Thursday 18 January 2018

Gore's no bore, but this tome just fails to excite

The Future Six Drivers of Global Change By Al Gore

Craig Seligman

I'm feeling like a girl who went out with the class brain, wished he would tell a joke or put his hand on my knee, then realised as he droned on that he would make a loving husband and responsible father and ended the evening ready to say "I do".

That is, I just ploughed through 'The Future', Al Gore's magisterial but not always exciting analysis of where we are and where, God help us, we may be going.

With awesome comprehensiveness, Gore addresses six areas of rapid change: the world economy; the creation of a "global mind" via the internet; the international balance of power; runaway growth in population and consumption; advances in medicine and genetic tampering; and global warming.

Choose your catastrophe. Here's one: demographic shifts will soon mean that 75pc of human beings live close to coastlines. Cataclysms of climate change (like Hurricane Sandy) on top of sea levels rising with the melting of the polar ice caps could mean the inundation of millions.

At least those who drown won't starve to death after all the crop failures resulting from the increasing desertification of the Earth as the population simultaneously mushrooms.


"It took 200,000 years for our species to reach the one billion mark, yet we have added that many people in just the first 13 years of this century. In the next 13 years, we will add another billion, and yet another billion just 14 years after that," Gore writes.

In these pages you enter a wonk's paradise of projections, calculations and statistics. Usually they're startling.

Although Gore jokes that he's a "recovering politician", you'd never know it from the canned tone of his prose. And yet the passion is unmistakable. So is the knowledge. Practically every page offers an illumination.

The analysis of American politics – lobotomised by television, preyed on by corporations and taken hostage by reactionary nut jobs – is soberingly frank. Yet one thing this wise book proves is that wisdom isn't enough.

Gore cites a quotation ascribed to Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." Not one sentence in 'The Future' cuts that sharply. Wit isn't one of the arrows in Al Gore's quiver. He's earnest and kind of dull. So is his book.

Knowing how to hold a crowd is as basic to a writer's skill as it is to a politician's. Without it, a visionary is just one more alarmist shouting "The end is near!" to people who give the guy one look and decide they don't have time to listen.

Available with free P&P from or by calling 091 709350.

Irish Independent

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