An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning
Cast: Al Gore, Planet Earth
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Theatrical release: 2006; available on DVD
What a difference a year — and a few devastating storms — can have. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita seem to have become the tipping points in our perception that maybe something really weird (and not very good) is happening to the Earth's climate. And maybe we humans have something to do with it? Who knew? Well, really, we all did. We just didn't want to think about it like that.
But Mother Nature doesn't let up. In the winter of 2006-2007, temperature swings took us from +70F degrees in December to -30F degree windchills in January. Some changes happened overnight, some in the space of a few days or a week. Frozen fruit on the trees and vines, along with snow, in Southern California. Snow in Las Vegas. Multiple snow and ice storms in Texas and Oklahoma. Blizzards with four feet of snow around Denver and across western Kansas. Blasts of Arctic cold that zoom from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico in three days — and then hang on for a week or more. Since that year, we've continued to see incredible weather anomalies — and extensive devastation — everywhere. What's up with this?
Well, scientists are beginning to get the picture. They and others, including much-maligned former Vice President Al Gore, are trying to tell us what they know about the global effects of our fossil-fuel-burning lifestyle.
Gore has tracked climate and environmental issues since his days as a Senator from Tennessee. While a tendency for hyperbole has sometimes put him pundits' crosshairs, on the issue of climate change, he knows his stuff. For more than 30 years, Gore has been schlepping a slideshow across the United States and around the world, sharing with anyone who would watch and listen the effects of humanity — and fossil-fuel-based energy systems — on their own health and the health of the Earth.
Over the years, Gore has accumulated a massive amount of information, continued to seek out scientific evidence, and prodded the political process to pay attention. Along the way, his presentation technology has updated, too, moving from 35mm slides and Kodak projector, to PowerPoint, then to Apple's Keynote software with snazzy transition effects, and now to theatrical film and DVD. In 2006, the film of Gore's old slide/PowerPoint presentation, now the film An Inconvenient Truth, was nominated — and won — an Academy Award® as Best Documentary Feature, and Melissa Etheridge's soundtrack song, I Need to Wake Up, was nominated for Best Original Song. The film was also an "official selection" at both the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.
Of course, we know that, in the time since Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, New Orleans has not fully recovered. Houston still struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. And the '06-'07 winter's unpredictable and frigid cold decimated California's agricultural economy, with some citrus trees and vineyards not returning to production for at least two years. Seasonal cycles in recent years brought us annual "100-year floods" and other recurring dramatic devastation. "Climate refugees" are now a reality.
As many other film reviewers have said, climate change is an issue beyond politics. Each of us needs to do our part or we'll all pay dearly in the end. To see what it's all about, find the DVD, put it in your Netflix queue, or get the companion book.
Designated as a "carbon neutral" project, developers worked hard to offset any carbon emissions created in the production of the film, DVD, and book with activities that sequester the same amount of carbon. Even the DVD packaging is earth-friendly: the container is made of recycled paperboard, not the typical black plastic clamshell, and the clear wrapper and labels are made from corn cellulose. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD benefit the bipartisan climate effort, The Alliance for Climate Protection.
The film offers many suggestions for what we can do to help stop global climate change. Theater locations provided a handout on-site, which is included in the DVD folder and available (with many related resources) on the website as a list of "Ten Things to Do" — such as:
- Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents
- Drive less
- Recycle more
- Check tire pressure for proper inflation
- Use less hot water
- Avoid products with a lot of packaging
- Adjust your thermostat: down 2 degrees in winter, up 2 degrees in summer
- Plant a tree or other carbon-sequestering plants
- Turn off electronic devices when not in use
- Get involved
No matter what, it's way beyond time to start doing something to help.