In 2011, former Vice President Al Gore hosted the first “24 Hours of Reality,” a series of hour-long broadcasts, one per time zone, on the effects of climate change. Like in his first feature film, An Inconvenient Truth, and its sequel, which came out this year, PowerPoint-style presentations were in heavy rotation. That first year, the presentations connected the dots between a wave of extreme weather events and our own polluting, human society.
This year, Gore’s seventh-annual 24-hour broadcast, organized through his nonprofit, Climate Reality Project, comes on the heels of one of the most traumatic autumns in recent memory. Hurricanes slammed into Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and wildfires destroyed huge swaths of Northern California. And amid it all, we passed the one-year anniversary of the election of climate change denier Donald Trump, who earlier this year withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement and on the same day as the start of the broadcast, shrunk the size of two national monuments in Utah to free up its stores of natural gas and coal for mining.
Amidst all of this, however, Gore feels he has located a reason for hope, and it’s in the 400 million people that his broadcast could potentially reach. “I’m excited and optimistic that in the age of the internet, we have the ability to reach this many people and give each person a voice in the public square,” he tells Fast Company. Uniting all of those voices, he says, will drive the U.S. and the world toward the “political tipping point” at which climate action becomes not just optional or progressive, but mainstream and prioritized. “We’re winning this conversation,” he says, “and the next step will be getting policymakers to start removing the barriers to progress.”
If the earliest broadcast was a call to heed the warnings of climate change, this year’s is a call to recognize the people who are already on the front lines of fighting it. We see renewable energy companies in Wyoming retraining former fossil-fuel workers to help establish a wind power industry; we meet underprivileged youth in Malaysia who are becoming, through an all-expenses-paid “Solar Academy,” trained solar engineers. In Mexico, Diana Guzman Barraza (in the video below) left a career in the oil and gas industry to become a clean-energy consultant; in the broadcast, we see her working with Monterrey Institute of Technology to convert the whole 60-campus network to 100% renewable energy; so far, they’re at 60% renewable across all campus, and the Sonora campus is at 100%.
Especially in the U.S., where the Trump presidency has threatened to stymie progress on climate change, Gore wants the broadcast to serve as a reminder that there are people at all levels of government and at private companies “who are going to meet and exceed the challenge posed by the Trump administration,” he says. “The reaction to Donald Trump is very powerful, but to quote a law of physics now operating in politics: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction to Donald Trump is very broad, very deep, and still building.”
In the video below, shown as part of the broadcast, Volt Energy cofounder Gilbert Campbell talks through how he and his cofounder Antonio Francis built a multi-million dollar solar company in an industry that’s primarily run by white men. Recently, Volt Energy partnered with SolarCity/Tesla to begin installing solar panels on the roofs of Howard University in Washington, D.C. “The reason I get up in the morning and am passionate about what I’m doing is that when you look at communities of color–our communities–we pay more for energy,” Campbell said in a filmed lecture at Howard. “There’s a power plant in our communities. So part of what we want to do is to reverse that, but also to create wealth in our communities, to create jobs.”
The potential of that kind of direct action in response to real need is what Gore wants people to recognize and get energized by–because that is the type of climate action he thinks a person can take.