Fresh choices

What Al Gore and my daughter taught me

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

I was sitting in the Crest Theatre three years ago watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth when I made the decision to advocate for a weekly sustainability section in the News & Review. In the months before I saw Gore so convincingly describe his fears about our future, I’d been having repeated kitchen-table conversations with my junior-high-school daughter, Natasha, about global warming.

With a teenager’s intensity, Natasha asked how my generation could let this happen. After seeing Gore’s film, I felt that I had to do something.

Our three newspapers, in Sacramento, Reno and Chico, with half a million readers, were in a perfect position to make a difference. By providing real information from independent sources, we could help our readers make environmentally sound choices. So, in 2007, we launched sustainability sections in all three papers.

Over these last years, I have had the pleasure of meeting with hundreds of individuals who are working on local food, energy, water, waste reduction, transportation and other environmentally critical areas. News & Review writers and editors have written more than a thousand green stories and columns. This editorial effort has helped to shed some light on the environmental challenges we face. But the question of how to actually survive the nightmare environmental scenario and move toward a sustainable future remains complex and difficult.

Fortunately, Al Gore has stepped up to the plate again. His new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, provides a well-thought-out, easy-to-read, brilliantly illustrated 400-page guide for all of us who care about the planet and the humans who live on it.

Gore examines the technical side of what is happening in the fields of solar energy, soil restoration, wind harnessing and numerous other possible solutions to global warming. But he also points out the political obstacles to real change. According to Gore, the carbon lobby is both well-funded and very politically sophisticated. He is concerned, as am I, about the declining numbers of independent journalists, who in previous times would have been able to refute some of the crazy distortions spread by lobbyists for the oil and coal companies.

After reading his book, I was convinced of the urgent need for a carbon tax and the importance of exposing the ongoing campaign discrediting global warming. I felt that it was even more important to continue exploring the challenges we face and to help point the way towards how we can make more sustainable choices in the future.

After reading Our Choice, I felt a renewed sense of optimism. And believe me, that’s a wonderful thing. As we enter 2010, you owe it to yourself to buy a copy of this book and share it with the people in your life. There’s no better way to tell your children that you love them—and that change is possible.