Walking the Walk

I once worked with an esteemed colleague, a veteran educator who used to tell his students and the world, if they would listen:

What you do shouts so loud, I can’t hear what you are saying.

In recognition of the inherent wisdom of his remark, I am hereby instituting two new awards:

The Walking the Walk Honesty Award given to those in public life who follow through and actually live what they preach to the rest of us.

The Talking the Talk Hypocrisy Award given to those who, alas, tell us what is good for us to do and then do something else for themselves.

So here we go:

A Walking the Walk Award is presented to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Now I know what some of you are saying: “Bob, have you gone over to the Dark Side?” Relax, it’s nothing like that. And I still disagree with Senator Schumer on many issues. (Chuck, did you really say on July 30,2011 that illegal immigration creates jobs?) I’ve heard all of the jokes about him too.

Q: Where is the most dangerous place to be in the United States?

A: Between Chuck Schumer and a TV  camera.

But let us give this man his due.  Schumer has been a vocal lifelong supporter of our public school system. Unlike other pols who give lip service in support of public education and then  a) send their own children to exclusive private schools while  b) voting to deny poor families any form of real choice of schools for their beleaguered kids – yes I’m talking to you, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, and hundreds of senators & congressmen – Chuck Schumer’s kids attended New York City public schools (as did my wife, BTW).  As far as I know his children are still alive and thriving. Hats off to you, Senator Schumer, for walking the walk and showing the depth of your commitment to public education!

On the other hand…

A Talking the Talk Award for hypocrisy is given to Al Gore for the dissonance between what he preaches the rest of us must do to “Save the Planet” and what he himself actually does on a daily basis. (Want to compare your carbon footprint with mine, Al? Bring it on.)  The Grand Master of Environmental Disaster flies around the world giving speeches on the urgent need for responsible environmental behavior.  Four years ago, ABCNews, using the information from Al Gore’s actually utility bills, reported that Al paid more than $30,000 for his energy use on his Tennessee home alone! He used 221,000 kilowatt hours of electricity the previous year, more than twenty times the national average. Once this story leaked out, Gore did make some energy improvements to his home, but it still features natural gas lanterns in the yard, a year-round heated outdoor pool, and electric gates.  The utility bills for the pool house still average more than $500 per month.  For the pool house. I’d warn him to watch that rising water level in the pool, but just found out that this past year Gore purchased an ocean-front property in California, so I guess rising sea levels are last year’s concern. On the other hand, Al’s new California estate features nine (count ’em) bathrooms. Nine bathrooms for “only” five bedrooms? Of course, there is an obvious explanation why Al Gore needs nine bathrooms, but I won’t elaborate other than to say he is hereby awarded a much-deserved Talking the Talk Award for hypocrisy on a truly global scale.

Of course, Al won’t really care.  He’s already left town in his private jet, spewing carbon monoxide into the atmosphere while on his way to give another speech excoriating Americans on their indifference toward the environment.

2 responses to “Walking the Walk

  1. One reason the Gore family’s utility bills run so high is that they pay premium prices to get 100 percent of their power from Tennessee’s Green Power Switch program, which draws from renewable resources such as wind, solar, and methane gas; such as the fact that the Gore family invests in “carbon offsets” to allay the environmental impact of their power usage; and such as the fact that the 10,000-square-foot mansion serves not only as their residence, but also as a workspace for both Al and Tipper Gore.

    In the book version of An Inconvenient Truth where Gore discusses what ordinary citizens can do to help combat global warming, he stops well short of calling for deep sacrifice or lifestyle change. His concrete proposals are modest.
    First, he lists a number of steps individuals can take to make their homes and activities more environmentally friendly — like using energy-efficient appliances, adjusting the thermostat by a couple of degrees, installing solar panels, and using less hot water when possible — all of which are economically as well as ecologically beneficial, and none of which we have any reason to believe Gore is not taking himself.
    Second, he preaches activism — voting for environmentally enlightened measures and candidates and spreading he gospel of global warming. And in these we know Al Gore has played an exemplary role.
    Third, he advocates that everyone work toward a “carbon neutral” lifestyle. How? In addition to the two measures above, by doing precisely what he does — offsetting one’s environmental impact through investments in projects and enterprises aimed at reducing energy consumption overall (i.e., carbon offsets).
    So, where’s the disjunct between what he says and what he does? Unless you put words in his mouth, there isn’t much of one to be found. You might argue that it would be better for the environment if rich folks like Gore lived in smaller houses and modified their lifestyles instead of shelling out big bucks for carbon offsets — and you might even be right — but that’s a policy disagreement, not proof that he doesn’t live by his own principles.

    I notice that several times you have criticised or bad mouthed people who are trying to improve the country or world like Obama or Gore. That is so fashionable now. To tear down, rather than build up. However, you have never mentioned who out there is doing or can do a better job to improve anything.

    • Amy,

      Thanks for your comment. A couple of points: 1) Al Gore’s “carbon offsets” which he uses to justify his high energy lifestyle were paid to Generation Investment Management. This company is based in London, UK and has offices in Washington, D.C. Guess who is chairman of this company? Al Gore himself, that’s who. So his justification for high energy usage is that he invests money in his own corporation. The offsets he buys go back to himself, kind of like buying stock in a company that you run. Gore has made millions of dollars this way, and in fact benefits financially from everyone he can convince to buy carbon offsets this way. The profits from GIM revert back to himself; 2) I disagree with your assertion that he has not called for lifestyle changes in order to offset global warming, there is no way that Americans can be carbon neutral without lifestyle changes. I happen to personally agree that such changes are necessary. I was pointing out that Gore is not among those of us who are making fundamental changes in our lifestyles. (FYI, my wife and I share the use of one compact car, recycle gray water, limit our consumption of meat, and grow most of our own vegetables. I have been involved in the environmental movement since the mid-1990s. I do not disagree with Gore’s overall goal of reducing energy consumption. I was pointing out that what he urges on us is not really what he practices himself; 3) Would you like me to mention someone who is “out there” actually doing something to reduce energy use? Then take a look at former President George W. Bush. On his ranch near Waco, Texas the Bushes collect rainwater, recycle dishwater, tap into the earth’s thermal energy to heat their home, use “passive solar” building techniques and even provide a nesting habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. BTW, he began instituting these changes in the late 1990s, prior to becoming President. Compared side-by-side with Gore, whose personal lifestyle is the more environmentally sound?


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