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Sol Man: Al Gore warms to the task of saving the Earth
It's the global warming, he says.
With all due respect to Mrs. Gore and the 2000 Convention Kiss of the Year, what's on Gore's lips these days is a topic tantamount to global survival.
And the man once considered as animated as "holy wood" is going Hollywood to bring it to the world's attention.
Al Gore, movie star?
Al Gore's just warming up!
The man who lost the Sunshine State by the thread of a hanging chad in the 2000 presidential election, sees the sun as the center of his universe these days as he tours the world talking about global warming.
But the man's not all talk; he's visual, too, as the star and narrator of the new documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," opening on June 2.
The heat is on! Truth is, the film did a dance at the Sundance film fest this year, where the cinematic hot spot threw out rays and raves for Gore's film, a multimedia mission near-impossible: making the viewing audience aware of the ultimate star wars - the sun blasting us with unprotected heat rays - before it's too late.
While it's too late for Gore to assume the once formidable title of "the next president of the United States," the Electoral College's most famous dropout, Class Act of 2000, is ahead in the race to put up the best zone defense against the ozone.
"An Inconvenient Truth" is no talking-head movie, but a filmed lecture of Gore's worldwide wonk tour to save the world. The Alpha male has morphed into a beta salesman for the subject, using cartoons, illustrations and carrying a big schtick to knock some cents into the heads of those who need to know that morality and money can go hand in hand.
Sam and Dave, make room on the world stage for Al - Sol Man, whose every day is Earth Day. "If more people would be willing to hear the messenger," says the former veep who some call the Paul Revere of the revered ecology movement, "they'd realize it's a problem here and now."
He's here and now talking about that problem just before the opening of "An Inconvenient Truth," an ironic movie title, he concedes, given the truth that he was a popularly elected president whose popularity inconveniently fell one vote short of the Supremes, who just couldn't give him the love he needed.
Forever caricatured as solid and stolid, Gore seems heavier these days; maybe it's the weighty issue of world survival he carries around balanced on those broad shoulders.
On balance, "An Inconvenient Truth" is educational and entertaining, a sun day in the park with Gore.
Earth to Gore …
It's the same old story with a cinematic twist.
"I've been telling this story for 30 years," he says of the Earth as familiar turf. "My slide show is a chance to connect the dots."
Dot's all, folks? Not quite. As the debate rages on in some quarters still over the outcome of 2000, there's no debate over the outcome of 2016. In 10 years, says Gore, the Earth and those who voted for him and didn't will be in hot water, as not even the mantra of klaatu barasa nikto could change the day the Earth stood still.
"The debate's over in the science community," says the man who rolled his eyes infamously in the presidential debates of the world rolling over in a decade.
Pass the faith, pass the popcorn; salvation is just a concerted effort away with "An Inconvenient Truth" the ultimate screen-saver.
But can a movie overcome mythtakes - those ideas based on untruths? Self-destruction is the ultimate vice pressing us these days, contends the former vice president. His reading of it differs from what the media reads into it, however.
"I did a 14-year study of major newspapers that showed 53 percent of them express doubt" on the veracity of the ill effects of global warming, publishing reports far from all the news that's fit to print.
Indeed, his thoughts on the media's irresponsibility of not facing up to scientific facts is unprintable. Behind the misinformation, make no mistake, he says, is "an organized effort" by the oil companies "to purposely confuse people, and a lot of newspapers fall for it."
If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one to make newsprint out of it, has it still fallen? "That is a vulnerability of modern journalism," he replies.
Gore - whose cramped campaign style in 2000 made him vulnerable to harsh critical attacks as a walking, talking living Lego - is able to let go of the past, throwing off sparks of electric humor he could have used more of to show his fizz rather than fizzle in the presidential campaign.
Indeed, "Sunrise, Sunset" is more to him than a hot topic of global warming; it's a chupah of chutzpah for him to show how quickly go the painful days of the past.
