Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Israel: Going Green with Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore added his name to the list of political luminaries visiting Israel in recent months. Gore joined the Board of Governors celebrations at Tel Aviv University this week to accept the $1 million Dan David Prize for environmental activism.

Al Gore

Photo sourced from the Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons License)

Gore was chosen for the prize for his efforts as a “a tireless advocate for the environment throughout his career,” including:

Eloquently sound[ing] the alarm on the importance of the threat to the global ecosystem posed by the world's current and increasing reliance on carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels as its primary energy source…

The 2008 Dan David Prize honors Al Gore in the field of Social Responsibility with Particular Emphasis on the Environment for his multiple contributions in raising the conscience of the world to the challenge posed to the continuing sustainable function of the global environment and life support system.

Among the David Prize's other 2008 recipients were:

Stephanie of Israelity, who attended the award celebration, reports on the attendees and other prize recipients:

[Israeli President] Shimon [Peres] spoke eloquently, as is his habit.

Al [Gore] looked good. He’s lost some weight. He announced that the ceremony coincided with his & Tipper’s 38th wedding anniversary. He’s donating his $1 mill to climate research.

Amos Oz didn’t wear a tie – he’s a kibbutznik, after all.

Tom Stoppard described the arts as a spiritual form come to life. He said the arts are a raison d’etre. (YEAH!)

[Israeli Ambassador to the US] Itamar Rabinovitch thanked Al Gore for progress in peace negotations made during the Clinton administration.

During the ceremony the AP [Associated Press] reporter seated beside me remarked “This is like the Oscars!”

Well sorta. Yeah. Okay.

While in Israel to accept the David Prize, Gore also headlined Tel Aviv University's Renewable Energy and Beyond Conference as a keynote speaker, where he called on Israel to be a leader in promoting renewable energy:

“The people of Israel stand in my moral imagination as guardians of the proposition that we as human beings are answerable to moral duties, that there are ethical laws that should guide our decisions and choices. At this moment in history, when, for the first time, all the people of this earth have to make a clear, seemingly difficult but simple moral judgment about our future, the people of Israel can lead the way to renewable energy.”

Jonathan Shapira of Cleantech Investing in Israel remarks on the changes that will come from the conference:

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's Minister of National Infrastructures, announced his intention to commit Israel to construct an additional solar power station in the Negev every year for the next 20 years, and to construct a 300MW wind power station by 2011. Ben-Eliezer also revealed that in the coming weeks he will introduce a government resolution designating all of the Negev Desert and southern Israel as a national preference zone for renewable energy.

Tali Aben of Israel VC on Sand Hill Road was also in attendance when Gore gave his now famous Oscar-winning presentation. She reflects on how our energy consumption habits could effect the environment:

Al Gore’s presentation has so much data, delivering a truly powerful message. As in the TED presentation [see videos], he emphasized the importance of behavior change (get rid of the SUV, install energy efficient lighting, etc.), but more significantly, changing regulation.

What would happen if SUV’s were taxed 3X of what they are today, while hybrids tax reduced to 10% (like the proposed tax for Project Better Place’s battery-powered cars)? What would happen if individuals and corporations had a carbon tax? What would happen if installation of PV on my rooftop would be subsidized, with an attractive feed-in tariff already in place? You don’t have to be a genius to figure it out.

Several Knesset [parliament] members were in attendance. I wonder if they got the message…

Ms. Aben's question about the influence of celebrity speakers, like Mr. Gore, on big time politicos and issues of national consciousness, as the environment has become, is one that Jesse Fox contemplates as well.

Fox of Green Prophet challenges his own notions on the environmental movement and how Israeli perceptions of environmental issues have taken a more prominent role in recent years:

Does Al Gore really need more money or recognition, especially when there are so many committed, homegrown environmentalists in Israel, many of whom are so under-appreciated? Wasn’t his movie just a glorified Power Point, containing no significant new insights? And even if Gore is a relentless activist today, where was his sense of commitment when he was working from the White House?

However, after pondering it over a little, it became clear to me just what an enormous impact Al Gore has had on environmental awareness in Israel…

What brought about this radical change in perception? Was it the dedicated work of the green movement in Israel, which (though often underfunded and overstressed) has invested so much in raising awareness over the past decade? Was it the familiar effect of American cultural trends seeping into Israeli culture, with the usual delayed timing? Or perhaps Israelis had noticed the strange weather patterns over the past few years, with the winter cold setting in well after Hanukkah and the rains seeming to fall less than they used to?

The answer is probably all of the above. However, for many people, the tipping point apparently came after watching “An Inconvenient Truth.” The film was screened extensively in Israel, exposing audiences in various sectors of the population to the message that climate change is real and happening now. For this alone, Al Gore deserves the award.

The lesson for the Israeli green movement is clear – inviting big-name celebrities like Al Gore to Israel to speak about the environment is an incredibly effective strategy for raising environmental awareness in Israel.

With recent Israel visits by former US President Jimmy Carter, President George Bush, and presidential candidate Senator John McCain, Mr. Fox's question about the impact of international figureheads on national thought is an important one. Would they be here in the Middle East taking a stand if they didn't think their presence would have an impact?

If key global figures can significantly influence our thinking, who would you like to hear speak? Whose ideas are most important to your nation and its consciousness? What are the most important issues affecting your culture, country, and region today?

