Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Day 2: The Slide Show

This was the most impressive day.

7:00 a.m.; I take my place in the front row (I wanted to make sure I got a good seat to be close to Mr Gore when he gave the presentation). I also brought my camera, hoping to take some good photos.

Mr. Gore arrived and gave us a brief intro on what he was going to share with us. Even though he has given this presentation about 3000 times, they are obviously tailored for the audience. In our case he is giving us the standard “long” version, which is about an hour and a half.

In giving our presentations, Gore says that we have to find the right balance–depending on our audience, and three budgets, (i) “time” budget – how much time audience is giving you (ii) “complexity” budget – how deep do you go into the science w/o losing your audience and the (iii) “hope” budget – while what are witnessing is pretty horrendous, we need to also give people hope. “It’s amazing how many people go from denial to despair,” Gore told us. We need to find the middle, “keep enough hope in your hope budget so they don’t check out on you”

Than he gives the slideshow in Keynote.

Even though I have seen the movie a few times – in fact only a few days ago on the Alitalia flight – I was still riveted! It was absolutely awesome!!! There is nothing like seeing this live – (especially being 10 feet away from presenter!)

So I spent the next hour and a half between listening and looking at everything single Keynote slide, taking notes (16 pages in my little green notebook), and, of course, taking pictures.

You’ve seen the movie: it pretty much is broken into into three phases:
(i) Global warming does exist and it is man-made, the more CO2 in the atmosphere = warmer temperatures).
(ii) Look at how it is affecting us, and what could happen (melting glaciers & ice caps, species lost, extreme weather conditions – Katrina).
(iii) How we can help reverse global warming (taking the lead in new energy technology, Toyota, GE).

The presentation–as in the movie–is very factual, and tries to steer clear of politics – but does make it very clear that this current administration has its head in the sand in regards to this issue.

As Al Gore says, “global warming is not a political issue it is a moral issue.”

How can anybody who sees this not be moved to take action? In fact, all of us who volunteered our time to attend these sessions are doing so because we were moved to ACT – to do something to revert this catastrophic event that is upon us.

Next came the “Scenes Behind the Movie”, if you will.

We spent the next 6 hours with Mr. Gore and a top climatogy scientist, Dr. Michael MacCracken, PhD going over the 250 slides of his presentation. Together, they explained the rationale and science behind each slide of the presentation. This was an opportunity to go in deeper into some of the science behind the facts.

It was also an opportunity to learn about the flow of the presentation, things that we should highlight. And of course depending on the audience, what to explore deeper or not even present.

He asked us to please keep the questions to a minimum, if not we would get bogged down on the presentation. If you have any questions write them down, and Mr. Gore or Dr. MacCracken will answer each one.

But of course, when you have a chance to have Mr. Gore answer a question, I guess people cannot help it – the questions came in a flurry during the first part of the presentation, and it did start to bog down, until finally they cut off all questions so we could finish.

I wrote down six questions I wanted answered, the ONE burning questions I wanted Mr. Gore to answer was: “Has President Bush seen the movie or one of his presentations?”

No, I did not ask that during the slide review but I did get a chance to ask Mr. Gore that question afterwards.

His response, “I offered to make this presentation to him, but he refused. Why? I honestly do not know. He is a very bright person, but I am beginning to think that he lacks curiousity about many things”

Can you believe this? The one person on this planet who should see the movie, lacks curiosity!

When An Inconvenient Truth came out The New Yorker said, “this movie was made for an audience of one”.

And even though this has become the second highest grossing documentary in history, with millions across the world having seen it, the one person it was made for, has not! Unbelievable!

Does that mean it’s a failure? It is, if WE do NOT pick up the slack. I mean, we can’t afford to endure two more years of inaction from this White House.

We, collectively with OUR MOVEMENT, have to fill the void left by our government, and lead the way.

So after about 10 hours of getting our brains pumped with information, it was time to chill a bit.

