We’re gonna die.
That seems to be the main thrust of Al Gore‘s symposium on sunshine and line graphs.
Woiking that Power Point mean machine like a Marketing Manager Gone Wild, the man who used to be “the next President of the United States” assails us with facts, figures and forecasts in AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, outlining possibly the most dangerous threat to our way of life since Dubya took the oath: global warming.
In a compelling and easy to understand presentation, Mr. Gore’s accumulated data illustrates how mankind’s mass-production technology, coupled with bloating populations, has brought an artificial imbalance to an ecosystem which has been naturally balanced for billions of years, and is nothing short of an indictment against our wastefulness and shortsightedness.
Analogous to Toffler’s Future Shock (where successive generations are inundated with superseding technology faster than they can assimilate it), the shockwave of industrialization has attained a critical mass.
Humans could never hope to actually “destroy the planet”; regarding Earth purely as a space rock, it will prevail, but – as Gore puts it – “the earth and our civilization are at war”; the key word being “civilization,” i.e., the luxurious existence we take for granted.
Fully realizing he can only squash so much harbingering into 100 minutes, Gore (who has given this presentation thousands of times across the country) focuses on the end results of decades of scientific studies, keeping it succinct and vital, with short asides on how his personal life slots into his crusade (to earn him substance that a mere lobbyist stance alone will not).
Director Davis Guggenheim exerts a steady hand over the proceedings, re-discovering the beneficial uses of this medium which is so overtly misused. Yet even as we sit being educated, economic gears grind in adjacent theaters screening da Cruises, da Wolverines and da Vincis. You may not exit TRUTH as breathlessly as you may exit X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, but you will be just as shaken.
There is one aspect central to the credibility of TRUTH which will determine your enjoyment and/or concurrence with it: whether you can accept Al Gore – a man with no scientific credentials – espousing scientific calamity. (His credentials of “almost President” might have carried more weight had we not seen in the last six years how little brainpower that post actually requires.)
Gore is no stranger to environmental science, though, and during the course of his lifelong political career has researched his topic thoroughly, to date, penning two books on the subject: Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (1993) and this movie’s 2006 companion tome.
Though his qualifications as an environmentalist are sturdy, the term carries with it negative baggage of the “hippie” and “greenie” variety. Even George Bush Senior took an unwarranted smear-stab at the younger Gore’s environmental stance, in decrying it as elevating owls over the economy (which served to illustrate only his own ignorance – a healthy environment and a healthy economy are not opposing states of being; only an imbecile would paint them as mutually exclusive. I rest my case). And because his administration advocated an anti-environment platform, his idiot-child must necessarily concur.
The irony is that scientists (whom we all agree are inestimably intelligent) alerted us to ecosystem imbalance, and then hippies and lobbyists transmuted the information for their own selfish ends, making it sound as ignorant, petulant or Grateful Dead as they were. And information that could have been used as a key was instead used as a hammer. Al Gore comes across as exceedingly more intelligent and lucid than the current faux-President (which is, granted, not hard to do), and he is definitely no hippie. So what is his agenda? Is he, in fact, tilting at the Oval Office once more?
It is pleasantly surprising to see one of America’s politicians (you know – those people whom we’re meant to place our faith in as incorruptible, honest and unselfish) using his intellect, celebrity and office to effect a change for the better in society. On the other hand – he is one of America’s politicians; since when have they ever done anything ostensibly beneficial without an ulterior motive?
Smeared and misquoted for “inventing the Internet” (a disparaging, out-of-context spin on his real quote of: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet,” meaning he played a major role in the legislative processes that ensured the government-funded research and development of what we know today as the World Wide Web), Gore has always been an advocate for high technology and forward momentum. Now, with his advocacy for environmental issues, he more than ever seems like a politician who really does know what he is doing – and doing it for a reason other than for exclusive self-gain.
