All of us who know something of the depth of our own sinfulness are willing to overlook in others those instances where we see clearly that their actions don’t line up with their words. We know the same could be said of us. It’s the “Do as I say, not as I do” reality. In everyday life, we all fall short. That’s why we so desperately need the forgiveness of sins which God offers freely through the death of His Son.
But our hackles tend to rise when we see public figures crusading in the limelight for a particular cause and castigating others for failing to toe the line, and then in private living in ways that belie their public “passion.”
Al Gore is such a figure. Recently I viewed part of an interview he did with CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a town hall session dealing with the “climate crisis.” Mr. Gore continues to act as America’s apocalyptic prophet, warning of the impending doom facing our planet unless we take drastic steps immediately to change our energy-grubbing, global warming, CO2 belching behaviors. He also happens to be hawking his new movie coming out after the original An Inconvenient Truth, this one entitled, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Mr. Gore’s views on energy usage and global warming, even though I am in favor of conservation and renewable energy opportunities. Even less do I appreciate his “Chicken Little” approach to solving the “climate crisis” with which he seems obsessed. But to each his own.
What I cannot get past, however, is his brazen hypocrisy on this subject. One might imagine that someone so concerned about the planet that he is willing to lead the charge and “speak truth to power,” even taking hits for the cause, would himself demonstrate the authenticity of his views by a changed lifestyle. After all, it’s our planet we’re talking about.
Mr. Gore in this CNN interview made clear that he is passionate about seeing this crusade through. He compared it to the Civil Rights Movement, acknowledging that it took persistence until finally the movement caught on and things changed. The same will be true, he believes, with the climate crisis movement:
When I was a boy growing up a lot of the time in the south, I remember when the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. I’ll tell you the resistance to Civil Rights laws was just as fierce if not more so than the resistance to solving is the climate crisis. Ultimately, we crossed a political tipping point and people realized oh, it’s just really a question of right and wrong.
If it really is just a question of right and wrong, and Mr. Gore is on the side of “right,” then it would seem a natural consequence that he would adjust his lifestyle to fit in with what he knows to be right in the face of this dire cataclysm approaching humanity. However, in the 11 years since he first started sounding the global warming foghorns, his lifestyle has not changed from the energy-hogging ways of his unenlightened past.
Back in 2007, Mr. Gore’s main 20 room mansion in Nashville suburbia with its heated swimming pool and attendant pool house, electric gates and natural gas lampposts was consuming energy like there was no tomorrow. According to an investigation by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, the Gore’s consumed almost 221,000 kWh (kilowatt-hours) at this property in 2006, more than 20 times that of the average household in America. This of course doesn’t include the two other properties owned by Mr. Gore, a penthouse in San Francisco and a farmhouse in Carthage, TN. When this inconvenient news came to light in 2007, Mr. Gore vowed to change his ways. His spokesperson, Kalee Kreider, was quick to reassure the public that the Gores’ energy use would decline:
“They bought an older home and they’re in the process of upgrading the home. Unfortunately that means an increase in energy use in order to have an overall decrease in energy use down the road.”
Now, after having spent a quarter of a million dollars to make the house more energy-efficient, the verdict is in for 2016. A decade after his consumption of 220,000 kWh, Mr. Gore’s total energy usage for his Nashville mansion in 2016 was 230,899 kWh, roughly the equivalent of 23 average U.S. households. Add to that the unknown consumption of energy at his other two (at least) properties, his use of a private jet to whisk him around the world, his predilection for ground travel by SUV, and we are left with the portrait of an energy superhog.
Personally, I would not care about the levels of Mr. Gore’s energy consumption were he simply a private citizen enjoying his materialistic empire. But once he dons the mantle of a doomsday prophet threatening us with destruction should we ignore his jeremiads, then the hypocrisy of his private behaviors become fair game. Can one really believe the message he preaches with such passion and then live with such bald-faced insouciance as an energy porker?
Let me return to Al Gore’s interview analogy that fighting this climate crisis battle is much like the Civil Rights conflict of the 1960s. If that is the case, Mr. Gore would seem to play a role not unlike a civil rights pioneer out on the front lines of marches, speaking to large crowds at rallies, lobbying Capitol Hill stentoriously for the equal rights of minorities, before retiring exhausted to his plantation so as to be waited on hand and foot by his black servants.
“Do as I say, not as I do” is never an attractive manifesto, but it becomes downright repulsive when those who claim the rarefied air of social righteousness are discovered to be sloshing in the sties of self-inflated hypocrisy.
Our world may indeed be facing a climate crisis. One would never know that by viewing Al Gore’s habits. Perhaps he should step aside and let a true believer take up the mantle. The medicine would be a bit easier to swallow.