Dear EarthTalk: Whatever happened to Al Gore? He was all over the media around the time of An Inconvenient Truth but lately I haven’t heard anything about him.
—Jim Mercer, St. Paul, MN
Al Gore, one of the first recognizable faces of the environmental movement, sent ripples throughout the political world when he released his enormously successful book, An Inconvenient Truth, back in 2006. His environmental leadership dates back much further, however: He was traveling the country warning about the impending climate crisis in the early 1990s, and as Vice-President under Bill Clinton, Gore was a key proponent of U.S. and international participation in the Kyoto Protocol, an ultimately unsuccessful effort to align international efforts on greenhouse gas emissions reductions back in 1997.
Constant Climate Campaigner
After losing his bid for the Presidency on a technicality in 2000, Gore left politics and devoted himself to raising awareness about climate change through speeches, activism and the publication of An Inconvenient Truth—as well as production of the follow-up documentary film of the same name, which took home an Oscar for Best Documentary.
With the publication of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore launched two non-profits committed to making climate change a political priority in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which he consolidated into the Climate Reality Project in 2011. Gore still devotes about half his time to climate campaigning, recently addressing negotiators at the COP21 climate talks in Paris about how to enlist everyday people as “global citizens” in efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
Making Money the New-Fashioned Way
Gore has also devoted lots of his time since 2000 on another form of green: making money. While it’s well known that his investments since he lost the White House to George W. Bush have turned Gore into a rich man with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, less is known about the methods employed to make this money. Generation Investment Management (GIM), the firm he founded in 2004 with ex-Goldman Sachs executive, David Blood, practices an entirely new form of capitalism—a model they hope the entire world economy will one day share. Instead of religiously following the highest short-term revenue strategy, GIM’s “sustainable investment” approach takes into account environmental, social and economic damage. Though not a new idea, here is the kicker: They are enormously profitable, with a 10-year average of 12.1 percent yearly increase, ranking them second of over 200 firms analyzed by the consulting firm Mercer.
While the current capitalist system focuses on short-term gains based on market demand, the sustainable-capitalist model also adds effects on environment and society. For example, Coca-Cola is enormously successful under the traditional system. However, Generation sees it as unsustainable, as its history of environmental conflict and its links to obesity will eventually result in health concerns, leading to a crash like the tobacco industry. Similarly, Generation views petroleum, while one of the largest industries today, as a bad bet over the long haul for similar reasons: The more oil that’s burned, the bigger the reaction will be against it. The new approach that allows Generation to actually profit from this idealistic mentality is their ability to see ethical investments as an advantage, rather than an inherent negative.
This revolutionary model is one of the newest trends in capitalism, and just might be its savior. Consuming at an unsustainable rate cannot continue for much longer, so adapting to this new system could be one of the most important legacies of Al Gore.