Former Vice President AL GORE was on campus Tuesday to remember a friend. Gore spoke at a private ceremony dedicating a stone bench in the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden in memory of renowned climate scientist STEPHEN SCHNEIDER, a former Stanford biology professor and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, who died in 2010. Gore also spoke later that day, giving the inaugural Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture.
Schneider and Gore worked together on several projects and shared, along with Schneider’s colleagues on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.”
Before Gore spoke, Schneider’s widow, TERRY ROOT, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute and frequent scientific collaborator with Schneider, thanked Schneider’s friends.
“I promised I wasn’t going to cry,” she said through the onset of tears, throwing up her arms. Then, the Rev. Canon SALLY G. BINGHAM, president of climate change advocacy group Interfaith Power and Light, compared Schneider to Old Testament prophets. “He raged on about drought, fires, floods, rising seas with the spread of disease unless we changed our ways.” Although Schneider was “not a believer,” Bingham said, he was among a small number of scientists willing to include religion in the climate change dialogue and to emphasize the moral issues involved.
“He was a force of nature,” Gore said of Schneider. “He was sui generis.” Schneider inspired others, Gore noted, with “his passion, his commitment, his stamina, his relentless desire to keep working for the truth and to get the message out.”
Gore recalled first seeing Schneider on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the mid-1970s, when climate change had barely made it into the American consciousness. Schneider’s work to raise awareness of the issue was “awe inspiring,” Gore said. “There are very few people in history as successful as Steve was in helping to protect that only home we have ever known.”
After Gore’s comments, Stanford Woods Institute Co-Director JEFF KOSEFF wrapped up the proceedings. He called Schneider a “mensch,” a Yiddish term that Koseff translated as “a person you want to be around because he or she makes you feel genuine and whole. A mensch makes you feel good about yourself and what you do, lifts up those around him or her. A mensch inspires [people] to do good, to heal the world.”
Koseff paused to imagine Schneider asking him if he could come up with a slogan for the day’s event. “I said, ‘Yes, I can, Steve. We’re dedicating a bench for a mensch.’”
Watch a video montage of Schneider discussing climate change.
—ROB JORDAN, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment