The Great Warming: The Fingerprints Are Ours

Directed by Vermont-based producer Michael Taylor, "The Great Warming" is this summer’s OTHER global warming film, overshadowed, at least for the moment, by "former next President of the United States" (har har) Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth." 

As I’ve suggested elsewhere, Gore’s failure to explore our global Peak Oil dilemma – the unpopular but much-proved notion that, supply-wise, we’re sliding off of the back side of a global hydrocarbon energy bell curve that makes our energy situation even more urgent than most realize –  renders his film, at best, an "Inconvenient HALF Truth." Sure, we can talk about constructing alternative energy systems – solar, wind, hydro – to replace our dwindling fossil fuel energy reserves in the face of global warming. But creating these new systems ALSO takes incredible amounts of energy, fossil fuel or otherwise.  

The single best solution to our current climate and energy woes is to "power down," to use much less energy and use it much more efficiently. 

Unfortunately, Taylor’s film, like Gore’s also ignores the added urgency and context that come with an understanding of global Peak Oil – a glaring omission, to be sure. We ignore global Peak Oil realities at our own peril. 

But, as an educational tool for "global warming," Taylor’s film trumps "(Half) Truth" in (at least) five ways.  

1. Many narrators – Al Gore, of course, is "(Half) Truth’s" only narrator. When I first read that pop culture icons – musician Alannis Morrisette and actor Keanu Reeves – would be narrating "The Great Warming," I was intrigued and a bit skeptical. Happily, both do a bang-up job, delivering the film’s script in an accessible and non-intrusive way. And Taylor also relies on a wide variety of "talking heads" – ordinary people as well as high-powered scholars, businesspeople and politicos.

2. Diversity of people – Rather than Gore’s "(Half) Truth," a film that makes the rich white male narrator the star of the show, Taylor delivers a film featuring multiple voices from all over the world: rich and poor; black, white, red, yellow and brown; liberal and conservative; religious and secular. Just one example- Matthew Sleeth, a conservative religious evangelical who quit his medical career to bring the gospel of global warming to Christian communities around the country, and has written a book called Save the Earth, Serve God. Who knew that religious conservatives cared about the planet’s future? But of course, many do.

3. Contextualized stories – Gore’s "(Half) Truth" uses brief video footage of spectacular disasters like "Hurricane Katrina" as sensationalistic eye candy. While this makes for good fodder for his film’s theatrical trailer, it does a disservice to those actually affected by these disasters, as well as providing little context for the many human dimensions accompanying the mounting global warming crisis. Taylor’s film, on the other hand, takes great pains to get the camera in front of ordinary people from all over the world who are grappling with the effects of global warming.

4. Depth and breadth – Unlike Gore’s "(Half) Truth," which takes the greater part of ninety minutes to explain the basics of global warming, and offers little in the way of breadth and depth beyond some token largely visual nods towards the world’s cornucopia of communities, Taylor’s film ranges widely, focusing on the great warming’s multiple impacts on many communities around the world.

5. Real solutions – Gore’s "(Half) Truth" offers us little guidance beyond platitudes. Happily, Taylor’s film works hard to spotlight solutions. "The great warming will be fought by innovators, as well as anyone who cares about what global warming is doing to the planet," observes Reeves. Here are but seven:

The British government’s decision to build a Thames River revolving gate system to protect against the rising river’s potential flooding of the London Underground. 

Organizations implementing portable solar and wind technology for the 1/3 of the global population who lack access to reliable energy resources, providing yurt-dwelling Mongolians (for example) with carbon-free green sources of power. 

Bangladeshis using of "cage aquaculture" to farm fish for food and additional income. 

The state of California’s ongoing "wise use" efforts to conserve their rapidly dwindling water resources. 

Architects like the aptly-named Christopher Holmes who builds houses that are intensely energy efficient.  

Keene, NH’s production of "Climate Change: The Musical," a theatrical production used to inspire an entire town to re-organize their economy around conservation and clean energy alternatives. 

And, my favorite in the "gee whiz" category – Columbia professor Klaus Lackner’s vision for "synthetic trees," giant free-standing carbon dioxide "catchers" that can trap the equivalent of 15,000 cars’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions. 

But again, building these kinds of solutions requires foresight, planning, money, and above all, ENERGY, which is growing more expensive by the week.  

Aside from ignoring global peak oil (a glaring omission), Taylor’s film is a realistic and hopeful one. Hopefully, the movie-going public concerned about these issues can make room for more than just an "inconvenient truth" this summer and fall. 

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