Archive for April, 2012

Download PDF files of worksheets to be used in conjunction with An Inconvenient Truth here:

An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part I

An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part II

An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part III


Read Full Post »

PLEASE NOTE: This transcript is being provided for educational purposes only to be used in conjunction with a university course designed to raise awareness of the serious environmental issues that the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth addresses. The kind understanding of the filmmakers will be appreciated with respect to any copyright issues which may arise, and it is hoped that permission to use this material will be granted so that the message Mr. Al Gore puts forth may be disseminated among the students participating in this course.

Students are encouraged to purchase their own copies of this important documentary on DVD.

Thank you.

Tony Del Vecchio, M.Ed.



Part II


2000 Election

(Background: 2000 election debacle in Florida. Supreme Court throws the decision to Bush.)

Gore: While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome.

Well, that was a hard blow. But what do you do? You make the best of it. It brought into clear focus, the mission that I had been pursuing for all these years. I started giving the slide show again.


One often unnoticed effect of global warming is it causes more precipitation, but more of it coming in one-time big storm events because the evaporation off the oceans puts all the moisture up there when storm conditions trigger the downpour, more of it falls down. The insurance industry has actually noticed this. Their recovered losses are going up. See the damage from these severe weather events. And 2005 is not even on this yet. When it does, it will be off that chart.

Effects of Global Warming

Europe has just had a year very similar to the one we’ve had where they say nature has just been going crazy. All kinds of unusual catastrophes, like a nature hike through the book of Revelations.

Flooding in Asia. Mumbai, India this past July (2005): 37 inches of rain in 24 hours, by far the largest downpour that any city in India has ever received. A lot of flooding in China, also. Global warming paradoxically causes not only more flooding, but also more drought. This neighboring province right next door had a severe drought at the same time these areas were flooding. One of the reasons for this has to do with the fact that global warming not only increases precipitation worldwide, but it also relocates the precipitation. Focus most of all on this part of Africa just on the edge of the Sahara. Unbelievable tragedies have been unfolding there and there are a lot reasons for it. Darfur and Niger are among those tragedies. One of the factors that has been compounding this is the lack of rainfall and the increasing drought. This is Lake Chad, once one of the largest lakes in the world. It has dried up over the last few decades to almost nothing, vastly complicating the other problems that they also have. The second reason why this is a paradox: Global warming creates more evaporation off of the oceans to seeds the clouds, but it sucks moisture out of the soil. Soil evaporation increases dramatically with higher temperatures. And that has consequences for us in the United States, as well.

Change and Timescales

(Gore revisits the family farm and reminisces about growing up there.)

The places where people live were chosen because of the climate pattern that has been pretty much the same on Earth since the end of the last ice age. Here on this farm, the patterns are changing. It seems gradual in the course of a human lifetime but in the course of time as defined by this river, it’s happening very, very quickly.

A Canary in the Coal Mine: The Arctic

Two canaries in the coal mine. The first one is in the Arctic. Of course the Arctic Ocean has a floating ice cap, Greenland on its side there. I say canary in the coal mine because the Arctic is one part of the world that is experiencing faster impact from global warming. This is the largest ice shelf in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf. It just cracked in half three years ago. The scientists were astonished.

Melting Permafrost

These are called drunken trees just going every which way. This is not caused by wind damage or alcohol consumption. These trees put their roots down in the permafrost and the permafrost is thawing, so they just go every which way now.

This building was built on the permafrost and collapsed as the permafrost thawed. This woman’s house has had to be abandoned. The pipeline is suffering a great deal of structural damage. Incidentally, the oil that they want to produce in that protected area in northern Alaska, which I hope they don’t. They have to depend on trucks to go in and out of there and the trucks go over the frozen ground. This shows the number of days that the tundra in Alaska is frozen enough to drive on it. 35 years ago it was 225 days a year. Now it’s below 75 days a year because the spring comes earlier and the fall comes later and the temperatures just keep on going up.

Fastest Temperature Increase Occurs at the Arctic

I went up to the North Pole. I went under that ice cap in a nuclear submarine that surfaced through the ice like this. Since they started patrolling in 1957 they have gone under the ice and measured with their radar looking upward to measure how thick it is because they can only surface where the thickness of the ice is 3 and half feet thick or less. So they have kept a meticulous record and they wouldn’t release because it was national security. I went up there in order to persuade them to release them, and they did. And here’s what that record showed.

Starting in 1970 there was a precipitous drop off in the amount and extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap. It has diminished by 40 percent in 40 years. There are two studies showing that in the next 50 to 70 years, in summertime, it will be completely gone. Now you might say, “Why is that a problem? How could the Arctic ice cap actually melt so quickly?” When the sun’s rays hit the ice, more than 90 percent of it bounces off right back into space like a mirror. But when it hits the open ocean more than 90 percent is absorbed. As the surrounding water gets warmer, it speeds up the melting of the ice. Right now the arctic ice cap acts like a giant mirror. All the sun’s rays bounce off, more than 90 percent, to keep the Earth cooler. But as it melts and the open ocean receives that sun’s energy instead, more than 90 percent is absorbed. So there is a faster build up of heat here, at the North Pole, in the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic generally, than anywhere else on the planet. That’s not good for creatures like polar bears that depend on the ice. A new scientific study shows that for the first time they’re finding polar bears that have actually drowned, swimming long distances up to 60 miles to find the ice. They did not find that before. What does it mean to us to look at a vast expanse of open water at the top of our world that used to be covered by ice? We ought to care a lot because it has planetary effects.

