The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth" (2006)

God, I wish we weren’t so partisan right now.  I wish that Al Gore had never run for political office, and that there wasn’t so much speculation about him possibly running in ’08.  Because the ideas, theories, and facts presented in “An Inconvenient Truth” need to be seen and discussed as clearly, calmly, and objectively as possible.

The most disturbing statistic from this filmed version of Gore’s ecological slide-show: That a sample of over 900 peer-reviewed scientific studies had not a single disagreement about the existence of Global Warming.  And that a review of articles in the popular press had about a 54% disagreement rate.

That is terrifying.  That suggests (to me) that there are powerful, powerful financial interests working very hard to skew public opinion on a subject that could be a matter of drastic concern, could change the nature of civilization on Earth within two generations.

The point he’s making is that something serious is happening, that there is largely agreement on this, and that the first step should be to return U.S. emissions to pre-1970’s levels.  This will take time, and along the way, we may learn other approaches to refine our actions.  But in reading articles in the Blogosphere, and the negative reviews, comments that this or that fact might have been wrong have to be tempered with the fact that those very reviews have often mischaracterized the nature of the film, and its message.

I’ve read good, scientific criticisms of Gore’s film, and most of the “mistakes” are either minor, or the sort of reasonable, debatable differences of opinion that happen whenever technical material of an extrapolative nature is presented. 

But Gore does not blame America for Global Warming.  He does say that, because of the relatively massive size of our contribution to global pollution, we can accomplish a disproportionate amount of good.  We can be leaders in this arena.  He doesn’t suggest that China (for instance) is doing better than we are in dealing with pollution.  He says that they are facing the same problems we face, and an emerging, exploding economy will drive them even further into danger in the near future.

He presents correlation after correlation, some of them going back 650,000 years, between temperature and CO2 percentages in the atmosphere.  No, it doesn’t prove a connection, but it is suggestive as hell, and straight-out terrifying in possible implications.

I think that the entire thrust of human history has been to produce more children, get more energy, harvest more resources.  Until the last couple of hundred years, it was very, very difficult to hurt this planet—we simply couldn’t multiply the power of our limbs and senses sufficiently to be more than really clever beavers.  But the creation of the steam engine changed that.  The discovery and utilization of electricity changed it more.  Our exploding population, all of the new citizens of Earth desiring “The American Dream” point a very steady finger at the potential direction of growth and change…

Human beings are NOT just another animal on this planet.  Hunter-Gatherer cultures come pretty close, but post-Industrial Man is a different creature, one capable of leaving the planet altogether, splitting the atom, consciously changing the genetics of animals.

This is different, very different.  For thousands of years, we were at the mercy of natural forces, and to a degree we still are…but there are important aspects of nature that are at our mercy, too.  We must learn to be gracious victors.

When I go to a zoo, to a circus, I see an odd entertainment: the animals we used to be terrified of: lions, tigers, bears, elephants…in cages and doing tricks for our amusement, a reminder that we are the lords of the Earth.  I hope to God that either:
Gore’s experts are wrong.
That if they are right, we listen, and more of us act NOW. 

IF “An Inconvenient Truth” is correct, failing to take heroic, massive, coordinated world-wide action is murder-suicide on a scale the planet has never seen.  It is difficult to change the habits of a thousand generations. Breed!  Grow!  Use it all!  Built it high! 

We have another perspective.  If Gore created the movie merely to promote a future political career, shame on him. But if ANYONE rejects what he is saying merely because it comes from the wrong part of the political spectrum, shame on them.

And if he’s right, there are those who oppose him not because they think he is wrong, but because it will affect their bottom line. Because they think the problem can be left to future generations, or that it is out of human hands, or they just don’t care.  To these (and NOT those who are honest, informed opponents of the views presented) I say: I hope there is a hell, and I hope you spend a long, long time warming there.

As for the rest of you: see the movie, or find non-political analysis of the material in it. Become an informed citizen on what may be the most important topic in human history.  I’m not saying he’s right.  I’m saying that if he is, the implications are so terrifying that many people wouldn’t be able to look directly at the Gorgon without blinking.  Many of us simply wouldn’t want to believe…and that tendency, this time, could be devastating to our Grandchildren.

At no point does he suggest crippling our economy, or anything of the kind.  He does sound a call to   bipartisan discussion, and thoughtful action.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

No comments: