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Interview, MSNBC

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 1:14pm
Jon Meacham, Mike Barnicle, Mika Brzezinski, Joe ScarboroughAssociated Press

xfdls MSNBC-SPECIAL-03

regarding his latest book.>

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Here with us now, former vice president, Al Gore. He`s the author of the new book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change."

And it is great to have you on the set this morning.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Good morning. Great to be here.

BRZEZINSKI: A lot to talk about. You`re in the news a lot lately with all your business dealings and acquisitions and sales.

And you edited his book?

JON MEACHAM, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: No, I just applied a chamois cloth.

BRZEZINSKI: You did? (inaudible)

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: It was great to have Jon as my editor.

BRZEZINSKI: Yes?

MEACHAM: This entire -- as the vice president will tell you, there`s some moments where a beautiful mind seemed relevant (inaudible). I`ve never seen anyone, never worked with anyone who was as well organized and as tireless.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, really?

MEACHAM: It`s just remarkable.

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

MEACHAM: It`s a -- it`s a formidable piece of work.

BRZEZINSKI: OK. Well, let`s talk about the future. You lay out a number of different factors that you think will be driving change in the future.

GORE: Yes.

BRZEZINSKI: Let`s talk about them.

GORE: Yes.

BRZEZINSKI: Which ones -- where would you like to begin, Mr. Vice president?

GORE: Well, one place to begin is by noting that this is the first time in history that we have had so many revolutionary changes happening simultaneously.

The digital -- the digital revolution is connecting all of the 7 billion people in the world, at least 5 billion now connected in various ways, and not only to one another but to intelligent machines and devices.

The genetic engineering revolution is leading to the crossing of boundaries between species, the selection of traits including in human beings that puts us in active control of evolution.

We`re seeing not only the globalization of the economy but the deep interconnection of productive activities all over the world producing Earth, Inc., which has a new relationship to labor and capital and natural resources and nation states.

We`re seeing the rise of China and the shift of power from west to east and distributed to emerging centers of power all around the world.

And we`re seeing a -- a continuing commitment to a particular curiously defined form of growth that excludes a lot of things from its calculations.

We ignore pollution. We ignore resource depletion. We ignore the distribution of income and the rising inequality and the hollowing out of the middle class.

We`re seeing the advanced automation that`s now going into a steep rise that really changes the relationship between technology and labor in ways that are fundamentally different than in the past.

And then, finally, we have the climate crisis and the emergent energy revolution because of the need to stop dumping all this global warming pollution into the atmosphere.

BRZEZINSKI: Well let`s -- let`s start there because the fight against climate change is often a debate. And I`m going to read from "The Future", your words.

And you say this about oil and the media: "Virtually every news and political commentary program on television is sponsored in part by oil, coal and gas companies -- not just during campaign seasons -- but all the time, year in and year out, with messages designed to soothe and reassure the audience that everything is fine, the global environment is not threatened, and the carbon companies are working diligently to further develop renewable energy sources."

A little bit of a ruse being played on our society overall?

GORE: Well, when you see all these ads for coal and oil, they`re not designed to get you to say, "Hey, I want to go down to the corner and buy some coal."

(LAUGHTER)

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

GORE: They`re designed to condition your political beliefs and to give you the impression that they`ve got our back.

And -- and, look, they have -- there are about $27 trillion in subprime carbon assets when you include public companies, private companies and sovereign states. And -- and they depend upon the ability to continue using the Earth`s atmosphere as an open sewer.

The problem is we put 90 million tons of global warming pollution up there every day.

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

GORE: And it -- it traps enough extra energy to equal 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs going off every day.

It`s a big planet, but that`s a lot of energy. And that`s -- that is what contributed to Superstorm Sandy. That`s what contributed to 60 percent of the country being in a drought last year. $110 billion worth of climate- related disasters.

Yesterday in Queensland, Australia, they had 2.5 feet of rain. The greater evaporation from the heat off the oceans fills the sky with much more water vapor, so that when a storm releases it, we get these giant floods.

My home city of Nashville, two years ago, thousands of my -- and Jon`s, too, thousands of our neighbors lost their homes and businesses and had no flood insurance because it had never flooded there. It was a so-called once-in-a-thousand-year event.

But we`re having once-in-a-thousand-year events in a lot of places every few years now.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

GORE: And the fires in -- in the west.

Half of the North Polar ice cap is gone in summer, and the rest is gonna be gone soon.

It`s -- it`s literally insane for us to continue on this path.

But all of these factors are interconnected. And one of the main themes of this book is that we have two large and powerful tools to use in shaping our future. One is democracy. One is capitalism.

(CROSSTALK)

GORE: But both have been hacked. And both are in need of reform.

BRZEZINSKI: It`s also choices we make. My brother is living in Sweden, as ambassador. And he`s desperate for me to come there and go see the glaciers...

GORE: Uh-huh.

BRZEZINSKI: ... that are melting. So I understand what you`re saying on many levels.

I have to challenge you a little bit, though, and ask this question.

GORE: Sure.

BRZEZINSKI: You just sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, which is funded by Qatar, which is funded by oil. Is it OK, then, for you personally to -- I`d say profit from oil?

GORE: Well, I see it differently. I understand the criticism, of course. But Al Jazeera has long since established itself as a really high-quality news-gathering network. And I think the addition of Al Jazeera to the U.S. media landscape will be a big net plus.

And, by the way, their climate coverage is far more extensive and high quality compared to any other network in the U.S. You know...

BRZEZINSKI: But isn`t there a moral question there that you had to contend with? Because that money that basically funded Al Jazeera is funded by oil.

GORE: I understand what you`re saying. I strongly disagree with it. because they have established themselves as an award-winning, high-quality network.

Now, Qatar is our strongest ally in the Arab world. Our fleet is there. They have been very -- working very closely with the U.S. Secretary Clinton said Al Jazeera is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

They also have a very ambitious plan to shift to renewables. There is a visionary plan to connect the Middle East and North Africa with their solar and wind resources to Western Europe.

The world is changing. And we are part of a global media landscape now. And getting points of view that are not just the same is a good thing.

We went through 2012, Mika, with all of the climate-related disasters that I just mentioned without a single question being asked by any member of the American news media to any of the presidential candidates in any of the debates about the climate crisis. That is pathetic.

BRZEZINSKI: Joe, jump in?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes.

Mr. Vice President, you -- one of the changes that you talked about is one that has fascinated me and deeply disturbed me, and -- and mainly because there doesn`t seem to be any easy answer to this question.

And that is how do we deal with the changing relationship between technology and labor? How do we deal with a hollowed-out middle class? How do we deal with the fact that, as you said, technology is zooming forward more quickly than ever.

And if you just go back to the year that you were elected vice president of the United States in 1992, if technology had stayed static from that point forward to now, there`d be, like, 20 million, 25 million more people working in America.

How -- how do politicians answer the question of how we deal with this moving forward without hollowing out the middle class for the next generation?

GORE: Well, Joe, a very incisive question, and I`m glad you -- you focused in on that, because it is one of the major themes.

And when I was elected vice president, went into the White House, there were 48, 49 sites on the entire World Wide Web. And now, of course, there are a trillion websites. And a lot of those changes we look at as very positive things. I certainly do.

But when it comes to what you`re focusing on, the impact on employment, we`ve always believed that new technology doesn`t eliminate jobs. It changes the nature of work and ultimately creates new jobs.

And that has been the case for the most part since the days of the Ludites. But an exponential curve, you know, is -- is different. It goes flat for a while and then generally upward. And then, when you get to the steep part of the curve, and changes are different.

And what`s -- what technology is doing now is not only extending our capacity to -- to grip and lift and locomote and cognitive, but also our cognitive capacities.

And the introduction of increasingly effective forms of artificial intelligence into the -- the workplaces of the world are really having a very profound impact on employment.

Foxconn in China, which makes a lot of the smartphones and devices and so forth, they just announced that they`re installing 3 million -- 2 million robots in the next three years.

