Cindy and I saw “An Inconvenient Truth” last night. As someone who should be fairly well informed on these issues, with frequent contact with environmental activists and experts, I was surprised and appalled by the urgency of the ecological crisis facing our planet. It is indeed terribly “inconvenient” to face the reality that within our lifetime, or at the least our children’s lifetimes, we will have to live in a world with hotter temperatures, stronger and more frequent storms and hurricanes, less access to clean water, and declining fish stocks and animal species unless major steps are taken.
One of the most frightening parts of the film depicts the effects of rising water levels around the world caused by global warming, with projections of up to 20-foot increases within 50 years based on current trends. That would mean my third floor apartment in lower Manhattan would be garden level in a very short time frame, and the World Trade Center memorial visible only by scuba divers.
I actually own a tiny islet in the Philippines who’s charms and beauty are somewhat mitigated by the fact that it is submerged underwater during several parts of the year. It’s a family joke, but one that gets less funny as more Filipinos face similar realities for their homes and communities. Much of the island that my father’s side of the family is from, not to mention the millions of others in the archipelago of the Philippines, would be submerged within a few short decades if nothing is done. That scares the crap out of me.
The movie is effective at short-circuiting the cycle of doubt-fear-despair by proposing concrete steps that we can do as a nation and a global community to reverse the trends. The truth is that in fairly short order with minimal disruption to our way of life, we could start to repair the damage that we have wrought with pollution, resource depletion and over-population. The website Climatecrisis.net includes a number of useful tips and suggestions for what you can do as a citizen and a consumer.
Beyond that, much depends on whether we are willing to vote for leaders who will support more sustainable emissions standards for vehicles, invest in alternative energy technologies, and support global treaties like Kyoto to encourage other countries to do the right thing.
I have to make a totally superficial point about the movie, which is that it’s an excellent 100 minute advertisement for Apple. Throughout the film, Al Gore is depicted lovingly stroking the trackpad of his high-end Powerbook, skillfully tossing video clips into his Keynote slide presentation, and presenting these amazing multi-media slides during his talks around the world. At one point the camera focuses on the ports of his Apple laptop while you see Al in the background talking on his Treo 650. That’s some serious geek p0rn.
In truth, I was skeptical that I was going to be drawn in by an hour and a half of Al Gore presenting a scientific lecture with slides. Interesting ideas perhaps, but would it work as a cinematic experience? In fact, it did, with the scale of the movie screen matching perfectly the scale of the problem that Al was unpacking. A 24″ TV just would not cut it.
It makes me want to see other lectures with slides done on the big screen. I would certainly pay to see Laurence Lessig do one of his talks at my local multi-plex.