning! I’d like to welcome you to our panel on behalf of the Equal Justice Initiative. My name is Catherine Coleman Flowers and I’m the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative. [applause] This morning, I’d like to present to you one of my favorite persons in the world, a mentor to me, he is the person who has all of us talking about climate change which intersects with the work that I do in Lowndes County, Alabama. [applause] He was elected, by the popular vote, President of the United States of America in 2000. [loud applause] He’s also a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a Southerner. So I would like to present to you, Former Vice President Al Gore! [applause] AL: Thank you! Thank you, Catherine, thank you so much, thank you. Thank you, good morning! Good morning, good morning. Thank you. Thank you very much, thank you, thank you. All right, all right! Thank you very much, Catherine, for those kind words. I really have learned so much from Catherine Flowers, and I want to thank her for being my mentor on so many of these issues. I’m going to be talking about the climate crisis and its connection to environmental justice and Catherine Flowers works with the Equal Justice Initiative and she has brought the sensibilities for environmental justice into this cause and others. By the way, I want to acknowledge also that the true leaders of the environmental justice cause really have been low-income African American communities that raise the alarm before any policymakers in Washington or Montgomery or Birmingham or elsewhere became aware of it. Some 40 years ago in Warren County, North Carolina, a low-income African-American community, including by the way the father of Reverend William Barber, laid down in front of trucks on the highway as the trucks were trying to dump hazardous chemical waste, PCBs in that case, and it bubbled up and some time after that I was honored to join with Congressman John Lewis and introducing the first environmental justice law. It didn’t get passed but when the Clinton-Gore year started, I was able to get the Executive Order that put it in place, and I hope the Trump White House isn’t listening. They don’t seem to know it’s still there and still operating, but [applause] Catherine is also the Director of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and I am so proud of my daughter Karenna Gore who runs that Center who’s here this morning [applause] and I’m grateful, I’m grateful to her for introducing me to Catherine and I want to acknowledge Catherine’s daughter, Taylor Flowers, who is here this morning also. Taylor! And welcome. And speaking of gratitude, I know I share with every single person here, a feeling of deep gratitude to Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative [applause] Oh my goodness… [applause] We get used to seeing these horrible events on the news and every once in a while, there are developments that just lift us all up and transcend these hateful narratives and give us hope and Bryan… God bless you. I told him earlier this morning, he’s going to have a hubris problem if all these words of praise keep coming down, but he deserves every single one of them, and all the people that have been working with him. It has been a wonderful experience, if I may speak personally for a moment, to come here and take part in the acknowledgment of the history that is commemorated here and to share in the planning for all of the work that needs to be done to take this momentum and move forward. It really is one of the most meaningful, and dare I say magical events that I’ve ever been involved in. And so as a thank you Bryan, very, very much. [applause] I used to be in the United States Senate and I don’t remember any election that has given me more hope and joy than the election of Senator Doug Jones from Alabama! Stand up, please! [applause] And stand up, Louise! [applause] And by the way, one of his first statements, as that campaign began to take shape, was a statement about the climate crisis and staying in the Paris Agreement and… God bless you Doug. And I asked his wife Louise to stand up with Doug but you didn’t hear her name when you were applauding so loudly, but Louise, thank you for what you and your family are doing. Thank you very much. [applause] And one of my favorite senators, who’s an incumbent and has been inspiring this country, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey! [applause] Before I show you some slides, I want to read a quotation from Pope Francis. In his encyclical, “Laudato Si,” he wrote, “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. We cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation… a true,” And I’m skipping down, “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach. It must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” So I’m going to show you some slides and I always start with these pictures of the earth to set the context. This is earth rise on Christmas Eve 1968 and this is the last of the Apollo Mission’s pictures. Apollo 17, the most commonly published photograph in all of history, and featuring Africa, the continental home of all humankind. This picture is from the space station, and I show this because it illustrates an extremely important fact about the climate crisis. We walk outside and look up at the sky and it seems like a vast and limitless expanse. But as this picture shows, the scientists have always known, well since Galileo and Copernicus, have known that it’s actually a very thin shell around the planet. And that difference between our impression and what the reality is is really crucial because the power of human civilization now with seven point eight billion people and these incredibly powerful technologies and short-term thinking about the long-term consequences means that we’re capable of changing that atmosphere in very significant and powerful ways specifically every single day we’re putting a hundred and ten million tons of manmade heat trapping global warming pollution into it as if it’s an open sewer free of charge what we tell the big polluters is oh you got waste to dispose off that’s gaseous in nature we’ll just dump it in the sky we don’t care well we should care and these are the sources I’m not gonna go through all of them co2 is the mainland I’ll come back to that but methane natural gas leaking from pipelines and compressors in the fracking process burning of forests landfills where they don’t take the time and care to capture the methane agriculture particularly animal agriculture has a big part but the biggest