Al Gore wants to stop global warming, but will anyone listen?
“This is not a political issue so much as a moral issue,” insists Al Gore about global warming. That is the only dubious statement made by the former vice president in An Inconvenient Truth, a film consisting largely of his urgent warnings that contemporary civilization imperils the planet. To clarify: It is surely immoral to foul our own nest, but politics is clearly also part of the solution. “I’m Al Gore,” says the speaker, introducing himself at the outset of a lecture he has given more than a thousand times, in cities throughout the world. “I used to be the next president of the United States.” Were it not for political ploys that thwarted voters’ choices in 2000, the Oval Office might have been occupied by a man who understood global warming and was intent on reducing it.
|Former vice president Al Gore hits the road in An Inconvenient Truth, educating, crusading, even occasionally bringing the funny. (Not here, though.)|
It is inconvenient to acknowledge that the 10 hottest years on record occurred within the past 14 years, that 40 percent of the Arctic ice cap has disappeared within the past half-century, that each American generates an average of 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, and that Americans are responsible for 30.3 percent of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. And it is downright irksome to be told that unless we change our way of life, life on Earth will rapidly deteriorate.
An Inconvenient Truth challenges viewers to understand a crisis brought about by human ingenuity and, further, to use human ingenuity to reverse its catastrophic course. Director Davis Guggenheim collates several versions of the discourse with footage of Gore on the road, providing not just a lecture on ecology, but an inspiring portrait of a man with a mission. The film manages to convey and explain a wealth of information, not only through Gore’s eloquence (leavened by humor at one point, he does a fair imitation of Jon Stewart) but also through slides, graphs, charts, photos, and film clips. Vivid images of drowning polar bears, floods in India, and Hurricane Katrina document the claim that the earth is out of balance. Post-2000 Gore emerges as a man who has made peace with himself by renouncing political dreams for a more ambitious goal: saving the world. “How should I spend my time on this earth?” Gore asked himself following his young son’s critical injury in an automobile accident. His answer, prompted by the pioneering research of his old college professor, Roger Revelle, is to try to ensure the survival of the earth — and its most destructive residents.
An Inconvenient Truth is an inconvenient choice at a multiplex that also offers X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission: Impossible III, The Break-Up, and other entertainments. The Trojans were not pleased, either, to hear Cassandra insist that the big wooden horse parked outside their gates was not worth playing around with. But Gore is not just a prophet of doom; the film offers hope that, through education and action, it is not yet too late. In addition to reducing auto emissions, planting trees, and turning down thermostats, the film urges us to vote — which is to say that the profoundly moral issue of saving the earth is also a political one. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, dismisses global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Whenever I contact Texas’s senior Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, about auto-emission standards, offshore drilling, or defending the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, she replies that environmental protection must not impede economic development. It is a truth made manifest by An Inconvenient Truth that that is a false dichotomy. Hard as it might be to get complacent Americans to view this film, it is hard to believe that anyone who does view it will support elected officials who keep blowing smoke.