What better way to chill out, than an evening at BB King’s?

We saw four singer/songwriters (including Jimmy Flowers the guy who wrote “Living on Tulsa Time”) put on a really good show for all of us! And if you all think that a bunch of “enviros” don’t know how to party – well you got that wrong!

But the photos speak for themselves!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Day 1: Here Comes the Cavalry

Arrive in lovely Nashville and went straight to the Downtown Nashville Hilton – which is next to the Country Music Hall of Fame. So we are in the heart of country music, which is pretty cool since as my Green Team colleagues know I kinda like some country, like the Dixie Chicks.

We all registered – felt like first day in College – my fellow students were a real varied bunch: real scientist, climatologists, environmentalist from various NGO’s like Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, students, Moms, attorneys, engineers, corporate folks (Wal-Mart, Aveda) artists, teachers, actors, authors, politicians and other politicians, film makers, publishers, a token ad guy and, yes, a magician!

After we registered, I finally met my mentor Ken and other GREEN group members, which was pretty cool (Ken is a real nice and genuine guy – very impressive and dedicated to the cause like all the other mentors).

Then we had orientation – sort of giving us a run down of what the next few days was going to be like.

That evening we all went to the Union Station Hotel (grand old railroad station – think Grand Central Station on a smaller scale but just as grand, converted into a hotel).

This was our first introduction to Al Gore.

After we had all helped ourselves to the buffet and a few beers (cash bar, by the way) Mr. Gore arrived. And to a standing ovation gave a few introductory remarks.

He thanked us “for answering the call.” That we had been selected among many very qualified applicants, and we were the best and brightest out there (really made me feel pretty special – who doesn’t like to be called brilliant?).
He encouraged us to learn not just from him, but from our fellow students “learn from one another that passion that you all feel…”

He encouraged us “to open up to the chance to figure out how we can put our collective wisdom to use”. To raise to the CHALLENGE. Thinks of better ways of communicating that passion.

He spoke at length about how when he first started, he was the lonely soldier started talking about global warming. He felt that people would see what he was trying to say and say yes, we must do something about it…but nothing happened. He kept looking over his shoulder saying where’s the Cavalry?

“Well, you are my Cavalry – you have arrived!!!”

Great way to spend the first opening day, no?

He than hung around and, of course, 90% of all 200 of us showed no shame, and went up to him. Despite of the organizers asking us don’t abuse his time and so forth – well, that was pretty much ignored! Fellow students where asking photographs to be taken with him (I would have too, of course, but did not bring my camera that evening like an idiot! – but don’t worry I did make up for it – after all, there are two more WHOLE days to go!

Finally, Hugh in Nashville


What can I say, it was absolutely amazing. What an incredible experience. This is perhaps one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in life – very, very cool!

Mr. Gore is everything that I expected – smart, warm, passionate, funny, engaging, and unassuming. Normal guy with a super computer brain. This is obviously an issue he really cares about. I mean, to take almost three days of (what imagine is a very busy schedule) to personally train us folks – now that is dedication! I have always been a Gore fan – now I am a Gore Disciple! The guy is amazing, and the issue of global warming is pretty scary.

We always joke that global warming is the “mother” of all environmental issues – boy, this really brought it home.

I feel like I went to Climate College, and our class of about 200, now all have PHD’s on global warming - my brain is bursting with so much information! My memory RAM is filled to capacity.

As I mentioned before, Mr Gore promised to personally train 1,000 volunteers – with our session which was the fifth and final session, they have trained about 900. (They are hoping to do one more session in Spring).

We are the first one ones start this movement – we are the first wave, like the Marines (under General Gore) that are being sent into battle. And this is only the beginning.

So how was it?

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Last day Before Nashville

OK, we are down to D-day

Tomorrow morning I hop on JetBlue and fly down to Nashville.

This will also be the last time you hear from me until after my return, as the Climate Project has told us that we are NOT allowed to have a LIVE BLOG during the session. So obviously, I must respect that.

