"Tony Thompson is an outstanding example of the millions of Americans who have been energized by the call to action on the climate crisis," said Gore. "We are so pleased that he has made a serious commitment to this challenge by coming to Nashville to become part of this unprecedented grassroots effort."
Thompson graduated as valedictorian in 1996 from North Polk High School. He attributes some of his interest in the environment to growing up on an Iowa farm.
"My earliest memories are of riding in a tractor with my dad," Thompson said. "He had a little board that fit between the window of the tractor and his driver's seat, so I'd sit beside him to plow and cultivate."
In the mid-1980s when so many family farms went under, Thompson's family quit farming, in part because their ground flooded two years in a row. Although the family is no longer in the farming business, family members continue to live on the farm.
"Also on our farm, we have a gorgeous three-acre pond that's surrounded by beautiful oaks and maples," Thompson said. "Over the years I've seen how it has changed, especially the increase in algae growth - in part due to fertilizer run off - and the amount of silt that comes in."
This interest in the environment made Thompson a perfect candidate for training that took place Jan. 4-6. Each trainee took part in an intensive tutorial about issues surrounding global warming, led by Gore and a team of renowned scientists and environmental educators. In addition, each received technical training to become experienced presenters of a version of Gore's computer-based slide show, which became the basis of his best-selling book and documentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth."
"I met Mr. Gore in Nashville during the training," Thompson said. "I was really amazed with Mr. Gore for many reasons. First, he was able to talk for nine hours in one day about the climate change presentation - including elaboration on the complex science involved. Second, he was much more engaging, easy-going and humorous than I expected after seeing him as a presidential candidate. Third, I think he's really serious about focusing on the issue of climate change. He's found an area where he can really fill a leadership void and he's concentrating on it."
Gore's profits from the book and movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," are being used for educational purposes such Thompson's training.
Thompson has developed a recent fascination with food and energy.
"As Iowa is leading the worldwide rush of ethanol bandwagons, I wonder if we really know what we're doing," he said.
From a "big picture perspective," he is concerned about using food as energy.
"Worldwide grain supplies are shrinking, oil supplies are diminishing and soil fertility is diminishing while energy demands and population both continue to surge," Thompson said. "This isn't sustainable."
Being from Iowa and seeing where food comes from, Thompson believes most urbanites don't take time to think about how food gets to the grocery store shelves.
"I just wish we were a little bit more thoughtful in terms of our future," he said. "So often we're caught up in making sure that our children - the next generation - have a better life than we had, that we don't think about what we leave for people to come 10 generations from now."
"Tony will be spending the next year making presentations in and around Iowa and Sweden, discussing how individuals and businesses, schools and other organizations can be a major part of the solution to the growing crisis of global warming," said Gore.
How do we stop global warming?
"The short answer for solutions to global warming: emit less carbon. To do this - the biggest single thing someone can do is use less energy," Thompson said.
There are dozens of ways to do this, both for day-to-day activities and for bigger, less frequent activities like building a house or buying a car.
"There is no silver bullet solution," Thompson said. "It's more like silver buckshot. It is important that people start doing the things on these lists - driving less, buying local and in-season food, using low-energy lighting. Perhaps it's more important, however, that people get curious!"
"Getting curious" means asking questions. People need to think, and think specifically about where things they use come from: food, energy, products.
"We take for granted where things come from - that we can get in our cars, drive to a grocery store, buy food, put it in plastic bags to carry it, drive home, cook over a gas or an electric stove, use water that is piped into our homes to cook and wash the dishes, and so on. There's nothing bad about being able to do these things and have these conveniences - in moderation," he said. "But we abuse them."
Compared to the generation of people who lived through the Great Depression, we waste a lot, he said
"If we're smarter about how we live, we can largely maintain the comforts of the lifestyle we currently enjoy with a fraction of the resources - but it requires a discipline that we largely lack," he said. "It's important to note that we have the technical know-how to eliminate the issue of climate change, to build in ways that drastically reduce the energy demands of buildings, to dramatically improve the mileage of our vehicles. Right now all we lack is the gumption to do it!"
Thompson said it's important that people realize that global warming is only one of many environmental - as well as social and economic challenges - we face.
"While in my presentations I'll be talking primarily about global warming and the effects we are seeing from it, I will be putting the issue of climate change in this larger context," he said. "It does no good to 'solve' the issue of global warming if it only leads to other problems."
"It's the "Genius of And" - that we can solve environmental and economic and social challenges with the same solution, if only we take time to think about them together," he added
Thompson is looking forward to sharing his program with people in central Iowa. Watch The Times for his schedule as it becomes available.