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The Real Winner

The hubbub has settled somewhat on the Norwegian Nobel Committee's awarding the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations network of scientists, "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change," leaving behind the grumble of controversy.
A swath of Americans was less than pleased about Al Gore's victory. Some showed skepticism, typified by CNN USA, who followed their broadcast of the announcement with, "but does he deserve it?" And in what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman refers to as "Gore Derangement Syndrome," others were downright virulent (just cruise the blogosphere for proof). Some critics took aim at the Norwegian Nobel Committee, accusing them of being more irrelevant and out of touch than ever and, horror of all horrors, politically motivated.
But who's more out of touch with global peace challenges, cynical skeptics and knee-jerk reactionaries caught up in the cult of personality or a committee whose mandate is to earnestly observe the causes of war and peace (a committee, by the way, based in a country directly experiencing the effects of global warming in its Svalbard archipelago)?
That climate change is already beginning to affect the security of humans is evident in poorer continents like Africa, where survival hinges on a threadlike balance. Take Sudan, for instance, where it's acknowledged more and more that desertification and regular drought cycles brought about by climate change have reduced availability of water and arable land, exacerbating conflicts between nomadic and sedentary groups over resource shortages. The result is several hundred thousand dead and a conflict spilling over national borders into neighboring Chad. Granted, the relationship between climate change and conflict is complex and not yet fully understood, but the theory is gaining momentum, evidenced by the variety of groups commissioning research on the issue, from non-governmental organizations to the United Nations to the Pentagon.
Observing patterns of Nobel Peace Prize recipients over the past century clearly demonstrates that the prize has evolved with the times, maintaining its relevancy. Prior to 1970, the majority of Peace Prize recipients were based in Europe and North American, and many were arbitrators, peace or humanitarian organizations focused on conventional warfare. You could even go so far as to call the prize "Eurocentric." As more global and unconventional challenges to peace emerged, such as nuclear weapons, oppression of human rights, and dwindling resources, the Peace Prize broadened its scope to not only include recipients from Asia, Africa and Latin America, but also those individuals and organizations dedicated to resolving more nontraditional causes of conflict. Does the Nobel Peace Prize stand accused of being political? You bet it does. It's precisely in the realm of the political where issues of peace and conflict are grappled with—or not.
The Nobel Peace Prize is like a spot light that shines into a dark closet forcing the global community to pay attention. In the case of the 2007 award, it's a call to global action, or in the words of the Committee, "Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control." Environmental organizations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have been shouting about climate change and global warming on mainly deaf ears for years, but it wasn't until a certain American of stature, Al Gore, started talking that the public started listening. Now, collective global action is more than just a wing and a prayer, it's a reality. As Sheila Watt-Gloutier, a Canadian Inuit activist who was also nominated for the prize put it, "The Planet Earth is a winner today, and that is what counts for me."
What You Can Do
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  • Talk about global warming to friends, at parties, and in groups.
  • Read a book that explains the dangers of global warming.
  • Find ways to reduce your carbon footprint and slow global warming in your lifetime.
Where you can buy it
Global Warming: The Signs and the Science
Hell and High Water: Global Warming
Global Warming Cycling Jersey
Get the Facts
Wikipedia - Nobel Peace Prize
The Real Winner
Global Warming - Union of Concerned Scientists

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