But I did manage to speak to both Ken and Jen about what to expect.

Both said it would be “an incredible experience.” And very intense. Once you get started there is very little time for anything, so like Jen said “leave your Blackberry at home.” Al Gore is “pretty amazing”.

Both said bring a camera!

What Jen said she felt that this is the beginning of something very big – it is the beginning of a MOVEMENT that will change the world. Maybe if enough of us do this, there will be a change in peoples’ behavior.

Well I am on my way to find out. Talk to you all soon!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Thinking About Nashville On Route Home

30,000 feet over Europe -

Front page of today’s International Herald Tribune: “Brit Unit Foresees 2007 as Hottest Ever – In Europe more worry than in US”. Article goes on to attribute this to global warming and El Niño. It also mentions that Europeans take global warming more seriously than we Americans. For example 40% of French, Germans and Spanish think global warming is the MOST serious issue facing the planet. Compare this to 30% of Americans. Article ends by saying, “It’s going to take more that just an Al Gore movie to get American’s to take global warming seriously”.

Same IHT also has an article about how Exxon Mobil is being paying millions of dollars to churning out fake “scientific” reports and setting up so called climate change “non-profits” (Advancement of Sound science Coalition) to of course, LIE or manipulate the truth about global warming.

These articles and two more years of Bush underlines that we have our work cut out for us.

That is why I am so excited about going to Nashville in three days.

My almost 10 days in Europe have been relaxing, and frustrating at the same time. Unfortunately, the holidays was interrupted by my daughter picking a fine time to get strep throat, and I also learned that while southern France might have the fastest train in the world, and the best wines and cheese anywhere, but their WIFI capabilities suck. So I have been unable to get on-line for most of my stay in France. For those who know me, it has been an extremely frustrating experience.

But when I did, I finally heard from my mentor and trainer of the GREEN group, a Mr. Ken Riley.

He and his wife teach science and attended the first Al Gore training sessions. He said it was “an experience of a lifetime.”

He first reminded me that we have to give at least 10 presentations a year!

Apparently, the two-day training session starts with Mr. Gore (how Ken refers to him – actually one of my questions to Ken will be how do you address Al? Mr. Vice President? VP Gore? Mr Almost President? Mr Gore or just Al?) giving his “slide show” presentation followed by Q&A. The sessions are given by both Mr. Gore and a scientist (Dr Henry Pollack, a Climate Scientist from the University of Michigan).

Ken goes on to say that he felt that best part of the experience was the networking, as you meet a lot of really cool people. And, of course, he says bring a camera, as you “will want to share this experience with your friends and family!” So even though Ken doesn’t say much, it does sound pretty cool. I am hoping to be able to touch base with Ken this weekend to find out if there is anything else I will need.

In the meantime I have been brushing up on my An Inconvenient Truth book, which of course I intend to get Al to sign!

Ken also asked me to send him some background info on everybody in the GREEN group. Here’s what I sent him:

Dear Ken,

You asked for a brief bio and why I wanted to join the Climate Project:

I am president and founder of Green Team Advertising, an agency that specializes in environmental and social issues. In fact Green Team opened its doors in 1993, shortly after the 1992 elections and the Clinton/Gore victory. I felt that with Gore in the White House, green issues were going to be at the top of the agenda, and there would be an opportunity in environmental issues.

Well as you know, green issues didn’t really become top of mind in the American mindset until fairly recently. Various events including 911, the Tsunami, Katrina and finally, last year with An Inconvenient Truth we have seen a culmination of the environment and “green” in all the mainstream media.

So as Friedman points out in the NYTimes article you sent us, in 2007 the color will be GREEN!

In Green Team’s 14-year history we have been fortunate to work with over 30 social and environmental non-profits and great causes, including a global warming campaign with the Environmental Defense (undoit.org).

So global warming and climate change are dear to my heart. That, my passion for the environment, and the fact that Al Gore “inspired” me to found Green Team Advertising is why I will be traveling to Nashville next week!

OK, that’s all for now. My laptop is quickly running out of gas, besides I have to get back to my inflight movie: An Inconvenient Truth. Yep, you better believe it! It’s one of about 6 movies being offered by Alitalia - at least one airline seems to get it! (What’s pretty cool is that my daughter Alice is also watching it again.)

More tomorrow – hopefully will have touched based with Ken and also spoken to ex Green Teamer Jen Giroux who attended this week’s session – she may actually be more insightful that Ken.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What’s This All About?

OK, so here I am pretty stoked about being one of the Chosen Ones!

(Actually I am sitting outside [yes outside – global warming, anyone?] having a Doumi (draft beer) in the main plaza of Rousset a small French ville outside of Aix en Province.)

On January 8, 2007 I shall fly down to Nashville, TN (Al Gore’s home town), where I’ll be attending a 3-day training session. I guess they want to show us the various forms and lengths to give the presentation, depending on the audience (school kids, business, friends), and also how to answer any difficult questions that people may have about the facts on climate change.

As part of the deal, I have to commit myself to give at least 10 presentations in one year! While that may sound like a lot, I have a few already covered – figure one presentation at Green Team, two at my daughter Alice’s school (middle school gets one, high school gets another), I am sure some of my clients would be also interested–that’s probably three to five, and I attend quite a few conferences so that’s another two or three.

So I am not really worried about meeting the quota.

What’s really cool about the training sessions is that I understand that Al Gore is an active participant in these!

The group is made up of what I believe is about 40 folks – these are being split up into 4 geographical regions (from where you come from) – I am in the Northeastern or GREEN Group.

So how to prepare for this? More on this tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Introduction to An Inconvenient Hugh

Welcome to my first blog.

You could say this blog started in November 1992.

You may recall it was an election year and two people full of hope and optimism had just won the election.

I personally was very excited with the prospect of an Al Gore in The White House.

You see I had this crazy idea.

Why not start an ad agency that specializes in environmental issues!!?? Here I was, an art director in a dead end job working on pet food and cereal accounts. I felt there must be more to life than this.

I loved both advertising and environmental issues – so why not? I had also read Al Gore’s Earth In the Balance and became a Gore fan. Here was a guy talking about global warming, biodiversity, alternative energy like solar, wind, hybrids – he was so ahead of his time – in fact, at the time President Bush kept referring him to Mr Ozone.

Well Clinton and Mr. Ozone won!

And shortly after, Green Team was born!

Well, here we are today – Green Team is still here (and doing pretty well, thank you very much) and Al Gore has been reborn as the avid and true environmentalist that he always was.

Some of you may have seen An Inconvenient Truth (if you haven’t, shame on you – go see it) – but it basically is a PowerPoint presentation that Al Gore has been giving for over 14 years.

Of course, he has been updating it with what has been happening recently – read Tsunami, Katrina among other things.

But the basic argument is there. There is something called Climate Change and Global Warming and it is REAL. And we’ve got to do something about it, before it’s too late. And NO, (as both Bushes would have you believe it’s NOT a choice between the economy and the environment. In fact, if America tackled these issues head on, we would be at the forefront of new, cutting edge technology that would not ONLY help SAVE the planet, but benefit business and people at the same time.

Big Business is aware of it. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few American companies (GE, Dupont, etc.), it’s the Japanese like Honda and Toyota that are seeing the light…

But let’s get back to why I am writing this blog

After the release of An Inconvenient Truth earlier this year and it’s incredible success, Al Gore started a mission called The Climate Project. And he issued a call for 1000 volunteers or messengers to help spread the word on global warming

One thousand volunteers to give the same presentation to as many people as possible.

I answered the call!

I guess you can call me one of Gore’s disciples or messengers!

You see, 14 years ago Al Gore inspired me to open Green Team – I figured I owe the man something.