An Inconvenient Truth

Saturday night, the Shaker meet-up to see An Inconvenient Truth brought together a dirty dozen composed of visiting Floridian Litbrit, Paul the Spud, Shakers Constant Comment, Doug, Claire, Michelle, Sarah in Chicago, bloggers Sean from Cosmic Variance, Driftglass, my girlfriend Miller, Mr. Shakes, and myself. It was a really wonderful evening, and I was so grateful to have the chance to put faces to names I’ve known for so long, to meet in person many people of whom I have been so fond for so long. And many thanks again to Sarah for finding us an inimitably delightful post-movie venue that indulged the desire for bangers, mash, and Branston Pickle.

The movie is stunning. As an avowed Gore fan, I am pleased to report from a personal perspective that he comes across not as the robotic, emotionless plank as which he has been frustratingly cast, but the intelligent, witty, passionate public servant I have always believed—and seen—him to be. As a rather alarmed and angry inhabitant of an endangered planet, I am obliged to report that the content presented by our exiled rightful leader makes for a film that ought to be required viewing for, well, everyone.

For a moment, I’m going to turn it over to Sean, because he’s a science guy and says what he says about the film very well:

There isn’t any scientific controversy over whether or not climate change is happening, or whether or not human beings are a major cause of it. That argument is over; the only ones left on the other side are hired guns and crackpots. But the guns are hired by people with an awful lot of money, and they’re extremely successful at sowing doubt where there shouldn’t be any…

Here is the point: We are taking an enormously complex, highly nonlinear, intricately connected system that we don’t fully understand and on which everything about our lives depends—the environment—and repeatedly whacking it with sledgehammers, in the form of atmospheric gasses of various sorts. Statements of the form “well, we don’t really know what that particular piece of the system does, so we can’t be rigorously certain that smashing it with a sledgehammer would necessarily be a bad thing” are, in some limited sense, perfectly true. They are also reckless and stupid. The fact that there are things we don’t understand about the environment isn’t a license to do whatever we like to it, it’s the best possible reason why we should be careful. And being careful won’t spell the doom of our economic system, bringing global capitalism crashing to the floor and returning us all to hunter-gatherer societies. We just have to take some straightforward steps to minimize the damage we are doing, just as we very successfully did with atmospheric chloro-fluorocarbons to save the ozone layer. And the best way to ensure that those steps are taken is to elect leaders who are smart and determined enough to take them.
After the film, Miller, Spudsy, and I were standing around talking about some of the attempts we’ve seen to discredit the film in various reviews, and I mentioned having seen complaints that what Gore presents is the “worst case scenario.” I don’t particularly consider that a flaw. To the contrary, I’d like the know the entire potential of the problem, and precisely what it will take to avoid it.

To be perfectly honest, I was not certain going into the film whether I would consider it worthy of recommendation. I was convinced that I would like it; it features a man I greatly admire speaking on a topic on which he is an expert and about which I am concerned. That didn’t mean it was going to be a great film or worthy of passing on a heartfelt endorsement to spend $10 to see it. Setting my biases aside, I can assure you it’s worth your time and money. It may be one of the most important films I have ever seen, ever been given the opportunity—by virtue of one man’s passion and willingness to trade on his name and risk more public criticism after weathering so much already—to see. It opens in wide release soon, and I truly hope you have the chance to see it.

As a side note, there is a book version, also called An Inconvenient Truth, which is a great companion piece, or a decent substitute, if the movie doesn’t play in your area. On a trip to the local Barnes and Noble yesterday, Litbrit and I engaged in a bit of guerrilla redecorating; while I stood guard, Litbrit relocated the cardboard display to a prominent position in front of a table featuring current affairs tomes from the likes of Coulter, Savage, and O’Reilly. It had been buried back behind the Christian Studies shelves, and we thought it would be better placed as a bulwark to the political screeds that do nothing to further either political discourse or real moral values, like protecting the earth.

One of the employees saw us. She just gave us a smile and went on her way.

After the movie, when we sat at our long table and lifted our glasses, we didn’t toast one another, or say cheers, or anything I’d ever toasted before (although I’ve longed to for many years)—we toasted Al Gore. And as we all took the first much-needed slugs of our drinks, I believe none of us were thinking of anything else besides how different things might have been. Perhaps some of us were even thinking how different they may yet be, if Mr. Gore takes this battle back to the frontlines of American politics. I know I was, anyway.

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