part of all is CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels coal gas oil and as you can see in after World War two it really took off now here’s a spoiler alert on the upper right there you see it leveling off there’s some evidence that it three of the last four years it’s leveled off which is a good thing and by the way I’m about to go into the part of these slides that answers the first of the major questions there are only three questions that have to be asked about the climate crisis and answered first is must we change and the evidence for why we have to change is sometimes a little hard to hear and see so don’t get depressed when you see this don’t go down too far because the answers to the second question can we change and the third question will we change bring a lot of optimism and hope so hold on we’re going to get to that part but first of all all of that accumulated man-made global warming is now trapping as much extra heat energy every day as would be released by four hundred thousand her ocean class atomic bombs exploding everyday it’s a big planet but that is a lot of energy and that’s why the temperatures have been going up so quickly that’s why it’s been getting so hot in fact 17 of the 18 hottest years ever measured with instruments have been since 2001 and it’s a 2018 the four hottest of all have been the last four years and the temperatures in many places are getting quite extreme last year they had red alerts in Europe 111 degrees the summer in the southern hemisphere in Sydney hundred and seventeen degrees couple months ago they had to close one of their roads ten kilometers because the road was melting I’ve got about a hundred slides and videos of melting highways around the world not going to show them to you but Iraq last summer 124 degrees Kuwait 124 degrees a year earlier on in 29 degrees last summer birds fell dead out of the sky it was so hot there the Emirates broke their all-time record last summer 100 24.7 Iran reached 128 0.7 Pakistan 120 9.2 this is getting to be intolerable in many places and as I’ll show you in a moment it contributes to the climate refugee crisis but coming back to the words of Pope Francis the effects of the climate crisis and all of the environmental insults are suffered first by the poor those who have less economic and political power because of poverty because of minority demographic status they are the ones that always suffer it first and that’s true for the rising heat in our country those most vulnerable are the poor the elderly infants and children and those with pre-existing conditions and the mentally ill the urban heat island effect means that there is a particular impact on African American populations this gentleman lives in Memphis in my home state in Los Angeles the projection is a doubled heat mortality rate for the residents of the inner cities principally African-Americans in this study but let me pull back out and I’ll come back to environmental justice but I want to take a global view and tell you last year in fact this year in February at the North Pole temperatures went up 50 degrees higher than normal this is the third year in a row that the North Pole started melting in the middle of the cold dark polar winter night this is having consequences and I went up to I went back up to Greenland not too long ago two years ago and one of the engineers and the helicopter that we use took this iPhone video of the jakob shavon glacier literally exploding this was in the middle of April this look this is not time-lapse this is a real-time image it looks like a CGI film and a Transformers movie but this has real consequences this is why this octopus showed up in a parking garage in Miami something you don’t see every day but in many of our coastal cities Galveston Norfolk Miami and you could go Annapolis we’re seeing sea level rise down the list begin to be an extremely serious problem and if you look at the entire world more than 90% of all this extra heat energy is going into the oceans and this has several consequences for all of us it is increasing the heat content of the oceans dramatically and it goes down all the way 2,000 meters and by the way half of this increase has been in the last 20 years one of the consequences is that when these ocean based storms hurricanes and what we call them cyclones and typhoons and other parts of the world when they cross warmer waters they get a lot stronger think about last summer hurricane Harvey crossed ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico seven degrees warmer than normal and became a monster storm you know how much water was dumped on Houston Texas Harris County five feet of water and anybody ever been to Niagara Falls well you think about st. watching Niagara Falls and measuring the full flow of Niagara Falls for 509 days that’s how much water went was dumped on Texas and Louisiana much of it right in Harris County and the suffering was extreme I don’t have time to show you some of the startling images of the damage that was done but I want to focus on the heroic rescues and the response it was really quite inspiring and many heroes emerged but we’re gonna see more Harvey’s in the future in fact we saw more Harvey’s right after Harvey hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean a lot of poor people in the Caribbean islands are still trying to recover Florida Keys got hit by this one also and then Maria it is a disgrace that the people of Puerto Rico who are Americans have been left to fend for themselves. [applause] this the treatment of the people of Puerto Rico is environmental racism they were not given the help and support that they deserve but we all pay the cost last year alone 320 billion dollars from climate-related extreme weather events and there will be more coming you remember superstorm sandy they ridicule the idea that the 9/11 memorial site could be flooded with big storms and sea level rise but it happened and just recently a study came out that used to be a once in five hundred year storm now it’s a once in 25 year storm in the next 20 30 years it’s due to be once every five years we have to prepare we have to prepare to adapt but we have to also put attention on stopping this and on stopping the causes of it and I’ll continue but one of the causes is you know we’ve heard a lot in these magnificent sessions here these three days I I came in Wednesday evening and I you know often I’ll come in spend three hours in some place and do my thing and get out it when Bryan called me and said to Al I want you to talk about climate here I said well I was so