Do not be surprised, if during promotion of November 22’s Harvard-Yale football game, you find that the Bulldogs will in fact be playing the Green. Harvard is Crimson no longer, apparently. Or maybe only when Al Gore comes to town.
“Green is the new Crimson” was the tune Harvard sang this week in anticipation of Al Gore’s address at the Harvard Sustainability Celebration. There were banners surrounding the campus Yard with this slogan, and flyers all over campus proclaiming this shift in hue.
Our president Drew Faust sent an e-mail reminding students of the event. In it, she mentioned “the serious problem that is global warming.” Quite the faux pas! Doesn’t she know we’re supposed to call it climate change? After all, once facts began to get in the way of global warming theory, environmentalists needed to change their tune. Unfortunately, Gore’s speech was everything we’ve come to expect from his new incarnation–self-righteous, messianic, and hypocritical. Gore, after acknowledging and returning the adoration given to him by Faust and the audience, went on to ask the question, “How do we incorporate new knowledge into our understanding of who we are and what we must do?” And with this, Gore set the tone of his speech–it wasn’t going to be one about climate change specifically. Rather, it would enthrone climate change in its rightful place as the new and central sociopolitical cause of a generation.
Gore mentioned Galileo, and the commitment to reason that led him to discover “inconvenient truths” (get it?) about the universe. Toward the end of his speech, Gore quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” So Gore is, in his own mind, continuing the two great traditions of scientific inquiry and justice-seeking that his spiritual ancestors Galileo and King suffered and died to advance. But, not contented by allying himself with such illustrious names, Gore then explained how the three major problems in the world right now are really all interconnected: a common thread runs through the Iraq war (it’s all about oil), the economic crisis, and the impending doom of climate change. And, he went on to claim, if we solve the one issue of climate change, we’ll pull the right thread and suddenly all of our problems will go away.
So, to recap: Gore is a modern descendant both of Galileo Galilei and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the cause he has taken up is not merely a pressing sociotechnical problem (one which, incidentally, vast amounts of money and time have already been invested in addressing), but rather the single paramount issue of contemporary human existence, the greater evil birthing all the other evils of our age. Forget the Inquisition and the blot of slavery and segregation!
Gore also appealed to a return to the “rule of reason” that has, allegedly, been lost in recent years. If by “rule of reason” he means the rule of vast, unfalsifiable, world-historical claims like the ones he centered his Harvard speech around, we have a great deal to be worried about. And his audience, too, apparently failed to get the “reason” memo. There were no dissenters, at least publicly, only roars of approval, these largely prompted by Gore’s explanation of how he keeps being newly enraged at the Bush administration, and that this outrage recurs so often that to make space for new outrage, he needs to “download” some of the existing outrage out of his mind. Endless outrage and murky broad-spectrum social theory! I think we can all agree that Galileo, Dr. King, the Dalai Lama, Jonas Salk, and any other public worthy you might mention would get behind that double agenda.