Why Al Gore Thinks LA Is The Place To Train The Next Generation Of Environmental Activists

Al Gore speaks at the 2018 NOAH conference on June 6, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Former Vice President Al Gore will be in Los Angeles starting Tuesday to lead a summit, with the mission to train the next generation of environmental activists.

His organization, The Climate Reality Project, will bring together scientists, filmmakers and other environmentally-focused researchers to teach more than 2,200 people how to push for green policies on the local and federal levels. It comes as California releases its fourth Climate Change Assessment, which predicts more intense wildfires, snowpack water supply decreasing by a third and a rise in heat-related deaths — among other startling projections.

A Martinez, host of KPCC's Take Two, talked with Mr. Gore ahead of this week's events. (This interview has been edited for clarity.)

A Martinez: In the span of a few months, California had its No. 1 and No. 2 biggest fires in its recorded history. Do events like this in California make you feel vindicated or validated for everything you've talked about for the last decade or so?

Al Gore: The fact that the scientists have been proven correct really has no meaning other than that we should listen more carefully to what they're telling us now. I don't think any of the scientists take any pleasure of any kind in their ability to say, "I told you so." They're still deeply concerned that we fix our democracy to the point where we can start making the changes necessary to prevent even worse damage and loss in the future.

AM: Why bring this event to Los Angeles, and why has California become a major battleground in this environmental fight?

AG: I think it's because Californians treasure the environment and have a tradition of making changes that the rest of the nation belatedly sign on to. I give a lot of credit to Gov. Jerry Brown, who really understands this thoroughly and has been courageous in proposing policies to help lead the nation. And a lot of mayors and county leaders — Eric Garcetti right here in Los Angeles is a great example of a mayor who's been providing great leadership to solve the climate crisis.

AM: A study by Pomona College professor Adam Pearson found that white people are overrepresented in green STEM fields. How do you make sure this next generation of climate activists is diverse, just like Los Angeles?

AG: That's a challenge in many parts of our national life, and the Climate Reality Project has been extremely active in reaching out to diverse communities of color and every demographic of our country. We will have a very diverse group of more than 2,200 new activists here in Los Angeles starting tomorrow.

AM: Last week, you told the Associated Press that President Trump "has had less of an impact so far than I feared that he would." What did you mean by that?

AG: [His administration has] been a very negative force because Donald Trump has claimed that the scientists are all involved in some big conspiracy of some kind or another. But I don't want to give the impression that he hasn't done damage. He has. But it has not been as severe as many feared it would be. He's made some mistakes in some of his proposals, and the courts have overturned some of what he's tried to do.

Gov. Jerry Brown and others here in California have provided leadership, too, so the worst fears for what damage Trump might do have been mitigated by the leadership of others who have stepped up.


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