honored by that and so honored by this whole the opportunity to participate in this whole thing I decided to spend three days here but I’ve heard a lot about broken systems the hydrological cycle or the water cycle is a system that we are in the midst of breaking you know we all learned in school it evaporates off the oceans and falls as precipitation then runs back to the sea well when we heat up the ocean so much the amount of water evaporation going into the sky increases dramatically and the warmer air holds a lot more water vapor and so we get now these atmospheric rivers the Brazilian side has called them flying rivers this is Hawaii in the lower-left and Silicon Valley in the upper right there’s an atmospheric river the day this satellite picture was taken this is what was happening in Silicon Valley we now get these rain bombs oh here’s another atmospheric River from a few weeks ago this was a monster and it correlates with these many of these rain bombs much more precipitation falls at the same time and then there may be a longer period of time in between the big events here’s a rain bomb over Phoenix a couple of years ago and this has a lot of consequences and it’s happening all over the world including in the United States of America in fact there are four times as many extreme downpours and floods then there were in 1980 and another 50 percent increased just in the last seven eight years so this was just a few weeks ago in Massachusetts and Kentucky and Indiana all over the world and Kenya I could show you lots of these in Australia 16 inches of rain in 24 hours sometimes it’s snow you know they’ve run out of adjectives like Snowmageddon and snowpocalypse it’s the same kind of thing here’s a hail bomb in Argentina last fall 55 feet of hail in 15 minutes these people had to be rescued from their cars some of them taken to the hospital you know that’s a little unusual five feet of hail in 15 minutes this was in England yeah you’ve heard the saying there’ll always be in England well the inside of this pub stayed spic and span I really admire that adaptation but outside things can change also here’s a little-known fact when we have water borne disease outbreaks in the United States more than two-thirds of them are in the immediate aftermath of these big downpours Paul Farmer I’m told is here and Paul god bless you gave a great speech last night thank you and teleprompter didn’t work your speech was better one time when I was Vice President first speech to a joint session at President Clinton made they clap you know they stand up and clap all the time at those things and while they were clapping he turned around walked up he’s how they got the wrong speech on the teleprompter yeah I went down to George Stephanopoulos who was on the sidelines at that time and I said George they got the wrong speech on the teleprompter and so I had a view of the teleprompter pain pains and they were just going crazy they’re trying to find the right computer file the first six minutes of that speech were by far the best and Paul yours was two anyway the big downpours that that accompanied the hurricane Harvey resulted in more than a hundred top toxic chemical releases and because of what we’re taught by the leaders of the environmental justice movement poor people and communities of color are more likely to be affected these are the places along the Houston Ship Canal where the chemical spills had a big effect and right here in Montgomery Alabama less than one year ago 4,500 pounds of a chemical dump went into the Alabama River now this is where Catherine Flowers lives and some of you know the story that the sewage infrastructure was built to some communities that had cloud had stopped before they got their raw sewage and what happens when these bigger downpours come well the people are profoundly affected obviously and in fact as Catherine has documented one-third of the residents of Lowndes County Alabama have tested positive for a parasite that causes illness and cognitive impairment in fact around our country some medical experts are telling us that as many as 12 million Americans living in poverty now suffer from an undiagnosed tropical disease tropical diseases are moving to the higher latitudes and air travel has a lot to do with this but the conditions where these diseases take root are profoundly affected by the climate crisis the Zika scare is the latest one we we have to have sewage infrastructure we have to have good public water supplies and stop selling the good public water sources to bottled water companies for pittance and instead put them to the use of the people who need that water people of color are also exposed more to air pollution these are the states where the exposure is considered relatively equal between white people and people of color here’s where there is a higher exposure there are two states where the exposure for people of color is more than twice as bad Alabama and Indiana these these are the locations of the deaths per 100,000 people near existing fossil fuel-fired power plants and here’s where they are located and in fact 78 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal burning plant. African Americans are three times as likely to die from air pollution diseases as the overall population asthma the percentage of African American children suffering from asthma is nearly twice as high and the death rate is ten times as high we have to address this of course it can cause cognitive impairment and mental health problems as well Hispanic Americans are also more likely to be affected this is within a quarter mile of four chemical plants now this is a study from a few years ago but I’m showing it to you because it makes a point it’s from Salt Lake City the biggest source of air pollution in Salt Lake City had to be shut down for a year for maintenance this shows the admissions in the hospital for bronchitis and asthma and this is the same admission when the plant was shut down then it was reopened same thing for pneumonia and pleurisy pretty easy to connect those dots in it this is a this is a problem that has to be addressed and african-americans are 75% more likely to live in communities that either border or profoundly affected by these kinds of activities and it’s not just the the the air pollution from the burning of the fossil fuels what about coal ash I live in Tennessee and about 100 miles from where I live with it was the is the Kingston fossil fuel plant and it ruptured the biggest coal ash spill in American history 1.1 billion gallons where’d it go well a lot of it was shipped