Rest assured, I am surprising even myself in the level of respect I am affording this “politician,” most of whom I would not help out of a mine shaft were they trapped under a very light rock. I believe the street terminology would be “going gay for Gore.”
coining the other side of the spin
The title itself plays up to our culture of Spin, for any truth is only “inconvenient” to those whose political agenda opposes it. Truth should be, simply, Truth. Is that not all ye need to know?
Yet in our society, chess-like political positioning occludes every Truth, filtering a watered-down version thereof. Gore is aiming for something – maybe we’ll never know what, if he does not achieve it – so we cannot discount that he may be leaving relevant pieces out of the global warming dilemma. From the outset, his descriptions of global warming and ozone depletion are rudimentary and his focus is on “projections” – much like any big business gets things done: display projected income or output, tweak the numbers and achieve your goals (usually funding). So though Gore’s projections hurtle his line graphs off the grid, the reality is that Earth’s current warming is yet within accepted temperature fluctuations and margins of error.
The Republican government, by already stultifying environmental studies to suit their own ends, offer us a clue as to the opposite camp’s methods – the same methods. It is no secret that in order to procure research grants scientists must produce results which lean in their funder’s political favor; they need not LIE outright, but spin allows their corroborations to be interpreted in almost any manner. The field of science, as Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Dr. Carl Sagan has lamented, can sometimes be as bias-driven as politics.
Is Gore speaking Truth? To an extent – yes. Whether you agree with him or not, global warming, as a planetwide phenomenon, is a reality. The planet’s greenhouse effect may not tip over to irredeemable within the next ten years, but our own manufactured atmospheric assailants are definitely conspiring against us; not just carbon dioxide, which Gore paints as the sole villain (even though a certain amount is necessary for atmospheric equilibrium), but also methane, nitrous oxide and – that old 70’s baddie with the twirling mustache – chlorofluorocarbons. Venus is a prime example of a runaway greenhouse effect, just across the pond of space, yet provincial humans will only raise their eyes to the skies when they can fry eggs on the sidewalks.
Since solar studies began, scientists have always known the Sun will exhaust its hydrogen fusion engine and die – killing all life in its Habitable Zone – in the next five billion years. Who cares? Who can even envision five hundred years, let alone five billion? Then studies predicted Earth would attain inhabitability, due to industry, sometime in the next millennium. (My grandchild’s great-grandchildren can deal.) When that grace period was whittled down to one hundred years, people started to take notice – not sensibly, but as political leverage “for the children.” Now, with our insanely escalating pollution allowing us to chart dramatic environmental shifts within one lifetime – or, more correctly, within one Presidential term (“before” and “after” pictures of disappearing glaciers, ice shelves dangerously thinning, Hurricane Katrina’s textbook formation) – projections predict we have Run Out Of Time, and people are suddenly very “environmental”; as always, working on the credo: only when it threatens MY selfish existence.
Passionately, yet without histrionics or erecting political platforms, Gore offers solutions to the eternally upwardly-mobile graphs, saving probably the most encouraging solution for last, reminding us that “In America, political will is a renewable resource.”
But how much attention was I paying? How much attention was anyone paying? Even as our danger is elucidated, we sit in air-conditioned theaters, our carbon monoxide pets parked in the paddock; we chug like coagulated blood corpuscles along tar-blackened highways; we eat at restaurants belching beefsmoke and cholesterol pillars into the sky; we patronize industries vomiting chemicals into our rivers that the spin lobbyists claim have not been thoroughly studied and therefore pose no environmental threat; we pay obeisance to corporate greed every day whether we know it or not, by being a part of The System – society itself; every credit card we can’t pay off, every computer we don’t understand, every vehicle we can hardly afford is a manifestation of our super-industrialized, future-shocked network of atmospheric poison. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH might be a call to arms by Gore, for First World society to take more responsibility for its living conditions, but poisoning the atmosphere is what created First World living conditions in the first place. Changing things now would be – well, inconvenient…
“Sunshine came softly through my window today / Could’ve tripped out easy, but I’ve changed my ways…”
–Donovan, Sunshine Superman.
