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The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media
by Patrick J. Michaels
An Inconvenient Truth
by Al Gore
State of War:
The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration
by James Risen
Earth In the Balance
Ecology and the Human Spirit
by Al Gore
"An Inconvenient Truth"|
The essence of this documentary by Davis Guggenheim is a presentation Al Gore has been delivering to cities all over the globe. To qualify it as a documentary and not a mere recording of an event, the director intercuts Gore's persuasive lecture with additional moments in the company of his subject during travels and in refelections on the theme he has literally knit his name into like an embroidered logo. Gore is fast becoming the first person we think of in connection with environmental degradation.
The ex-vice president's clear intention is to alarm us. Not to the extent of producing panic in the streets, but to incite our demands on lawmakers to pay attention now in order to head off the disasters that'll panic us later.
His graphics are splendidly designed to illustrate scientific analysis. Gore's well rehearsed and paced argument is also first-rate. A key point, about our tendency to ignore the gradual effects of a self-annihilating process, is illustrated by an animation using a frog. In it, the frog jumps into a beaker of very hot water and immediately jumps out to save himself. But, if the water is at first comfortable and then gradually heated to the temperature that first made him jump out, he sits there unsuspectingly until he's boiled for frog legs or... rescued. Point being, that's us. We're in need of rescue and don't yet realize it, lulled by a comfort level that allows us to ignore the collective evidence.
The figures and the time lapse photos tell the stories: the melting glaciers, rising carbon dioxide gases, warming oceans, the increasing number and severity of storms. What's wrong with these pictures? They're unnerving, that's what. And, they could be coming to a backyard near you.
What governments need to jolt them into turning down the emissions spigot of a rising global population is something more sudden, a wake-up call. Katrina should have been it. It wasn't, and hasn't been. Exposure to this documentary isn't likely to rearrange the deck chairs on the lobbyist's and world leaders' Titanic either. Another storm of a Katrina dimension, however, might just do the trick.
Gore's style is serious and straight-ahead, his pacing and occasional use of irony and humor during the introduction of copious illustrated studies is fine-tuned. He has a lot to say and doesn't waste time saying it. The effect is first to convince us of the reality of the threat to human existence as we've known it and, secondly, to make us ask ourselves what we can do.
Davis Guggenheim, primarily a TV director ("Numb3rs," "The Unit") and producer, had exactly that reaction when he saw Gore's city-by-city presentation the first time and decided that what he could do to help reach a broader sample of effected populations and governments, is to put it in a form that broadens the reach of the wake-up call. This documentary is the result.
Right wing lobbyists, auto industry executives, oil and energy profiteers and party extremists aren't the whole story, but they are probabably among those who put power and greed above any reasoned issue if it's presented by someone on the other side. Affording it credibility might diminish their side's chances in the next election and curtail their ability to regard the environment as somebody else's problem. Scientific consensus? Like the tobacco industry lawyers have always maintained, we have our own scientists.
If you ignore the effects of nicotine, some individuals are going to succumb to cancer. Ignore planetary trends, and... well... it's not just about Gore. It may be his message at this time and place, but it isn't snake oil, and it's not political promotion except to the extent that it enhances the image of wisdom for the messenger. It's about planetary spin -- not political.
A flat earth was inconvenient to Papal authority in Galileo's time. Now, what heresy is Gore committing with a scientifically based argument against contributing further to relentlessly damaging natural forces? If he's right about this, a cabal of the irresponsible who resist a sea change in energy sources and established structures of global economy may be bringing us disasters greater than a biblical plague.
A continuation of climatic and environmental degradation will take its natural course without regard to right-wing or left-wing demagoguery and tunnel vision. The physical principles that control our world are as democratic as anything can be, but much depends on correctly guiding the behaviors of burgeoning populations with those principles in mind.
What all of us may do is put pressure on our lawmakers, starting yesterday. See this documentary and you won't want to wait until we see what city the next Katrina wipes out.