right here to Alabama 4 million tons to the mostly black community of Uniontown Alabama they were less able to defend themselves but they went to court and they sued and they filed with the EPA it was dismissed their complaint was dismissed by the EPA last month and on the very same day scott pruett announced more lenient coal ash regulations on the industry I don’t know why he’s still in office by the way but that’s I kind of do know why [applause] the big drifters depend on the little drifter and the big drifters have contacted the head drifter and said keep him in there I think there’s a grifters tender where they all connect up but Reverend barber was here yesterday as always filled my heart with inspiration and motivation and I want to acknowledge that while dr. King spoke about the three evils in the original Poor People’s Campaign Reverend barber and Reverend Liz Theo Harris have added ecological devastation to the list of evils the ecological devastation and the climate crisis are issues that must engage the sensibilities and the conscience and the activism of people of color and poor people and advocates for all Americans it is absolutely crucial now let me shift gears the same extra heat that pulls all that water vapor into the sky and causes the rain bombs and the floods and the rest also pulls the water out of the soil more quickly so we get these big droughts and they go deeper this right now the worst climate related disaster is underway in South America almost four billion dollars lost already Cape Town South Africa some of you know this I remember taking our climate scientists over to meet with Thabo Mbeki in South Africa years ago this has all been predicted Cape Town may soon become the first major city in the world to completely run out of water and in many parts of Africa water scarcity the continuing drought of creating a food crisis this is in Kenya just two months ago still going on the United Nations has warned again this month that 20 million people are approaching starvation in Africa right now because there’s so many of these simultaneously there are other related causes as well but underlying this is the climate related drought and in our country this is what is projected in North shaaka including Alabama throughout the balance of this century and it’s beginning to happen right now this is just last week the exceptional drought and extreme drought in our southwestern states and by the way I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but that right there is exactly where the Dust Bowl was centered and it spread out from there and where there is drought and the land dries out the vegetation does too and the fires spread more rapidly there are 200 through almost 300,000 acres in those states in the southwest on fire this morning today and the fire season in the American West has started more quickly in the relationship between high temperatures and fires has been long well established the fire season is now a hundred and five days longer per year in the American West this was the largest fire in the history of California last December Napa Valley was also victimized by fire this drone video goes on and on with all these homes that were lost this is in the Columbia Gorge and I show this just to reassure you that it doesn’t have to ruin your golf game this Portugal had two tragic events last year Chile lost 1500 square miles I could show you these all over the world it’s also a national security crisis and the Pentagon for decades has warned us well for a decade and a half has warned us that this is a national security crisis food shortages water shortages tropical diseases spreading and refugees you know in the future I thought I was talking with this scientist just two days ago on the phone he’s going to speak at the climate realities training program in Berlin next month and we’re gonna have one in August in Los Angeles and Catherine Flowers is on our board and is helping very much with this but when these areas become literally uninhabitable you know the combination you know what heat index is what it feels like you turn on the weather and it says it’s such-and-such degrees but it feels like there was a city in Iran last year that had a heat index of 165 degrees well that’s the kind of thing they’re talking about when they say this could be uninhabitable and there are many causes of the refugee crisis but in Syria there was the worst drought in recorded history years before the Syrian civil war opened the gates of Hell there and the flow of refugees has begun to destabilize Europe my faith teaches me welcome the stranger welcomed the immigrant but after a lifetime in politics I know what you know that these increased flows of refugees sometimes trigger the vulnerability of many to say wait a minute this is too much and even brexit in the United Kingdom the single most powerful billboard for the pro brexit campaign was this one showing an endless line of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa and people are not the only ones moving the average land and plant animal species is Moo feet per day we are at risk of losing toward the pole at an average rate of 15 50% of all of the living species on this planet in this century on our watch Noah was commanded to keep them alive if you believe as I do the purpose of life is to glorify God if we heap contempt on God’s creation we are not serving the purpose that we many of us believe we’re intended to serve so the cost of this crisis I haven’t even talked about ocean acidification or some of these others I’ll mention one other it’s the biggest source the biggest threat to the global economy these are all answers to that first question must we change yes we’ve got to change yes we’ve got to change now what about we’re at a turning point what about the second question can we change here’s the good news and there’s a lot of it we have the solutions at hand now the best projections 18 years ago for solar energy was 30 I mean for wind energy 30 gigawatts about 2010 we beat that goal by 17 18 times over it’s an exponential curve it is really expanding quickly Norway’s one of the leaders they routinely get more than a hundred percent of all their electricity they’re selling it to other Scotland just had a full month a hundred percent renewal the home of the coal revolution England now it gets twice as much energy from wind as from coal and the world could get forty times all the electricity that it uses today just from wind solar it’s even more exciting sixteen years ago the best projections were we would add one gigawatt per year by 