Earth’s Climate is an Engine

The Earth’s climate is like a big engine for redistributing heat from the equator to the poles. It does that by means of ocean currents and wind currents. They tell us, the scientists do, that the Earth’s climate is a non-linear system. It’s a fancy way they have of saying that the changes are not all just gradual. Some of them come suddenly in big jumps. On a worldwide basis, the annual average temperature is about 58 degrees Fahrenheit. If we have an increase of 5 degrees, which is on the low end of the projections, look at how that translates globally. That means an increase of only 1 degree at the equator, but more than 12 degrees at the poles. So all those wind and ocean current patterns that have formed since the last ice age and have been relatively stable, they are all up in the air and they change.  One of the ones they are most worried about where they have spent a lot of time studying the problem is in the North Atlantic, where the Gulf Stream comes up and meets the cold wind coming off the arctic over Greenland and evaporates the heat out of the Gulf Stream and the stream is carried over to western Europe by the prevailing winds and the Earth’s rotation. Isn’t it interesting that the whole ocean current system is all linked together in this loop? They call it the ocean conveyor. The red are the warm surface current, the Gulf Stream is the best known of them. The blue represents the cold currents running in the opposite direction. We don’t see them at all because they run along the bottom of the ocean. Up in the North Atlantic, after that heat is pulled out, what’s left behind is colder water and saltier water, because salt doesn’t go anywhere. That makes it denser and heavier. That cold, dense heavy water sinks at a rate of 5 billion gallons per second. That pulls that current back south.

Disruption of the Ocean Conveyor

At the end of the last ice age, as the last glacier was receding from North America, the ice melted and a giant pool of fresh water formed in North America. The Great Lakes are the remnants of that huge lake. An ice dam on the eastern border formed, and one day it broke. All that fresh water came rushing out, ripping open the St. Lawrence, there. It diluted the salty dense cold water, made it fresher and lighter so it stopped sinking. And that pump shut off and the heat transfer stopped, and Europe went back into an ice age for another 900 or 1000 years. The change from conditions we have here today to an ice age took place in perhaps as little as 10 years’ time. That is a sudden jump. Of course that’s not going to happen again, because the glaciers of North America are not there. Is there any big chunk of ice anywhere near there? Oh yeah, (pointing at Greenland). We’ll come back to that one.

Politics: Reagan, Bush1 and Kyoto

It is extremely frustrating to me to communicate over and over again as clearly as I can. And we are still by far the worst contributor to the problem. I look around and look for really meaningful signs that we are about to really change. I don’t see it right now.

(Video clips of three politicians speaking.)

Ronald Reagan: Very reputable scientists have said that one factor of air pollution is oxides of nitrogen from decaying vegetation. This is what causes the haze that gave the Big Smokey Mountains their name.

George H.W. Bush: This guy is so far off on the environmental extremes, we’ll be up to our neck in owls and out of work for every American. This guy’s crazy!

Senator James Inhof: Even if humans were causing global warming, and we’re not, this could be maybe the greatest hoax perpetuated on the American People.

If it is not on the tips of their constituents’ tongues, it’s easy for them to ignore it. They say, “Well, let’s deal with that tomorrow.”

Predator/Prey Disruptions and Misplaced Cities

So this same phenomenon of changing all these patterns is also affecting the seasons. Here is a study from the Netherlands. The peak arrival date for migratory birds 25 years ago was April 25. Their chicks hatched on June 3, just at the time when the caterpillars were coming out: Nature’s plan. But 20 years of warming later the caterpillars peaked two weeks earlier. The chicks tried to catch up with it, but they couldn’t. So they are in trouble.

There are millions of ecological niches that are affected by global warming in just this way.

This is the number of days with frost in southern Switzerland over the last one hundred years. It has gone down rapidly. But now watch this. This is the number of invasive exotic species that have rushed in to fill the new ecological niches that are opening up.

That’s happening here in the United States too. You’ve heard of the pine beetle problem? Those pine beetles used to be killed by the cold winters, but there are fewer days of frost. So the pine trees are being devastated. This is part of the 14 million acres of spruce trees in Alaska that have been killed by bark beetles, the exact same phenomenon. There are cities that were founded because they were just above the mosquito line. Nairobi is one. Harare is another. There are plenty of others. Now the mosquitoes with warming are climbing to higher altitudes.

Infectious Disease

There are a lot of vectors for infectious diseases that are worrisome to us that are also expanding their range, not only mosquitoes but all these others as well. We’ve had 30 so-called new diseases that have emerged in just the last quarter century. A lot of them like SARS have caused tremendous problems. The resistant forms of tuberculosis. There are others. There has been a re-emergence of some diseases that were once under control. The Avian flu, of course, is quite a serious matter, as you know. West Nile Virus came to the eastern shore of Maryland in 1999. Two years later it was across the Mississippi. And two years after that it had spread across the continent. These are very troubling signs.

