Sunday, June 04, 2006

Al Gore's Movie Debut

Al Gore's Movie Debut, originally uploaded by regrodriguez.

Yes, I've heard of global warming.
Yes, I believe it's real.
Yes, I believe petroleum companies have been actively trying to keep me from learning the true extent of the problem so I’ll keep consuming petroleum products and keep the oil companies rich.
Yes, yes, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve also been assuming that global warming is one of those political concerns that doesn’t directly need my support since there are plenty of tree-huggers on the case already. I don’t own a car or a house that needs to be streamlined for energy conservation and I buy recycled products when I can, but they’re expensive so I don’t always, but I don’t drive a Hummer or own a coal-burning factory, so isn’t that good enough?

After seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (the dramamine worked and I watched an entire movie in the theater for the first time in years), now I’m thinking:

∞∞ I’ve been brainwashed by petroleum-driven propaganda (also known as the American mainstream media) that’s been saying that global warming is not really a problem but even if it is, certainly I don’t need to worry about it.

∞∞ The increasingly warm Chicago winters since I moved here 13 years ago, the worldwide increase in severe floods and droughts in the past 10 years, and the increasing violence of hurricanes like Katrina are all results of the global increase in temperature and I never allowed myself to see that those things were connected.

∞∞ Mount Kilamanjaro, the Swiss Alps, glaciers in Greenland and ice-covered mountain regions throughout Europe and North America have vast areas of dry land where there used to be snow and ice. An Inconvenient Truth showed photos taken in the past five decades that show these changes and I was shocked by the clarity and starkness of the message.

∞∞ Here’s the clear and stark message: the earth is like a big glass of ice water in a warm room. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of the ice melts.

I’ve heard it so many times it seems like a cliché to me, old news, not even interesting anymore, but the following words are finally alive and burning for me: our fossil fuels have been adding more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, trapping and raising the temperature of the planet. These rising temperatures are not natural, we caused them and if we don’t stop adding fossil-burning-caused carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the ice will melt. All of it.

Here’s the image that disturbed and stays with me the most: in open sea, a polar bear swims a typical vast distance and reaches one of the ice floes it depends on for rest, only to have it break under its weight. The bear is forced to swim another long distance, is unable to find a sufficiently large ice floe, and finally drowns. Increasing numbers of drowned polar bears have been found in the waters of the Antarctic. This is only one of thousands of species affected by the changing global temperature.

The film plainly lays out all the facts, charts, photos, projections and stories anyone could possibly need to fully understand the situation, and just when Mr. Gore has almost overwhelmed us with the scale of what must be necessary, he breaks down the question “What can I do?” into manageable pieces, too. And guess what? Every single one of his suggestions is a tip you’ve heard hundreds of times before. Just like we all know that eating less and exercising more will help us lose weight, so do we all know how to reduce our petroleum consumption: turn off electric devices when you’re not using them, drive less, recycle, write your congresspeople and senators about this issue, etc. Watch the credits for more. I particularly liked the suggestions of asking your energy company why they don't offer renewable energy and running for office yourself. Go to for more. Just like losing weight: we know what to do. We just haven’t made up our minds to DO IT.

It’s time to do it. At the very least, please go see An Inconvenient Truth. In Chicago it's playing here. It’s a surprisingly well-done and startlingly important movie.

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