2010 well when 2010 arrived we beat that by 17 times over guess what last year we beat at 98 times over we’re on the move we can do this this exponential curve is even more a dramatic and rising even more quickly because the costs are falling even more quickly we’re seeing a worldwide investments after 2010 much greater in renewables than in fossil fuels and the gap is growing and the projections are that it will continue to grow a nuclear would make it grow faster that’s a whole another whole complicated story but the fossil fuel carbon polluters are trying to hold it back worldwide taxpayers are being forced to subsidize these deadly emissions thirty-eight times greater than the meager encouragements for renewable energy and they’re putting up obstacles and roadblocks and by the way the worst one is here in Alabama the solar tax the most punitive fee in the entire country they’re trying to hold it back now here’s the good news they can’t because it’s getting so cheap money talks now and we’re seeing this shift they won’t be able to stop it even it much longer last year in the United States if you look at all the new electricity generation added two-thirds of it was from solar and wind gas is not a guess better than coal but not much better when it leaks each molecule is way more powerful than co2 we have got to get off of fossil fuels and get on renewables the good news is there’s no no coal no coal no new use of coal and by the way in Kentucky at the famous coal museum they just installed solar panels all over the roof [applause] In China they’re still burning a lot of coal but look at this more than half of their new electricity generation is from renewables and they’re speeding up and move they’re shutting down a lot of coal mines and coal plants in India they’ve done a complete u-turn since the Paris agreement 65% of their new electricity is coming from renewables this is good news Europe has moved even faster they don’t burn much coal or gas now but still a lot but look at the incredible amount 77% from renewables Germany big powerful economy eighty five percent one day from renewables Chile some of you have seen this I’ve talked about it a good deal Michelle Bachelet the immediate past president did a wonderful job she came in with 11 megawatts of solar increased it increased that here’s what’s under construction now in Chile and approved for construction to begin. [applause] This is a breakout. I can show you lots of countries I’ll show you the biggest India is the same kind of thing except it’s a bigger much bigger number ten times more 175 gigawatts we can do this and by the way it creates jobs you look at the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics two months ago fastest growing job in America’s solar installer nine times faster growth than the other jobs in our economy second fastest growing job is wind turbine technician now twice as many jobs in solar as in all of coal wind and solar represents the future and we get more solar energy usable for electricity in one hour than the entire global economy uses in an entire year we’re not gonna run out of it that’s for sure and we’re learning how to store it in batteries in other ways and the projections are this is a giant market largest solar battery in the world just installed so transportation has to be addressed that’s now the biggest source of co2 but look at what’s happening with electric vehicles a lot of countries are making it against the law a few years from now to have internal combustion engines and requiring a shift to electric vehicles including here in this country the powertrain costs will soon be significantly cheaper. So that’s the answer to the the second question can we change yes we’ve got the tools we’ve got the solutions they create jobs they clean up the air, they clean up the water, they address environmental injustice. Final question: will we change? That answer I believe is yes but really it’s still to come and I’m not I’m here and I’m so honored to be here but my purpose I want to tell you it’s not just to present this information I’m here to recruit you I want to build a bond ever stronger with the Equal Justice Initiative and the Poor People’s Campaign so in Paris a little over two years ago every nation in the world agreed to go to Net Zero by mid-century and what you’re thinking president Trump but you know the way that thing was written the first day on which the US could legally withdraw from the agreement happens to be the first day after the next presidential election. [applause] And if there’s a new president, excuse me for a moment, then a new president could just give 30 days notice and we’re right back in the agreement and we are on track regardless of the Trump administration to exceed our commitments under the Paris agreement technology and business they’re driving this and that we’re going to exceed succeed regardless of who occupies the White House 16 states have stepped up California and Washington and all of these others and they’re really doing a fantastic job and lots of cities lots of cities have committed to go to 100% renewable some of including Georgetown Texas or already there and all these businesses are still in the Paris agreement universities in India and China are going to way exceed their commitments under Paris we can do this 130 global companies have agreed to go 100 percent Apple just achieved 100 percent globally two weeks ago and the people are speaking up this March in Florence Alabama to save the climate this one in Richmond Virginia this one by Native Americans in Washington DC 400,000 people in New York on the eve of the UN meeting and this one this one last April now I used to work in the White House and I never thought I’d be marching on the White House there’s the White House there the Treasury Department the White House but here I am with with my daughter Corinna and my granddaughter Anna and Catherine Flowers right here so in closing ladies and gentlemen one of my favorite poets Wallace Stevens was a businessman in the last century and he became a poet and he wrote these lines he said after the last snow there comes yes and on that yes the future world depends every great morally based movement that has improved the condition of humanity has met with an endless series of noes we admired and cheered for some of the pioneers of the civil rights movement at the concert last night and throughout these days here how many noes did they encounter but finally came a yes and then you move on to the next yes well the climate movement is on the cusp of that kind of change we need