An Inconvenient Truth and a Bike
June 16, 2006
Last weekend I went to see An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's movie on global climate change. I've been reading about global climate change (also slightly-misleadingly called "global warming") since I was in middle school and been both fascinated by climate science and horrified at society's inability to accept and come to grips with the likely ramifications of climate change. Thus I went to see the film more out of a sense of duty to the cause than out of an expectation to learn something new. But I did learn, and I came away better for it. This was a film I needed to see, and so does the rest of America.
So on Saturday I bought a bicycle. I recently learned of a shortcut to get to work, keeping me off a major road (University) and keeping the distance down to about 3 miles even each way. I had been contemplating this for a while, but hadn't committed to it yet. That is, until I saw An Inconvenient Truth, and faced up to the fact that there was something more I could do, immediately, something simple.
One of the many points Gore touches on in the film is that choosing sustainability does not have to be a choice against economics. Frankly, I did feel this was one of the weaker points, a point where his illustration of the logic fell was not as meticulous and scientific as others. With regard to the bike, I had to realize that it was a complete win-win situation. Yes, I was spending some extra cash that could have gone elsewhere, perhaps to the World Food Programme or Doctors Without Borders for Darfur relief, or an additional donation to the Nature Conservancy or another conservation group. But on the other hand, I'm saving gas, helping to build a culture of conservation and efficiency, and getting good excercise to boot.
What was so magic about this film? For starters, Gore presents a few charts that I had never seen before, charts of the best scientific data showing the most inescapable conclusions. A few of them had never been shown to the general public before. Others are just not likely to make it into the online articles I read (which usually don't have copyright permission). But beyond a few specific graphics, it was the fact that, in the space of less than 2 hours, here was a very clear, down-to-earth, true communication of essential complexities of how and why human-induced global climate change is coming and will hurt.
There was more partisanship than I would have preferred, but overall the film played to Gore's strong suites. Those who thought he sounded boring and lecture-ish in his 1998 campaign will find that he sounds lecture-ish now (but not so boring) — but that's precisely what you expect, a lecture. A lecture punctuated by well-produced human drama pieces that go far in helping to explicate why this particular issue is so important to Gore. To me, the documentary aspects felt like they were saying, "look, this is important to me and should be important to you. I say this not becasue I'm smarter than you are, rather because various life experiences have helped me see climate change's importance where others normally have a very hard time coming to grips with it." And that deflates the partisan issues, for inescapably those are some of his important life experiences and must be acknowledged. Still, I wish there had been a few jabs at the Democratic-led Congress he was a member of in the 80's, which failed to do anything just as miserably as the Republicans have failed to do anything.
So please, go see this film. It truly is one of the most important movies you'll ever see. And then act. And spread the word. And act again.