The Shadow Our Future Throws by Al Gore

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The Shadow Our Future Throws – Al Gore The shadow our future throws is a chapter in Al-Gore’s book, Earth in the balance: ecology and the human spirit. The book itself in general is about the ways in which humans are using our
environmental resources and how this use of environmental resources has caused a serious
imbalance in our nature. The book is also about the way in which humans are forming themselves
around capitalism and not the other way around. The chapter in which he elaborates the theories
underlying the questions of globalism and capitalism are detailed in the essay, ‘The Shadow our
Future Throws’. The name itself is a signifier that actions can lead to disastrous consequences if we
leave progress unchecked.

The first theory that Gore mentioned concerned the ‘Chaos Theory’. The ‘Chaos Theory is
also known as the butterfly effect (because the plot of the mathematical model crosses each other
like a butterfly). It is easy for example to say that chaos exists but in the nature of man and science
everything is neat and well-ordered with charted predictability however in every stable known
natural phenomena for example, exists unpredictable uncharted and chaotic phenomena. For
example, the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates that caused the inevitable tsunami
destruction that affected South Asia and Southeast Asia. We know the cause of the tsunami, what
we do not know is why. Therefore, the earth is moving at a chaotic erratic and random pace that
cannot be known to man specifically. However, due to the fact that the chaos theory is difficult to
chart and understand, scientists have the tendency to wait back before proceeding into any
statement. This is a plausible move however but Gore argues that it might be too late when the
world’s climate is changing rapidly due to the greenhouse effect. Initially, the earth has a particular
manner in which it will swing ‘pendulum-like’ from state to state. The earth is able to recuperate
itself continuously but the rapid changes and avid materialism and capitalism that is being
overzealously advocated today is moving the natural environment too fast too soon. What are the
effects on the environment and the earth of our rapid pollution

Often the target of such rapid pollution is portrayed by the media as the work of
irresponsible loggers or irresponsible swidden agriculturalists but nobody seems to question why
there are swidden agriculturalists, to what extent are their involvement with slash and burn
agriculture that affects the forest and causes deforestation and where does all the trees go The
answer is quite simple, it is transported to developed countries. Resources belonging to developing
countries are simply used for materialism and capitalism of developed countries. The cost of
capitalism is this, we move and shift natural resources from one part of the globe to another without
realizing the consequences of our actions. In addition the problems of import and export are also
apparent with the high cost of capitalism in maintaining ‘freshness’ of packaged goods. The media
does not portray the perpetrators of capitalism and the wreckage of environmentalism to be the
work of developed countries, on the contrary, environmentalism and environmentalists concentrate
their efforts elsewhere by creating humanitarian problems instead in the developing countries (Tsing
2005). However, this does not mean that there should be disjointed efforts on conserving the
environment but rather, joint efforts on conserving the environment, one that cooperate for the
initiative of other and other’s communities instead of hoping to preserve solely only developed
communities. Capitalism and environmentalism are two sides of a sword and are strange bedfellows
but the truth is, they are action and reaction of one another.

Previously, man and still today, those of the hunting and gathering communities have always
lived harmoniously with nature, they do not have the attitude of keeping and gathering for later but
instead perceive that there will always be abundance and they take only what they need (Sahlins
1972). This is in line with Gore’s theory of using science within the environment especially when he
uses e= mc2, the formula for the theory of relativity. Our use of mass affects our experience that is
shaped by time and space (Gore 1992:48).

In conclusion, we are able to use science as a means to concentrate our efforts on reducing
global effects of pollution thus saving ourselves from the rapid change in climate. In fact, we can use
whatever means and resources that we have with us to change this situation, the media must
cooperate, science must cooperate and above all, everyone must cooperate but we also must keep
in check that our relationship with our society is also our relationship with nature.


Gore, Al. Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Boston and New York: Houghton
Mifflin Company. 1992.

Sahlins, Marshall. Stone Age Economics. Chicago: Aldine, 1972.

Tsing, Anna. Friction: An ethnography of global connection. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton
University Press. 2005.