17 Nov 2006
A Review of “An Inconvenient Truth”.
**’An Inconvenient Truth’**, as you’ll all be aware, is Al Gore’s film about climate change. In essence it is a record of the lecture he has given to audiences all over the world, intercut with asides and reflections on Gore’s life and experiences. Climate change is often an area where one can feel out of one’s depth in graphs, charts and statistics, but what is so powerful about this film is that it makes the whole subject comprehensible to the lay person. Such a thing could be dry and dull, yet it is completely engrossing. It is well edited and paced, I have to say I was on the edge of my seat. As a film designed to shock the world into action, it is very powerful and, hopefully, effective.
It would be too easy to be critical of certain aspects of the film. He ignores peak oil (something he has since spoken widely on), which would profoundly affect many of his proposed solutions. He doesn’t really take on the role that global capitalism has played in creating the mess that is climate change. His solutions imply that low energy bulbs alone will save the planet, and that biodiesel can run all our cars, in other words that business-as-usual is still viable with light green trimmings.
His use of the ‘Seven Wedges’ at the end of the film is very dubious, enshrining the technocentrist argument that technology can solve all the problems that it has created, that rather than globalism and consumerism being the problem, what we need is ‘political will’ to tackle the issue. Rather than delivering a stinging critique of how the US political system stifles action, and why he wrote ‘Earth in the Balance’, then became Vice President, and did almost nothing about climate change while in office, are somewhat glossed over. However, to be overly critical of this film, it seems to me, is to miss the point.
“An Inconvenient Truth” is not really aimed at those of us who already understand climate change. It is aimed at the people for whom it is a new concept, or one they have heard a bit about but pushed to one side. This is a film designed, primarily, to get the US population on board. In so doing, he needs to overcome the common misconceptions still peddled deliberately and mercilessly in the US media, that climate change is a part of a natural cycle. Gore sets out the case clearly, tugging at the heart strings, and concludes by telling people that there is still time to avert the worst scenarios. All of these he does brilliantly.
I found the film very moving. There is a very sad animated section of a polar bear trying to find somewhere to rest, but given the melting of the ice cap, being unable to do so. There is harrowing footage of floods and other natural disasters, of villages sinking into the permafrost. He presents the worst case scenarios in such a way that no-one could be unmoved by them. What happens if the Gulf Stream shuts down? You don’t want to know, but you might as well start stock piling thermal vests now, not that they’d do you much good.
I think ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is a historic film. It is a line drawn in the sand. It defies us to turn away and pretend that climate change is not happening. While it is, to my mind, weak on solutions, this is not really a film about solutions, it is a film about the world acknowledging the problem. It has been seen by millions of people around the world, and I’m sure that having seen it, they will discuss the issues with their family and friends and start looking deeper into the solutions. It gives people just enough information to be able to take on a climate skeptic and win. You can’t watch this film and leave the cinema the same person. Every tree will look that much more precious, every sunset more beautiful, every river more vulnerable. Gore reminds us of what a profoundly beautiful planet we live on. It is, as he reminds us, our only home, and we are in danger of destroying it.
In the closing credits, he quotes an African proverb, “when you pray, move your feet”. Gore’s call for action on an unprecedented scale is compelling. I left the cinema with the intention of buying a copy of the DVD of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for each of my relatives this Christmas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out until December 26th! Not sure what the marketing people were thinking of, perhaps they thought it would be too depressing for the Christmas market. I think they missed an opportunity there, I’m sure I can’t be the only person who would like, with great urgency, for each of their loved ones to see this powerful, passionate and highly informative film, and as soon as possible.