your help we need you to be a part of it and if anybody doubts that we have the will to change just remember the will to change is itself a renewable resource. Thank you very much! [applause] thank you thank you [applause] thank you very much thank you thank you [applause] Come on out, Catherine! Thank you, my dear. [applause] CATHERINE: Well our conversation for the remainder of the time we’re going to talk about environmental justice as we talk about environmental justice and I’ve been sitting through the panels and looking at our the history of lynchings and racial terror and I think and reflect about growing up in Lowndes County Alabama and I remember when they were cotton fields all around and people would come and spray DDT over where people were living and as a result we would even see dead birds and so forth out in the community and we were wondering now a lot of people that are in my age group are asking about cancer rates because the cancer rates are so high and and I can’t help but think about the lynchings and the comparing it to the song strange fruit and I guess my question to you is how do we what do you think we should do in order to change some of the conditions that are happening in these EJ communities how do we work together because the big greens often don’t go into those areas you know one of the criticisms that they’re more concerned about polar bears than they are about people so how do we work together in terms of bridging the gap significant change underway and among those groups that you talked about and by the way thank you so much for helping to ensure that the climate reality project has focused intensely on these issues Catherine Catherine spent a couple of days at our headquarters last week and we’ve worked together for quite a while but I think it is I think it is right that we need to to attention I was well I’m not gonna read there was another quote from Pope Francis that deals with this exact thing and we have to connect the climate crisis and it’s the environmental insults people are enduring to social justice and equal justice you know who wasn’t talking I think is Reverend barber and Bryan Stevenson has also made this point that the the the terror tactics of lynching and all of the other efforts to try to stop reconstruction to try to stop the healing have had as one of their purposes dividing black and white dividing majority communities from those who are in a minority position and when we overcome those efforts and combine because these these problems affect everyone when we combine forces then we are we can be unstoppable and it’s connected to what’s happening here this weekend with the acknowledgement and with the effort to really achieve deep empathy then we can move on to the transcendence of difference and find these coalition’s that can address poverty racism excessive military spending guns getting out of control the environment and the climate crisis and these other issues we’ve been under investing in health care education mental health care we’ve been ignoring the pollution that can cause cancer and other diseases but we have the ability as Americans to use our right to vote and and to demand change so coming together is really the secret to it I think you’ve taught me that and you know since this is kind of a significant area to civil rights and voting rights one of the questions that I’ve had and I think we talked about a little bit back in the green room how long would it take after we after the presidential election and we replaced the current administration to undo what he’s done with the environment undo well first of all I really like the assumption built into your question and I’m one who doesn’t give up on possibility it won’t be that long I don’t know but I shouldn’t say this but we’re only a little over a year into this experiment and in science and medicine some experiments are terminated early for ethical reasons no-no-no but we have to assume that’s not going to happen and we have to start building right now and it’s a long way from now to the elections this year much less 2020 it kind of feels to me like a wave might be building I sure hope so I had that feeling before Doug’s campaign and it came from many of you from Alabama but we’ve got our work to do now let’s assume that there is a new present in January 2021 I think I’m I’m a recovering politician the longer I go without a relapse the less likely one becomes but but I think that Trump has turned out to be capable of doing somewhat less damage than I feared he could in their rush to do what the big polluters want them to do as quickly as possible they’ve made a lot of mistakes and the courts are striking down some of their actions we have a lot of resilience built into our American system but they’re doing damage for sure and I think much of it can be overturned but we need to start working right now for sure I would also like that to talk a little bit about the Center for Earth ethics which I’m a part of with Karenna and one of the things that I really love about the Center for Earth FX is that it brings people their ministers doing in the partnership of the climate reality project from all over the country primarily from EJ communities to talk about climate change and the intersection there. And you were very much a part of that. AL: Well, it’s my honor you know how proud of Karenna I am and she’s gonna be shrinking in her seat with all this praise coming her way but you know she gave a sermon last Sunday at Harvard’s Memorial Church I don’t know if it’s online but I’m so proud of her it was really great but anyway we joined that next month well actually at the beginning of June we are doing together our annual climate training for faith leaders there’s a whole scripturally based version of this slide show and we have leaders from all different faiths there including indigenous of faith leaders and I think it’s really important to bring faith leaders into this dialogue of course many of them have brought us into the dialogue but Catherine thank you for being a part of the climate reality project and helping to foster this partnership with the Center for Earth ethics in New York City at Union Theological Seminary I think that thank you I think that it is important that the faith community is engaged because as you’ve seen throughout this week faith is very much a part of the african-american tradition and it’s been very much a part of what has brought us thus far along the way and I guess one of my other questions is relates to that as we look at the the archaic policies that are here in the state