About Al Gore–

Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007 in partnership with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His book-made-movie “An Inconvenient Truth” was the 2007 Academy Award winner for best documentary. As well as serving as a US Representative, Senator, and Vice President from 1977– 2001 (including an unfulfilled bid for President), Gore is also the author of Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. You can learn more about Al Gore and how to promote climate change on his website.

8 comments

  • This is a wonderful post Maya, thank you for keeping us informed, excellent coverage.
    Best,
    Juliana.

  • Thanks very much, Juliana. Glad you enjoyed.

    Find your blog very interesting. It’s hard to find good information about (green) technologies in emerging markets. Keep up the good work.

    Maya

  • Not that maintaining the Earth isn’t a noble cause but…. AL GORE???

    How is this guy still attracting an audience? If he were a scientist his career would be over for the absurd claims and inferences he made in the “Inconvenient (almost, sort of, could be, well not really) Truth”…

    We aren’t talking about details here but of huge errors in scientific method and means of drawing conclusions. He takes correlations and draws from them scientific conclusions – that is something you learn NOT TO EVER EVER EVER do in the FIRST WEEK of science class (I recall it from HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE). For example – if you see Carbon Dioxide rising and you see temparture rising and their rate of rise is similar it is UNSCIENTIFIC TO SAY that the rise in CO2 lead to the rise of temperature. WHY? Because correlation does not a conclusion make! It could be that the temperature lead to the rise in C02 (quite possible), it could that a 3rd factor lead to the rise of both, it could be that the rise in C02 affected the readings, it could be…. it could be… point is, anyone who has even a remote interest in science knows that you never equate correlation and conclusion.

    Nobody is saying this doesn’t require attention, it’s our planet for G*d sake but an objective, unemotional, scientific look is important, especially considering the effects heavy environmental legistlation would have on the world economy.

    It is also ESSENTIAL that those in the forefront open themselves to criticism and debate. This is another HUGE RED FLAG against the Gore camp. Other than accepting awards he rarely (if ever) will publicly debate his views (this isn’t religion, it’s science! YOU MUST OPEN YOURSELF TO PEER REVIEW, that is how science advances)

    The facts on global warming are anything but clear, on the contrary:
    Temperatures have been rising for at least 18,000 years – the industrial revolution did NOT start that long ago…

    For all the doomsday predictions, it is rarely stated that
    ONLY 0.2% to 0.3% of the greenhouse effect is due to emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from human sources. That’s less than one half of one percent.

    …the Earth was evidently coming out of a relatively cold period in the 1800s so that warming in the past century may be part of this natural recovery.”
    Dr. John R. Christy
    (leading climate and atmospheric science expert- U. of Alabama in Huntsville

    Point is: Al Gore needs to retire, or at very least, get back to good science.

  • I applaud Wingless! The environmentalists have gotten to the point where Federal Agencies and politicians are pushing agendas which are stripping us of our freedoms. This has been going on for a long time ! Now they are a group gaining POWER to change our laws. Before we know it they will be cutting off the electricity 8 hours a day to save us from ourselves! Restricting us from drilling for oil to protect our “Pristine shores” which can only be enjoyed by the rich and famous. Beaches which were a free natural enjoyment for all , taken over by Condos for the wealthy to enjoy.

    Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic is right on key with his theme of how a small powerful group will create and has been creating legislation to strip us of rights in the name of ” Global Warming” and “greenhouse effect”.

    Even Climatologists are being “paid” to swing the “GREEN” message further pushing an agenda for Legislation to keep the little people down while the powerful “rule over” our choices and freedoms to better ourselves. Remember the lumberjacks, steelworkers, factories the USA once had. Even in Europe “no smoking” is becoming a law. It’s an “WORLD ORDER POWER PLAY”. Sounds strange, I know. I can hardly take the sound of it without hearing the theme of “The Twilight Zone”.

  • Dear Wingless,

    I’m not sure I’m convinced by your argument that Al Gore is boring and therefore not worth listening to. If you read An Inconvenient Truth, you’d find that “gripping” or “skillful” were probably more appropriate adjectives.

    As to the argument that he shirks controversy on environmental issues– surely I don’t see evidence of that. Both sides of the climate debate seem to have argued their points quite fully with neither being silenced in any way that would hinder discussion in a significant way.

    You really lost me on this point: “Nobody is saying this doesn’t require attention, it’s our planet for G*d sake but an objective, unemotional, scientific look is important, especially considering the effects heavy environmental legistlation would have on the world economy.”

    You want objectivity and a distancing of emotion on issues of key critical concern for our own lives and wellbeing and that of all future generations for every being on planet earth? I can’t see anything more important to get excited about. I for one am extremely grateful that the “issue” of climate change has finally made it from the textbooks to our newspaper pages and internet screens.

    I’ll stop here as I don’t mean to berate you, but we clearly see things differently.

    Thanks for your comment. I welcome your rebuttal. :)

    Maya

  • Dear Debra,

    Sources, please, if you want to make such vigorous points. I’m interested in discussing this with you further, but with such strong assertions, I’d like to be looking at the same material when we write.

    Maya

  • Are my previous 2 posts being censored??? I still do not see them here even though I replied nearly 24 hours ago… What happened?

    Please email me.
    Extremely Concerned,

    Wingless

  • Hi Wingless,

    I think there is a problem with the comments boxes as the site was undergoing maintenance– certainly censorship is against absolutely everything Global Voices Online believes in.

    Let me check with the site administrators and we’ll try to retrieve your comments. (I’m having trouble with the comment boxes as well.)

    Apologies and stay tuned.

    Maya

Cancel this reply

Join the conversation -> Debra Kurin

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.