A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 418 – An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth – April 22nd, 2011

I have avoided this movie since it first came out. I have avoided it very intentionally and as much as I possibly could. This is because I knew it would put me in a state of mind that I cannot really afford to be in. Much like politics, I find the environment to be an issue that makes me angry and depressed and filled with such overwhelming feelings of both dread and impotence. That’s not a good state to be in. I find it much more manageable on a small scale. Do what I can and focus on that. The big picture is overwhelming and out of my control and I can’t deal with that and keep myself emotionally stable.

Part of the problem is that I grew up with parents who are, by their natures, scientifically curious. My father started out as a chemist before he shifted to medicine. My mother was told that women couldn’t be scientists and her options were secretary, nurse or teacher. She went with teacher and taught science for over twenty years. They were talking about climate issues and the environment as early as I can remember. I vividly recall being the only one in my Girl Scout troop to attend a conservation fair we’d all planned on going to in order to earn a badge. I went because my parents both wanted to go. I took classes in environmental science. I did a summer program out on the ocean where we took samples and counted pieces of plastic found in the surface water off Cape Cod. I grew up aware of the issues Al Gore has been lecturing about. Really quite aware of them. So when I hear these things presented I’m usually struck by how little has changed in the years since my childhood and now.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. A lot has changed. Ozone hole? Yeah, we’re working on that. But um. Everything else? Not so positive a change. The graphs and charts and pictures Gore uses in his slide show, which is the bulk of the documentary, are fairly damning. The whole point of his lecture and slide show are to show people just how dire the situation is. The point here is to try and counteract much of the media coverage that says that science is unclear on global warming when in fact no, it’s not. Al Gore wants to make the message that global warming is happening and it’s dangerous and it’s not going away unless things change the dominant message and I’ll be honest, this documentary and the books associated with it have definitely made an impact. Gore is a well known guy, and having him turn from the sort of political career where you run for office towards an environmental activism-based political career is something I applaud. If things are going to change on a political level, which I think they need to, then there need to be people like Gore who can get politicians listening.

Unfortunately (in some ways), I’m not a politician. So when Gore trots out his photos of glaciers now and then? I can’t act on that in a significant way. It just makes me feel sick to my stomach. When he talks about US emissions standards and the US auto industry and Kyoto? I can’t act on those either. Not in a big way. And the small ways feel like very small drops in a very large bucket. I didn’t feel educated by this documentary. I just felt like I was hearing the same things I’d been hearing my whole life. Just said by someone who can command more attention than the people I’d heard it all from before. Gore makes a good spokesman for climate issues. I didn’t need a spokesman.

I did find it interesting that there were segments of personal interest in the documentary. The film will cut away from the lecture Gore is giving to a room full of polite and probably like-minded folks and let Gore talk about his life for a bit. And I think this ties into the spokesman bit. These segments, where he talks about losing his mother to lung cancer and how his son almost died? His childhood and the area he grew up in? These are here to humanize Gore. This is a man who ran for president of the United States. He’s a big figure. So let’s bring him back down to the ground for a bit and show how he’s a regular person like everyone else. He’s lost family and had hard times and through the personal segments we hear how those things have colored how he views the world. I’ll buy that. It’s an attempt to make the audience feel like there must be moments in their own lives that they can compare Gore’s to. So that when he starts in on his conclusion, telling us all that he believes we’re capable of hope and change and fixing things, we’re all supposed to think “If he believes it and can do it, so can I!” Unfortunately, I have trouble with that.

Part of the problem I have is in how Gore presents his hopeful argument. The things Gore likens the environmental struggle to are things like women’s suffrage and slavery and segregation and the Berlin Wall. And I take issue with the wording he uses there. He claims that the American public said “Of course women should get the vote!” No. That’s not really how it happened. Politicians didn’t see one march or parade and go “Oh of course!” It was a nasty and bloody struggle, and I can speak about it because I’ve studied it in depth. We’re talking about a fight that took years and involved things like an effigy of the president being burned outside the White House. We’re talking women being beaten by police in the streets just for marching peacefully. And that’s not even touching on slavery or Berlin. These were not lightbulb over the head moments. These were not things that the American people were made aware of and instantly decided to fix. These were long and drawn out fights. It is such a misrepresentation it made me scream at the television “NO!” I couldn’t hold it in. It will not be easy, just as his comparisons were not easy.

As a science fiction fan I spend much of my time letting my imagination explore possible futures. Some of those futures are post-apocalyptic. Plagues, bombs, meteors, alien invasion, what have you. And in those cases the population of the Earth is often severely lessened, as is the level of technology and industry. Things might eventually get better, but it took an apocalyptic event to bring that about. There’s a very concrete sense of starting from scratch. And I like post-apocalyptic fiction, but then I like things like Star Trek too. If pressed, I’d have to say I prefer things like Star Trek. Where we figured it all out and somehow got our shit together and fixed things before we broke them so bad we couldn’t go back. And I like them because they represent the future I would love to have. The future I wish I could believe in. And I can’t. I just can’t bring myself to believe that the people with the power to change the big things will do so and will do so in a timely enough fashion. It is thoroughly depressing.

April 22, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Another depressing thought: the progress we have made since this film came out in 2006. Five years of Not!

    Comment by Doc Wheat | April 23, 2011 | Reply

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