Friday, October 12, 2007

The Nobel Peace Prize and Al Gore

I found out that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize at work this morning, so I couldn't blog about it then. Before I started my proofreading day, though, I did read Josh Marshall's commentary on the win, and it's the perfect answer to all the dark mutterings on the right about "political agendas" -- such as this one from Outside the Beltway:

This continues the trend of the Peace Prize being awarded, not for achievements in spreading peace, but to highlight the Committee’s political agenda.
Climate change has moved high on the international agenda this year. The U.N. climate panel has been releasing reports, talks on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate are set to resume and on Europe’s northern fringe, where the awards committee works, there is growing concern about the melting Arctic.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming, “may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.”

Anticipating the rather obvious question:
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, also called climate change more than an environmental issue. “It is a question of war and peace,” said Egeland, now director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo. “We’re already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa.” He said nomads and herders are in conflict with farmers because the changing climate has brought drought and a shortage of fertile lands.

This strikes me as, shall we say, a stretch.

It won't seem as much of a stretch in, say, 50 years, because by then the connection between global warming and wars caused by changing climate conditions will be obvious to most people. Right now, it still takes a long view to envision the consequences of the changes that are occurring now. It's still relatively unusual to find someone who can see the changes that have already occurred, and their implications for the future. Most people cannot grasp or perceive changes that happen very, very slowly, over extremely long periods of time. You have to be something of a visionary to be able to do that. Al Gore has that capacity. Indeed, he made the point explicitly in "An Inconvenient Truth" that terrorism is not the only threat to global survival, and he wished more people could be brought to understand that. Clearly, they don't. But he does. And that's why he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and that's why he so richly deserved to win it.

And now back to Josh:
First, before any other yapping and commentary, a big congratulations to Al Gore.

There are several layers of irony and poetic justice wrapped into this honor. The first is that the greatest step for world peace would simply have been for Gore not to have had the presidency stolen from him in November 2000. By every just measure, Gore won the presidency in 2000 only to have George W. Bush steal it from him with the critical assistance of the US Supreme Court. It's worth taking a few moments today to consider where the country and world would be without that original sin of this corrupt presidency.

You can't get more perfect than that.

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