The same accelerated introduction of advanced automation that we`ve seen in -- in the developed countries is now moving into the emerging markets and developing markets. And it`s gonna have a huge impact not only on employment opportunities but on the economic cycles that depend upon wage streams being used to purchase goods.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: All right. Speaking about economic opportunities and employment, just about 60 years ago, under President Eisenhower, we began the interstate highway program which changed this country. It allowed people to move to suburbs, new suburbs existed.

We don`t have yet in this country a comparable interstate highway system of the Internet, to connect people in Oklahoma, Tennessee, whatever. I mean, they`re still on dial-up in many places in this country.

How would that change the economy of this country if we were to implement a truly -- truly assertive program to wire everyone up?

GORE: Allow me one personal note. I`m proud that my father, as a senator from Tennessee, was the author of the Interstate Highway Act.

And I remember as a child accompanying him to some of the hearings of his subcommittee. And it was -- I remember when they voted to make the signs green on the -- on the interstate.

(LAUGHTER)

And, in fact, that accomplishment was one of the reasons that our country undertook the effort to build what was once called the information superhighway. And. actually, in the `90s, we passed legislation.

The Republicans at the time -- I don`t think Joe did this, but it was called the Gore tax. And they stopped calling it the Gore tax because it turned out to have a lot of support.

(LAUGHTER)

And it was designed to address exactly this question -- to subsidize the connection to rural communities, to libraries, to every single public school so that the digital haves and digital have-nots at least in the public schools and the libraries would all be on equal footing and have this access. And it`s made a positive difference.

BRZEZINSKI: OK. I have one more question. I`m reading from Chapter 3, "Power and the Balance".

GORE: Yes?

BRZEZINSKI: And it`s very much to do with what`s going on today. You talk about the tea party, the rise of Fox News.

And you also say this: "The inability of American democracy to make difficult decisions is now threatening the nation`s economic future and with it the ability of the world system to find a pathway forward toward a sustainable future.

"The exceptionally bitter partisan divide in the United States is nominally between two major political parties. However, the nature of both Democrats and Republicans has evolved in ways that sharpen the differences between them." Talk about the president, the Democrats, the Republicans.

How do we fix this?

GORE: Yes, the partisan divide -- and you guys have talked about this on this show quite a bit.

BRZEZINSKI: All the time.

GORE: And, by the way, I quote your dad...

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, you do? I must check to see that.

GORE: Yes, in this chapter.

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

GORE: Yes, he has been very influential with me.

BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.

GORE: I think that the -- first of all, the scientists now know that there is, in human nature, a divide between what we sometimes call liberals and conservatives.

And it gives an advantage, you can speculate, to the human species to have some people who are temperamentally inclined to try to change the future and experiment with new things, and others who are temperamentally inclined to say, "Hey, wait a minute. Not too fast. Let`s make sure we don`t do anything rash here."

And this divide is found in every country, every culture, every ethnicity. It`s part of our human makeup (ph).

And when these natural tendencies are accentuated with political ideologies or, for that matter, religious factions and the other divides that are sometimes used to -- to -- for -- for advantage, then it can get out of hand.

Our founders, James Madison particularly, wrote about the dangers of faction. They understood this vulnerability in human nature. And we`re now living in a period where these divisions are being exploited in ways that are extremely harmful to the country.

Our democracy has been hacked. It is not working the way our founders intended. And we need to fix it.

The influence of big money, the naming of corporations as persons, the belief that might can make right if there are large enough megaphones and enough lobbyists, that is a subversion of what our country is supposed to be.

BRZEZINSKI: I see the big picture that you lay out. Is there anything tangible the president can do, just to name one of the three factors of this? Anything?

GORE: You know, you can criticize the president on many fronts. And many of us have. I think you have to give him credit for trying over and over again to reach across that divide. And I`ve heard you guys do that regularly on this show. I think that we need more such efforts.

I honestly believe, Mika, that one of the healing forces for our politics is the progressive shift toward the Internet. And I say that in spite of the fact people associate the Internet with all this vitriol, Actually, I think that it empowers individuals to connect with one another and to pursue reason and logic and to lift up ideas that gain support from -- from larger groups of people.

BRZEZINSKI: See what emerges.

Former Vice President Al Gore, thank you very much.

GORE: My pleasure.

END

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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