An Inconvenient Truth

An_Inconvenient_Truth_Poster“I don’t really consider this a political issue, I consider it to be a moral issue.”

The Scoop: 2006 PG, directed by Davis Guggenheim and starring Al Gore and Billy West

Tagline: A Global Warning

Summary Capsule: Al Gore says “Doom on you! Doom on you!” The Ice Age cometh.

Lissa’s Rating: One of the many reasons I drive a Honda Civic.

Lissa’s Review: I’ve been meaning to watch and review An Inconvenient Truth ever since it came out. I sort of have a vested interest in it. I know I’ve been lost in parenthood, but see my tag with the beaker and test tube? Yeah. At one time, I made my living off that inconvenient truth.

I remember, back in grad school, being very annoyed with Al Gore and thinking he was a bit of an idiot. I think it was because of some quote about how wind and solar would eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. (I don’t remember the exact quote, to be honest.) I’ve always been a little skeptical about that, because, well, let’s talk about it rationally. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, transportation accounted for approximately 66% of the United States’ oil use in 2001. Industrial uses accounted for another 25%. Although the site I’m looking at isn’t clear, I assume a large part of “industrial uses” is chemical manufacture. (The number of things in our everyday lives that come from petroleum is really just staggering.) Buildings and utilities only accounted for about 9% of the total. The thing is, energy sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, and geothermal? They don’t power our cars, and they don’t make our chemicals and fuel our polymer industries.

But what about electric cars, you ask? What about them? I have a hard time believing that the electric car will ever be popular. Not because the technology’s not there, mind you. It is. It’s because the infrastructure isn’t there, and because your average American is afraid of change. And because there are other technologies being developed, such as fuel cells and hybrids and biofuels, I think (personally) that these technologies will overtake the electric car, because they’re more similar to what the American public knows, and the infrastructure is either present or would require small modification. They aren’t as scary.

Anyway, my point is that I thought Al Gore was way too much of an optimist and a bit thick on ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce emissions. So, I just kind of scoffed at him. (To be fair, I do that to all politicians.) But when I heard he was making a movie about global warming, I was very, very curious to see it.

I went into the movie thinking I was going to know everything he was saying. Given that I did research on the finer points of biodiesel for a few years, I think this was a reasonable assumption. Interestingly enough, I was wrong. We’re not really supposed to use the word “prove” in science, but An Inconvenient Truth is essentially a proof positive of global warming. Gore explains exactly what global warming is (I did know that), exactly how it will effect the environment, and how global warming influences meteorological phenomenon. (The last two where the things I didn’t know in detail.) He shows very compelling data that supports global warming, and rips away the impression that the controversy over global warming is rooted in scientific fact. All in all, I was impressed.

Most of the movie is a Keynote (not Power Point, apparently) presentation that Gore has given thousands of times. Interspersed in between the technical data and the slides are snippets of Gore’s life, and how he came to be so invested in the environmental lobby and his political path. It might seem like empty naval gazing, but I didn’t really think it was. I found it interesting to see his journey, both personal and political. Mileage may vary on that part, but I think it made Gore more human and accessible. And since his message is that we all need to care about this, I think that was a good strategy on his part.

An Inconvenient Truth is a very quiet and introspective movie. It moves at a bit of a slow pace, but I wouldn’t say it drags. Gore cracks jokes, but he’s not winning comedian of the year, which is good, because the seriousness of his message doesn’t get lost in the funny. For all that it’s quite scientific, it’s a very personal movie to Gore, which makes it that much more compelling. He clearly has some unhealed bitterness at some of his losses, and I think the frustration and disappointment he shows — and clearly articulates — only helps his case. However, it’s not a movie you’re going to pop in and watch every other month or something. It’s good, it’s well-done, it’s even enjoyable, but it’s not particularly rewatchable. An Inconvenient Truth does entertain to an extent (especially with a Futurama clip!), but its primary goal is to educate, and that it does admirably.

