At the beginning of this semester, the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) had an opportunity to learn about and discuss crisis deeply, as described in our previous post by Felix Garmendia. Our class then migrated to an insightful topic: Global Warming. For our better understanding, our instructor, Karen Greenstone, presented us with two sources of information: the book Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard and the documentary An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. This post begins with an overview of Hot and then focuses on An inconvenient Truth and the real crisis we are facing with our eyes opened or closed:
Global Warming and Its Consequences
Introducing Hot by Mark Hertsgaard
Mark Hertsgaard, an environmental journalist, has traveled the world and found clear evidence that climate change caused by man-made global warming is already being felt on earth. Hertsgaard shows us the causes and consequences of global warming—and most important—how we can face this issue.
Hertsgaard was inspired to write this book by his beloved daughter, Chiara. After having a child, Hertsgaard felt in his own skin how important it is to keep the world in order for the next generation and to fight for this cause. He decided to spread the "inconvenient truth" about global warming to make people aware and to try to give his daughter, Chiara, a good place to live.
About the Idealist of An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore enrolled in Harvard University in 1965, initially planning to major in English and be a writer, but later he decided to major in government. In his senior year, Gore took a class with an oceanographer and global warming theorist, Roger Revelle, who aroused Gore's Interest in environmental issues, principally global warming. As life continued, Gore became a successful politician, who served as the 45th Vice-President of the United States (1993-2000), under President Bill Clinton. Gore ran for President in 2000. When he lost the presidential election, he found a new calling in environmental issues, specially global warming. The failure turned into a new path that Al Gore is walking successfully today.
My First Impressions
As An Inconvenient Truth begins, we see a river slightly flowing in the wilderness. I believe that Al Gore wants to show us how precious our planet earth is and how painful to see our natural habitat depreciate gradually. A small dot hanging in the universe, rotating and traveling around the sun, this little dot holds close to 7 billion human beings—all of them with stories, feelings, urges and living souls—who deserve having a good place to enjoy their stay on planet earth. Al Gore wants to spread the "Inconvenient truth" about global warming to raise our awareness of the heat wave coming toward us.
Al Gore begins with an easily digestible explanation of how greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, cause global warming. Most of us know the scientific explanation: as sunlight hits the earth, heat is reflected back into space, while some is trapped within earth’s atmosphere by carbon dioxide. This is a natural process that keeps the earth comfortably warm. However, since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has caused a dramatic increase in the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. More gases mean more heat: the excessive greenhouse gases trap heat that was supposed to go away.
A disinformation campaign happens when the truth about a situation or a product is deliberately hidden, mostly because of economic interests. Al Gore cites a study of how global warming is treated in over 900 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles: 100% of the scientist authors recognize the reality of global warming. In contrast, only about half of newspaper articles on global warming clearly recognize its reality; the other half claim to be unsure whether global warming is actually happening or not. This is because corporations with an economic interest in coal, gas, and oil prefer to present global warming to the public as a theory rather than a certainty.
Al Gore knows from personal experience how easy it is to dismiss scientific warnings and follow the call of economic interest—and how devastating to face the consequences. The Gore family grew tobacco for many years. When the information that tobacco was a big health destroyer was discovered and spread, large tobacco companies promoted a disinformation campaign, saying that the health dangers of tobacco weren’t confirmed but were just a theory. Gore’s father continued to grow tobacco, even as more and more facts came out about its health dangers. But one incident changed everything—Gore’s older sister, Nancy, a life-long smoker, died of lung cancer. Heartbroken, Gore’s father stopped growing tobacco.
Mitigation and Adaptation
Both Al Gore and Mark Hertsgaard present two important facets of dealing with global warming and climate change.
Adaptation measures reduce our vulnerability to climate change. For example, the Netherlands is considering adapting to higher temperature by painting their rooftops white. White rooftops will reflect heat rather than absorb heat, thus helping to keep the building cool as temperatures rise.
Mitigation measures address the root of the problem. For example, creating green technology that doesn't emit greenhouses gases will help to stop the global warming process.
An inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard are good sources to understand global warming and climate change—from how these processes work, to their impacts, to solutions for the problem. I strongly recommend Gore’s documentary and Hertsgaard’s book to anyone.
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A huge thank you to Rodolfo Marques of Brazil for this fine post on the work of our Advanced Reading class with global warming and climate change, and particularly our viewing of An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. Rodolfo is a first-year student at Loyola University New Orleans and part of our LIEP Pilot Program. He is preparing for a full schedule of academic course-work at Loyola by taking two credit-bearing LIEP courses this first semester. Rodolfo plans to major in Music Industry Studies in Loyola's College of Music and Fine Arts. Thank you, Rodolfo!