Climate change activists attending former United States Vice President Al Gore’s lecture at Dominican University last week may have been less than enthused about the topics of discussion, as the Nashville native focused largely on the subject of his latest book – the drivers of global change.
Yet, the success of Gore’s speech can be best characterized not by the abundance of roaring laughter and vigorous applause, but by the murmured conversations of Marin residents as they filed out the door, asking, “Can you imagine if he were President?”
Gore stopped by Dominican’s Angelico Hall Wednesday, Feb. 13, as a part of a two-day, three-event flyover of the San Francisco Bay Area. He spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California at the Santa Clara Marriott and the Herbst Theater in San Francisco the day before.
Wednesday night’s lecture, which was part of Dominican’s 2013 Institute for Leadership Studies Spring Lecture Series, was met with a packed house, as attendees arrived early to reserve seats and passed the time thumbing through the former VP’s newest release, “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.”
This was the third time Gore has visited Dominican in the past six years, each time, not-so-coincidentally, in conjunction with the release of one of his books.
As Gore took the stage, he was greeted with a warm welcome from residents of a county well-known for its progressive stance on the environment.
“I think of Marin County as the epicenter of the rebellion,” Gore said to kick off his lecture, noting the apt Star Wars reference.
Gore began by recalling the events that prompted his interest in the book’s thesis more than eight years ago when he was questioned about the global drivers of change; a question to which he had no answer.
In terms of creativity, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s lecture was evidently lacking.
Gore’s talking points were essentially the various chapters in his book, and he moved from one to the next as if he were scrolling down the text’s table of contents.
“Democracy has been hacked,” he said, noting the behavioral change in how political figures interact with their constituents.
Gore explained how political figures are now forced to “beg rich people for money” just to have a shot at being elected because of the excessive amount of money now being spent on political campaigns.
Gore offered a bit of insight and a handful of anecdotes to drive his points home; however, the concepts of the global drivers were far from groundbreaking.
He described the process of reverse entropy as a metaphor for the Internet, encompassing the decline of newspapers and the rise of social media.
“A system breaks down, reconfigures and then returns at a more sophisticated level,” Gore said. “What emerges is a brand new pattern, distinct and different.”
Each of the six global drivers of change – digital revolution, economic globalization, decreasing natural resources, shifting balance of power, scientific advancements and, of course, climate change – were discussed briefly, as to spark just enough interest in the topics without undermining book sales.
Gore even poked fun at himself about climate change advocacy.
“You’d be surprised if one of the six [global driver of change] wasn’t about the climate crisis,” he said.
After navigating his way through the lecture, Gore then fielded pre-arranged questions from the audience.
When asked about the political commercials from the 2012 Presidential Election, Gore expressed his frustration, noting that media ads have “dumbed down” the population.
“They [political groups] look for shortcuts, templates and heuristics that don’t require people to think much,” he said before tying his answer back to a theme from his book.
“If the printing press was act one, and T.V. and radio are act two, then act three is the Internet.”
As the night came to a close and the audience filed out of Angelico Hall, quietly playing the ‘what-if’ game, there was no doubt that Gore has successfully gotten through to at least a portion of those in attendance, as lines formed to purchase the very book that had been synopsized all night.
Contact Gregory Andersen at email@example.com.