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs all over the world, because of global warming and other factors, are bleaching and they end up like this. All the fish species that depend on the coral reef are also in jeopardy as a result. Overall species loss is now occurring at a rate 1000 times greater than the natural background rate.

The Second Canary: Antarctic Peninsula Sea Ice

This brings me to the second canary in the coal mine, Antarctica, the largest mass of ice on the planet by far. A friend of mine said in 1978, “If you see the break up of ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula, watch out, because that should be seen as an alarm bell for global warming.” And actually, if you look at the peninsula up close, every place where you see one of these green blotches is an ice shelf larger than the state of Rhode Island that has broken up in just the last 15 to 20 years. I want to focus on just one of them called Larsen B.

I want you to look at these black pools here. It makes it seem almost as if we are looking through the ice to the ocean beneath. But that’s an illusion. This is melting water that forms in pools. If you were flying over it in a helicopter, you’d see it’s 700 feet tall. They are so majestic, so massive. In the distance are the mountains, and just before the mountains is the shelf of the continent. This is floating ice, and there is land-based ice on the down-slope of those mountains. From here to the mountains is about 20 to 25 miles. They thought this would be stable for at least a hundred years, even with global warming. The scientists who study these ice shelves were absolutely astonished when they were looking at these images. Starting on January 31, 2002, in a period of 35 days, this ice shelf completely disappeared. They could not figure out how in the world this happened so rapidly. They went back to figure out where they had gone wrong. That’s when they focused on those pools of melting water. Even before they could figure out what had happened there, something else started going wrong. When the floating sea-based ice cracked up, it no longer held back the ice on the land. The land-based ice then started falling into the ocean. It was like letting the cork out of a bottle. There’s a difference between floating ice and land-based ice. It’s like the difference between an ice cube floating in a glass of water, which when it melts doesn’t raise the level of water in the glass, and a cube sitting atop a stack of ice cubes, which melts and flows over the edge. That’s why the citizens of these pacific nations had all had to evacuate to New Zealand.

West Antarctica Land Based Ice

I want to focus on West Antarctica, because it illustrates two factors about land-based ice and sea-based ice. It’s a little of both. It’s propped on tops of islands, but the ocean comes up underneath it. So as the ocean gets warmer, it has an impact on it. If this were to go, sea level worldwide would go up 20 feet. They’ve measured disturbing changes on the underside of this ice sheet. It’s considered relatively more stable, however, than another big body of ice that is roughly the same size. Greenland would also raise sea level almost 20 feet if it went. A friend of mine has just brought back some pictures of what’s going on in Greenland right now. Dramatic changes. These are the same kinds of pools that formed here, on this ice shelf in Antarctica. And the scientists thought that when that water seeped back into the ice, it would just refreeze. But they found out that actually what happens is that it just keeps on going, It tunnels to the bottom and makes the ice like Swiss cheese, sort of like termites. This shows what happens to the crevasses, and when lakes form, they create what are called moulins. The water goes down to the bottom and it lubricates where the ice meets the bedrock.

See these people here for scale? This is not the edge of Greenland. This is the middle of the ice mass. This is a massive rushing torrent of fresh melt water tunneling straight down through the Greenland ice to the bedrock below. Now, to some extent, there has always been seasonal melting and moulins have formed in the past, but not like now.

Impact of 20 Foot Rise in Sea Level

In 1992, they measured this amount of melting in Greenland. Ten years later, this is what happened. And here is the melting from 2005. Tony Blair’s scientific advisor has said that because of what is happening in Greenland right now, the maps of the world will have to be redrawn.  If Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida. This is what would happen in the San Francisco Bay. A lot of people live in these areas. The Netherlands, the low-countries: absolutely devastating. The area around Beijing is home to tens of millions of people. Even worse, in the area around Shanghai, there are 40 million people. Worse still, Calcutta and, to the east, Bangladesh: the area covered includes 60 million people. Think of the impact of a couple hundred thousand refugees when they are displaced by an environmental event and then imagine the impact of a hundred million or more. Here is Manhattan. This is the World Trade Center Memorial Site. After the horrible events of 9/11 we said, “Never again.” But this is what would happen to Manhattan. They can measure this precisely, just as the scientists could predict precisely how much water would breech the levees in New Orleans. The area where the World Trade Center Memorial is to be located would be under water. Is it possible that we should prepare against other threats besides terrorists? Maybe we should be concerned about other problems as well.




 An Inconvenient Truth Transcript


Read Full Post »

PLEASE NOTE: This transcript is being provided for educational purposes only to be used in conjunction with a university course designed to raise awareness of the serious environmental issues that the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth addresses. The kind understanding of the filmmakers will be appreciated with respect to any copyright issues which may arise, and it is hoped that permission to use this material will be granted so that the message Mr. Al Gore puts forth may be disseminated among the students participating in this course.

Students are encouraged to purchase their own copies of this important documentary on DVD.

Thank you.

Tony Del Vecchio, M.Ed.



