Monday, June 19, 2006

Al Gore: Creating a More Convenient Truth

This past weekend I watched Al Gore’s movie titled “An In Convenient Truth.” The movie is very good and I applaud Al Gore’s attempt to bring awareness to the issue of climate change. However, the movie could have been easily improved and I was highly disappointed with the politicization and the lack of emphasis on/direction to action items for movie-goers to help reduce carbon emissions.

Gore starts with an excellent and simple explanation of the science behind climate change and the correlation between carbon emissions and average annual global temperatures. As anyone who has ever written an executive summary knows, it is difficult to explain complex ideas to those who aren’t subject matter experts and Gore does a great job of clearly explaining what climate change is and why it is important. The movie also provides powerful images that hammer home the point that global warming is happening now. The examples of Lake Chad drying up to nothing and the ice shelves of the South Pole disappearing were truly moving. Another dramatic set of examples were American automotive fuel economy standards vs. those of China, Europe and Japan. European and Japanese fuel economy standards are nearly twice that of the United States. Even China, a country that is rarely thought of as pro-environment, has fuel economy standards that are significantly higher than ours. Gore also demonstrated the how entrenched America is against higher fuel economy standards when he pointed out that the state of California is being sued for legislation enforcing fuel economy standards that will only begin to approach those that China has already implemented today… over the next 10 years! The movie provides a lot of evidence that something needs to be done about climate change and I think it would be hard for any open minded person to leave the theatre without being moved.

Yet, when it comes to politics most people are not open-minded and Gore undercuts the power of his examples by politicizing the movie. Politicizing the movie simply gives skeptics more reason to doubt an otherwise tight argument. The most blatant politicization was a segment on the 2000 election where Gore implies that he should have won the election while attempting to paint himself as graciously and stoically conceding defeat despite the films clear implication of a negative environmental impact due to Bush’s. Pointing the finger at Bush, not matter how deservedly, made Gore look bad and certainly won’t convert any of Bush’s supporters. Additionally, linking America's lack of environmental will power to the executive office does not make Gore look good because he had 8 years as VP to push for a stronger environmental agenda. Gore also uses the film to show the strength of his own morality. First he uses his son’s infamous car accident as the turning point in Gore's own rededication to a life of making meaning. Second Gore describes a friend’s death from lung cancer to his father’s decision to stop growing tobacco. Both of these incidents provide an interesting insight into Gore’s humanity but I don’t see what either example has to do with educating the public on climate change and they exacerbated my feelings that the film’s ultimate goal was launching another presidential run. Gore’s argument would have been much more powerful and converted a greater number of skeptics without the politicization.

Furthermore, for those who agree with Gore’s argument, the movie didn’t leave many solid action items. A few suggestions were made while the credits were rolling but at least 50% of the audience at the showing I attended had already left their seats and it just wasn't powerful at all. In fact, I had to take the following list from the movie's website because I couldn't remember exactly was written during the credits.

  1. Change a Light
  2. Drive Less
  3. Recycle More
  4. Check Your Tires
  5. Use Less Hot Water
  6. Avoid Products with lots of Packaging
  7. Adjust Your Thermostat
  8. Plant a Tree
  9. Turn Off Electronic Devices
  10. Encourage Your Friends to see “An Inconvenient Truth”

What’s the point of getting people fired up about reducing carbon emissions if nobody changes their habits? It would have been much more effective to at least run these suggestions before the film ended so that the audience knew they was supposed to stay in their seats. Moreover, it could have been really powerful to interject them throughout the film with examples of their impact. For instance, instead of suggesting that Americans turn down the thermostat by 2 degrees during the credits, why not mention this and how many tons of carbon emissions it would save during the segment in which Gore describes existing environmental technologies? Wouldn’t that be a powerful message? Who couldn’t turn their thermostat down by 2 degrees? What an easy and simple suggestion for taking action. Yet, I doubt more than 1% of the audience will adjust their thermostats as a result of the film, which represents an unfortunate opportunity lost. Additionally, many of the suggestions were too vague. Drive less, recycle more, and avoiding products with lots packaging are not powerful messages. I think suggestions focusing on concrete/specific actions such as making your next car purchase one with over 30mpg or pushing your local city government to start a curbside recycling pickup program would have been more effective.

“An Inconvenient Truth” is definitely a great movie that I would encourage everyone to see, but it certainly could have made a much greater impact if it were less politicized and spent more time delivering concrete action items for the audience to take.


At June 20, 2010 6:57 PM, Blogger Robert M. said...

You should also know that he stands to benefit the most monetarily in the smoke screen of global warming, then anyone else involved as well.

I think its quite obvious now, that it's a conflict of interest to be a share holder in companies that will actually trade the carbon offsets.

So yes, his movie is political.


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