Fires in Russia, droughts in the Southwest, and floods in Pakistan all have one thing in common, according to former Vice President Al Gore, and it’s that they’re all effects of global warming.

Gore, Van Jones, and many others discussed the importance of environmental activism in a speech to a group of 10,000 such activists at Powershift 2011 on Friday night.

“How many places around the world have been getting what they used to call a once-in-a-thousand-year rainfalls?” Gore asked. According to most climatologists, he says, it’s too many. And it’s about time Congress started listening to them.

“You can’t negotiate the laws of physics,” he said. But that’s not to say they don’t try. For every representative the American people have in Congress, carbon-producing industries have four in the form of lobbyists.

Jones had his fair share of fun ripping on Congress. He described politicians as “stuck on stupid” and our current energy policies as the result of “bipartisan failure.”

He also explained why our current system isn’t working. “Our economy is powered by death,” Jones said. “We’re shocked when having pulled death out of the ground and burned it that we have death raining on us from the skies in the form of global warming, in the form of asthma and cancer in our lungs.”

Besides laying out the challenges ahead, the presenters at Powershift also shared some of their successes from the past few years. Beyond Coal was proud to report that they’ve gotten 16 colleges to commit to a coal free future.

And Jones, who seems hopeful about a green future, sees more than environmental benefits coming from alternative energy. He sees happy voters in blue states, job creation in red states, and lower energy bills for all.

He even sees a future when the poor would be able to afford solar panels for their roofs. “Instead of having poor people write the energy companies a check, let’s have the energy companies write them a check,” said Jones.

That, he said, would be a real shift in power.

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