In his bestselling book, “Earth in the Balance” (1992), Al Gore recounts the story of watching his six-year-old son be hit by a car, and the months he and his wife spent nursing the boy back to health. That six-year-old is now in his 30s.
He writes that “something changed in a fundamental way” for him that year, 1989: he turned 40, watched his son almost die, and lost the 1988 Presidential election. (He came in a distant “don’t remember him running that year” in the primaries to Michael Dukakis.)
On the same page as that list, page 14 in the revised edition, he writes that,
This life change has caused me to become increasingly impatient with the status quo, with conventional wisdom, with the lazy assumption that we can always muddle through. Such complacency has allowed many kinds of difficult problems to breed and grow, but now, facing a rapid deteriorating global environment, it threatens absolute disaster. No one can now afford to assume that the world will somehow solve its problems. We must all become partners in a bold effort to change the very foundation of our civilization.
(The former Vice-President does a far better job connecting the personal with the political than I did for him just now, immediately above; reading the long quote on its own, as I was typing it, I was reminded of a tire-screeching/pulling-the-stereo-needle-across-the-record sound effect. I thought to myself, “One minute, he was talking about turning 40, and then? This is connected to climate change how?” Okay. He spends the first dozen pages in the book laying out his political credentials as a leader trying to avert the environmental catastrophe that we are now 20-plus years closer to than when he was writing. And then he reveals something that few politicians admit, especially politicians who still think they have elections to run in: open vulnerability and teachability.)