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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

final book review

Obligatory disclaimer...

So I finally managed to work my way through the rest of the book, An Inconvenient Truth. Not much has changed from my earlier review of the first half. As I wrote before, the book is heavy on emotion, light on facts. Readers are supposed to take Gore at is word.

One of the things that had been brought up to me by someone defending Gore's integrity was that his family had stopped growing tobacco for the cigarette industry. This was proof of their ethics. In the second half, Gore spends some time describing his sister and, eventually, her loosing battle to lung cancer. After she died, his family stopped growing tobacco.

This may be crass of me, but if they felt they ethically couldn't grow tobacco because of what happened to his sister, I couldn't help but be startled when he said they stopped *after* she died. That one detailed really jarred me. Especially after so much text was spent going on about how saintly she was, and how her inability to quit smoking caused her death. I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't stop as soon as they found out her cancer was linked to her cigarette smoking? It may be a totally tactless question to ask, though with him using his sister's death in the same way he used his son's near death earlier in the book, I figure the subject is fair game.

Having said that, I see no moral superiority to someone who's chosen to stop growing tobacco. Most farmers wouldn't have had the financial luxury to drop a cash crop like that. My own father, as a boy prior to WWII, helped his father produce their tobacco crop. Even with the draconian quota systems of the time (bales had to be within precise measurements - if they were larger, the farmer would be fined, if they were smaller, it would effect their allowable quota for the next year. Sounds a lot like the dairy quota system here in Canada), the money they made helped put food on the table. I hold nothing against a farmer growing a profitable crop. Heck, I don't even hold anything against Afgani farmers growing opium poppies. Opium poppies, while illegal to grow here, have for centuries been used medicinally. The syrup derived from the poppies were used to relieve pain, induce calm and/or sleep, depending on the dosage. Today, it's still used, refined into the powerful painkiller, morphine. Tobacco, still considered a sacred plant by NA native peoples, was used medicinally (a great many herbs were smoked as medicinal treatments) and even as an insecticide. It's not the plant that's the problem, nor is growing it. It's how it's used - and cigarettes have little in common with smoking the unadulterated leaf, as it had been originally.

As you can see, I'm singularly unimpressed by the fact his family stopped growing tobacco, though it's used as yet another step to Gore's sainthood.

Which leads me to my biggest problem with this books. Especially as it got towards the end. Gore makes a big deal about how combating global warming is a moral issue. There's a very strong religious feel going on here. After reading this, I can easily see why people have started referring to him as a prophet, or call him the Goracle. That's exactly what he sets himself up as! Amazingly, he even blames the politicizing of global warming on others - especially Bush/Cheney, but essentially any politician that didn't agree with him seems to be included in his blanket statements. Never mind that he, himself, has been the linchpin to politicizing the AGW concept.

His derision of anyone who disagrees with him is palpable. He brushes them all off as being in the pockets of oil companies and industry. All of them. He seems to imply (ok, more than imply) a vast conspiracy of oil soaked evildoers who've been working diligently in the sidelines to stop him in his crusade to save the earth. But he, in all his saintliness, will persevere!!! Messianic tendencies, indeed!

With all his urgent doom and gloom prophesying throughout the book, his "hopeful" descriptions of how great things will be if we just listen to him and do what he says, and the list of solutions at the end are downright tepid. They feel almost like and afterthought - especially since he uses the same chapter to counter the "misconceptions" of global warming in the same chapter, all in coloured boxes that draw the eye away from the "solutions." They are? Drive less. Use energy efficient appliances. Recycle. Compost. Oh, and buy carbon credits.

He neglects to mention that he's got his very own carbon trading company. He stands to make a very tidy profit on other people's guilt.

Oh, and I really got a laugh out of the paragraph on the very last page. It goes on to say the the book is made with X amount of recycled paper, etc., and that carbon offsets were used to render the making of this book carbon neutral.

I wonder if he bought them from his own company?

Final say: As you've probably guessed, I'm not impressed with this book. It's filled with misleading, exaggerated and erroneous information. Even where he gets it right, he gets it wrong. The book is passion over reason (ironic, considering the title of his most recent book), with a lot of dramatic claims, lots of pretty charts and graphics, but nothing to back them up. No footnotes, bibliographies, references, indexes - nothing. It's well written, dramatic, and passionate. Too bad it's so full of BS.

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