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June/July 2006
Our Pal Al?
Film Review by Catherine Clyne


An Inconvenient Truth

Directed by Davis Guggenheim
96 minutes

The new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is a good, easy to understand primer on the many complicated aspects of global warming. Everyone should see it, be they seasoned environmentalists or folks who know little to nothing about the subject. Though the film is centered on former Vice President Al Gore, you don’t really have to care one way or the other about him to get a lot out of it. Basically, it’s a really informative slide show about global warming.

After recovering from the blow of the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore returned to an issue he’d spent a lot of time on: the human destruction of the environment. He revamped a slide show he’d been presenting for years illustrating the newest science and easily explaining the difficult-to-grasp issue of global warming. Then he hit the road, giving his talk all over the country, and the world.

Chock full of graphs, animation and visual aids, An Inconvenient Truth helps us understand how human-generated carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere, trapping heat from the sun and cooking up the planet. We learn how this is melting ice caps at unprecedented levels and what that does to the oceans. We see how warming oceans generate destructive weather, the likes we have never seen before. And it goes on and on and on.

It is crucial for us to get a grip on the ABC’s of global warming. This documentary certainly does that—it makes global warming personally matter to us. While it succeeds in educating us on the issues, however, the inconvenient truth about the film is that it fails miserably to offer solutions. This is a missed opportunity to educate people about their personal responsibility for global warming and give them tools to help them make changes in their own lives, and how to effect change in corporate and political policies to stop the destruction. This film ties things up neatly at the end with a hopeful ‘you can change things’ refrain, giving us abstract categories on a colorful graph that illustrate how we can bring carbon levels back down to where they were in the 1970s. And at the very end, viewers are invited to visit a website to learn more. In between the credits there are tips, like ‘If you can, buy a hybrid car.’ But we all know that isn’t enough. While Al shows us how global temperature is rising, how ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising and what this means for us and the planet, Al doesn’t show us how to stop it.

In a film like this with the potential to reach millions of people, we need Al to show us what to do about global warming, how to reduce our carbon footprints and how to put pressure on the system to change things once and for all. An Inconvenient Truth is a missed opportunity, which is disappointing at best and irresponsible at worst. Unfortunately, this sort of sums up Al Gore for me. At different points, Gore shows us how things were for the environment in 1990, then jumps to 2000, where, of course, things are much worse. But wait a minute. Who was Vice President of the most powerful nation on earth for eight of those ten years? Who more than anyone else was in a position of power to wake people up and make meaningful change? If Vice President Gore was so powerless, what makes us think Citizen Gore will have any impact? Or President Gore for that matter? Though Gore will not go on record that a presidential run is out of the question, what’s unsettling about An Inconvenient Truth is it could easily serve as a very long campaign commercial.

And suddenly, Gore is everywhere—on the covers of Wired, Vanity Fair, New York magazine, to name just a few. He’s the newest darling du jour. People in power are lining up to support his message. I get emails on a daily basis urging me to see this film. Inevitably, people are squeaking about another presidential run for Gore, pitting him as the rival of Hillary Clinton. I don’t quite know what to do with this, but for me, it’s too little too late, and a choice I’m not looking forward to making.

In short: see An Inconvenient Truth to learn about global warming but don’t expect any easy answers or quick solutions.

To learn more about the documentary and how you can stop global warming, visit www.climatecrisis.net.

 


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