Unlikely ally sounds alarm about global warming

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Gary Dunham, a retired graphic designer from Sugar Land, Texas, has become operations director for The Climate Project, an international campaign to popularize the fight against global warming and promote grass-roots initiatives.

The program, begun by Gore, has more than 1,000 participants worldwide. These volunteer ambassadors include students, professors, musicians, scientists, and retirees – even a beauty queen. They make presentations at home shows, churches, schools and other locations.

Dunham, 71, and Gore were in San Diego County yesterday – Gore for speaking at UC San Diego and Dunham to kick off more than a week of presentations to students in the Sweetwater Union High School District.

Dunham’s unlikely saga started last July in a hotel room in Washington, D.C., where he was watching television while waiting for the conclusion of a conference his wife was attending.

When “The Oprah Winfrey Show” came on, he wanted to change the channel but couldn’t find the remote control. Winfrey’s guest was actor and avid environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, who talked about global warming. Dunham disliked Winfrey and DiCaprio, but a scientist on the show kept his attention. Gore’s movie was discussed; he later went to the nearest theater and watched the documentary. Next, he bought the book version of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Then, he persuaded his wife to let him share Gore’s warning with her ultra-conservative civic group, Daughters of the American Revolution. Cribbing sections of Gore’s book, he used graphic design to dress them up and gave about three dozen presentations before wondering if he was saying the right things.

After fruitless attempts to contact global-warming experts, Dunham dialed directory assistance in Nashville and asked for Al Gore. Within a few days, Dunham was invited to Gore’s first training session at his family farm, where he and other participants were led them down to the river on hay wagons. Dunham said he got more skeptical as they rode along.

“This looks like an old-fashioned revival,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘I really hope he doesn’t stand up and start preaching to us.’ But that man started talking and he knocked my lights out again. I thought he was going to levitate at the end.”

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