As soon as the rumors began that former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovern- mental Panel on Climate Change were being considered for a Nobel Peace Prize it was easy to predict at least one thing: Win or not, the commentators, pundits and bloggers were going to have a field day.
And they did, swamping the Internet, television and printed pages with reasons why Gore and the IPCC were the best — or worst — choice for the prize.
Personally, I was rooting for the IPCC and Gore — who presented the 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth,” which was directed by Davis Guggenheim and won Oscars in both the Documentary Feature and Best Original Song categories [the latter for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up"] — figuring a win would raise the profile of efforts to deal with anthropogenic climate change. But I couldn’t help thinking, “Does anyone give a monkey’s what all these commentators are saying?”
The day after the Nobel Prize was awarded to Gore and the IPCC, I visited Hiroo Gakuen in Tokyo, a combined junior- and senior-high school, for the school’s autumn festival — this year themed “Earth’s Happiness is Our Happiness.”
A friend whose daughter graduated from the school thought I might like to see what young people these days are thinking about environmental issues.
I was immediately struck by how Japan has changed. Today, junior- and senior-high school students are studying dioxins, the ozone layer and “corporate social responsibility.” When I first began teaching environmental issues in Japan 17 years ago, first-year university students would identify old men on bicycles and bad breath as pressing environmental concerns.
At Hiroo Gakuen I also met Joel Plunkett, one of several teachers coordinating the school’s International Program, an English-based curriculum for foreign students and Japanese students with strong English skills. The program is new this year, with seven students entering the junior high school and four entering the high school.
On the way home it struck me: The people I really wanted to hear from were these young people who will inherit this planet. The next day I sent Plunkett an e-mail and asked if any of his students would be willing to share their thoughts on the Nobel Peace Prize and climate change with readers of The Japan Times.
It turned out they were delighted to do so.
Below are five short essays written for you by students at Hiroo Gakuen. Take a look and maybe you’ll agree: given a choice between pundits and the next generation, it would be better to hear from these fresh young people any day.
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I think that Mr. Gore’s winning the Nobel Prize is a wonderful thing for everyone on this Earth. Awarding him this prize is the best way to show appreciation for his work, and I think the Nobel committee has awarded him appropriately.
One of the good things about Mr. Gore’s winning this tremendously honorable prize is that it helps make the world realize how serious this problem is.
I once had the privilege of meeting Mr. Gore on a TV show. The show was about global warming and I was very impressed to see his seriousness and earnestness regarding this matter. I had the impression that he was a truly honest person trying very hard to show us the environmental reality.
Learning from Mr. Gore’s film, I think that we should take steps to do whatever we can do. There are numerous things we can do to protect our environment. This problem will have a great effect on us and our descendants, so we all should try to do something. Even the small, everyday things such as reducing waste, turning the thermostat down, and unplugging electronic devices can make a difference.
Takane Hosoyama (JHS 1st year)
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The problem of global warming has become more severe over the past few years. “Why is this happening to us?” is the question everyone wants the answer to, but “Why did we let this happen?” is the real question.
Human beings are the ones that started this colossal problem and we need to fix it. In order for that to happen, we all need to cooperate together. Not only are we hurting ourselves, but we are also corrupting the habitats of many animals.
Our future is in great danger. It is collapsing because of something we have done. Every day is another step into making this problem bigger and bigger if we don’t do anything.
Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize was fabulous news for me. I admire him for all the hard work he has done for the making of the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” and he has affected many people’s lives in such a unique way. He has made people think about this situation more seriously, and I think that he has influenced everyone to do something to help the environment.
There is a solution to every problem, even huge ones.
Rikako Nakanishi (JHS 1st year)
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I think Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize is good because it tells people about global warming and encourages them to make changes to try and stop global warming. I believe Al Gore has a very important message, and this award gives people more reason to listen to what he has to say.
If this global-warming crisis continues, conditions will get worse; the sea level will rise which will flood small islands; storms will get stronger and bigger which will cause more destruction; summer will get hotter, making life very tough.
Everyone needs to make an effort to do what he or she can in order to help in this time of crisis. Even as young people, there are many things we can do to help stop global warming. Things we need to be doing include using less hot water; flying less; turning off electronic devices you’re not using; and eating less meat. These are just some examples of what we can do.
Al Gore has taught us that we are in a time of crisis. We all need to work together. Please find out what you can do to stop global warming.
Konosuke Matsushita (JHS 1st year)
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Through “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore has demonstrated the impact global warming is having on the world. By winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he has received the endorsement needed for more people to take his message seriously.
I believe his film has helped people to come to realize how much damage has been done to our environment over the years. It has made people realize what needs to be done in order to reduce the effects of this problem and to stop it from accelerating beyond the point of no return.
As this problem is mostly caused by humans, we have to take responsibility in order to fix it. And by “we” I mean individuals, families, communities, cities and countries which all need to do their bit.
People on all levels can make a difference to help save our environment. Governments need to stop relying on fossil fuels. As individuals, we need to make an effort to reduce the amount of energy we use.
The consequences of global warming for the environment are going to be great; this means that we, as human beings, are in a serious situation. In order to overcome this great problem, we all are going to have to cooperate.
Kohki Shiga (JHS 1st year)
Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize is rather a political victory than an effort against climate change. So why did he get the prize?
I saw “An Inconvenient Truth” and I think it was a good wakeup call for the world. It even won two Oscars, so I assume many people saw the movie and it must have affected them in some way.
However, Al Gore already ran for president as a Democrat in 2000. He lost that election against George W. Bush and the Republicans. The Republicans don’t want to sign the treaty to prevent climate change even though the U.S. produces the most carbon dioxide every year.
I feel Al Gore’s actions might be part of the preparations for the next election, and this prize is a good point for the Democrats. I think this project against global warming is still too fresh to be awarded with this prize. Maybe 10 years from now, we might be able to see some positive effects from this campaign, but we cannot yet see these results today. Maybe with Al Gore and the Nobel Peace Prize we fell into the trap of time; maybe time will prove us wrong? We don’t know yet, but if this prize does make a difference to climate change, I will be the first person to apologize to Al Gore.
Tibor Szendrei (HS 1st year)
Stephen Hesse welcomes readers’ comments at: email@example.com