Part III


Civilization and Earth

1.3 billion people. An economy that’s surging. More and more energy needs.  Massive coal reserves.

(Gore and Chinese scientists discussing coal reserves in China.)

Every time I’ve visited China, I’ve learned from their scientists. They’re right on the cutting edge.

This issue is really the same for China as it is for the US. We are both using old technologies that are dirty and polluting.

Gore speaking on global warming at a seminar in China: Separating the truth from the fiction and the accurate connection from the misunderstandings is part of what you learn here. When the warnings are accurate and based on sound science, then we as human beings, whatever country we live in, have to find a way to make sure that the warnings are heard and responded to.

We both have a hard time shaking loose the familiar patterns that we relied on in the past. We both face completely unacceptable consequences.

We are witnessing a collision between our civilization and the Earth. There are three factors that are causing this collision.

1) Population – When my generation, the baby boom generation, was born after WW II, the population had just crossed the 2 billion mark. I’m in my 50s and it’s already gone to almost 6 and a half billion. If I reach the demographic expectation for the baby boomers, it will go over 9 billion. If it takes 10,000 generations to reach 2 billion and then, in one human lifetime, ours, it goes from 2 billion to 9 billion, something profoundly different is going on right now. We’re putting more pressure on the Earth. Most of it’s in the poorer nations of the world. It puts pressure on food demand. It puts pressure on water demand. It puts pressure on vulnerable natural resources, and this pressure is one of the reasons we have seen such devastation of the forest, not only tropical but elsewhere. It is a political issue. This is the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. One set of policies here. Another set of policies here. Much of it comes not only from cutting, but also burning. Almost 30% of the CO2 that goes up into the atmosphere each year is from forest burning. This is a time-lapse picture of the Earth at night over a six month period showing the lights of the cities in white and the burning forests and brush fires in red. The yellow areas are the gas flares like these in Siberia.

2) Science – The scientific and technological revolution is a great blessing in that it has given us tremendous benefits in areas like medicine and communication. But this new power that we have also brings a responsibility to think about its consequences. Here’s a formula to think about. Old habits plus old technology have predictable consequences. Old habits plus new technology can have dramatically altered consequences. Warfare with spears and bows and arrows and rifles and machine guns, that’s one thing. But then a new technology came. (Atomic bomb blast.) We have to think differently about war because the new technologies so completely transformed the consequences of that old habit that we can’t just mindlessly continue the patterns of the past. In the same way we have always exploited the Earth for sustenance. For most of our existence we used relatively simple tools: the plow, the tractor. But even tools like shovels are different now. A shovel used to be like this. Shovels have gotten bigger and every year they get more powerful. Our ability to have an effect on the surface of the Earth is utterly transformed. You can say the same thing about irrigation, which is a great thing, but when we divert rivers without considering the consequences, sometimes the rivers no longer reach the sea. There were two rivers in central Asia that were used by the former Soviet Union that were used for irrigating cotton fields unwisely. The Aral Sea was fed by them. It used to be the fourth largest inland sea in the world. When I went there I saw this strange sight of an enormous fishing fleet resting in the sand. This is the canal that the fishing industry desperately tried to build to get to the receding shoreline. Making mistakes in our dealings with nature can have bigger consequences now because our technologies are often bigger than the human scale. When you put them all together they made us a force of nature. This is also a political issue.

This is a computer map of the world that purports to show the relative contribution to global warming. In our country we are responsible for more than all of South America, all of Africa, all of the Middle East, all of Asia all combined. The per capita average in Africa, India, China, Japan, EU, Russia, here’s where we are way, way above everyone else. If you take population into account, it’s a little bit different. China’s playing a bigger role, so is Europe, but we are still, by all odds, the largest contributor. And so it is up to us to look at how we think about.

3) Way of Thinking – The way we think about it is the third and final factor that transforms our relationship to the Earth. If a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water, it jumps right out again, because it senses the danger. But the very same frog, if it jumps into a pot of lukewarm water that is slowly brought to a boil, will just sit there and it won’t move. It will just sit there even as the temperature continues to go up and up. It will stay there until.. until.. it is rescued. It is important to rescue the frog. The point is this: Our collective nervous system is like that frog’s nervous system. It takes a sudden jolt sometimes before we become aware of a danger. If it seems gradual, even it really is happening quickly, we are capable of just sitting there and not responding and not reacting.

The Tobacco Industry

I don’t remember a time when I was a kid when summertime didn’t mean working with tobacco. I used to love it. It was during that period when working with the guys on the farm seemed like fun to me.

Starting in 1964 with the Surgeon General’s report, the evidence was laid out on the connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. We kept growing tobacco.

Nancy was almost 10 years older than me, and there were only two of us. She was my protector and my friend at the same time. She started smoking when she was a teenager and never stopped. She died of lung cancer. That’s one of the ways you don’t want to die. The idea that we had been part of that economic pattern that produced the cigarettes that produced the cancer, it was so painful at so many levels. My father, he had grown tobacco all his life. He stopped it. Whatever explanation that seemed to make sense in the past, just didn’t cut it anymore. He stopped it. It’s just human nature to take time to connect the dots. I know that. But I also know that there can be a day of reckoning when you wished you had connected the dots more quickly.

