Can You Call Me, Al? Call Me, Al
CW tries to track down the environmental VP.
Thursday, June 4, 1998
It began before I arrived at Coast Weekly, with letters and calls to the White House. We wanted to interview Vice President Al Gore, the environmental crusader, the main official ear at the National Ocean Conference, our would-be 43rd President of the United States.
Just 10 minutes by phone, we told Gore''s press shield Jody Sekol, that''s all we need. Hell, he could even call collect. Weeks passed and we pushed Sekol for a verdict, which finally came last week.
"We just don''t have the ability to do that right now," Sekol said, explaining that the vice president is just so busy.
Hoping to get some insight into Gore views on the oceans, I decided to peruse Big Al''s best-selling environmental call to arms, his 1992 book Earth in the Balance. I started with the index.
"Oceans: CO2 in, 54; neuston of, 108; and temperature distribution, 100-103." Six pages out of a 368-page book, this for the natural feature covering 70 percent of the earth''s surface.
He talked about what an important role oceans play in regulating our climate and how polluting our oceans is bad, but when he talks about threats to phytoplankton, the basic building block of healthy oceans, it is qualified with "Jacques Cousteau, the ocean explorer, claims."
What I found more interesting than what he said about oceans was his admission that, when he ran for president in 1988, he shelved his environmental activism to focus on issues identified by his pollsters, and how he later regretted his political cowardice.
"I have become very impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously. The voice of caution whispers persuasively in the ear of every politician, often with good reason. But when caution breeds timidity, a good politician listens to other voices. For me, the environmental crisis is the critical case in point," he wrote.
With Gore now apparently running for president for the first time since ''88, I was heartened by his stand, and eager to read his official statement on the ocean conference that arrived in the mail a few days later.
"Since the first settlers sailed to these shores, America''s destiny has been shaped by the oceans. Whether we live on the East Coast, the West Coast or somewhere between, the oceans feed us, fascinate us, shape our weather, and link us to faraway lands," he supposedly wrote.
Hmm, not exactly going "out on a limb," as he said he would, but I read on.
"In the 21st century, the world will look increasingly to the oceans for food, fuel, new medicines and other resources. The oceans'' bounty is vast but finite. Already we see troubling signs that marine resources are over-stressed. As we explore Earth''s last frontiers, and discover new economic opportunities, we must remember our obligation to future generations. We must be careful stewards and ensure ocean are protected for all time.
"The National Ocean Conference will bring together government, industry, scientists, environmentalists and the public to examine these opportunities and challenges. Through this gathering, we can begin to build consensus and chart a sustainable future for our oceans," concludes Gore''s statement.
Gore''s limb doesn''t seem to be in any danger of breaking. We''ll see whether he scoots out a little further after this "historic conference."