of Alabama about access to renewable energies we’ve been talking about the possibility of some partnerships where we could partner with people that provide solar power and actually put the put it on churches so people can see and demonstrate in the community how it works because… [applause] in the Black Belt here in Alabama the people have some of the highest power bills in the country and these are people living in mobile homes so what do you envision weighs and how do you envision ways in which we could possibly work together to make sure that we bring renewable energy to communities that otherwise would have access to it you know if they can put solar panels on top of the coal museum in Kentucky you ought to be able to put them on top of churches in Alabama and homes and businesses and you know in business they talk about cost reduction curbs cost down curve sounds like a lot of gobbledygook but you remember how computer chips went where they started off real expensive and then all of a sudden the cost came down so quickly flat panel TVs say all phones we’ve seen this well the good news is that’s what’s happening with solar panels all right and now they’re cheaper in most parts of the country but the obstacles are put up like that like the solar tax that carbon polluters have been able to get the state legislature here to put in place there are many states many particularly in the south where the coal Lobby and the coal burning utility Lobby has a legacy network of connections to elected officials and we need to try to challenge that and again it comes back to solidarity and and using the political power that American citizens have and by the way voter registration is a big part of it of course Reverend Barbour said yesterday that if only 30 percent of the unregistered African Americans were registered to vote it would change control of the United States Senate and we saw in Alabama already of the one of the issues related to climate changes water scarcity and in places what we’re seeing is part of my work with Reverend Barbara and the new Poor People’s Campaign I’ve had the opportunity to go to Flint Michigan but I’ve also had the opportunity to go to Detroit and Detroit is getting ready to have 17,000 water shutoffs very soon primarily for families how do we work to ensure that people first of all understand the importance of how climate change and and water scarcity intersect and how do we move forward in terms of putting in place policies to address that well in June we’re gonna be focusing on the water impacts of the climate crisis a couple basic facts when the temperature goes up every user of water uses more worldwide and in this country about 80% of water use goes to agriculture about 20% to business and industry about 10% to people but but when it gets hotter the animals need more water the plants need more water the industrial facilities that use water for cooling including Power Generation need more water and we are devised by doctors to hydrate more and so this increases water consumption and because of growing population and other factors we have been depleting the underground water aquifers way faster than they naturally regenerate and the old saying out of sight out of mind applies to the underwater aquifers so we have a real problem in many parts of the world and in many parts of the US I’m not gonna use these statistics because I haven’t verified them but they give a very high percentage of Americans that are already dealing with water scarcity I showed Cape Town South Africa there’s a long list of cities that are following Cape Town toward the possibility of running out of water so we really have to change our our policies I mentioned the bottled water and by the way we need to stop using these dang plastic bottles and plastic containers so to the idea I mean you used to be in so many communities you can trust the municipal water supply we need to make that true every everywhere so that people don’t feel like they have to go to the store and buy bottled water I guess my other question is through the climate speakers network which is also part of climate reality project if someone it was interested in in possibly having that type of training or having access even to the climate leaders training what would they do what I’m gonna give you a chance to do a shout out contact me go to client climate reality dot org contact Catherine our next training is in Germany as I said we had one last month in Mexico City we have these all over the world we have branches in 96 countries and our purpose is to train up an ever-growing cadre of grassroots activists who are empowered by knowledge and make the connections to environmental justice and Los Angeles is gonna be a big training we’re gonna train 3,000 people there and you can just contact us at climate reality dot org or contact me or Catherine either one we would love to have more applicants yeah and I think that’s very important one there was an article that read recently in the LA Times that talked about something they call climate gentrification and in talking about climate gentrification they part of the article talked about the fires in California and how the fires a lot of people moved to those areas because they were desired where they want to get away from the city and now they’re gonna have to move to areas that are less prone to the fires and the areas the area that they noted in the article that was less prone to fires was Compton so and I know there are some people from Compton here Compton High School but… AL: I see some more Vanilla Ice’s coming… CATHERINE: But that that was one of the things they said and then the the other area that they that the site it was in Miami and that in Miami the gentrification was going to happen because of sea level rise and people having to move away from the ocean and and the area in Miami that was cited as favorable it’s now called Little Haiti so and so the new term is climate gentrification how how do you have you seen the future is we deal with climate change and the populations shift that EJ communities are just pretty much left out and have nowhere to go and end up like people did in the New Orleans yeah the Ninth Ward absolutely and in in Miami the example you used the real estate industry has been a little slow to come to grips with the problem of sea-level rise now when they have high tides and particularly the the king tides the highest high tides of the year lots of streets are flooded and people are really beginning to look at selling their property and moving elsewhere and as you say little Haiti