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.


Very cool. I've been meaning to check out the documentary, it sounds pretty cool.

Here in Portland we're blessed with choices. I fill up my 11-gallon Civic about once a month. The vast majority of the time I'm either riding the light rail (half a mile walk from my house, drops off two blocks from my work), or riding my bike (~5 miles each way). I've switched our house off to pure wind/hydro power sources now (the "stuff this much onto the grid" type, not the expensive "set up your own generator" type). Especially considering the price of parking downtown, car maintenance, etc, the transportation is a big net win over time economically; and I think the power source will be eventually too as peak oil / peak NG really kicks in.

Yeah, Portland sounds like a great place. I need to do the wind/hydro switch next.

Just spent the weekend in Vancouver at the North American Interfaith Network and World Peace Forum (simultaneous events). Its a beautiful city, and from my small view I can see how it would be considered the "most livable city in the world." I've never seen so many high rises in North America; there are more in South Korea, but Vancouver had a better mix of building types and greenery, it seemed. But apparently "livable" does not equate to "affordable" -- from the sound of it, Vancouver is nearly as bad as San Francisco.