Caring for Wildlife: It’s Time to be Bold, Together

from Wildlife Promise

2 3/10/2007 // By Larry Schweiger

I am privileged to work with some of the most courageous and self-sacrificing leaders who are making a difference for wildlife and for our children’s future. Being a conservationist is not for the faint hearted. Early in my career, I was confronted at gun point by polluters who were trying to block state investigators from inspecting a polluting coal mine site and a toxic waste dump. One of my colleagues was thrown in a toxic waste pit and another had his car tires flattened and windows broken. In the nineties while working at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we had one of our buildings on Smith Island burned and several of us were personally threatened because we stood up for scientific management of blue crabs.

Conservation leaders are now coming under personal attacks from desperate opponents who have lost the argument in the face of conclusive science concerning global warming. For example, Rush Limbaugh recently criticized National Wildlife Federation for standing up for polar bears. About global warming, Limbaugh says, "you are lying to your audiences" and that comes from a man who pleaded "no contest" to lying to his doctors about his drug use.

Let me tell you about two great "flag bearers" in the urgent cause of climate protection — one is a Republican the other is a Democrat– because they are both are being wrongfully attacked for their leadership.

First, there is Richard Cizik who as a very conservative evangelical who works for the National Associate of Evangelicals. A couple of years ago, Rich looked at the science of climate change and discovered that there are more than a hundred million people who will soon be flooded out of their homes from rising tides and many millions more innocent people in Africa and elsewhere who are suffering from desertification and famine. Cizik had the audacity to urge fellow evangelicals to stand up to stop global warming. For that courage and integrity, Richard has been attacked by misguided and uninformed conservatives who have banned together to issue a mean-spirited press release urging the NAE to fire Cizik.

The second victim of dishonest and outrageous distortions is our former Vice President Al Gore. Along with his wife Tipper, Al has worked for more than thirty years to stop global warming before it wrecks our planet. Gore was instrumental in finalizing the Kyoto treaty and he has given his slideshow, which was basis for the book and film, to over a thousand audiences all around the world.

He was the star in the Academy Award winning documentary film and wrote the companion book "An Inconvenient Truth" which has educated millions of people around the world. The Gores gave all their proceeds from the film and book to the cause. Together, they donated more than $1 million to an organization that I co-chair called the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Al Gore recently donated all the images in his slide show to over a thousand speakers who he trained to communicate this urgent message in the slide show. (NWF has been the educational partner on this important project.) The only thing that Gore asked in return from each of the trainees was that they give the slideshows in their respective communities to help educate people about the climate crisis.

Tipper also sells her wonderful photography with all proceeds going to fund The Climate Project. In addition, the Gores have taken many steps to reduce their personal carbon footprint, including owning and driving hybrid-electric vehicles, purchasing green power (solar, wind, and methane gas) to power their home. When I visited their home/office in Tennessee last year, they were retrofitting their historic residence and home offices by installing new floor radiant heating and solar venting systems, new efficient furnaces and windows, thermostats, and light switches as well as compact fluorescent bulbs, and solar panels. The Gores live a carbon neutral life by funding carbon offsets which support clean energy projects that will replace the unavoidable carbon uses that we all have.

No good deed goes unpunished but more than that, these attacks are become a distraction to Al’s important leadership. And that is the real point, detractors want to silence Al and prevent him from waking up America and the rest of the world to the truth about global warming. I found it particularly outrageous that the opponents of climate pollution control launched their smear campaign against Al right after the Oscars to reduce any positive coverage the issue might have gotten.

Al is the energizer bunny who despite the mean-spirited personal attacks never runs low. He finishes one project and moves on to the next taking the abuse in stride. Speaking of next projects, this July 7th, Al Gore, Kevin Wall and the Alliance for Climate Protection will be hosting a seven continent 24-hour long concert involving over a hundred different bands and singing groups. I checked this with my daughters; many cool performers will be taking part of this worldwide event that will attract over a billion viewers to be entertained as they learn more about global warming. To learn about this upcoming event, check: http://liveearth.org/

Al Gore and Rich Cizik deserve our support for their steadfast leadership. The best way to do that is to add your voice to millions who are now calling for action to stop global warming.