An Inconvenient Truth
I must admit that I was not planning on actually paying to see Al Gore’s new film, An Inconvenient Truth, but I was curious to see what the centrist politician’s version of environmentalism would look like on the big screen. Luck would have it that my girlfriend’s parents offered to take us to the film, so I had the opportunity to watch the ‘former next President of the United States’ in action.
The film itself is a modified version of the ‘slideshow’ presentation on global warming that Gore has been delivering around the world for some years now. The presentation explains how global warming works, why it is such a problem, why ‘debates’ about global warming are based on lies/misconceptions, and what steps can be taken to eliminate the problem. As a speaker, Gore does an excellent job drawing links between issues and presenting the material in an extremely clear, concise manner. In fact, he seems more at ease giving this particular talk than he ever did as a Presidential candidate. For people who are moderately educated about global warming, Gore’s inconvenient truths are not profoundly insightful, but he nevertheless appeals to both educated environmentalists and his core target audience—those who are not aware of the catastrophic implications of global warming. His presentation makes effective use of computer-generated graphs/charts and plenty of excellent photos that visually demonstrate the ways in which glaciers have been melting, lands have been drying up, and storms have been increasing. All things considered, Gore’s talk presents a fairly airtight case about global warming and he even manages to push people in the right direction (towards policy change, grassroots campaigning, etc). With that being said, I have some gripes about both the film itself and Gore’s position on the issues implicit to global warming.
To begin with, there are three protagonists in An Inconvenient Truth: the Earth, Al Gore, and the Apple G4 Powerbook. I’ll start with the latter. Apple must have agreed to sponsor Al Gore’s entire life for the amount of footage there is of Al staring intensely at his laptop, with the glowing Apple insignia present in each of these shots. Product placement is nothing new, but this was gratuitous to say the least. As one of the co-protagonists of the film, Gore takes on a somber and reflective tone while discussing his life on the Angus beef farm, the near death of his son, his role as a politician, and we even get a nice moral lesson about the perils of smoking. The weird part about Gore’s segments were that they didn’t mesh well with the overall flow of the movie. Granted, there are aspects of his life that are obviously intertwined with the debate on global warming, but frankly, it seemed like these portions of the movie were simply designed to make him look like a more well-rounded human being, as opposed to a politician. From the looks of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for the presidency again. Finally, we have the good ol’ Earth. Being a big fan of the Earth, I was happy to see it get such airtime on the big screen. It’s clear from Gore’s presentation of scientific data that the Earth is dealing with some serious problems right now, and not surprisingly, it’s because we (as a people) have managed to do everything possible to avoid any type of sustainable policy regarding the environment, the economy, our cities, our health, etc. ad nauseam. None of this was new to me, but what was surprising about the whole presentation was that despite Gore’s good intentions, his analysis lacks any critique of capitalism and consumer culture. I must say, it’s honestly impressive to hear someone draw the links between problematic human behavior and environmental degradation without making a single solitary inference to the fact that capitalism itself—especially our current hedonistic consumer-based version—is 100% unsustainable and based upon the founding premise of “I’m gonna get mine and screw the rest of you.” Honestly, it was like staring at a giant elephant in the room and having a conversation about the weather. If I hadn’t been with my girlfriend’s folks (who are nice people that take me out for amazing vegan food) I would have shouted “IT”S CAPITALISM STUPID!!” at the top of my lungs. I guess I was supposed to miss this glaring omission while Gore wrapped up the film with a quick montage of right wing U.S. history that ultimately proves that Americans are capable of overcoming any adversity, including the dreaded perils of communism. He actually said that “we” defeated communism. I’m not kidding you.
Whatever, the movie is what it is. If it manages to convince the bulk of the “evolution is still a debate” population of the United States that global warming is a serious problem, then I will take my hat off to him. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Zack Furness is a Bad Subjects editor and author of the forthcoming book Bike Culture and Politics of Cycling.