An Inconvenient Truth

I had wanted to actually do this post as the last one of 2013 but things got in the way. I’m sitting at the Lodge where I work listening to the golden voice and accordion music of “Jan” the blind accordion player. I had volunteered on this New Year’s Day to pick her up in Fort Bragg and bring her to the Lodge to play for the residents. She is a great accordion and piano player and has an interesting history. The residents call out a tune and Jan will play it. She’s rarely stumped. I’m also for the first time writing a part of this blog offline. BlogPad Pro says I can do it and we will see.

So I had thought that my last post of the year should at least mention Al Gore, the first person that I had ever heard discuss global warming and climate change. Al Gore is still going strong. His blog is here. A website here. A Flipboard page here. Flipboard is an app that I’ve used extensively for my blog. He has been joined by Bill McKinnon, Michael E. Mann and thousands of other climate change heros.

A few years ago (2006), “An Inconvenient Truth–A Global Warning” was the movie everyone was talking about. When it came out I saw it in the movie theater and also got a copy of the DVD. My wife was able to get this original move poster for me from the local theater in Fort Bragg. If she hadn’t been taking a shower, she would have seen me on a stepladder taking this picture.  My first book by Al Gore was, “Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit” first published in 1992. It became, “the first book written by a sitting U.S. Senator to make the New York Times bestseller list since John F. Kennedy‘s, Profiles in Courage. I now have the revolutionary app, “Our Choice” on my Ipad. Just a note: I read “Earth in the Balance” while I was commuting 80 miles a day to work in my truck. One of the reasons I feel that global warming will be so hard to overcome is that people have to do what they have to do to get by.

“An Inconvenient Truth”, won, “2 Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song. The film grossed $24 million in the U.S. and $26 million in the foreign box office, becoming the 9th highest grossing documentary film to date in the United States…Since the film’s release, An Inconvenient Truth has been credited for raising international public awareness of climate change and reenergizing the environmental movement. The documentary has also been included in science curricula in schools around the world, which has spurred some controversy.” All quotes are from Wikipedia. “Spurred some controversy” is of course an understatement an we will get into a little of that soon. “For Gore’s wide-reaching efforts to draw the world’s attention to the dangers of global warming which is centerpieced in the film, Al Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Wikipedia has a large section on the movie which can be found here. You can read about making the film, it’s critical reviews, it’s awards, and it’s impact in the United States and around the world.

The carbon producing industries have done their best to discredit the movie and the idea of global warming and to a certain extent have been successful. 

“The Competitive Enterprise Institute released pro-carbon dioxide television ads in preparation for the film’s release in May 2006. The ads featured a little girl blowing a dandelion with the tagline, “Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.”

In August 2006, the Wall Street Journal revealed that a YouTube video lampooning Gore and the movie, titled Al Gore’s Penguin Army, appeared to be “astroturfing” by DCI Group, a Washington public relations firm.”

Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, then-chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, didn’t plan to see the film (which he appears in), and compared it to Adolf Hitler‘s book “Mein Kampf“. “If you say the same lie over and over again, and particularly if you have the media’s support, people will believe it,” Inhofe said, adding that he thought Gore was trying to use the issue to run for president again in 2008.” One wonders if Senator Jim Inhofe would have had emergency open-heart surgery if the carbon producers supporting him said that medical science was a hoax.

I recently watched my DVD copy of the movie. I still think that it holds up well and is supported by the current science on climate change. I encourage everyone to get a copy and watch it again. We all have to be reminded over and over again.

This was a hard to find picture. I finally found it on a website that I have lost the reference to. Sorry about that. I had thought that this was a dramatic part of the movie that could have provided a humorous moment if they had supplied Al Gore with an oxygen mask and tank.

The movie ended with this quote, “”Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each one of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, the electricity we use, the cars we drive; we can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands, we just have to have the determination to make it happen. We have everything that we need to reduce carbon emissions, everything but political will. But in America, the will to act is a renewable resource.”

In “Our Choice” he offers what I feel is the best explanation as to why “determination” is slow in coming.

“Global warming has been described as the greatest market failure in history it is also–so far–the biggest failure of democratic governance in history.

In searching for the underlying reasons behind these twin historical failures psychologists and neuroscientists have begin to argue that the climate crisis poses a unique and unprecedented challenge to our ability to use the rule of reason as a basis for urgent response. 

Our capacity to respond quickly when our survival is at stake is often limited to the kinds of stress our ancestors survived: snakes, fires, attacks by other humans, and other tangible dangers in the here and now. Global warming does not trigger these kinds of automatic responses.

We also have the demonstrated ability to respond urgently to indicators associated by repeated experience with harmful consequences: the smell of leaking natural gas or a run on the bank for instance. We may be slow to learn these kinds of habitual responses, but once we learn them, we gain the ability to respond to an appropriate stimulus almost automatically with very little need for thinking. 

The phenomena that alert scientists to the onset of the climate crisis are, by contrast, unfamiliar because they are unprecedented in human experience and seem slow-moving due to the vast global scale of the ecological systems under siege. In other words because of its planetary scope this crisis masquerades as an abstraction.

As a result, the automatic and semi-automatic brain responses that have ensured our survival over the millennia are uniquely unsuited to the role of motivating new behaviors and patterns necessary to solve the climate crisis.

The impact of global warming seems remote. It’s effects are distributed throughout the earth in a pattern that makes it difficult to ascribe as an unambiguous cause-and-effect relationship between what is happening to the earth as a whole and what is happening to a single individual in a given time and place. Because local consequences are still difficult to attribute to the global catastrophe, we are slow to perceive it’s immediate and growing effects.”

(Because “Our Choice” is written in a fashion that doesn’t allow cut and paste I had to use screen shots of the passages I wanted to quote. I then used the “Dragon” dictation app to read the passages and forward them by email. I then cut and pasted them into this post. With minor punctuation corrections and spelling errors corrected you have the above quote. Any errors in the quote are mine.)

“An Inconvenient Truth” ended with a look back at the earth from billions of miles out in space. I think I will do the same.

The wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and planet Earth and its moon in the same frame in this rare image taken on July 19, 2013 courtesy of NASA.
Photo by: NASA/Reuters

This is just a reminder that we are not going anywhere and no one is coming to help us. We either solve our problem or we don’t.







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