Before the terms “eco-friendly” and “Green Revolution” swept through the United States, U.S. Senator Al Gore was working hard to bring attention to what he believed was an imminent environmental crisis that would impact civilizations worldwide. In 1992, just before he was elected as the Vice President of the United States of America, Gore published Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.
Without a doubt, the over four hundred pages of the book provides readers with a plethora of hard-to-dispute, empirical research concerning facts about the environment in which we all live. Broken up into three sections, Gore begins to tackle this massive project with a list of horrific possibilities, or probabilities, concerning the impacts of environmental degradation on our world.
Using real-life examples such as the increasingly devastated area of the Aral Sea, Gore provides readers with a number of opportunities to witness the effects of environmental destruction first hand. Gore masterfully summarizes years of his personal experiences, fieldwork, and environmental research to help readers understand the consequences of environmental degradation.
Can you imagine living in a world without seasons? Or, what it would be like if one specific type of climate spread across our entire globe? Gore addresses these issues as he touches on topics such as global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer, which is suggests plays a major role in the loss of biodiversity. Additionally, Gore explores the popular technique of slash-and-burn agriculture practiced worldwide. The implication is that outmoded techniques such as these can have irreversible damage on rainforests and many of planet earth’s other various unique landscapes and habitats.
In the second portion of the book, Gore offers some insight into how our civilizations have gotten to be in this environmental crisis to begin with. Here, Gore not only explains the processes of erosion and the consequences of lumber extraction and slash-and-burn agriculture, he also describes at great lengths how our technological advances have contributed to our environmental destruction. Further, Gore postulates about the role human beings have played in eliciting this environmental epidemic.
In this section, Gore is perhaps most honest when it comes to his own hypocrisy in the environmental movement. Whereas millions of people across the world wonder whether it is “worth it” for them to attempt to save a planet where they won’t be living in a number of decades, Gore encourages people to think about the small changes that they could make to improve the environment’s status, emphasizing the point that our planet should be cherished for generations to come, rather than ravaged in our own generation.
Gore also discusses how varying political agendas and bureaucratic government policies have contributed to the crisis and have (in past years) failed to find adequate or appropriate solutions that can help us save our planet. With his criticism of politicians’ actions, Gore does not fail to turn a critical eye on himself, describing some of the personal decisions he made in his professional career that have aided his evasion of responsibility, a destructive characteristic of many leading politicians. Included in his perceptions over the role of politicians in driving forward the environmental crisis, Gore suggests that Washington leaders should stop avoiding important issues and postponing the difficult decisions that are required to stop destroying the planet.
The final chapters of Earth in the Balance provide Gore’s proposed actions to combat environmental destruction on a global scale. Gore suggests that political leaders work toward developing an agreement that he has termed would be the equivalent of a “Global Marshall Plan” that addresses our most significant ecological issues. Gore’s plan focuses on five strategic goals that include stabilizing the world’s population, changing the current global economic rules, renegotiating standing international agreements, researching and developing more environmentally-friendly technologies, and, most importantly, emphasizing actions and programs aimed at creating a healthy global environment.
In his attempt to remain politically moderate, however, Gore suggests that democratic politics and capitalism can work together to help increase environmental awareness and education, allowing for a larger number of individuals to make the changes necessary for our world to move into a new era of clean, renewable energy. Hoping to appeal to the capitalistically-oriented American society, Gore explores how a shift of this magnitude could also help the economy by creating opportunities for companies to deign, build, and maintain fuel cells, wind turbines, and solar panels. While some critics may believe that this inclusion may simply be Gore’s effort to appeal to the wider masses, he seems sincere in his pleas for global unity in order to overcome this impeding crisis. Gore seems to firmly believe that a genuine effort to revitalize our natural habitats requires a massive, long-term, globe-wide effort.
Since its publication, both Earth in the Balance and Gore have undergone a tremendous amount of scrutiny. Despite the overwhelming amounts of evidence, it appears that environmental issues are low on the list of priorities for much of our world’s population. Regardless, Earth in the Balance solidifies its place as an eye-opening book that is a landmark in the Environmental Awareness movement. The result is Gore’s plea to the world’s leaders to come together, design more effective solutions and use stricter policies to ensure that tougher legislation is enforced on a global scale.
In addition, many critics have also noted the lack of literary mastery in “Earth in the Balance.” However, it is crucial to keep in mind that it is unlikely that Gore wrote this book in an effort to secure literary acclaim. The main goal of this book is to educate readers, a task that it effectively accomplishes.
Earth in Balance would later serve as the premise for Gore’s book, “An Inconvenient Truth” which was later adapted into a feature-length documentary film narrated by Gore himself. The film was first released at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, where independent films traditionally debut, and was then distributed to movie theaters nationwide in May of the same year. Since its original publication, the book has earned the distinction of being the first book written by a sitting U.S. Senator to make the New York Times’ best-seller list since John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage.”
On the whole, Earth in the Balance is more than a simple outline of environmental research and presumed “facts” about the world around us. Gore does an exceptional job of helping readers to understand the state that our environment is currently in and what we can do to help our planet recover. Without a doubt, Gore achieves his main goal of making a convincing argument as to why we need to work together as one human race in order to overcome a problem that effects us all.