The man in the pulpit had the posture of a preacher who had not tired of tribulation.
“Half of all the living species on this planet will disappear on our watch when we’re assigned responsibility,” the man said, voice starting to thunder. “How do we take on board the meaning of that?”
The church was hot. The choir members fanned themselves with their programs, which read “A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis.” The man in the pulpit was listed as “Former Vice President,” but the title felt wrong. There in Ebenezer Baptist Church, in his eighth decade of life, Al Gore was something other, something more, especially as he summoned the voice of a future generation to chastise his own.
“You could describe with your scientific instruments — all the digital devices and computers and artificial intelligence and consumer goods — but you couldn’t understand the time you were living in?” Gore growled, face flushed with rage, fist pounding the pulpit. “You could not discern the CENTRAL FACT OF YOUR LIFE? Which is that it was YOUR responsibility during YOUR lifetime to prevent the worst TRAGEDY in all of human history?”
A young woman from Raleigh, N.C., squeezed in the eighth row of pews, stopped taking notes to applaud. Nina Simone Barrett was 6 when Gore ran for president. She vaguely recalls the disappointment of her grandfather, who grew up in segregated Alabama, as he watched a fellow Southerner, a good man, win a plurality of votes but lose the office. Now, a whole generation later, Barrett had arrived in Atlanta for Gore’s climate leadership training, a three-day barrage of hope and fright and boredom and motivation. This was the 40th time Gore had captained a training but the first in which he had included an interfaith service, where spiritual leaders would cast climate change as a matter of morals and justice. [Continue reading…]