One blogger's take on movies, television shows, books, and music -- the good, the bad, and the bottom line

Monday, April 16, 2007

After using up all my excuses, I finally watched the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth. This Oscar-winning documentary makes the case that global warming is a reality, and is a call to action on this "moral, not political" issue.

Now, I have some history with Al Gore, albeit tangential. I interned in his Senate office as a third year law student. While I had very limited exposure to the Senator at the time, it was apparent that he was extremely hard-working, thoughtful, and well-meaning. It was also clear to all that this guy was going to be president one day. With me personally, he amused me greatly when he met my parents who came in for a courtesy call during my law school graduation. Gore sat there and, with a straight face, told them I was the best intern he had ever had. I practically guffawed, because I was sure that he didn't even know my name. Good staff work, I guess. Oh, he was even then a techno-geek; he was one of the first legislators to have a computer at his desk.

Those irerelevancies aside, my thoughts on the documentary:

The Good: It's hard to take the relatively dry subject matter of global warming, presented essentially in a powerpoint-type presentation, and make it interesting. Gore and the filmmakers succeeded for the most part. Substantively they make a compelling case for the increasing dangers of global warming, and for the reality of its existence. The filmmakers use an effective device in telling their "story;" they make Gore the "protagonist," interspersing into his presentation a summary of his life and career, and how it informed his commitment to this issue. As Gore is the "good guy," it follows that those who oppose the clarion call are perceived as the "bad guys." Those who oppose his position here may or may not be bad, but you have to admit, it's an effective storytelling device. Even Ann Althouse thought so, more or less ("And dammit, it works. I do feel good about Al Gore!"). The statistic that stays with me over a week after viewing the movie is that there have been close to 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles demonstraitng the reality of global warming, and zero such papers refuting its existence. He then contrasted that statstic with the countervailing statistic that in popular publications there are over 50% that dispute the reality of global warming. I found the production values good -- sharp, pleasant photography, and enough cutting to keep it interesting without giving me a headache. I thought the movie presented a compelling argument.

The Bad: Well, I did fall asleep twice trying to get through it. That's why God invented "rewind."

The Bottom Line: Four Flicks. I didn't think this was a Gore for President info-mercial; I think they used him to tell their story and make their point. For a documentary, it was solid work.

Those who decry Gore for using more energy than the average joe miss the point, I think. Don't shoot the messenger; Gore's personal habits don't negatively affect the credibility of his message. Lambasting him simply muddies the waters, which is the goal of the nay-sayers anyway. While this documentary may have oversimplified some points, the broad theme seems valid. And as I have said for some time, even if they're wrong about global warming, we ought to hedge our bets and start reducing our emissions. Now if I could only afford a hybrid car....


Anonymous Patrick said...

I think you are wrong when you say it makes no difference if Al Gore does not cut his own energy usage. He has made global warming a personal crusade, he has tried to persuade people and even countries to alter their lifestyles, their regulations, yet he continues to run up $1000 a month electric bills? Why should I listen to anything he says if its not important enough to him to change his own lifestyle? Good enough for me, but not for him? Is he too important to scale back, but the rest of us are not so important? [to be clear, I think Gore is a pompous windbag and I wouldn't listen anyway, and this difference between his public stance and personal lifestyle choices just adds to my feeling that he isn't a person to be taken seriously on this subject or any other.)

5:16 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I agree with Patrick. The behavior of the Global Warming messengers undercuts their credibility. If this is the huge issue Gore tells us, he would have to be deeply immoral to not change his lifestyle. Consider that Gore profits hansomly from the Global Warming issue, it is appropriate to question his motives.
There are valid and credible challenges to Global Warming. "The Great Global Warming Swindle" documentary explains the other side of the issue, but Gore never feels compelled to engage alternate hypothesis as would be the accepted practice in a scientific debate.
Having said that, I think Gore did do a nice job of presenting his side. His humor exhibited good timing and material. It is a pretty watchable movie.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write: "The statistic that stays with me over a week after viewing the movie is that there have been close to 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles demonstraitng the reality of global warming, and zero such papers refuting its existence."

I haven't seen Gore's movie, but is that really what it says? I mean, what does that mean? That these scientific papers show the earth is getting warmer? They show humans are responsible for the warming? They show humans are responsible for most of the warming? Taken precisely, it only says the first, which is not too interesting, so I have to wonder how precise Gore is being. (Assuming your account is accurate.)

And if Gore's going to compare those papers with popular literature, is he consistent in his definition? He's already got me doubting his precision; how can I trust his consistency?

Maybe you have the answer.

10:43 PM  

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