News: Former Vice President Al Gore Engages Students in Discussion on Climate Change

Photo Credit: Betsy Sergeant Snow

Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, and students of AP Environmental Science pose for a group photo after a lively discussion on climate change.

Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore visited the Menlo-Atherton campus to meet with AP Environmental Science (APES) students for a dialogue on the global climate change crisis. Student attendance was limited to just students of the APES class, capped at about 100 individuals, upon the request of Mr. Gore.

 

The occasion was designed to facilitate the greatest amount of interaction between Mr. Gore and the students present. After a 20 minute introduction by Mr. Gore, in which he exposed the theory of climate change and reasons for its necessary acceptance and political efforts to mitigate impact, the auditorium was opened to a question-and-answer session that comprised the rest of his visit.

 

Nodding of heads within the body of students during Mr. Gore’s expository statement was evidence of assent and widespread understanding of principles he mentioned, and justifiably so, as much of what he addressed about climate change was familiar to the APES students.

 

The AP Environmental Science teacher, Lance Powell, has led his classes with a rigorous curriculum on topics fundamental to the argument for climate change. To create an interactive learning environment — “flipped lecture” style — he schedules frequent on-line and classroom debates, guest speakers, laboratory challenges, and field trips. Topics studied include the causes and effects of temperature rise, anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide (potentially a significant catalyst of climate change) and other gaseous pollutants into the atmosphere, and cap-and-trade and carbon tax policies that hold potential to simultaneously benefit the environment and the economies of many U.S. states, including California.

 

Though time for questions was limited by the lengthy style of Mr. Gore’s responses, all of those asked were insightful. Junior Sarah Goodman inquired as to whether the United States and other equally developed countries should invest more in developing sources of renewable energy within their own borders or abroad. In response, Mr. Gore explained that the lack of existing infrastructure in developing countries makes it imperative that investments in renewable energy sources are made before those countries become even more dependent on nonrenewable energy sources, though it would be powerful for the United States to lead by example.

 

Principal Matthew Zito expressed that he hoped the experience for students would spark “recognition of how the individual decisions and choices” made by students, “when aggregated as a group, can be tremendously influential.” Al Gore is a leading figure of the environmental movement and an inspiration to future activists. Though, as Mr. Zito concludes, each student has the potential to “make a change for themselves, their generation, and people to come,” whether or not it is through environmental stewardship.

 

As Mr. Gore expressed in a farewell to the auditorium of students and reiterated to Mr. Ted Schlein, the M-A parent who helped facilitate his visit, he was impressed with the high-caliber questions with which he was presented.
 
Correction made as of 2/2: The Secret Service did not accompany Mr. Gore; he was accompanied by one assistant.