There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Transitarian Gore

I remember the first time I saw a news report years ago about a celebrity who arrived at some gala function in a Toyota Prius, making a point about the need to do what we can to reduce our personal environmental impact. Soon lots of celebrities were driving Priuses, and Toyota couldn't keep up with demand.

Saturday I was encouraged to see the small story in The Bee's World Digest: Gore uses Oslo mass transit.

OSLO, Norway -- Former Vice President Al Gore skipped the traditional airport motorcade and took public transportation when he arrived Friday in Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize he shared for his campaign against global warming.

Gore will accept the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize he shared with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital on Monday.

Longer versions of the Associated Press story included this:
Before his arrival with his wife, Tipper, Gore told his hosts that he would not need the traditional motorcade from the airport, preferring to take the high-speed and environmentally friendly airport train, and then walking to his downtown Oslo hotel.

"I use public transport when I can. It isn't always possible," Gore told The Associated Press while walking to his hotel. He said the train was much faster than a limousine, but that it was also a symbol of efforts to reduce pollution in hopes of slowing climate change.

"It is a gesture. It is also one of the changes we are all going to have to be doing anyway," Gore said about the need to change travel habits.

I'm not completely sold on Al Gore's new role as environmental guru. He is certainly profiting handsomely from it. (See this Dec. 9 TimesOnline article: A convenient £50m for green Gore.) But if Gore can convince more people that riding transit is a socially responsible, environmentally sensitive thing to do, then more power to him.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been riding Gore's coattails, trying to get a little of that popularity that attaches to all things green today. Now that Gore is riding transit, one can only hope we'll see a similar transformation of "The Evil Transitator."


wburg said...

It seems like some folks assume that anyone who is an environmentalist is also anti-capitalist, anti-profits, anti-wealth, and if they don't live in a cave and subsist on roots and berries they are some sort of hypocrite.

What a lot of folks don't realize, especially the old money (who made their money off of things that pollute), is that the market doesn't play favorites for anyone, and in the end it follows its own rules. Typically, the folks with new ideas, who are able to turn their ideas into action, market their ideas to a sufficiently wide audience, and overcome the resistance of old ideas end up making big, big piles of money.

These days, environmentally conscious ideas are the fresh ones, they are getting enough publicity to penetrate the market, and the public are getting interested despite the vested interest of the old ideas to keep things exactly the same forever.

One of the strategies of old power is the old "greenwashing" trick, used during the last couple of environmental-activism trends. Arnold uses a token amount of environmental lip service to distract, but doesn't follow through on his words with action. That's the difference: even if Gore isn't an ascetic monk, his public actions back up his words.

John said...

Schwarzenegger is all for "green" until it starts impinging on making that other green stuff, the paper with the dead presidents.