Who cares what Al Gore eats?

19 07 2007

I first noticed the now-infamous Al Gore/seabass story over at Shifting Baselines yesterday, and I generally didn’t think anything of it. Would I prefer that Gore abstained from eating a fish that’s in trouble? Sure, but my opinion of him doesn’t hinge on what kind of fish he eats at his daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. If he specially ordered in for sautee of panda cub or soup served in an elephants foot with an ivory spoon, yes, then I would be pretty pissed off, but the initial story seemed to have too few details to be of any consequence. Nevertheless, in the comments of Jacquet’s post, the term “hypocrite” (among others) was thrown around, the tabloid report of what Gore was served hurting his credibility with some. I have always found this interesting about “eco-heroes”; they are in favor just so long as they are “green” and appear to toe the line, but given the diversity of opinion on environmental issues, it’s impossible not to piss somebody off. I’ve even run into this myself; when I posted about the horror of the annual rattlesnake massacre in Sweetwater, Texas, I was chastised by some vegans/vegetarians for eating meat (their assumptions were right even though I didn’t answer their off-topic queries), being that I apparently couldn’t point out something that I felt was wrong but still enjoy a hamburger every now and then.

Thankfully, Tim Lambert at Deltoid actually did some digging on this issue and found it to generally be blown out of proportion. While the toothfish Gore consumed is endangered as a species, it has been reported that the fish provided at the dinner came from a sustainable source. I’m not enough of an expert to know whether this is true or not, but what if, just for a moment, we entertain the notion that Gore just didn’t know the fish he was eating was representative of an endangered species? When people think of endangered species, charismatic megafauna usually come to mind first, the closest to fish being whales. Gore is an environmental spokesman now, yes, but are we expect him to be able to list every endangered species by heart? I’m not trying to be a Gore apologist, I don’t particularly like or dislike him, but all I see going on is a bunch of internet gossip that doesn’t produce anything good (I liked the Angry Toxicologist’s response to this as well).

The only good I could see coming of this is if it was used to increase the visibility of the problem with the toothfish populations and fisheries, but that doesn’t seem to figure into most bloggers accounts. Most of the reactions are concerned with either defending Gore or calling him a hypocrite, but why not use this piece of journalistic B.S. to bring the problem of overfishing to the attention of more people who otherwise might not have any idea? I honestly didn’t (although the fish is too far out of my price range even if I had any interest in eating it), but now I’m aware of the problem and I’ll look up some information on it (perhaps a post could be made of such a learning experience…). This sort of thing belongs on supermarket tabloids, not the front page of ScienceBlogs.

Update: Sheril at The Intersection has similar sentiments, and Mike the Mad Biologist raises some questions about bad reporting as well.


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8 responses

19 07 2007
19 07 2007
Zach Miller

Dammit, people just find reasons to not like Al Gore. The poor guy is just trying to educate people about global warming, and that’s SUCH a defended issue to so many people.

19 07 2007
laelaps

I just find it odd how so many people who are otherwise sympathetic to Gore jumped all over him and started yelling “hypocrite” based upon one bit of shoddy journalism. When you’re an environmental icon, I guess you just can’t win.

19 07 2007
RedMolly

I get so tired of these disproportionate attacks on Gore (and other environmentalists/Democrats/whatev.). It seems as if anyone who expresses concern for the environment is supposed to adhere to some mythical standard before s/he can claim moral standing to speak up for environmental issues… meanwhile, their attackers tend to be bloated Big Mac-chomping SUV drivers who are proud of every ton of CO2 they contribute to the atmosphere.

(Gore is the only national politician–though he’s not really currently much of a politician–whom I honestly like and admire. If he were to jump into the presidential race, I’d go knock on doors for him… there’s no one else out there to whom I feel that sort of attachment. Clinton, Obama, even Edwards… yawn.)

19 07 2007
laelaps

I agree Molly; I think I like Al Gore more as an environmental spokesman more than a political, but I still like him exceedingly more than Edwards, Obama, and *shudder* Clinton. Even given this current “faux pas”, I would expect smart ecologists to use the publicity to talk about fisheries and why this is even an issue, rather than just yelling “hypocrite.”

19 07 2007
Michelle

And FWIW, your reaction was EXACTLY what the Gore campaign has to say. In so many words, they said, well, this was sustainably farmed, but what a good chance to raise awareness of the fact that some fish are endangered.

He is SUCH a class act.

One thing I do is just get onto a few of these boards where people are spreading this around and make the case for reasonableness. I know I will get laughed off, but if even one person goes away thinking, “hmmm. . . not everyone thinks Al Gore is Satan. I wonder why?” then I think I have done my work.

15 09 2011
Hilal

Good Evening!!! your site is pretty cool!! Im pretty sure I`m coming back to read blogposts

5 01 2012
Nisha Bise

Nice post. One thing, i’m running Win 7 with the Firefox 4 Beta browser and your columns are overlapping a little. Though you may want to fix it🙂

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