'An Inconvenient Truth'
by Scott Shields, Wed Apr 19, 2006 at 07:24:50 AM EDT
'An Inconvenient Truth' is one of the scariest horror movies I've ever seen. Technically, it's not a horror film really, it's a documentary. And that's precisely what makes it so horrifying. I was lucky enough to get a chance to catch an advance screening of the new global warming documentary last night in Manhattan and, while I tend to shy away from offers like this from PR flacks (really, what's the point of me getting a free advance copy of 'The Aristocrats' on DVD?), seeing 'An Inconvenient Truth' seemed relevant enough.
Oddly, it was just last week that I watched the trailer for the film online. I was riveted. Part political documentary, part college science class, part disaster movie, I was actually shaken. And this was just the trailer! I was so moved that I actually set about doing something that I'd been putting off for months. Here in New Jersey, we have a program called NJ Clean Power Choice. It's really simple. For a nominal additional charge tacked on to the existing rate, energy consumers get to choose between four different suppliers of alternative energy. Three of these will purchase all of the energy you consume with a portfolio of more environmentally responsible choices, like wind, solar, hydroelectric, and even landfill gas. One of them will replace 15% of your power consumption with local wind power from the coastal Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm. Personally, I saw the trailer for the documentary, remembered that I'd been putting off enrolling in the Clean Power Choice program since last fall, went to the website and signed up to have 100% of our electricity provided by alternative sources.
Obviously, like most readers of this site, it makes sense that I'd be stirred to action by a film that diligently lays out the case for immediate action on global warming. But having seen the documentary, I'm confident that the people moved to act won't just be already environmentally aware progressives like myself. Rather than being preachy or browbeating, the film couches its message in a documentary that's really as much about Gore as it is global warming. There's a great deal of biographical footage in the film -- Al Gore's college years, Al Gore in the House, Al Gore in the Senate, Al Gore as Vice President, Al Gore on his family's farm, Al Gore's childhood home in Washington, Al Gore with his children, Al Gore during the 2000 election nightmare -- which helps ground the story. Thankfully, it never seems gratuitous or self-serving. Rather, it's all offered as explanation for why he cares so much about the issue and background on how hard he's worked to get it into the public eye.
There's definitely a sense of one man screaming at a wall. Gore is shown sitting in the back seat of cars, in airplanes, in hotel rooms, and in vacant conference rooms, diligently working on his Mac laptop, building and refining his presentation on global warming. And of course, he's shown giving the presentation, really the backbone of the film. It's a presentation full of shocking and heartbreaking statistics about the reality of the problem. But there's also a good deal of humor in the mix, as well. We've all seen that Al Gore, when he's comfortable, can be a pretty funny guy. Talking about the environment, he's at the top of his game. (A short Matt Groening cartoon, a key part of the presentation, certainly doesn't hurt.)
And take heart in the fact that it's not all just doom and gloom. The film ends with the promise that there are answers to this seemingly intractable crisis. All we need is the will to change. Gore offers up as an example of the possibility of halting global warming the fact that the growth of the hole in the ozone layer, another problem once seen as unsolvable, has been reversed through human innovation and action.
I'm not going to get into every statistic in the film. It loses something when laundry-listed on a website like this. The documentary really is the best conveyor of the information, so I'm strongly urging everyone to see it for yourself when it's released publicly next month. This film is an important wake-up call.