SENATOR Al Gore (D) of Tennessee says Americans are showing a growing concern for the global environment, despite the Bush administration's efforts to keep it off the mainstream agenda.
The senator, who visited Boston recently on an ambitious 35-city tour to promote his new book, "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit," has been studying the global ecology for the past 25 years. During a Monitor interview, Gore talked about his work as an author, environmentalist, and politician.
The Tennessee senator says he decided to write his book after his son was almost killed in a car accident.
"It was a life-changing episode for me and my family in that I began to reassess a lot of my own priorities and look at issues with which I had been involved in a different context," he says. "I concluded that what I had to say about this could not be said in a seven-second sound bite or even a 30-minute speech on the Senate floor."
Gore says the experience of writing a book, which took him almost three years, was a challenge. He wrote his first notes for the book from the hospital room where he was staying with his injured son, who eventually made a full recovery. Later on, he spent time each morning writing from an apartment across from his Washington office after his re-election to the Senate in 1990.
But even though his political career has acted as a launching point, Gore says he decided last August not to enter the 1992 presidential race.
"After my son's accident, my family became involved in a healing process that simply was inconsistent with the decision by me to rip myself out of their lives for as long and as completely as a presidential campaign requires," he says. He will not, however, rule out running for president in future years, he says.
Gore sees possibilities for progress at the upcoming United Nations-sponsored "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro in June. But he is frustrated with the Bush administration's refusal to say whether the United States will attend the conference.
"In order for the summit to be a success, the United States - the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth - must play an active and positive role," he says.
Gore suggests that the current global ecological crisis is the byproduct of an inner spiritual crisis that leaves humans alienated from their world.
"The idea that we are separate from the earth, disembodied intellects entitled to behave with impunity toward the natural world, that idea is under increasing pressure from a new conception, from our connectedness, our place within the web of life," he says.
The Tennessee senator is nevertheless pleased with increasing public interest in environmental issues, particularly among young people. "There has been a steady increase in the level of concern expressed by the American people. You can go into any elementary school in this nation and ask the kids there what they think is the most important issue and they'll quickly tell you the threat to the global environment," he says.