An Inconvenient Planet
So yesterday I celebrated my first Father's Day as an honest-to-goodness dad (well, "celebrated" is probably a bit highfaluting for a day created by the greeting card industry), and, in the spirit of that newfound responsibility, Mrs. Chase and I also took the weekend to see the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.
And let me tell you: This is some kind of frightening. As mawkish as it might sound, I actually walked out of the movie theater thinking about my 6-month-old daughter, and what kind of a world she would inherit as the result of all the myopic generations before her. Generally, I leave movie theaters thinking about waffles, so this really was kind of a pivotal moment.
In all seriousness, I cannot stress enough what a compelling and important documentary this is. And yet I also realize that plenty of would-be audiences will understandably be wary of a movie that is essentially a Powerpoint presentation by Al Gore.
Don't let that deter you, dear friends. Granted, Gore-haters will have to bite down hard and tolerate several self-aggrandizing biographical vignettes that director Davis Guggenheim weaves through the film. Those irritants, however, are tangential in a work that covers -- succinctly, starkly and, yes, with a generous dollop of entertainment -- perhaps the paramount issue of our lifetime, global warming. Gore has been giving this multimedia presentation for more than a decade, but cataclysmic events of recent years have added urgency to his warning.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Mike LaSalle puts it eloquently:
"An Inconvenient Truth ... treats audiences like adults, presenting a detailed, lucid and intelligent explanation of a serious issue. It doesn't preach to the converted. On the contrary, it directly and respectfully addresses the questions and concerns of skeptics, methodically piling evidence on top of evidence, until the truth becomes obvious and unmistakable.
"For some, the tipping point will come with the charts showing the rapid increase in global temperatures and the accompanying increases in greenhouse gases. For others, it will be the sight of polar bears struggling to find ice in the Arctic, or of shots of glaciers reduced to almost nothing in a span of only 30 or 40 years. It's a shock to see photographic evidence that the snows of Kilimanjaro have been reduced to a light dusting.
"Through these pictures, Gore shows that global warming is no longer a hypothetical. It's here already, and the evidence is everywhere, not least in the floods, hurricanes and droughts that we're seeing all over the world -- our 'nature hike through the book of Revelations,' as he calls it."
The issue is not open for legitimate debate, as Gore's plethora of data makes clear. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe can grouse that global warming is a "hoax" and The New York Post can blather on with a ludicrous savaging of the documentary -- but, at some point, even the most obstinate contrarian must face a day of reckoning. "It will be interesting," David Denby recently wrote in The New Yorker, "to watch how skeptics will deal with Gore's bad news on the environment without making themselves look very small."
Gore correctly likens global warming's so-called "debate" to the nicotine-smudged days of yesterday, a time when Big Tobacco had actually produced enough smoke and mirrors (mainly smoke) to blur questions of whether secondhand smoke was an actual health hazard. Don't think the energy industry isn't every bit as resourceful as R.J.R. Reynolds.
In An Inconvenient Truth, the ex-veep takes several justifiable swipes at the current administration, but Gore also hastens to add, correctly, that global warming transcends political debate. It is a moral issue, he intones, and cowardice and temerity infect both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
While it's true that Republican zeal for deregulation can be anathema to the concerns of environmentalists, it is equally true that plenty of Democratic officeholders are loathe to take the long view necessary to protect our planet. The oil and gas industry doles out more campaign contributions than the scientists charting the melting of the polar caps, and American automakers, with their continued insistence on SUV mania amid plummeting profits, apparently have the awareness and imagination of roadkill.
And, lest we forget, Gore himself had the privilege of holding the nation's second-highest office for eight years -- and still the planet is on a collision course with Armageddon-styled dangers.
I'm no dummy (I like to tell myself that, anyway), but the evidence that Gore lays out in An Inconvenient Truth is more than a little eye-opening. We no longer have the luxury of inaction.