Three Misconceptions

There are three misconceptions that bedevil our thinking.

1)    First, isn’t there a disagreement among scientists about whether the problem is real or not? Actually, not really. There was a massive study of every scientific article in a peer-reviewed article written on global warming for the last ten years. They took a big sample of 10 percent, 928 articles. And you know the number of those that disagreed with the scientific consensus that we’re causing global warming and that is a serious problem out of the 928: Zero. The misconception that there is disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small group of people. One of their internal memos leaked and here is what it said according to the press. Their objective is to reposition global warming as a theory rather than fact. This has happened before. After the Surgeon General’s report. One of their memos, leaked 40 years ago. They said, “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of creating a controversy in the public’s mind.” But have they succeeded? You’ll remember that there were 928 peer-reviewed articles. Zero percent disagreed with the consensus. There was another study of all the articles in the popular press. Over the last fourteen years they looked at a sample of 636. More than half of them said, “Well, we are not sure. It could be a problem, may not be a problem.” So no wonder people are confused. Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it. I’ve seen scientists who were persecuted, ridiculed, deprived of jobs, income simply because the facts they discovered led them to an inconvenient truth that they insisted on telling.. You know more than a hundred years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote this: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”

2)    The second misconception: Do we have to choose between the economy and the environment? This is a big one. A lot of people say we do. I was trying to convince the first Bush administration to go to the Earth Summit. They organized a big White House conference to say, “We’re on top of this.” One of these viewgraphs caught my attention and I want to talk about it for a minute. Here is the choice we have to make according to this group. We have here a scale that balances two different things. On one side, we have gold bars. Mmmmm. Don’t they look good! I’d just like to have some of those gold bars. On the other side of the scale we have. The Entire Planet! Hmm? I think this is a false choice for two reasons. Number one, if we don’t have a planet. The other reason is that if we do the right thing, then we are going to create a lot of wealth and we are going to create a lot of jobs, because doing the right thing moves us forward. I’ve probably given this slide show a thousand times. I’ve tried to identify all those things in people’s minds that serve as obstacles to them understanding this. Whenever I feel like I’ve identified an obstacle, I try to take it apart, roll it away, remove it, blow it up. I set myself a goal: communicate this real clearly. The only way I know to do it is city by city, person by person, family by family. And I have faith that pretty soon enough minds are changed that we cross a threshold. Let me give you an example of the wrong way to balance the economy and the environment. One part of this issue involves automobiles. Japan has mileage standards up here. Europe plans to pass Japan. Our allies in Australia and Canada are leaving us behind. Here’s where we are. There is a reason for it. They say that we can’t protect the environment too much without threatening the economy and threatening the automakers, because automakers in China might come in and just steal all our markets. Well, here is where China’s auto mileage standards are now. We can’t sell our cars in China today because we don’t meet China’s environmental standards. California has taken an initiative to have higher mileage cars sold in California. The auto companies have sued California to prevent this law from taking effect because, as they point out, eleven years from now this would mean California would have to have cars for sale that are as efficient eleven years from now as China’s are today: clearly too onerous a provision to comply with. Is this helping our companies to succeed? Actually, if you look at who’s doing well in the world it’s the companies that are building more efficient cars. Our companies are in deep trouble.

3)    Final misconception: If we accept that this problem is real, maybe it is just too big to do anything about. There are a lot of people who go straight from denial to despair without pausing on the intermediate step of actually doing something about the problem. That’s what I would like to finish with: the fact that we already know everything we need to know to effectively address this problem. We’ve got to do a lot of things, not just one. Increasing end use efficiency we can remove global warming pollution that would other wise be put into the atmosphere.

*    More efficient electrical appliances

*    Higher mileage cars

*    Other transport efficiency

*    Renewable technology

*    Carbon capture sequestration

They all add up and pretty soon we are below our 1970 emissions. We have everything we need, save perhaps political will. In America, political will is a renewable resource. We have the ability to do this. Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, with the electricity we use, the cars we drive. We can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands. We just have to have the determination to make them happen.

States and Cities

Are we going to be left behind as the rest of the world moves forward? All of these nations have ratified Kyoto. There are only two advanced nations in the world that have not ratified Kyoto, and we are one of them. The other is Australia. Luckily several states are taking the initiative. The nine northeastern states have banded together on reducing CO2. California and Oregon are taking the initiative. Pennsylvania is exercising leadership on solar power and wind power. US cities are stepping up to the plate. One after the other, we have seen all these cities pledge to take on global warming.

