I was prepared for smugness. In fact, I thought I could be clever and possibly play off of the idea of a giant cloud causing a cataclysmic "SMUGSTORM" in a recent South Park episode (the first SouthPark episode I've watched in its entirety, I swear). But, about the only thing smug about An Inconvenient Truth were some jerks sitting near me who didn't want to stop talking during the movie.
I found Al Gore's documentary about global warming to be articulate, well-researched, captivating and -- even if only 1/2 the predictions would come true -- damn scary! But, as stunning as the slides of the disappearing snowcaps of Kilimanjaro, or the animation of drowning polar bears, or footage of collapsing ice shelves are, what I find most frightful, is not the dire predictions of global warming if we don't get our act together, but that there doesn't seem to be much public debate in the US on this topic. About halfway into the movie, I thought, 'Where's the balance? What's the counterargument? Give us something, even if you shoot it all down!'. As if on cue, what did Mr. Gore present? Grim statistics that in a sampling of recent scientific journals, not one peer-evaluated article refuted the fact that our carbon-based emissions are causing global warming which is impacting life on this planet; yet, over half of the mainstream media publications surveyed questioned the validity of global warming and climate impact. How can that be? Is the state of science -- and science reporting -- such that we cannot have intellectual debate on a subject as important as the future environmental conditions on the planet?
There were parts of the movie that I thought could have been left out. The director's attempt to show the softer side of Gore (e.g., committed liberal out to save the planet) didn't do much for me. Certainly a lecture on global warming would rank near the top of any list of subjects suited to stiff, boring, cardboard-like commentators. But that isn't this film. The folksy Al portrayed throughout, while maybe a nice personality piece, wasn't needed. Gore's lecture was strong enough to stand on it's own. Gore is affable in the film; his passion for this topic -- one that he says started when he was an undergraduate -- is clearly personal, heartfelt. I heard or read recently (sorry, can't find the reference) that if Gore was this likeable during the campaign, he would have won the 2000 election (Oh, didn't he win? Had to get a little smugness in somewhere, didn't I?) While the film doesn't miss taking a few potshots at the Bush administration, it does seem, for the most part, to transcend red state/blue state politics to present a global crisis and doesn't seem to reek of eau-d'-future-campaign.
I was disappointed that the film did not give more attention to what individuals can do about this situation. There are suggestions at the ending credits, and a reference to website, but I expected more. Don't rile the masses with eco-horror stories, then say 'but it's not to late' without some sort of specific call to individual action. For those interested, here are a few links from the movie's website: Reducing emissions impact at home, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, The Stop Global Warming Virtual March. And here is a link not from the movie, but from Clare Light's wonderful blog about mapping and taxonomies, atlas(t): showing ideal spots globally for developing alternative energy sources. If you have other links on this topic -- either siding with Mr. Gore or opposing -- please pass them along. I'll publish any legitimate link by anyone interested in honest, open debate on this topic. (My blog, my rules: PLAY NICE! BE HONEST; BE FAIR. NO ATTACKS!)
I do agree with one comment made in the closing credits: tell others about this movie. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, Gore fan or critic, you should see this movie. See it with an open mind -- and then join in a discussion about global warming, our use of fossil fuels, and what our moral obligations to future generations are as individuals and as a country. Start that discussion in your area if you need to. Roger Ebert said: "You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to."
We owe it to ourselves, our kids, and our grandkids to at least have a discussion on this!