AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (A Movie Review)
At the beginning of the film, Al Gore says that a 6th grade classmate of his asked the teacher if Africa and South America were ever joined since they look like they fit. Gore tells us that the teacher said no, but he doesn’t blame the teacher because the scientific community didn’t believe in Pangaea at the time. So near the end of the film when he says that the scientific community is unanimous in their belief that man is the cause of global warming, what are we to take from that as an audience? Has collective wisdom suddenly become infallible?
But this is not just a film about global warming. It’s a film about how a man finds a cause to redeem himself. You see, Al Gore is no demigod as he was led to believe. Things do not always go his way. There was nothing he could do to prevent the lung cancer death of his beloved sister (his protector). He was not able to stop his son from being hit by an automobile in a near fatal accident. And he couldn’t win the 2000 election despite a great economy that should have made it easy.
He does not much dwell on his down-to-earth wife or the children unstriken. He doesn’t see the fortune he was born into that allowed him an Ivy League education and a ready-made career in politics. He feels that the great things, the important things have always eluded him and you can tell he feels like a failure. We already know these biographical details of Gore’s life, but he presents them again in this movie to explain what led him to this great cause.
These problems are not unique to Al Gore. Baby Boomers have spent 40 odd years since the tumultuous 1960s trying to make sense out of their lives. His is the generation that questioned the collective wisdom of our forefathers and found greater meaning in the secular religion of social justice. Social justice did not end the human problems that have been with us since time immemorial, but marching felt good. Forget the details, the process gave meaning. And the best thing of all is that you don’t have to achieve results to be victorious. We can celebrate the gains made in the 1960s and still turn around and say there is so much more to do. Win/Win.
And unlike a dead sister, an injured child or a lost election, the disaster about to befall the earth is nebulous in the specifics so he cannot possible be defeated. The world is either destroyed (our fault) or saved (his victory). It’s a moral issue, you see. It’s unethical to destroy the world, don’t you know.
He takes issue with a person who worked in the Bush Administration who changed a global warming study done by the EPA. This gentleman worked for the oil industry before working in Washington. When he was made to resign for making the changes and he again went to work for the oil industry. The oil industry, you see, is in the business of burning as much carbon as possible, because that’s how they make their money. And people who make their money in a particular way see the world in a way that helps them make that money. Gore thus presents profiteers as the enemies of enlightenment, but he fails to understand the implications of that charge.
If the side that makes money is against these findings, and scientists have to feed their children too, then there shouldn’t be any money available for the kind of research that comes to conclusions opposite of the money. Therefore, you have to conclude that there is money on both sides of the issue.
So imagine you are a scientist who takes a grant from some organization and you come back and say, look there is contradictory evidence and I can’t say one way or the other. Do you imagine that you will get a second grant? How will you feed your children? No, you say there is evidence that points in whatever direction that gets you the second grant. It’s easy to do, because a large study will have evidence that points in every which direction, the key is the analysis of that data can go in any direction. Your job as the researcher is to have your numbers on one side that no one understands and your conclusions on the others that follow the prescribed direction. Money gained from profit or research spends just the same. And what if your conclusions are wrong? I mean hey we’re on the safe side, right. It doesn’t hurt to burn less coal. No harm.
That may sound cynical, but the cynicism is on the other side. If the proponents of any argument want to point to profit as motive behind their adversaries findings then it is only logical that the side leveling the charge be looked at in context of the money made from their propositions. Al Gore is not in this to make money, he has his money. He can laugh at a Bush cartoon that balances gold bars and the earth, because he has enough gold bars. But the people who are doing the research that he cherry picks have just as much of a financial stake in their findings as do the greedy capitalists that Gore disparages.
Take a guy like Michael Crichton, Harvard M.D. and popular writer of fiction and nonfiction. Like Gore, Crichton has his gold bars too and it makes not a difference to him financially one way or the other and yet he for some reason falls on the side of profiteers. What would Gore attribute Crichton’s motives? It couldn’t be that someone disagrees with the Vice President after seeing the data, because Gore already explained that no one anywhere does. Only money or ignorance blinds an eye to such an inconvenient truth.
