1500 Treehuggers Swarm Barcelona to See Albert Gore

Petz and Jenna finally got to see him — the infamous Al Gore — or Albert Gore as he was listed in the program of the First International Meeting for Friends of Trees this past Saturday in Barcelona. We represented Treehugger for this one-day event held in an, ironically enough, overly air-conditioned conference centre. Enough greenies must have said something because it was turned down by the time the Inconvenient Truths presentation began at 6 pm. Señor Gore closed the day of roundtables and talks from Spanish ecologists, the President of Greenpeace Spain, Ecologistas en Acción (Ecologists in Action), WWF-Adena, Amigos de la Tierra (Friends of the Earth), the President of Triodos Bank Spain and the inspiring and always eloquent Vandana Shiva.

Vandana's eco-feminism, her strength, and her words were downright moving. She argued that biofuels are more dangerous than we think because they are displacing people and causing massive deforestation (we'll elaborate on that tomorrow). She impressed the crowd with her defense of organic agriculture, food sovereignty, the value of trees and forests and her denouncement of industrial agriculture and the privatization of seeds, water, soil and life. She was very approachable and we saw her giving a casual interview in the coffee break area with nobody swarming her or bothering her, while meanwhile we were told that Al Gore was hardly left alone during the VIP lunch. It was interesting to see two very strong and dedicated activists and how the two, very effectively, communicate their messages in very different ways.During the afternoon roundtable discussion on the social, economic and environmental function of trees, Executive Director and Founder of Fundación Matrix, Javier Montalvo was the only participant to criticize the Spanish Government's forestry policies by saying that after forest fires they simply re-plant without choosing drought-resistant species that are necessary as the effects of global warming continue. Javier Sanchez, President of the Fundación + Arboles (More Trees) commented that although there may be technical disagreements on how it should be done we are all in agreement that more trees need to be planted. When answering the three permitted questions after his presentation, Al Gore noted that planting trees is one of many important steps we need to take to stop global warming. We were surprised that when asked what kind of car the roundtable member's drive, none of them had a hybrid or low-emissions vehicle. One member did not say the type of car he uses, but said that because of the nature of the trips he makes he cancels out his emissions. Rebound effect! Another speaker who spends his entire day working in the country said he drives a Range Rover. Interesting to see activists on stage and how they translate their causes to their every day lives. We know nobody is perfect, but hey a hybrid would have been nice.

The day ended with Al Gore's presentation. We secretly hoped he was going to give a new presentation, but we were pleasantly surprised to see an updated version of An Inconvenient Truth with references to the European and Spanish situation. Even though we've both seen the Academy-winning documentary, we were utterly engaged by the 2 hour show and surprised by some of the statistics such as "Spanish carbon dioxide emissions have seen a 52% increase since 1990." Spanish per capita emissions are higher than the EU and global per capita rates (bad Spain, bad), despite the fact that it is the second largest wind power producer in Europe.

All in all, it was a fabulous and enlightening day. The company, the organic food, the roundtables, Vandana Shiva and Al Gore left myself and my writing partner, Petz, anxiously awaiting the Second International meeting for Friends of Trees. Watch Vandana's press conference here. Image courtesy of the conference organizers.