As with the Internet, no matter how many people think it’s a good idea, it is only after government advocacy is granted that major policy changes will take effect; in the pollution issue, only through corporate-level modifications (to machinery, wastage, transport, energy acquisition, homes, etc.) will poison levels recede. In a classic case of “removing the beam from his own eye first,” if Al Gore – during his terms as Vice President – could not effect major environmental policy changes, my puling at local industries to minimize their waste burnoff is beyond futile. The pragmatic truth is, as long as there are Hummer production lines churning out stretch-limousines for drunk and disorderly teens, turning off my house lights won’t matter in the least.
Then there is Tipper. Al’s morbidly willful wife. Al may never be forgiven for not lifting a finger to curb Tipper’s penis-envying megalomania, when he and his cronies let her and her hussies break constitutional law twenty years ago by forming the PMRC and censoring music, exploiting all those pc platforms that guaranteed unbridled access to political leverage: a) she’s a woman, b) “for the children,” c) morality.
Political elements in the White House like Tipper Gore keep me sane enough not to register to vote. For even if we voted for someone as seemingly ideal as Al Gore – and won! – his wife, without any votes, suddenly becomes The First Lady! Most Presidents’ wives become background noise, but on Tipper’s past record, who can predict what ludicrous, unconstitutional lobbies this harridan may conjure to fill her worthless hours?
I am sure it is Tipper’s influence which irks Gore’s cause, in his insistence that the global warming issue is not political, but “moral.” (Always be wary when someone cites moral reasons because morality is subjective). He is right in the sense that unethically doctoring reports to tone down dangers of this phenomenon or releasing mission statements such as, “we need to reposition global warming to make it sound like theory instead of fact” are heinous crimes. The shortsighted Republicans who purvey this decimation of their own species through denial and inaction are, in essence, the most immoral swine on Earth.
In another sense, calling this ecology problem “moral” diminishes its planet-girdling import. Ignoring global warming will not leave a cloud of remorse in your guts that a half-hearted confession will absolve; at stake is nothing less than the extinction of the species homo sapiens. This issue extends light years beyond trite, human morality. It is Survival.
TRUTH is such an important piece of media that it should not be shown in theaters on a paid basis – it should be screened in public assembly halls, in schools, on airplanes, anywhere people can avail themselves of it, not for the “warning” aspect, but to be exposed to the germ of the idea that researching any issue for themselves might lead to a healthy understanding, a healthy environment, a healthy economy – all in the same administration, no less.
(This will not happen, of course, because income from this film is funding that mysterious agenda of Gore’s. Or maybe just going into his pocket. Money is power. Either way, it reneges on its own message in a sense in being a theatrical release, placing it in an “entertainment” category, only for those who can afford the surplus entertainment dollar.)
Though Gore denies it repeatedly in the film, the very fact that he was the Democratic Vice President unintentionally casts a “political” hawk-shadow over his efforts; maybe this documentary’s host should have been a scientist whose politics were irrelevant, thereby quelling any partisanship accusations. Maybe then, spineless illiterates like Bush Junior (who has done more for the denigration of America than even that hellspawn from Satan’s own vagina, Richard M. Nixon) might not be so glibly biased. His dismissive reply when asked if he would watch this movie was, “Doubt it.”
Alas, the perfect host for such a documentary – the late, great Carl Sagan – is no longer with us.
The fact that Gore mentions Sagan as a friend elevates him further in my Book of Cool. Gore not only shows us the famous Apollo 17 photo of the Earth from space, he also presents a less famous photo – a sobering vision of our insignificance and fragility amongst the vast Cosmos: that of a tiny blue pixel that is the Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft near the orbit of Neptune; a photo that Sagan was instrumental in facilitating, and which was the basis for his book Pale Blue Dot (1994). Gore reminds us, in Sagan’s words, “Look at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” In Sagan’s book, those words still make me weep – but I never dreamed a politician could cite them with almost the same impact.
Who knows? Maybe I will register to vote…