"Granted, America has been slow to recognize the problem and that's depressing. But when it does recognize a problem we're capable of incredible amounts of energy. In 1941, it was absurd to think the U.S. could build 1,000 airplanes. But in 1943, it was really easy. You can look at lots of similar examples of how we, as a nation, came to a shared understanding that our national survival was really at risk. Then everything extraneous to the effort gets put aside. We have two gears in America: slow and lightning. Shifting into that other gear is not easy, but once it happens -- stand back! Because we're gonna move."
As much as I admire Gore's positive spin on this deeply troubling situation, I don't share his optimism. No matter how fast we move, I doubt we can roll back much of the damage we've set in motion. And, even if America "gets in gear," our effect is limited because we no longer hold an economic or political leadership role in the world. An increasing amount of environmental damage is being caused by rapidly industrializing third world countries who, thanks to our centuries of exploiting them, have no respect for the U.S. and Europe and little likelihood of sudden getting interested in our goals or leadership.