Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Convenient Documentary

Cynicism snakes through my bloodstream like an intestinal parasite. It warps my thought process and sucks away any chance of me taking things at face value. If someone is standing in front of you trying to tell you something, then there is a very good chance that person will benefit from you believing what they say. There is always an ulterior motive.

I would even argue that kind, benevolent people like Mother Teresa are, in a round-a-bout way, only looking out for themselves. Sure, they feed the poor and comfort the sick, but aren't they trying to get into their 'Heaven'? They're merely paying dues here on earth in order to meet the requirements for what they believe waits for them in the afterlife.

I know. I'm pathetic and sad, but experience has rarely led me to believe otherwise.

There is a benefit to this mind set, however. I have never been led by what someone else wants me to believe or wants me to do. I'm not manipulated easily and when I am, it's usually because there is something in it for me. The one common denominator that all my friends share is that they don't bullshit me. They know I won't believe it anyway and they'll get what they want if they are straightforward. Start playing games and I shut you out. No time and no taste for it.

Add politicians to this mix and my skepticism spikes to unheard of peaks.

Which is why I couldn't choke back my gag reflex long enough to make it all the way through 'An Inconvenient Truth'. If you're not familiar, this is the much hyped documentary which is hosted by Al Gore and preaches to us about the hazards of global warming. He goes around the world giving his cool Mac presentation about how we are killing the world with too much Co2 and how the polar ice caps are melting and all sorts of other information that I already knew about. This isn't ground breaking information most of the time and, while I appreciate the idea behind what Gore's trying to do, the documentary spends way too much time delving into Gore's personal life. It comes off more of a political ad than a documentary on global warming.

One scene in particular is sticking with me. It shows Gore at an airport, all alone, pulling along his suitcase as he heads for the plane and his next presentation. Taken by itself, it seems innocent enough, but it's false advertising. Gore isn't all by himself. He has an entire staff scheduling things for him, probably has a personal assistant, and definitely has a camera crew following him around. The scene is nothing more than manipulation. Gore as the lone crusader.

Except he isn't. In fact, he's nothing more than a mouth piece for the scientists who have collected decades worth of data proving that global warming is, indeed, a fact. And again, that's fine, but he and the film maker present things to us and the live audience he's speaking to as if he himself has put all this information together. In one of the voice overs, he claims to have been speaking out about global warming since 1975. I have no idea if that's true or not, but when I heard this my first thought was, 'But how did you have time to invent the internet?'

See? I can't help myself. I also recalled the time, back in the 80s, he called Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister to testify in front of Congress about his lyrics when Gore and his lovely wife Tipper decided records needed warning labels. This went on for an entire summer. Not once did I hear about global warming when he had a national stage on which to speak.

But that's the nature of any politician. Not to speak truths, but to speak semi-truths while making themselves look good. You decide which part is more important to them. What do you think the reaction would have been if Gore started doing this globe trotting presentation about global warming back in the 80s? He would have been committed or worse, laughed at. 'Hey, look, there's the senator that thinks the world is going to end. What a tool!' Not being taken seriously means death for any politician with national ambitions. Just look at Dan Quayle.

I think this movie would have been better if it had been a no name narrating it. Why not get one of the scientists who have spent most of his or her life studying the increase in CO2? Yeah, I know the answer, because there is no name recognition. So why spend so much time going into Gore's background? If you want to educate people about global warming, then cut out the Gore back story and give them the presentation. We don't need to know he grew up on a farm or how almost losing his son taught him how to appreciate the present and his family. If he were running for President maybe I would.....oh.....well, let's just see where this is headed, shall we?

Some other issues I had and keep in mind I didn't even finish watching this movie.

- Gore shows us a graph that parallels the CO2 levels and the corresponding temperatures. They are remarkably alike. Every time CO2 spikes, so does the temp. Makes sense to me. Higher CO2 levels make the atmosphere thicker which keeps more heat in. Gore goes on to point out that our CO2 levels are higher than they've ever been. Again, makes sense. But what he doesn't point out or even address is the spike in CO2 and temperatures that are the next highest on his graph are dated 600,000 years ago. So what caused that? Do we even know?

- There are multiple shots during the course of the movie of Gore working on (or at least looking at) his Apple laptop. The impression given is that Gore is fine tuning the presentation he gives. Like he, himself, put this thing together. Does anyone buy that? He could just be checking his email or watching YouTube, but the narration implies otherwise.

- Gore mentions that way back in the day, glaciers that covered upper parts of North America melted into the Atlantic Ocean and stopped one of the important currents that provides warming trends for Europe. Those glaciers formed the Great Lakes and sent Europe into an ice age that lasted at least a decade. He then points to the Arctic Glaciers that are melting and insinuates that when these melt it could cause the same thing. Fine. But why did the Great Lake glaciers melt? Once again, it isn't even addressed. Just a natural warming process, we are to assume. He mentions the Great Lakes in passing; an example of what could happen, but never goes deeper than that. It's simply a scare tactic. 'Look! It happened once and it will happen again!'

- We are shown a stat on where the current trends are leading us. Gore even uses one of those hydraulic lifts for dramatic effect, showing how high he needs to go on the screen to get to the level of temperatures we might be heading for. But, if you look closely the stat has a disclaimer that reads something like 'Using unregulated fuels and emissions'. Wait, we already are regulating engines, fuels and emissions. So what is this statistic telling us? Apparently if we don't regulate emissions (which we are) or fuels (which we are while researching alternatives) or engines (again, we are) then we just might make the earth really, really warm.

- One final quibble and it may be my biggest. Gore goes on and on (and on) about how we need to take responsibility for the earth. That this is our world and if we don't care for it now our kids will be the ones paying the price.

He then hops on a private plane and jets off to his next speech. Maybe he's using ethanol on that plane.

Today's distraction: Things you can do to help in the fight against global warming. It's going to take everyone people! Let's get on track!

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