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Does Al Gore think he's too old for civil disobedience?

Speaking at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting, the former vice president and climate activist called for young people to engage in "civil disobedience." But why not old people, too?

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / September 25, 2008

Former Vice President Al Gore speaks during the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting Wednesday in New York.

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

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Speaking at the annual Clinton Global Initiative  meeting  in New York Wednesday, former vice president and climate activist Al Gore called for "civil disobedience" to stop the construction of conventional coal-fired power plants.

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Here's what he said, according to Reuters :

"If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," Gore told the Clinton Global Initiative gathering to loud applause.

This isn't the first time he's said this kind of thing. In an interview with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published in October 2007, Gore called for direct action to save the climate:

“We are now treating the Earth’s atmosphere as an open sewer,” he said, and (perhaps because my teenage son was beside me) he encouraged young people to engage in peaceful protests to block major new carbon sources.
“I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers,” Mr. Gore said, “and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.”

Leaving aside whether breaking the law is ever justified, it seems odd that Gore doesn't seem to include himself in the category of the "young people" he thinks should risk jail to halt global warming. After all, at age 71, Ghandi was arrested and served two years in prison. The US labor organizer Mother Jones was still facing charges of sedition in her 80s. Even TV president Martin Sheen, who is eight years older than Gore, managed to get himself arrested at an antinuclear action in Nevada last year, for what he says is the 65th time.

Civil disobedience has never been the exclusive province of the young. And, anyway, as these and many other nonviolent resisters have demonstrated, you're only as old as you feel.

Maybe Gore was thinking about those six Greenpeace activists in Britain who last October rappelled down the side of a smokestack at the Kingsnorth coal plant and defaced it. They were found not guilty two weeks ago when a jury deemed their actions justified. I'll admit that I'm having trouble picturing the former vice president dangling from a Kernmantle rope 600 feet off the ground.

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