In his latest book, “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change,” or how changing climate, corrupt lawmakers and unscrupulous multinational corporate interests are transforming the world, mostly for the worse, Al Gore insists he has no plans to run for office again.
“I am a recovering politician and the chances of a relapse have been diminishing long enough to increase my confidence that I will not succumb to the temptation again,” the former vice president, US senator, congressman and Nobel Peace Prize winner writes in the introduction.
Although the author of “The Assault on Reason,” Our Choice” and “Earth in the Balance” says he doesn’t want to sound like an alarmist, either, much as he was accused of being with “An Inconvenient Truth,” the Harvard-educated onetime investigative reporter nevertheless does just that. In “The Future,” Gore describes a world controlled by megalithic corporate interests, where Internet users are being spied upon by their own government and “stalked” by rapacious businesses ready to steal and then sell their most intimate information to the highest bidder. In this reality, much like the present, more and more jobs are being outsourced and “robosourced” while the distribution of wealth only grows further out of balance.
“I didn’t want to be a scaremonger. This book isn’t anything like that,” Gore tried to assure a crowd of more than 200 gathered Sunday afternoon at the Pasadena Convention Center. The little-noticed event, sponsored by Vroman’s Bookstore, was open only to those who bought a book and a ticket for $40. The press was not invited and no cameras or audio recorders were allowed. All questions were written down in advance, with a moderator weeding through each index card at the end of Gore’s 30-minute presentation, skipping anything to do with recent controversies regarding Gore’s sale of his Current TV to Al-Jazeera, owned by the oil-producing country of Qatar.
But while Gore insists he is a recovering politician and not one just lying low for the moment — just as he maintains he’s not an ecological doomsayer — he used his fieriest rhetoric of the afternoon on his former colleagues in Congress, mostly for not only selling out their constituents, but also conducting what Gore called “government by crisis.”
“As I was writing this book, I felt very strongly that our democracy has been hacked,” he said. “And you know what hacked means; it’s a computer term where the operating system of a computer is taken over and made to do things you don’t want it to do,” he explained.
“Well, our democracy is supposed to serve the public interest, but at the present time the role of big money in our politics is taking over the role of Congress, and it’s not working well,” he said.
“We seem to go from one crisis to the next,” Gore continued. “I have cliff fatigue. This government by crisis has gone way too far. One of the reasons for this is large contributions by wealthy individuals. They have their own agenda. They are going to do what is profitable, what is good for them … and get Congress to do what they want. That is not how Congress is supposed to operate.”
For the most part, Gore said he wrote the book as a way to encourage people to be agents of change, but also so they would be aware that “these forces of change are so powerful that they may sweep us along in a way that we may not like.”
As Gore writes, “Human civilization has reached a fork in the road we have long traveled. One of two paths must be chosen. Both lead us into the unknown. But one leads to the destruction of the climate balance on which we depend, the depletion of irreplaceable resources that sustain us, the degradation of uniquely human values, and the possibility that civilization as we know it would come to an end. The other leads to the future.”
One person attending the event was energized by what Gore had to say. “Stalker economy, democracy hacked by Big Money, the wisdom of community, the hope of the Internet to connect us in meaningful ways — those are the ideas I jotted down as he spoke today,” retired city of Pasadena spokeswoman Linda Centell wrote in an email shortly after the event. “I thought he was a first-rate speaker, genuine in his desire to share his message. I felt he encouraged us to think deeply about the issues affecting our future, on a global scale, and to be personal agents of change.”