See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Truth Is at Your Door

Surely, with the summer we've just had, and the hurricane season just kicking in, no one is doubting global warming anymore. But I'm learning not to overestimate the stubborn ignorance of the American public.

In a half-hour update on the DVD of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore and crew not only update the film's hard data for the year after filming (which was initially done at the time of Katrina), but include a minute or two of footage omitted from the film. The most telling segment is a few seconds of film which introduces the portion of the released movie in which Gore points out the explosion of population growth in the last few years (the number has doubled since I first heard the population of the earth quoted as 3 billion when I was a child). In the recently released intro, Gore's graph begins 160,000 - 195,000 years ago, the current scientific estimate of when modern man appeared on earth. Gore intro's that segment by saying, and I misquote, "I'm always a little reluctant to get into this, they had a little trial down in my home state..."

Realizing that An Inconvenient Truth was edited to avoid offending Creationists gave me a little giggle, but it also led me to understand that the people who doubt global warming, a.k.a. the climate crisis, especially now, are probably the same people denying evolution. Unfortunately, we are in an age in which the rules of Darwin have been abated by the rule of the masses; the best no longer reproduce most successfully, and it will not just be Creationists and the proponents of denial who die in the disasters and plagues to come in the next few years.

As to the film itself, it is indeed a must-see. The first thing I realized when I saw this was that Gore in one sense missed his calling; the man would have been the best college professor you never had. The core of the film is a lecture Gore has given repeatedly, he says over a thousand times and I'm sure a lot more now, about his passion. I will say that it's one of the clearest, most palatable popularized science lectures I've ever seen. With a few forgivable abbreviate leaps of logic, there is no bad science here. And the facts here are facts you should know. As focused as I've become on similar topics in the last year or so, there's a lot here I needed to learn. We're pretty much at the point where if you don't know this material, you're not doing your duty as a citizen of the planet.

The strangest thing about his film, though, is the way the producers have chosen to break up the lecture. Alright, as we see in the update, ninety minutes of straight lecture, even with nifty aids, film and animation, can be a bit dry; but the filmmakers have chosen to intersperse with the lecture segments bits about Al himself. some of which are tangential at best to the thesis of the movie. OK, the bits about his purely personal life are understandable, OK and kind of interesting, especially to a native Tennessean such as myself. It's the bits about Gore's political career, especially the 2000 election, which seem out of place and are a bit annoying. I mean, yes we all know that the Bush cabal, just then coming into its own, stole that election; but while yes, there is very much a relationship between that coup and the current government's policy of ignorance and exacerbation of the world's climate woes, those clips do seem a bit irrelevant and self-serving, as presented out of context. I have to wonder if it was Gore's people. or film editors wanting to ensure the popluarity to the movie by touching all the bases, who included these parts. It doesn't matter; it just comes across as odd.

The main change of impression upon my consciousness from this film was its timeline. It still seems to me that global warming is a symptom of a deeper disease. Gore would agree with this; he states in the coda that it's a symptom of a problem of man's relationship with the planet. This is obvious, but it's a dangerous step backward from reality toward philosophy. Elsewhere, Gore indicates the causes of the climate crisis as overpopulation and technology. True, I guess, but this ignores the fact that the two are inextricably interwoven; we certainly would not have this population explosion without technology, and the technology, as ignored in the film, is going to die when the oil runs out. We will be left with a planet chock full of ill-prepared humans dying of disease, hunger and war. Gore actually seems to satisfy himself with the prediction that the human population will top out, according to current trends, around nine billion! He attributes this to a changing culture of birth and family size on a worldwide basis. I say it's still about rats in a cage. When the cage is full, they pretty much stop breeding.

So if I'm faulting Gore for anything here, it's his optimism. More than anything, what An Inconvenient Truth brings to my attention is that we may indeed die of climate factors before the oil completely runs out and the three factors I mentioned kick in at full bore. Still, if the human race really wanted to survive, they would not only shift to alternative energy sources as soon as possible (and this would help with both the peak oil and climate crisis "problems", obviously), but they would do so with a controlled population reduction. Which is of course a prospect as scary as the problem, if you're one of those whose personal population is to be reduced to say, zero). So which is worse, the problem or the solution? It depends on whether you want anyone to be able to read this blog, or see An Inconvenient Truth, fifty years from today.

As for me, I think that realistically what we have to do is accept reality and just prepare to actually face it, and yes, those are two very different things. Your life, you choose.

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