The closest I have come to the feeling I had the night before my training was the one I had the night before I got married.
A bunch of Monarch butterflies poking around my stomach saying, “Is it morning yet? Can we walk down the aisle already?!”
The Monarchs (I use Monarchs simply because I don’t really know any other butterflies) can also make their appearance right before I’m about to confront the Starbucks barista as she makes my drink in a paper cup and pours it into my reusable one.
These butterflies are not to be confused with first-day-of-school or starting-a-new-job butterflies. Those are more like moths which bring about a sense of worry and nervousness.
In truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thoughts of a man circled by Secret Service, our table locations being switched around, a tall guy sitting in front of me blocking my sight line…these are just some of the ideas my brain played around with.
But like most things in life, my worries were for nothing as I took the same chair I’d been in the day before, spread out my notebook, poured myself a glass of water and settled in waiting for the day to begin.
When Al Gore walked out on stage, emotion overtook me and I filled up with tears.
Here was the Former Vice President, Nobel Prize winner, and Academy Award winner standing right in front of me.
But it wasn’t just those titles that were getting to me. I was about to learn about climate change from the master.
Round one was just simply watching the slideshow presentation which runs about 45 minutes. The presentation consists of slides showing the effects and proof of climate change and is, of course, narrated by Mr. Gore.
We were asked to note how he presents the material, what feelings are evoked, etc. The slides have been updated since last I saw the film, but the message is still the same. The facts have gotten worse. More droughts, floods, melting. The situation is dire.
When I first started my conversion to a greener lifestyle, I would come home with stories of people taking 4,000 plastic bags at the grocery store or the girl in the bathroom who would leave the water running as she dried her hands. John would laugh and then follow up with,“You need to write a blog!”
But I was sure that the green movement was not ready for humor.
Obviously I overcame that thought and found my voice. And one of the things I learned during Mr. Gore’s presentation is that I’m not alone. Al Gore is funny.
Talking about how Vatican City is one of the most sustainable places, he commented “Well, they have two advantages: they’re small and they have God on their side.”
But he was also serious.
He noted that it’s important to change lightbulbs, but it’s more important to change laws.
The energy radiating off everyone after he finished the presentation could have supplied enough power to light the Empire State Building for an entire decade.
After our break, it was time to get to the nitty gritty – learning the presentation. Again, not knowing what to expect, I somehow thought Mr. Gore would appear again later in the day and one of the Climate Reality staff would do the teaching.
And once again, I was wrong.
Mr. Gore divided the presentation into three sections, the opening, the scientific proof, and finally, what you can do. He went through every slide, explaining what it meant and his rationale for using it. He was up there for almost nine hours with a few breaks in-between sections. His energy and enthusiasm never waned.
There were moments of laughter and moments of passion in explaining the slides.
And there were many moments where we all rallied, encouraging him to show us that extra slide or video despite the wants of the staff to keep us on schedule…something none of us at that point really cared about. How often do you get to have Al Gore show you the SNL sketch “The Yard-a-pult?” (This is where Kevin Nealon plays a homeowner who catapults his trash into his neighbor's yard thereby using the analogy, let it be someone else’s problem.)
Like all good things, the day came to an end too quickly. Mr. Gore told us that we would prevail and wished us “Godspeed for taking on this endeavor.”
The room flew to its feet and erupted in applause for the man that brought attention to a crisis and started a conversation.
After his presentation, Kathy Mattea and her husband, John Vezner, came back and sang for us.
She prompted us to “sit down and enjoy the show!” and we all dropped to the floor…including Al Gore who sat with us, in the exact same spot, the entire time. And no matter how cramped my legs got, if Al wasn’t moving, neither was I.
When the final note was played, the butterflies came back. But this time I realized that I was really the cocoon keeping them safe and it was time for them to be born and set free.
I had come full circle. The whole reason I started The Green, The Bad and The Ugly four years ago this month, was because of the emotional reaction I had watching An Inconvenient Truth. And now I was qualified to present that same slide show and hope to make an impact on others the same way it was made on me.
I was the butterfly about to spread my wings – and the message.