Rising to the Occasion

What about the rest of us? Ultimately this question comes down to this: Are we, as Americans, capable of doing great things even though they are difficult? Are we capable of rising above ourselves and above history? The record indicates that we do have that capacity. We formed a nation. We fought a revolution and brought something new to this Earth, a free nation guaranteeing individual liberty. America made a moral decision that slavery was wrong and that we could not be half free and half slave. We as Americans decided that of course women should have the right vote. We defeated totalitarianism and won a war in the Pacific and the Atlantic simultaneously. We desegregated our schools and cured fearsome diseases like polio. We landed on the moon, the very example of what’s possible when we are at our best. We worked together in a completely bipartisan way to bring down communism. We have even solved a global environmental crisis before, the hole in the stratospheric ozone layer. This was said to be an impossible problem to solve because it’s a global environmental challenge requiring cooperation from every nation in the world. But we took it on, and the United States took the lead in phasing out the chemicals that caused that problem. So now we have to use our political processes in our democracy and then decide to act together to solve those problems. But we have to have a different perspective on this one. It is different than any problem we have ever faced before.

Our Only Home

You remember that home movie of the Earth spinning in space. One of those spacecraft continuing on out into the universe, when it got 4 billion miles out in space, Carl Sagan said, “Let’s take another picture of the Earth.” See that pale blue dot. That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars, all the famines, all the major advances: it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake: our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization.

I believe this is a moral issue. It is your time to seize this issue. It is our time to rise again to secure our future.

There’s nothing that unusual about what I’m doing. What is unusual is that I had the privilege to be shown it as a young man. It is almost as if a window was opened through which the future was very clearly visible. “See that”, he said. “That is the future in which you are going to live your life.”

Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves. “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?”

We have to hear that question from them, now.


End Credits

Are you ready to change the way you live?


The climate crisis can be solved.


Here’s how to start: go to www.climatecrisis.net.


You can reduce your carbon emissions. In fact, you can reduce your carbon emissions to zero.


• Buy energy efficient appliances and light bulbs.

• Change your thermostat (and use clock thermostats) to reduce energy for heating and cooling.

• Weatherize your house, increase insulation, get an energy audit.

• Recycle.

• If you can, buy a hybrid car.

• When you can, walk or ride a bicycle.

• When you can, use light rail and mass transit.

• Tell your parents not to ruin the world that you will live in.

• If you are a parent, join with your children to save the world they will live in.

• Switch to renewable sources of energy.

• Call your power company to see if they offer green energy. If they don’t, ask why not?

• Vote for leaders who pledge to solve the crisis.

• Write to Congress. If they don’t listen, run for Congress.

• Plant trees. Lots of trees.

• Speak up in your community.

• Call radio shows and write newspapers.

• Insist that America freeze CO2 emissions and join international efforts to stop global warming.

• Reduce our dependence on foreign oil; help farmers grow alcohol fuels.

• Raise fuel economy standards; require lower emissions from automobiles.

• If you believe in prayer, pray that people will find the strength to change. In the words of the African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet.”

• Encourage everyone you know to see this movie.

• Learn as much as you can about the climate crisis. Then put your knowledge into action.


Song: I Need to Wake Up

Recorded by: Melissa Etheridge

Album: Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled (2005)

Academy Award Winning Song for film: “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)

Have I been sleeping?

I’ve been so still

Afraid of crumbling

Have I been careless?

Dismissing all the distant rumblings

Take me where I am supposed to be

To comprehend the things that I can’t see


Cause I need to move

I need to wake up

I need to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up



And as a child

I danced like it was 1999

My dreams were wild

The promise of this new world

Would be mine

Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth

To listen to an inconvenient truth


That I need to move

I need to wake up

I need to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up



I am not an island

I am not alone

I am my intentions

Trapped here in this flesh and bone


And I need to move

I need to wake up

I need to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up



I want to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Oh, Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up






 An Inconvenient Truth Transcript


Read Full Post »

Global Warming Terms


The mixture of gases surrounding the Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere consists of about 79.1% nitrogen (by volume), 20.9% oxygen, 0.036% carbon dioxide and trace amounts of other gases. The atmosphere can be divided into a number of layers according to its mixing or chemical characteristics, generally determined by temperature. The layer nearest the Earth is the troposphere, which reaches up to an altitude of about 8 km (about 5 miles) in the polar regions and up to 17 km (nearly 11 miles) above the equator. The stratosphere reaches to an altitude of about 50 km (31 miles) and lies above the troposphere. The mesosphere extends up to 80-90 km and is above the stratosphere, and finally, the thermosphere, or ionosphere, gradually diminishes and forms a fuzzy border with outer space. There is very little mixing of gases between layers.

Barometric Pressure

The pressure of the atmosphere (usually expressed in terms of the height of a column of mercury).

Carbon Dioxide

A greenhouse gas emitted through the burning of fossil fuels by humans. It is also formed naturally by the combustion and decomposition of organic substances and is absorbed by photosynthesis of plants.

Carbon Footprint

A measure of carbon dioxide emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, usually expressed in tons. The U.S.’s carbon footprint is 5.8 billion metric tons.


The average weather (usually taken over a 30-year time period) for a particular region and time period. Climate is not the same as weather, but rather, it is the average pattern of weather for a particular region. Weather describes the short-term state of the atmosphere. Climatic elements include precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, phenomena such as fog, frost, and hail storms, and other measures of the weather.

Climate System

The atmosphere, the oceans, the biosphere, the cryosphere, and the geosphere, together make up the climate system.


A person who studies climate.


The amount of a component in a given area or volume. In this case, a measurement of how much of a particular gas is in the atmosphere compared to all of the gases in the atmosphere.


