An Inconvenient Truth

Our podunk movie theatre actually got An Inconvenient Truth, so L and I went to see it, ready to be filled with righteous indignation and smugness that we walked instead of driving.

My overall impression of the movie was that it was good, and sent a clear, strong message, although I had some quibbling with a few things within it. Al Gore came across as very personable and well humoured–he obviously felt more natural and at home doing his slideshow presentation than running for President. He got in a few nice zingers, as well, which I rather liked.

The movie presented its case with elegant visuals. The images where he transposed glaciers then and now, for example, were amazing. Although I am aware that global warming is a reality and that we are starting to feel the effects, actually seeing rapid glacial melt was a startling thing. Both L and I gaped at the screen and said “woah” when he showed the glaciers. His discussion of the Larsen ice shelf was excellent–I really liked that he explained how and why the shelf broke up within days of scientists realizing that something was wrong. It was also alarming to see our knowledge of the Larsen shelf applied to the sheet ice which covers Greenland, because if it goes we face a serious change in our topography. He also linked climate events with warming, though more hesitantly since the evidence there is not as strong.

But he’s right, the global ocean is heating up, and the result is plain to see in coral bleaching, changes in rainfall patterns, droughts, and heat waves. The ocean is tightly tied in with weather systems, an example of the interconnectedness on this planet, and the ocean is in trouble.

He used images to powerful ends: not just the juxtaposed glaciers, but pictures of ships stranded in what used to be inland seas, shrinking bodies of water, global flooding and drought. He also delighted in using charts and graphs, showing plainly that rising CO2 is contributing to an elevation of global temperature, which could have catastrophic results. It’s not just that the planet is heating, it’s that ice melt will increase the pressure on water supplies. It’s that global weather will be utterly disrupted, and our entire way of life changed forever.

Gore also worked to dispel some common myths, like the idea that taking action would harm our economy. I hope we all realize at this point that taking steps to reduce CO2 emissions is a really good idea, and one which should actually benefit the global economy. After all, as he pointed out, the Earth is in the balance here.

He also debunked the popular idea that there is dispute in the scientific community about whether or not global warming exists. This is an idea propogated by those who have a vested interest in general confusion about global warming–in actuality, scientific literature is in agreement that yes, kids, the Earth is getting warmer, and that CO2 is a big part of the cause.

This is not a “natural” cycle, because the changes have been too extreme. The rise in CO2 has been consistent and rapid since the turn of the century, and that’s something you and I should be concerned about, because it’s something that may affect us in as little as fifty years, and is already affecting us. We can’t put it off for the next generation anymore.

There were a few things about the movie which bothered me.

The first was the large number of scenes where we saw Gore in cars and aircraft. Now, I know because I read an interview with Gore that he uses carbon offsets, but not everyone is aware of that. Not everyone knows what carbon neutrality is. And I think that Gore should have taken a moment at some point in the film to mention carbon neutrality. Otherwise, I think a lot of viewers would come out of the movie feeling like Gore is rather a hypocrite, spouting on about CO2 destroying the Earth while he jets around the world.

We also got a lot of insight into Gore’s life personally, a few slices of personally powerful moments, most of which I actually enjoyed because they humanized him for me. I disliked, however, the inclusion of the election debacle in the film. It may be that the film makers felt like it had to be included since people would wonder about it, but I think it detracted from the movie. I don’t think Mr Bush stole the election via rising CO2 emissions, and it felt like sour grapes to me.

Finally, I disliked that Gore presented a lot of expensive solutions. The audience was actually laughing at the end of the film when “ways you can help” were flashing on the screen. There is a growing class gap in this society, and a large number of working poor. Telling us to “buy a Prius” or “weatherproof your home” is not really realistic. Instead, you might suggest “if you must drive, find a high mileage/low emissions vehicle, and try to keep it in good operating condition,” for example. Using green electricity is all well and good, if you can afford the extra surcharge many utilities demand–how about just recommending that people use energy more efficiently, not leave lights on or electrical devices idling? Why drive when you can walk, or bicycle? Why not encourage people to car pool or use public transit? I think the film did an excellent job of raising awareness about the issue, but not such a great job of making solutions accessible to all citizens. Small changes are as important as large ones.

I hope that the movie gets more people actively thinking about global warming, and that it causes some changes in the way we live and think. We must put a stop to rampant emissions, or face the consequences.

[An Inconvenient Truth]