To start, a fun anecdote: the first election for US President that I remember was in 2000 - we had just moved to California after eight years in Europe, where much of our early childhood was insulated from American life and politics.
I recall the frustration around the close election, where Gore won the popular vote while Bush won the electoral college. I didn't know much about American politics, but I respected the way Gore dealt with a loss that felt shallow (he had, after all, received more total votes).
What I didn't truly appreciate until much later in life was the manner in which he took that loss in stride - he didn't whinge (much), but instead took the moment as an opportune moment to pivot. That loss and Gore's subsequent choices, changed my life and the lives of many when his pivot led him to a focus on climate change.
An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006 - Gore was not the first to highlight global warming and the changing climate as a result of human interventions, nor was he the most knowledgeable on the intricacies of science. But what he did with superb efficacy was make a dramatic appeal - our earth is at risk, and we as humans are the primary driver of its impending destruction.
I recently re-found my copy of the book that accompanied the documentary, still with post-it notes stuck to mark some of my favorite pages (which happened to include a page discussing the emergence of new diseases and viruses, including to my surprise, Coronavirus!). Flipping through the content, I couldn't believe how much of the material is still applicable - though admittedly the information I find most pertinent today as a venture capitalist is different from the information I found compelling as an idealistic teenage student! A few highlights:
"Mistakes in our dealings with Mother Nature can have much larger, unintended consequences, because many of our new technologies confer upon us new power without automatically giving us new wisdom."
"One of the keys to solving the climate crisis involves finding ways to use the powerful force of market capitalism as an ally. And more than anything else, that requires accurate measurements of the real consequences - positive and negative - of all the important economic choices we make."
This quote from Upton Sinclair (The Jungle is next on my reading list): "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
"Hydrogen may be the ultimate clean fuel of the future. But most experts agree that a hydrogen economy is at least a few decades away." [Note, this comment is likely still valid!]
"Part of our future work is the make the right decisions in the right places - to know what is realistic for each state, each ecological and industrial system."
"The truth about the climate crisis is an inconvenient one that means we are going to have to change the way we live our lives."
It's been more than 16 years since An Inconvenient Truth was released - in some ways, it's depressing to think how far we still have to go. But I take comfort in how far we have come and how much momentum there is behind the movement towards a more climate-friendly economy.
What was once a truth most preferred to ignore has become one of the most significant global imperatives - and I personally thank Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth for inspiring me at such a young age.