The change of forested lands to non-forest uses. This is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect for two reasons: 1) trees that are burned or decompose release carbon dioxide; and, 2) trees that are cut no longer remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


ºF means and should be read as Degrees Fahrenheit. Units for measuring temperature. Fahrenheit units represent a thermometric scale on which under standard atmospheric pressure the boiling point of water is at 212 degrees above the zero of the scale, the freezing point is at 32 degrees above zero, and the zero point approximates the temperature produced by mixing equal quantities by weight of snow and common salt.


A period of abnormally dry weather long enough to cause serious shortages of water for agriculture and other needs in the affected area.

Ecological Disturbance

Ecological means related to the ecology, which is the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment. An ecological disturbance is an event or circumstance that interrupts the relationship between organism and environment.


The complex of a community of organisms and the community’s environment functioning as an ecological unit.


The complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism (a living thing) or an ecological community (a collection of living things) and ultimately determine its form and survival. The circumstances, objects, and conditions that surround each of us.

Fossil Fuel

A general term for a fuel that is formed in the Earth from plant or animal remains, including coal, oil, natural gas, oil shales, and tar sands.


A very large body of ice moving slowly down a slope or valley or spreading outward on a land surface.

Greenhouse Effect

The effect produced as greenhouse gases allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, but prevent most of the outgoing infrared radiation from the surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and has kept the Earth’s temperature about 60 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be. Current life on Earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect. We amplify or enhance the natural greenhouse effect when we load the atmosphere with an excess of greenhouse gases. Usually, the term “greenhouse effect” is used to refer only to the amplified greenhouse effect and not to the natural greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gas

Any gas that absorbs infra-red radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Global Warming

Although sometimes used interchangeably, technically global warming is not equivalent to the greenhouse effect. Instead, global warming is the result of the greenhouse effect. It is the warming of the planet’s atmosphere. Natural global warming is a result of the natural greenhouse effect and is what makes the planet hospitable to life.


The place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows.

Heat Stress

A variety of problems associated with very warm temperatures and high humidity. Heat exhaustion is a condition marked by weakness, nausea, dizziness, and profuse sweating that results from physical exertion in a hot environment. Heat stroke is a condition marked especially by cessation of sweating, extremely high body temperature, and collapse that results from prolonged exposure to high temperature.

Industrial Revolution

A rapid major change in an economy marked by the general introduction of power-driven machinery or by an important change in the prevailing types and methods of use of such machines.


Colorless, odorless, flammable hydrocarbon (CH4) that is a product of decomposition of organic matter and of the carbonization of coal. Methane is one of the greenhouse gas chemical compounds.


Rain, hail, mist, sleet, snow or any other moisture that falls to the Earth.

Solar Radiation

Energy from the Sun. Also referred to as short-wave radiation. Of importance to the climate system, solar radiation includes ultraviolet radiation, visible radiation, and infrared radiation.


Thermal properties are dependent on temperature; they are related to, or caused by, heat.


The configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features. The shape of a surface.


Weather is the specific condition of the atmosphere at a particular place and time. It is measured in terms of such things as wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness, and precipitation. In most places, weather can change from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate is the average of weather over time and space. A simple way of remembering the difference is that ‘climate’ is what you expect (e.g., cold winters) and ‘weather’ is what you get (e.g., a blizzard).

Download PDF here:

Global Warming Vocabulary


Read Full Post »

Standing Homework


Upon viewing any class documentary film, students will always:

1)    Read the related transcript on the website. Save the PDF file to your computer and/or smart phone. (Bring one or the other to class, by the way.)

2)    Look up any unknown vocabulary. I’m not going to waste time teaching you words you may already know. You’re a better judge of what you don’t know than I am. You are responsible for learning all of the words on the transcript regardless, as we will be using them in class from the following week on. Of course, consult with me during class or via email if you need clarification or help with any of these words, or with any aspect of grammar or language usage from the transcripts.

3)    Answer the Worksheet questions handed out in class. If you’re absent, print out the appropriate PDF file from the website and complete by using the transcript. Bring the completed worksheet (longhand is okay – typing is not necessary) to class and we’ll go over the answers. You’ll need to know this material for the tests, so make sure you get the answers. If you miss a class, review your answers with one of the other students who did attend, or catch me before or after class and I’ll go over any questions you might have.

4)    Write your comments directly on the website in the comment section under each weekly assignment posting. Briefly write about your thoughts, reactions, and insights into the section of the DVD you viewed.

• What impressed you about what you saw?

• Did it affect your thoughts or views on the subject matter the filmmaker looked at?

• Do you have any strong feelings one way or another on any part of what you viewed? Discuss.

We’ll go through some or all of the comments in class via our iPhones or PCs so be prepared to discuss what you wrote and why.

Length = 100 – 150 words.


Use your school email account and sign your name and class session each time, please.

