Saturday, October 13, 2007

The "Goracle" Strikes Again

Congratulations to Al Gore for winning the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. I don't really think he should have won.

Nothing personal--I think Gore is a smart, experienced, and competent leader who probably would have been a good president. But a couple things trouble me about his win.

You could start by explaining to me the connection between giving PowerPoint slideshows about global warming and the award's ostensible purpose: the promotion of world peace. And I'm already reluctant to embrace an alarmist approach to global warming, an initiative which will likely gain more traction thanks to Gore's Nobel win. (For more on my take on global warming, see this previous post, or better yet, a superb article called "Chill Out" which ran in the Post last week).

It also seems to me that the Peace Prize, unlike the other Nobel awards in literature, physics, et al., is much more of a "fad" prize. The winners in those categories all appear to be octogenarian scientists or authors or economists who are recognized for their contributions several years after they were made, after sufficient time has passed that the magnitude of their accomplishment can better be appreciated. Not so with the Peace Prize, which seems inclined to more often make statements about the here and now.

Meanwhile, there is another current situation that is sorely deserving of the world's attention: the Burmese monks protesting the brutal military dictatorship in their country. The junta in Burma is already holding one worthy Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest; they have prevented a democratically-elected government from ruling; they have engaged in vicious acts of torture, rape, and a host of other human rights abuses.

When the monks defied the junta and peacefully marched in public, thousands of ordinary citizens joined in, marching with the monks and serving as "human shields" against soldiers and police ordered to beat up or even shoot protesters. This inspiring struggle is still unfolding, and it could do with all the publicity anyone is willing to give it, so that the Burmese junta is held accountable for their actions. (For more details on the horror, see here, here, here, and here, for starters.)

...So, not to take anything away from Mr. Gore, who has had a remarkable career since he withdrew from the contested presidential election of 2000, but with a host of other worthy issues around the world in need of recognition, his just wasn't the name I wanted to hear announced on Friday.

Update 10/14

My friend Nikhil wrote to me defending the Nobel committee's desire to bring attention to global warming. In response to the "Chill Out" article I cited above, he said "I don't think it's right to base environmental policy judgments simply on cost. It's too utilitarian and undermines the point that you're actually trying to change something that is really hard to change." Nikhil also pointed out that "climate wars...actually happened this year in Africa--people were fighting for now-scarce arable land."

After writing this post, I came across a good article by Ronald Bailey in Reason Magazine:
"In any case, global warming is not the result of environmental sin; it is the result of human progress creating another commons problem. We do not need to "lift global consciousness"; we need to find a cheap, low-carbon source of energy. I have no doubt that man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem that an inventive humanity will solve over the course of the 21st century."

Amen. Read the whole thing here.


Hafiz said...

Didn't Suu Kyi win the Nobel back in the early 90's?

Jay said...

Yep. You'll notice I described her as a "worthy Nobel laureate".