As we recover from Nemo, yet another major storm, I’m reminded of my friend Paul Epstein, who was a pioneer in the science of climate change and health and who passed away in 2011. On Wednesday, February 6, I attended the first Paul R. Epstein Memorial Lecture at Harvard University’s Memorial Church with guest speaker and former Vice-President Al Gore.
Eric Chivian, of Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment (co-founded by Paul) introduced Gore as a man who “as we all know was elected to be President of the United States.” Gore proceeded to speak for almost an hour with few notes, no teleprompter and not a single “um” or “er”. The former Veep emphasized the interconnectedness of all things. It started with a story by “Cousin Minnie Pearl” (of all people!) that I would be happy to share with anyone who asks. He wove together both the science of climate change and the challenges of making changes in today’s political environment, noting that 85% of the world’s economic activity (or as he called it “Earth, Inc.”) utilizes carbon-based fuels.
The Vice-President memorialized Paul Epstein as a brilliant and prescient scientist, and noted how Paul was willing to drop what he was doing when Gore would call with a late night request for data about how 2 degrees of temperature rise would affect the life cycles of mosquitoes.
Over 1700 people registered for the talk which was broadcast to an overflow hall to handle the many who could not squeeze into the church. Gore was hopeful about the future, encouraging the crowd, including many students, to continue to fight passionately for issues that matter to the world as my dear friend, Paul Epstein, did on a daily basis.