At one point, Gore says you have to forget politics because it’s better to do the right thing than win elections. And yet, where was VP Gore when it was time to push the Kyoto treaty through the senate in the 1990s? Could it be that Kyoto might have hurt the American economy enough to cost him the 2000 election? And what do we make of the Chinese government that regulates search engines and the Internet that doesn’t mind Al Gore speaking in front of their people. His message doesn’t pose any threat to totalitarianism, we can assume. The Chinese will mow down their own citizenry to quell free elections, but Al Gore’s words are sweet music. What Gore does not mention is that China is exempt from Kyoto and if Gore disagreed with that he wouldn’t be speaking in China. It’s a moral issue in America, but why go and knock the Chinese when one bad word would lose you a billion clapping people.
After defeat in the 1860 election, Stephen Douglas volunteered himself to Abraham Lincoln to help prevent the Civil War. After Wendell Wilke lost the 1940 election he joined FDR in ending isolationism and supported lend lease among other things. So when America was attacked by Islamic terrorists, Al Gore produced a movie in which he explains that those who intend to kill us are merely a sideshow compared to the real war we have with the climate. That is an inconvenient truth if you’re riding the coattails of a dot com boom and would hate to see the economy tank due to economic restrictions. It’s not so inconvenient after you lose that election.
This is a film and movement born of narcissism. We were wrong in voting for Bush. He’s fighting the wrong war. Gore even quotes Winston Churchill predicting the Nazi menace, but fails to see the parallels to extreme Islam. The Churchill quotes are used to boost his crusade against the enemy in the mirror. Luckily he loves the world enough to save it even though he was kicked to the curb. We need to stop listening to that jackass in the White House and start fighting the combustion engine.
It’s not a coincidence that he cares not to fight radical Islam and their threats to Western culture, because he decided way back in the 1960s that Western culture wasn’t worth defending. It can come and go as far as he’s concerned, just as long as the sunset is pretty and bunny rabbits are jumping.
The title accuses us of ignoring inconvenient truths, but Gore too ignores the things that do not adhere to his world view. Rather than answer the critics point by point, he disparages their motives. When he can’t paint someone like Michael Crichton as an opportunist he just ignores their existence. He would accuse Bush and war leaders as simplistic boobs who do not know the nuances between sectarian and secular Muslims, but he offers no room for nuance and gray area when it comes to his beliefs. His presentation is as black and white as a Pentecostal preacher warning of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It’s not enough for Gore to present a solid argument, answer the critics and begin a dialog on what can be done to make the world better. The movie is lecture version of Rambo pointing to charts explaining the treachery of the Vietcong and how they must be overcome. It’s just the format that people on his side of the aisle jump to label simplistic and simple-minded.
What’s most unexpected is that Gore does not see how his feelings of powerless over his sister, his son, and the 2000 election have predisposed him to find a proactive cause like saving the world. He sees his crisis of the mind as a virtue that freed him to champion a great cause, instead of a hindrance to a rational and objective view of the world. He doesn’t seem to understand that his pre-disposition is the opposite of objective science. Like the researchers who get their grant money through uncovering a crisis, Gore’s redemption would only be through saving the world.
Like most doomsayers that never get their comeuppance, Gore will be praised for his altruism, ignored for his personal environmental behavior, and seen as well-meaning when his predictions of doomsday do not materialize. This movie will be a document of how much he cared, nothing less.
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH is an astonishing look into the soul of a man who came of age in the 1960s and forty years later is still trying to reconcile the meaning of his own life. And with knowledge of 2000 years of world literature to fall back on, the best he could present is this simple CHICKEN LITTLE story. If Bush were one to present his midlife crisis in cinema, I would expect at least the equivalent of a Tom Wolfe novel.