An Inconvenient Roof: Al Gore’s Controversial Lodgings


From the Hill…

I just couldn’t let this one go by. And it pains me to bring it up. But let’s talk about a few inconvenient truths.

Who’d have thought that President Bill Clinton was the eco-friendly “bad boy” of the Clinton-Gore administration? He made intimate phone calls to his special friend from inside the White House during his scandal; Vice President Al Gore took a private jet during his. How could our anointed Captain Planet turn his back on (in addition to one other key figure) Mother Earth?

Masseuse Molly Hagerty has been dishing about the Nobel Peace prize-winning climate change guru’s ‘crazed sex poodle’ behavior. I won’t go into the gossipy details of the alleged massage because it has no relevance here.

But, some facts have arisen about the other, more globally pressing issues about the Harvard-educated family man becoming entangled in this controversy. He was staying in Portland, Oregon, and asked staff at the luxury Hotel Lucia to find him a masseuse. Two things. One, the Hotel Lucia is lovely, lively, hip and chic. But just because it’s located in the Emerald City, doesn’t make it a green hotel. Maybe Gore forgot to do a simple search for one of these environmentally friendly lodgings. Also worth noting: Staying at the Doubletree is not any greener simply because the word tree is part of its name.

Plain and simple, Gore hasn’t been practicing what he’s been preaching all these years. Witness the purchase of his bachelor pad in San Francisco in 2006.

Gore paid $3.9 million for the apartment atop the grand St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco in 2006. There is a swimming pool, a health spa, a roof deck and even a butler available to bring refreshments along with his order of double standards. He enjoys an opulent personal lifestyle while lecturing the public on green morality.

It’s a complicated situation being a public personality. The spotlight can illuminate, yes, but it can also seduce and reveal the bad in someone as well as the good.

Tabloid fodder aside, it’s the double talk with regard to core message that’s difficult to stomach, let alone abide. San Francisco is one of the greenest cities in the country. So what kept Gore from finding, or erecting, a sustainable living space? Building a green house doesn’t take much more than money. Heck, even Glenn Beck built and lives in one.

University of Manchester Professor Geoff Beattie published a study about environmentalism and attitudes versus actions. In it he differentiated between how people felt about being “green” and what they actually believed and did about it. Sean Coughlan at the BBC reports:

Researchers, at the university’s Sustainable Consumption Institute, made video recordings of people talking about issues such as global warming – looking at how their words matched their body language, such as hand gestures and expressions.

The study found that while people could control their speech to express green opinions, their unconscious gestures suggested their “true thoughts and feelings” lay elsewhere.

Explicitly, people may want to save the planet and appear green, but implicitly they may care a good deal less.

Given it is these implicit attitudes that direct and control much of our behaviour in supermarkets and elsewhere, these are the attitudes that we have to pursue and understand and change.

It’s common knowledge that people (politicians, especially) will say one thing and do another, often the opposite. It’s just difficult to observe, in hindsight, when some of those people take a very public stance, muscle their way to icon status – and make less good on their word. The lesson here: If you’re going to fall from grace, make sure you have a cushy seat on a private jet to make your descent a comfortable one.

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in Christopher Correa’s weekly column, Hill/Street Greens, examining the environmental deeds (and misdeeds) of Washington, D.C. and Wall Street.

Image: socketsite