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Inconvenient Truth, An (2006) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 May 2006
“I pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave me birth
Let me rest my eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool green hills of Earth”

When Robert A. Heinlein wrote those lines (in his short story “The Green Hills of Earth”), he was imagining a future that looked much different from the one we seem fated to really have. Those fleecy skies have begun to look like tattered, rotting cloth, and the green hills are increasingly brown.

The culprit is global warming.

No, not the “theory” of global warming; that’s what big business, particularly big oil, desperately wants you to believe. The FACT of global warming.

Polar bears are drowning. Previously, they rarely drowned, as they were able to reach the safety of an ice floe there in the Arctic waters that are the big white bears’ home. Now there’s less and less ice, and the bears are forced to swim for miles to reach safety, so far that some of them aren’t making it. Keep that image in mind: polar bears are drowning.

We’re next.

Global warming is unquestionable, a reality that too many in the United States are refusing to face. We’ve lived too long in the comforting but false belief that the world is so vast that mere people can’t affect it. That’s probably true for the solid earth of Earth—but it’s not true for the water, and, more importantly, it’s not true for the thin layer of air that surrounds everything on the planet.

“An Inconvenient Truth” is an awkwardly-titled documentary that essentially brings to the screen the lecture on global warming that Al Gore—he introduces himself “I am Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States”—has been giving worldwide for the last couple of years. He’s devoted most of his time since his “defeat” in the Presidential election five years ago to educating as many people as he can reach about the truth and deadly danger of global warming.
It’s pretty simple: the more carbon dioxide in the air, the greater the “greenhouse effect”—that is, every year more heat is retained by the atmosphere. Of all the years human beings have kept records, the ten hottest were all within the last fourteen. Every year, carbon dioxide increases; every year the Earth gets warmer; every year more ice melts.

As Gore says in the film, this is not a political issue, it is not a matter of “left” or “right;” it is a matter of morality. This documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, includes most of Gore’s lecture, filmed before a responsive audience, including his vivid, well-designed graphics, projected on a large screen behind him. To this it adds film clips, some of Gore traveling about to one lecture after another (there are probably too many shots of Gore peering solemnly out a plane window) as well as well-selected film footage illustrating the points of the lecture.

The movie, like the lecture, is extremely well structured, beginning with how it was learned that atmospheric carbon dioxide was increasing, what the sources of carbon dioxide are (the increase is due to engine and factory emissions—before those, the levels were stable), and how this directly affects the planet. For example, Glacier National Park now has almost no glaciers. They’re shriveling up in the Andes, the Himalayas and at the poles.

Melted ice means more water in the oceans. Gore clearly illustrates what this means to many areas of the world, such as Shanghai, New York, the Netherlands, etc. Furthermore, the oceans are warming; this is why 2005 was the stormiest year in history. If there aren’t as many this year, don’t consider that a hopeful sign; the focus here is on the broad view, not the narrow. The world HAS changed. The movie makes this vividly clear.

Upton Sinclair once wrote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. And Mark Twain, that sorrowing cynic, said “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Right now, vast forces are being brought to bare in this country to convince the population that global warming is a myth—but that just ain’t so.

Don’t assume that you already know what the film reveals; the most common reaction seems to be “I didn’t know THAT!” Gore trots out surprise after surprise—I was stunned by the automobile gas consumption standards of other industrialized countries compared to ours—and keeps your attention on the issue. Occasionally, there are personal elements; Gore’s life changed when his young son was severely injured in by an automobile collision and almost died. But he relates even this to his anti-global warming crusade; it’s personal for ALL of us.

If Gore had been this charming, this focused, this funny—yes, he’s often funny—during his presidential campaign, he probably would have been elected. However, this movie isn’t his first volley in another presidential campaign; it’s a call to arms. It isn’t partisan; it isn’t even bipartisan; it’s multi-partisan, on everyone’s side.

The movie is almost hypnotic; it’s so brilliantly structured that you’re drawn in immediately and kept there to the end—virtually all of the preview audience sat all the way through the end credits (for one thing, they keep adding information about global warming). It doesn’t matter if you liked Gore, if you voted for him; what matters is this literally world-wide problem.

The most surprising aspect of the lecture and movie is how they end: we can do something about this. The cause is not lost, but it is up to us—primarily to Americans—to realize the increasing danger and to do something about it. Gore, and the closing text, relates how we can do something about this, and how these actions could be actually affordable, potentially even profitable.

We are facing—we are already EXPERIENCING—an environmental crisis. Al Gore is not an alarmist; he’s the latter-day Paul Revere, sounding an alarm that, for our survival, we all must heed. “An Inconvenient Truth” is a depiction of the crisis, its causes and, importantly, what can be done about it.

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