Former vice president Al Gore brought an important message about climate change to an audience at Aragon High School on Dec. 7. Apart from having served as vice president under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001, Gore ran for U.S. President in 2000 but lost to George W. Bush. Gore now devotes most of his time to environmental efforts. He was interviewed at Aragon by Angie Coiro, a talk radio host native to the Bay Area.
This event followed the release of Gore’s second book and documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Gore’s first documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was met with critical acclaim and won 2006 Academy Award for the Best Documentary Feature. The event at Aragon was sold out, and numerous Burlingame High School students and staff were in attendance.
One of the Burlingame teachers in attendance was biology and environmental science teacher Heather Johnson. In her opinion, many statistics about the environment give people a grim, hopeless view on the future. Gore had a more optimistic approach.
“I went in knowing a fair amount about climate change, but it was really refreshing to hear a positive perspective,” Johnson said. “Climate change is the biggest impact that we as a species are having on the Earth right now, and it’s also something that we can directly have a positive impact on in regards to decreasing the impact of climate change. It’s the biggest threat to our species.”
English teacher Bethany Lukach also attended the event. Lukach learned about the event through its sponsor, Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park. She agreed that Gore’s inspiring outlook was a refreshing change from other sources.
“The premise of his talk was to speak about his updated set of recommendations and encouragement for volunteers who want to be engaged in this work,” Lukach said. “He talked a lot about how with an issue as complicated as global climate change, there are factors converging from economic issues to political issues to civil engagement and getting the people with the passion to make a difference into the right place to make an impact.”
Lukach and Johnson agreed that the event was very effective, noting how remarkable it was that the school district was able to get such a prestigious figure to speak. Johnson said that Gore’s message is especially important in the Bay Area, where many people believe they will not be affected by or are not responsible for climate change policy because of the liberal environment. However, the problem is global.
“All of us have a basic obligation to take care of the environment because if we don’t, nothing we’ve done so far will matter,” said sophomore Jeffery Chen, the president of Burlingame’s Environmental Club.
People who went to see Gore speak were reminded of the changes Burlingame could make to be more environmentally friendly. Acknowledging the strides already made, Lukach said that the biggest issue Burlingame should address is the way we process waste. Spencer Wang, a senior in Johnson’s AP Environmental Science class who also saw Gore speak, agreed.
“A good way to further address these issues would be to have some sort of composting system that reduces the amount of trash and other materials,” Wang said.
Overall, Gore encouraged his audience to become active in their local government to help the environment. He has devoted decades to his work for the planet and is now teaching others how to do the same.
“I was reminded that every person can make a difference at the individual level, the school level, the city level, or the state level,” Lukach said. “You don’t have to be in Washington, DC to be a politically active citizen.”