has a higher elevation and so gentrification begins to take place we have to have urban policies that take these things into account I’ll give you another example just yesterday the Houston City Council voted to allow the massive construction of new homes in the floodplain that was just flooded by hurricane Harvey why well the the developer community in most cities and states is one of the most powerful political forces and I understand that but what about the public interests we have somehow fallen prey in this country to this illusion that anything that has to do with people working together collectively through the instruments of self-government is somehow bad and they’re trying to take away our right as citizens of a free democratic country to say we need policies that promote the public good we can’t just give in to whatever untrammeled profit incentive is put forward and and you know it’s one of the reasons we got into this situation where the policy on cities is make sure that all the cars are happy we need to make sure all the people are happy and we need to have livable neighborhoods and we need to have you know some of the best design cities are now getting the the cars out of the center city and people can reclaim the sidewalks and and the stores do more business and the air is cleaner and where you have an obvious threat like flooding you know in Houston the year before hurricane Harvey climate reality had a big training program there at Robert Ballard one of the originators of the environmental justice movement was there and played a prominent role Harvey was the fourth once in a thousand year downpour event they’ve had in the last six years I mean after a while you’d think it might be wise to stop building in these floodplains so but but again if you just leave it to the profit motive alone I’m all for the profit motive but it has to be balanced with the public interest and the public interest can only be exerted and expressed often in the form of laws and regulations that embody the public interests we you know our democracy was hacked before Vladimir Putin hacked it by big money and big lobbying and… [applause] In order to solve the climate crisis we’ve got to address the democracy crisis our democracy is not working the way it should now I for one am tired of it we’ve got to reclaim American democracy for the American people and we can do it but vote because after the election the presidential election I wanted to go and have some sense of hope and one of the things that I learned there first of all was about the the culture and the traditions in terms of indigenous knowledge and wisdom in terms of preserving the earth and protecting the earth and water because water is life and one of the things that I left standing rock with it’s living my life in such a way that I would have an impact on seven generations to come so I was just like for you two to speak on that in terms of how we can make sure and that’s part of the hope how we can make sure that my grandson who is – will have a livable world a very thoughtful question Catherine and I was just thinking as you were asking it how wonderful it is that this daughter of Lowndes County Alabama has Bunce has become such an eloquent and powerful leader for social justice and environmental justice but I I want to put my your question is so thoughtful I want to put my answer in context the climate crisis is in my opinion and the opinion of most scientists the most serious challenge humanity has ever faced we’re changing the relationship between our planet and our star we’re threatening to disrupt the conditions that have given rise to the flourishing of humanity for 10 millennia and the causes are really threefold I mentioned some of these our population is quadrupled in a hundred years and it’s level it’s it will soon level off it’s kind of a success story unfolding in slow motion but we have a bigger impact now the technologies we choose to use are a million times more powerful than anything my grandparents could have imagined but the third factor that makes this dangerous is our way of thinking and specifically our focus on short-term objectives quarterly reports overnight opinion polls overnight television ratings whereas my grandparents and I and I know yours used to think ahead more and they’d plant trees fully aware that they were not going to give their full benefit until a couple or three generations later and there are many other similar examples we have along with fixing democracy we’ve got to fix capitalism because we need sustainable capitalism I’m a capitalist I’m all in favor but I’m in favor of reforming capitalism to get away from this short-term thinking which is killing us I’ll give you one quick example from the business world there was a big study a few years ago of CEOs and and chief operating officers of major corporations in the country and one of the questions they asked was a hypothetical question they said here is an expenditure you can make that will build the strength of your company and make it more profitable for years and decades to come it meets all of your internal criteria it’s good in every way except for one if you make this expenditure you will slightly miss your quarterly earnings projection ninety days from now given those facts will you make this investment 80 percent said no 80 percent said no ladies and gentlemen that is functionally insane and not only insane it is hurting our country it’s hurting employees it’s hurting shareholders it’s hurting businesses we’ve got to get more toward this long-term thinking that that you picked up from the Standing Rock Sioux and that Native Americans and others have been teaching for a long time and it’s not pie in the sky is common sense we just got to get out of this almost trance state that fixes everybody on the short-term consequences and we’ve got to be able to lift our side to see the longer-term effects of what we’re doing and we’ve got to reform capitalism in order to make it profitable to do that. [applause] CATHERINE: This has been wonderful and I thank Bryan Stevenson who has been an outstanding leader in the social justice and now and also the environmental justice movement because it was Bryan that called and asked me to come and work for EJ I to continue to do the work that I was doing in Lowndes County Alabama and Mr. Gore thank you so much for being a part of this today thank you ladies and gentlemen thank you very much Thank you, Catherine, thank you so much. I really appreciate it, you’re great. Thank you!

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