Former Vice President Al Gore said Monday that this year is "the Gettysburg" for the environment and that the United States will have to lead the fight against global warming if true progress is going to be made.
Gore made the comments during his keynote presentation of the Goldman Environmental Prize at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. The $150,000 prize is the largest and most prestigious award for grassroots environmentalism in the world. It was presented to seven activists from around the world who bucked the odds and spearheaded changes that led to environmental improvements in their home countries.
Gore said the winners of the prize showed unusual heroism and commitment while working on the grassroots level. What drove them, he said was "a commitment to doing what is right and toward making the world a better place. They have been motivated by the force of conscience ... and courage."
Gore insisted, however, that the crisis of global warming cannot be resolved unless all citizens make a commitment to do their part. A movement is necessary, he said, especially as the world population continues to grow and more cars, fuel and energy are needed.
"We are radically changing the relationship between the human species and the rest of the earth," he said. "This year, 2009, is the Gettysburg for the environment. It is the time we have the opportunity to change."
Gore referred to the Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, later this year as the key. In 2012, the Kyoto Protocol, which limits world greenhouse gases, will run out. Environmentalists are hoping a new climate protocol will be reached in Copenhagen.
Gore said the United States must take the lead in that process, but American citizens must also get involved.
"The one thing that is going to allow us to win this is that thing that is inside these award winners," Gore said. "Remember what we have to do, this year."
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Marc Ona Essangui, Gabon
Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh
Olga Speranskaya, Moscow
Yuyun Ismawati, Indonesia
Maria Gunnoe, West Virginia
Wanze Eduards and Hugo Jabini, Suriname
For more information about the winners, go to links.sfgate.com/ZGUY