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It pays to look at your email. One day last September, I received a heads-up from a friend of mine that former US Vice-President Al Gore had decided, following on the success of his film An Inconvenient Truth, to select and personally train 1,000 people on the issue of global warming. The basis of the film, which documents Mr. Gore's efforts to raise awareness about climate change, is the slideshow he presents on the subject to audiences around the world. Through "The Climate Project," Mr. Gore sought to create an "army" of climate change messengers who would present a short version of his slideshow in their own communities.
I was keenly interested and applied online—with thousands of others, mostly from the United States. Then, I waited. At some point, it occurred to me that perhaps I should verify whether they were even accepting people from outside the US. So I tracked down the woman in charge, Jenny Clad, at Gore's office, which houses the project. Though at first she was hesitant to take on any Canadians, eventually I became the 51st person chosen for the program.
Those selected represented a wide cross-section of society, and in addition to environmental activists and professionals, there were teachers, business leaders, religious leaders, elected officials, scientists, doctors, and even ex-military personnel, sports figures and movie stars. To be chosen, candidates had to demonstrate great passion for the subject, a sound knowledge, and the ability and willingness to present slideshows before large groups. All who attended the training sessions had to promise to deliver at least 10 presentations within one year of their training.
I attended the training in December 2006 in Nashville, Tennessee, where Al Gore lives and has his office. My training group included about 200 people, including 17 other Canadians (we currently number 21 in Canada), and a handful from other countries. The training lasted two-and-a-half days, with Mr. Gore presenting one (very) full day of the training himself. After demonstrating his own presentation of the slideshow, he explained the sources of information, concepts and intended effects for each slide. I was impressed with the depth and breadth of Mr. Gore's knowledge of climate change science. While he was assisted by several top scientists at the training, he answered over 90 percent of the questions himself and was bang-on with the answers. I wouldn't envy anyone debating him on the subject.
And, as a bonus, he was absolutely hilarious at times—presenting a very different, hugely animated and passionate persona than the one we came to know in the presidential race of 2000.
Other parts of the training were devoted to examining how to present information on solutions to cut greenhouse gases, and how to polish basic presentation and speaking skills. These segments were led by other hand-picked specialists. Finally, we become acquainted with the TCP website, through which all thousand plus presenters share their ideas and resources.
I returned to Nashville for a second training in April—this time as a mentor. Currently, I oversee the work of 50 presenters in the US and serve as liaison between "The Climate Project" in Nashville and the Canadian presenters.
I have taken a break from practicing law at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin to devote my time to "The Climate Project." It's extremely exciting work.
As I tell everyone: It pays to follow your passion.
Shelly Kath is a lawyer and a graduate of McGill faculty of Law, Class of 1998. Students interested in pursuing internships with the Climate Project - Canada can reach Kath at firstname.lastname@example.org