One of the things I did admire was that Gore did not pull his punches, especially when cautioning his audience about the folly of ignoring the warnings. There was a moment I found particularly powerful, when images of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina were being shown. There was horror at the wreckage and the ruined lives, but Gore also expressed the sentiment that warnings for the severity of Katrina were issued, and they were not heeded. The government didn’t listen and many citizens didn’t listen, because they couldn’t wrap their minds around the scenario being presented enough to believe it needed to be listened to. And I can understand that. As I sit here in my office typing, it’s a bright, cold day out and I’m thinking about my son’s Gymboree class, what to have for lunch, and that I should vacuum, all of which is far easier to comprehend than global climate change. And this is with my background. It’s a hard thing to face.

At the end, Gore urges his audience to tell everyone they know about this movie, and get them to watch it. Self-important? Absolutely not. Like most of my peers in the scientific community, I’ve seen the data. I understand the data. And yes, Gore is right — global warming is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Ben Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” My power certainly isn’t great, but here’s my responsibility: to tell you that you need to see this movie. So go see it, and take it to heart. Yes, it is inconvenient. But it’s the truth.

Al Gore has a secret desire to be Batman.

Al Gore has a secret desire to be Batman.

Intermission!

  • The cartoon clip that Al Gore shows to help explain global warming is from the Futurama episode “Crimes of the Hot.” Al Gore (whose daughter Kristin was a writer for the series) guest starred as himself in the episode, claiming to be the inventor of the environment and the author of Balance of the Earth, and the more popular Harry Potter and the Balance of the Earth.
  • 50,000 copies of the film were given away to teachers in the United States via the participate.net website between 18 December 2006 and 18 January 2007.
  • This is the first carbon-neutral documentary. NativeEnergy, which works with individuals and organizations to help them compensate for their contributions to global warming, calculated the “carbon footprint” from producing the film, including all travel, office, and accommodations related emissions. The company then offset emissions through renewable energy credits or “green tags from new renewable energy projects. Paramount Classics and Participant will split the cost of these tags; the funds will go towards helping build new Native American, Alaskan Native Village, and farmer-owned renewable energy projects, creating sustainable economies for communities in need and diversifying our energy supply. As Participant founder Jeff Skoll explains: “It would be ironic, not to mention wrong, if we added to the global warming that Al Gore warns about in his film. Plus, these renewable energy projects offer options that will decrease our demand for fossil fuels and otherwise would likely not happen without these kinds of investments.” Participant, NativeEnergy and Warner Bros. partnered in a similar way on Stephen Gaghan’s film, Syriana, where 100% of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the production were translated into investments into renewable energy. This follows on from the first “carbon neutral” film The Day After Tomorrow, which director Roland Emmerich paid for out of his own pocket.
  • America still has not signed the Kyoto Protocol? Write to your Congressman.
  • Futurama!
  • Gore is an Apple fan
  • That the events of Day After Tomorrow (including the Russian freighter and the wolves) just aren’t that likely to happen? SEE?
  • From the right angle, Chris Cooper could play Al Gore in the movie. Well, the movie that Al Gore wouldn’t be in.
  • Could you imagine the campaign ads if he did run? “Oscar-winner Al Gore for President!” Heh.
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Yes. Several suggestions for reducing energy consumption and pollution flash through the credits.

Groovy Quotes

Al Gore: I’m Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America.
[laughter and applause from audience]
Al Gore: I don’t find that particularly funny.

George H.W. Bush: This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we’ll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man.

Al Gore: Should we prepare for other threats besides terrorists?

Al Gore: I don’t really consider this a political issue, I consider it to be a moral issue.

Al Gore: You see that pale, blue dot? That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history, has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars all the famines, all the major advances… it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization. I believe this is a moral issue, it is your time to cease this issue, it is our time to rise again to secure our future.

Al Gore: Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves, “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?” We have to hear that question from them, now.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Children of Men
  • Supersize Me!
  • Anything BUT Day After Tomorrow. Look, I just can’t recommend that one, okay?
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