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I just wrapped up three days at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa learning about climate change and practical solutions.
I was there with about 350 others from 19 countries, and we heard from a lot of really inspiring speakers talking about progress in wind energy, climate-smart agriculture and other areas. But the best part for me was getting to hear from Al Gore, who was there speaking on all three days.
Seeing his film An Inconvenient Truth when it came out had a profound effect on me and I still think it's one of the best environmental documentaries. But even if you've seen the film many times, there's something about being there in the room and hearing from Gore in person that fills you with hope and inspires you to act. As one attendee put it:
I'd say I'm pretty well informed about climate change and I know some of the science Gore covered. Even so, there were plenty of moments in the presentation that really surprised and stuck with me. Here are just four of them.
1. How Fragile Our "Pale Blue Dot" Truly Is
Near the start of his presentation, the former vice president shared the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe from more than 3.7 billion miles away. I've seen the picture many times before, but sitting with hundreds of others in a hushed room and thinking about our place in the universe, I felt I was really seeing it for the first time.
After showing this picture, Gore presents another that shows the tiny sliver of atmosphere hovering above our home. Essentially, this thin bubble is all that keeps our blue planet from the vastness of space.
And that outer layer is all we've got. "Maybe if polluters realized how little we had, they'd stop treating our atmosphere like an open sewer," Gore said. In the room you could've heard a pin drop.
2. He's a Pope Francis Fan
Pope Francis does things very differently, and the environmental community is taking notice -- big time. "I'm no Catholic, but with a Pope like this, I would consider converting," Gore joked.
The Pope won Gore over with strong remarks that humanity needs to protect the creation that we're all part of. Then he followed up by convening a summit of Catholic leaders, leading scientists, and UN representatives to discuss how protecting the environment can also help us end poverty. He's already publicly acknowledged that humans are causing climate change and now he's working on an encyclical statement on what the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide should do about it. For years, we've seen solving climate change as a scientific challenge. Thanks in part to Pope Francis, we're starting to see it as a moral one too.
3. Politicians Can Change Their Minds
I try to live in a way that sets a model for my children, and one of the most important things I can do is show them the value of speaking up. When something really matters like climate change, just complaining to yourself isn't going to solve the problem. I've always believed that if working parents speak up, we can make a difference.
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