For Hiyoshi students, indicate your class session as follows:

W4 = Wednesday 4th Period

W5 = Wednesday 5th Period

For Mita students, indicate your class session simply as:

KTTC = Keio Teacher Training Center


Toru Yamashita (W4)

Kaori Itoh (KTTC)


Download PDF file of this page here:

Standing Homework


Read Full Post »

Spring Term – Global Warming & Environmental Devastation

Week 1

• Course Introduction

• Brainstorming and Discussion on Global Warming

Week 2

• Earth Day Quizzes (not for credit)

• Obtain: Global Warming Vocabulary (via website)

Week 3

• Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth – Part I (through 34:35)

• Obtain: An Inconvenient Truth Transcript (via website)

• Handout: An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part I (via website)

Week 4

• Global Warming Vocabulary Quiz

• Review and Discussion: An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part I

• Documentary Viewing: An Inconvenient Truth – Part II (through 1:01:11)

• Handout: An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part II (via website)

Week 5

• Review and Discussion: An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part II

• Documentary Viewing: An Inconvenient Truth – Part III (through End)

• Handout: An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part III (via website)

Week 6

• Review and Discussion: An Inconvenient Truth Worksheet – Part III

• Explanation of upcoming Oral Test on An Inconvenient Truth

• Group Assignment: Clean Ideas Activity Preparation

Week 7

• In-class Activity: Clean Ideas Activity Presentations

• Review for Oral Evaluation

Week 8

• An Inconvenient Truth Oral Evaluation

Week 9

• Documentary Viewing: HOME – Part I (to 39:35)

• Obtain: HOME transcript (via website)

• Handout: HOME Worksheet – Part I (via website)

Week 10

• Review and Discussion: HOME Worksheet – Part I

• Documentary Viewing: HOME – Part II (through 1:13:56)

• HOME Worksheet – Part II (via website)

• Explanation of upcoming Written Evaluation

Week 11

• Review and Discussion: HOME Worksheet – Part II

• Documentary viewing: HOME – Part III (through End)

• Handout: HOME Worksheet – Part III (via website)

• Final Presentations Assignment – Group Formation/Topic Selection

Week 12

• Review and Discussion: HOME Worksheet – Part III

• Group Activity: In-class preparation for Final Presentations

Week 13

• Written Evaluation: An Inconvenient Truth and HOME

• Group Activity: In-class preparation for Final Presentations

Week 14

• Final Presentations; Class Q & A

Week 15

• Final Presentations; Class Q & A


Fall Term – Nuclear Proliferation and Nuclear Energy
Week 1

• Fall Term Introduction

• Nuclear Threat Awareness Quiz

• Handout: Nuclear Scavenger Hunt

Week 2

• Review of Nuclear Scavenger Hunt vocabulary and terms

Week 3

• Nuclear Terminology Quiz

• Documentary Viewing: Atomic Cafe – Part I (to :27)

• Obtain: Atomic Cafe Transcript (via website)

• Handout: Atomic Cafe Worksheet – Part I (via website)

Week 4

• Review and Discussion: Atomic Cafe Worksheet – Part I

• Documentary: Atomic Cafe – Part II (to 1:01:20)

• Handout: Atomic Cafe Worksheet – Part II (via website)

Week 5

• Review and Discussion: Atomic Cafe Worksheet – Part II

• Documentary: Atomic Cafe – Part III (to End)

• Handout: Atomic Cafe Worksheet – Part III (via website)

Week 6

• Review and Discussion: Atomic Cafe Worksheet– Part III

• Atomic Café – Questions for Review (Preparation for presentations)

Week 7

• Atomic Café – Questions for Review (Small group presentations)

Week 8

• Atomic Cafe Test

Week 9

• Nuclear Power Warm-up Quizzes

• Documentary Viewing: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown – Part I (to :30)

• Obtain: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown transcript (via website)

• Handout: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown Worksheet – Part I (via website)

Week 10

• Review and Discussion: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown Worksheet – Part I

• Documentary Viewing: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown – Part II (to End)

• Handout: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown Worksheet – Part II (via website)

Week 11

• Review and Discussion: Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown Worksheet – Part II

• Assignment: Final Presentation – Group Formation/Topic Selection

• Handout: Nuclear Power – Questions for Discussion

Week 12

• Nuclear Power – Questions for Discussion

Week 13

• Frontline – Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown Quiz

• Group Activity: Preparation for Final Presentations

Week 14

• Final Presentations: Class Q & A

Week 15

• Final Presentations; Class Q & A



Read Full Post »

This course will look at contemporary issues facing humankind in the 21st Century. The modern world is at a crossroads and solving significant problems facing the international community — such as halting global warming and environmental devastation, stemming nuclear proliferation, and developing alternative energy sources — should be of particular interest to all university-age students. The primary focus of the course will be on the global content, with various linguistic skills taught to improve meaningful communication. Students enrolled in the course will be engaged in a wide range of activities covering the four skill areas — listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Specific activities will include documentary film viewing and analysis, intensive reading, in-class debates and presentations, and expository writing, with help from the teacher as to how to accomplish these activities effectively. Through the class website, students will be assigned background reading and research activities to increase their knowledge and confidence about the topics and to provide a solid basis for class work. The website will also be used for students’ comments and opinions about the topic and to provide a means of ongoing communication between the students and the teacher.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »