If you just met Al Gore, you might be hard-pressed to know that the environmentalist ever did anything else.
With a 2006 Academy Award for his film “An Inconvenient Truth” and a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental advocacy, Gore has seamlessly shifted from high-level politician to one of the world’s leading voices on the threat of climate change.
“I enjoyed the years I spent in elected office and I enjoyed politics,” Gore told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I feel privileged to be able to serve in other ways, and it feels like the right thing to do. I have worked on this issue for more than 40 years and more people are seeing the impact.”
In March, the former U.S. senator, vice president and Democratic presidential nominee will bring his Climate Reality Leadership Corps to Atlanta for a three-day meeting to train activists on environmental justice and climate change.
Gore said the training will focus on several key themes, as well as the challenges that the climate crisis poses to vulnerable communities, including how it is changing the Southeast, how fossil fuels threaten the health of low-income families and communities of color, and how clean energy can help to right historical injustices and create opportunities.
“We are changing the conditions that have given rise to the flourishing of humanity,” Gore said. “How can we tell our grandkids that we are in the process of destroying the environment? This is a crisis like we have never experienced before. That is why I spend so much of my time training grassroots activists all over the world.”
The event — the 40th time that Gore has hosted this kind of training — will also for the first time include “A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis,” an interfaith mass meeting at Ebenezer Baptist Church, featuring the historic church’s pastor, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, and the Rev. William J. Barber II, a 2018 MacArthur fellow.
“The climate crisis, as many of us have said for a long time, is not a political issue,” Gore said. “It is a moral and spiritual issue for the survival of humanity.”
Gore said there would be a particular focus on environmental justice. And he argues that for everything we see — rising temperatures, flooding, powerful storms and wildfires — it is often less-visible problems, such as fossil fuel emissions and pollution, that directly impact black, brown and poor communities, which he wants faith leaders to address.
“Too often, the climate crisis inflicts deep and disproportionate burdens on those least responsible for causing it,” Gore said. “We will succeed in climate action when we prioritize inclusivity. Climate solutions must be fair and equitable for all people.”
Warnock, whose church was once co-pastored by 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr., said the environment is a moral and justice issue that civil rights leaders and climate change activists have just recently begun to find common ground on.
“Traditionally, the civil rights activists and climate change activists have not sufficiently engaged one another,” Warnock said. “That is unfortunate because climate change is a civil and human rights issue. And issues, traditionally raised by the civil rights community, that leave certain communities more vulnerable.”
But there is also a religious battle simmering among evangelical Christians over whether climate change is a liberal hoax, flawed science, or an affront to the concept of human existence.
They are being encouraged by President Donald Trump, who has rolled back many of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution.
And on Wednesday, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist Trump nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, declined to identify climate change as a crisis requiring unprecedented action from the United States.
“How can you not believe in climate change?” Warnock asked. “We are way past a period when we could be concerned about the politics. Climate change is not something that is coming, it is here. It is way past time for all of us to get serious.”
The event will be held March 14-16, 2019. The mass meeting will take place on March 14 at 7 p.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church. To learn more about the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Atlanta and to apply before the Jan. 28 deadline, visit https://www.climaterealityproject.org/training