Brad smartly flags Al Gore's high-profile, nudge-filled essay in the New York Times yesterday, speaking of “the Climate for Change” suggested by this historic election, and, naturally, climate change. We know the story by now: America is in energy crisis, and has been in such trouble, he writes, since the age of Nixon (the end of which, I think, we can now see from here.)  Dovetailing off the last-minute campaign spat link on “clean coal” and the future of America’s energy industries, Gore writes:

“If the coal industry can make good on this promise, then I’m all for it. But until that day comes, we simply cannot any longer base the strategy for human survival on a cynical and self-interested illusion.”

I agree wholeheartedly there. I am also tired of oil depletion curves and quite heartened that stimulus discussion in Congress is suddenly animated by talk of infrastructure and efficiency—and that the notion of green jobs is now saturating the political bloodstream.

This weekend, however, I spent hours at the Green Festival here in Washington. Sponsored by Global Exchange and Co-Op America (another four are being held in Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago in the next months), the gathering is part trade show, part political rally, part freegan love fest. I tend to be skeptical of the utility of such congregation, and wondered to what extent this event succumbed to a pattern of not cynicism (because it is nothing if not earnest), but illusion. What will an organic wine garden, clever “shower together” and “stop beer warming” tees accomplish?

Of course, awareness comes in many forms—from Gore to the gas pump—but the pop incarnations I saw yesterday seemed designed to check their own reach. There were, of course, helpful demonstrations of efficient insulating techniques or the latest in water filtration mechanisms, low-wattage light bulbs for sale and a throng actively organizing to influence transportation policy in greater Washington. Countless small nonprofits were in a flurry of networking activity, sharing their ideas and practices for organizing Americans toward the task of using less and producing smart.

And yet the purple-haired author Carolyn Casey reads Barack Obama’s astrology chart, and speaks of a “Democratic pantheistic animistic mythos” being created in the hall, while an accompanist pounds away on some sort of steel drum—not doing much to suage my concerns that environmentalists at times pursue the wrong kind of ambassadorship.

There was lots of smart dialogue there for the taking; Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research and Marvin Silver of USAction made an unscheduled late afternoon cameo to recite some essential truths about the economy and the need to actualize the vague campaign promise to “rebuild America.” I’ll write more soon about two informative talks, on chemical recycling and global efforts to develop alternative sources of energy—but would feel better about “the climate for change” if someone would convene a festival for the unconverted.

--Dayo Olopade