Indeed, "The Inconvenient Truth" carries a convenient comic quirk to it. And, in person, the man who knows that the subject is far from a laughing matter is not above laughing at himself. "The most important message," he says somberly as a Tennesseean who has seen it all, "is the answer to the question:
"Is it good for the Jews?"
His face turns as red as the sun from laughter, as the son of a political family gets off a good line without letting anyone off the hook.
Have faith, he really is jesting. But it is faith in the Jews - and people of religious beliefs - that fuels the fire he needs in taking on the battle to assure more sunrises than sunset. He acknowledges that "the role of the faith community is pivotal" in getting his message across. "The question presented by the crisis is ultimately a spiritual one."
Devil or angel on his shoulder?
"Most of us," he believes, "when presented with a choice between good and bad, will choose good."
His film is a good choice for those seeking more questions than answers from their movie-going this summer. It is the men and women of faith - the rabbis, the ministers and others - who must beam the message from their bimahs, pontificate from their podiums, he argues.
For flick fans this summer, it may not be "The Last Supper," but the last meal on Earth on their movie menu that matters most; luckily, the "Da Gore Code" is far from indecipherable. "When the survival of our Earth is at stake, God's creation is at stake," he says.
If survival is his meat-and-potatoes message, the gentile Gore also knows from breaking bread over brisket. In 1992, Gore joined colleague Carl Sagan in an astronomical endeavor: to bring together the nation's most eminent rabbis, Jewish lay leaders and Jewish senators to form a group that could deal with the billions and billions of problems presented by ecological challenges.
The following year, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life was formed, sparked by Gore and Sagan, and backed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Gore proudly points to the reform-minded group and its activity since as an integral piece of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.
Separation of church and state of the Earth is not needed here; traditionally, Mother Earth and all God's children have much in common. "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof," scripturally speaking, says Gore of "the hundreds of mandates in Scripture to protect the environment."
The gospel according to Gore is one talked up by many. In a treatise on the topic, Preston Hunter, who runs a Web site devoted to sociological implications of world religions, wrote, "Within the traditional Jewish canon are answers to the questions modern Jews might ask when pondering the modern environmental crisis. These answers are not derived from complex and questionable 'wresting' of obscure passages, but are plain, easily understood passages that are an integral part of God's law for the Jews. The religion's environmental concern is genuine and longstanding. Judaism, born anciently in an entirely nontechnological world, is ecologically sound by today's most exacting scientific standards."
Kermit, stand back: "To be truly Jewish is to be green."
Gore and others can talk till they're red in the face, but, acknowledges the one-time Democratic standard-bearer, making a film on the topic bares his ecological soul to a wider audience, reaching millions more than he could ever hope to reach going nation to nation. And if "going Hollywood" reaches the children of Planet Hollywood, so much the better to save the planet.
Jeremy Cohen concurs on such a notion in writing "On Classical Judaism and Environmental Crisis," in a past issue of Tikkun: "Judaism's environmental consciousness originated long before the ecological 'cause célèbre' of our generation and, I should hope, will long outlive it. Like so much else in the rabbinic ethos, it calls upon human beings to be mindful of whence they have come, where they are going, and before whom they will have to account for their actions."
Actions speak louder than words, and ironically, Gore - not one normally associated with being an action figure - is just that about his passion for the environment. Gore is not green on being green; his roots extend way back. The author of Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (1992) is spirited, too, these days, not only about his movie, but the book coming out based on the film.
And when it comes to being green, it's recently been announced that Paramount Classics, the "Truth" distributor, will donate 5 percent of the movie's domestic gross to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
The man who once would be president - but no more, avowing no interest in elected office - no longer reflects that dark night in shining armor, when he conceded the hard-fought presidential election six years ago. His new ballot box belongs to the world's populace, as he hopes others join him in voting for global survival.
So strong, so protective, so virile. How to explain how this once seemingly stoic statesman has segued into such a super mensch of global survival?
Easy, says Al Gore, flashing that sun-hot smile of his.
"I benefit from low expectations."