A Discussion with Vice President Gore

27 05 2010

A few weeks ago, as part of The Denver Foundation’s Next Decade Project, I had the honor and privilege of meeting with Al Gore: Nobel Prize winner, Oscar winner, and former Vice President of the United States.  Vice President Gore was in Denver as the keynote speaker at the national conference of the Council on Foundations.  He was very generous in agreeing to meet with me privately to talk about The Denver Foundation.

I explained to Vice President Gore that grants from The Denver Foundation’s community endowment must be used to benefit residents of the seven-county Metro Denver area.  Given our geographical boundaries, I asked what The Denver Foundation might do to address issues raised by climate change.

The Vice President immediately rattled off a list of specific, concrete suggestions.  Among them were the following: 

  • Support tree planting programs 
  • Assist transportation planning, such as conversion of buses to natural gas 
  • Promote energy efficiency programs for buildings; buildings produce 40% of all carbon emissions
  • Enhance and expand recycling and composting programs

I asked the Vice President if he could only select one project what would it be?  He said the top priority should probably be working to increase public awareness of these problems and their solutions.

Finally, I asked if we should focus on the areas that we as a city do pretty well or focus on the areas that we do poorly compared to other places.  He said every city is different, but generally it is better to work on our weaker areas and try to improve them.

Vice President Gore referred me to projects in other cities that are worth studying.  The East Lake project in Atlanta is an example of creative partnerships among real estate developers, foundations, and neighborhood residents.  A similar program is underway in Indianapolis.  These area-wide projects can achieve multiple objectives: reducing crime, improving educational achievement, and strengthening neighborhoods – while at the same time cleaning the environment.  Chattanooga, Tennessee is a city on the forefront of conversions of buses to natural gas.

The Denver Foundation supports a wide variety of environmental organizations and programs through its community grants program and its donor advised funds.  Like all of our grants, they tend to be relatively small.  Grants from the community grants program average about $15,000.  Grants from donor-advised funds average considerably less.

The overwhelming majority of the scientific community is convinced that global warming is a serious problem – if not the most serious problem we face here on earth.  In his keynote speech, Vice President Gore noted that each meter of rise in the ocean level will create 100 million climate refugees!

In light of the magnitude of this problem, should The Denver Foundation in the next decade radically change its approach to grantmaking? 

David Miller, President and CEO, The Denver Foundation

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5 responses

27 05 2010
Angelle Fouther

I think that the visuals shown daily – hourly – on the news of the oil spewing out in to the Gulf Coast are an apt reminder of the juxtaposition between the rapid pace of global contamination caused by humans, and the pace at which solutions to counteract this contamination can be pinpointed and instituted. Indeed, it seems much easier to create a mess than to clean it up. And we all know that the effects of this spill, as with the effects of neglect and abuse of this planet, will linger for decades, if not permanently. Having heard Vice President Gore’s charge to us at the Council on Foundation Conference was like having the pipeline of gushing oil pointed directly at us. It makes it much more personal and urgent in terms of identifying solutions to change the current and catastrophic trajectory of global decay that he details. Thank you for highlighting his suggestions here on your blog, David, and for having us take at look at this issue as a Foundation.

27 05 2010
Linda Campbell

For me climate change is so feakin’ scarey it is hard to get my hands around it. BUT, we must! I like Gore’s simple suggestions about a few things that would make a big difference. Anyone who is interested should check out the amazing work that the Rocky Mountain Institute is doing at: http://www.rmi.org.

27 05 2010
Chelsea Acosta

I don’t think the Denver Foundation needs to radically change it’s grant-giving. The communities and organizations affected and assisted by TDF are tremendously important to the well-rounded and thriving urban community of Denver. Given the undoubted importance of climate change, I believe a better option would be to put an environmental “twist” on TDF’s grant-giving.

Don’t focus 100% on environmental organizations and groups. Instead, award an arts center or educational organization who address climate change with their young students. Instilling an appreciation for the globe and climate-friendly attitude in the youth of today may produce the scientists and leaders of tomorrow who can continue the work that Vice President Gore brought to the mainstream. However, without the artists, actors, and writers who are inspired from the trickle-down effect of a TDF grant, the best ideas of tomorrow may never be written, introduced, and eventually implemented in the public.

1 06 2010
David Charmatz

I commend both Mr. Gore and The Denver Foundation for their continued support of environmental and other pro-social causes. It is also excellent to see the growing list of corporations in a growing number of sectors are undertaking “green” endeavors.

Nevertheless, although these voluntary efforts are a step in the right direction, in order to make real progress, this country needs to step up and help lead global efforts by setting aggressive short-range goals for the reduction of carbon-based emissions and the generation of consumption-based byproducts (waste). Per capita, the US over-produces in these enivronmentally dangerous areas and has done little to stem their growth. Many countries in the EU have already begun to impose restrictions on the production of these toxins, e.g., the UK’s 10:10 Project, while the US has only provided half-hearted rhetoric–this was especially true during last December’s Copenhagen summit.

Further, if we couple the US’s limited actions with the beliefs of a growing list of scientists that globally we only have about 5 years to stem the tide of global warming before it envelops us, it leads to only one conclusion. The clock is ticking and we all need to do our part to save ourselves from ourselves. I congratulate all those who not only do their part, but also help others to do theirs.

7 10 2010
If I Had a Billion Dollars… (Part One) « The Next Decade Project

[…] challenge facing the human race is climate change and that we must act immediately.  Consult Al Gore and other experts to determine where you could make a […]

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