Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

I 'm delighted that Al Gore has won the Nobel Prize for peace. It shows that, even if Gordon Brown and George Bush don't take climate change seriously, the rest of the thinking world does. Not so long ago, during his political incarnation, Gore was criticised for being too wooden, but I'd take wooden any day of the week over the touchy-feely spin merchants who govern us today.

It seems like a distant age when he lost the election to Bush in 2000. I was staying with Democrat friends in Florida who were helping out with the campaign, and I witnessed the misery of it first hand. Some time after the election, when all hope was gone, I flew home with a heart as heavy as lead.

The airport was full that day with Democrat lawyers and campaigners with long faces and equally heavy hearts. It felt like someone had died – it was the same kind of blanket despair that descends when a public figure dies. Diana, Princess of Wales, John Lennon and John Kennedy (father and son) died so prematurely, collective depression set in, made more acute by constant media coverage. But if we'd known then just how devastating Bush's tenure would be, we'd have felt even worse.

I was particularly inspired to write about Gore because I attended a Buddhist lecture this week in which we discussed the Buddhist principle of honin'myo, which means "from this day forward". It's a reminder that, whatever the horrors of the past, whatever went wrong yesterday or a moment ago, you have the opportunity to turn things around by giving 100 per cent to the present moment. Gore shows that by sticking to your guns and fighting for what you believe, things will turn around eventually.

The ups and downs of Gore's professional life can be summed up in some lines from Kipling's poem "If": "If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you/ But make allowance for their doubting too/ If you can wait and not be tired by waiting/ Or being lied about, don't deal in lies /Or being hated, don't give way to hating/ And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise..."

Gore has taken flack for running a big, energy-guzzling house and for perceived inaccuracies in An Inconvenient Truth, often highlighted, surprise surprise, by those with vested interests in the oil business. But he has done more than anyone else to get the message of the potential catastrophe of global warming on to the world stage.

It's easy to criticise people who are trying to improve the world – look at the unpleasant criticism of Anita Roddick dished out since her death, when she can't answer back! Roddick never pretended to be a saint, but both she and Gore have contributed hugely to a change of thinking of a whole generation. Saints, no – but can their detractors do any better?

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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