an inconvenient truth

last night I went to An Inconvenient Truth with Kathleen, and boy, I really enjoyed and appreciated the movie. It was so well put, so clear, and the science was So Tight. With my environmental engineering background, and my green design/sustainability masters degree, well, I wasn’t sure what to expect. but it was totally riveting, and for the most part I thought he hammered the message just right. Sure, I’m already a believer – but I’ve always thought that hey, carbon was a big issue that could be tackled from the ground as a part of other environmental issues. it wasn’t such a big deal. This morning after I got home I went out and right away bought clean electricity, a carbon offset for my car, renewed my ecological roadside assistance membership, and looked up how to offset any airline travel in my future.

I think the biggest thing that stuck with me was his debunking of the poverty vs. environment “battle.” it’s been a huge issue, more so than the environment vs. the economy (which is a moot point b/c of green design and sustainability best practices that make environmentally efficient growth possible and affordale) — how can you tell people not to use DDT because they’ll get cancer when they grow up when the harsh reality is that if they DON’T use DDT they will probably die of malaria before they reach adulthood? I think Al did a really good job of seperating global warming from environmental issues – it’s not an environmental issue, but is an all encompassing issue.

In the movie, Al Gore (heart!) very clearly makes the point that many african cities were built above the mosquito line, and that as temperatures have gone up in the last decade or so, the incidences of malaria (and other diseases) have rapidly increased. On top of that, the mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects/animals/fungus have been moving much faster and with a larger range thanks to global warming. So the age old poverty vs. environment issue? really is broken down to a global warming issue. there you go. The clarity of the message reminds me of my Eureaka! moment when Wangari Mathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some of my other thoughts from the movie:

  • gosh, I love al gore. How can I get a job working with THAT guy? Hey, Al! I’m from tennessee too! And I love science!
  • I really should be DOING more about this! I have the training! I understand the science, and the larger interrelated ecological and policy issues! I need to look into scientific journalism, esp. after his point about the number of scientists who disagree with global warming (none in peer reviewed journals) vs. the number of popular media who disagree with global warming (53% — not peer reviewed, and potentially just some guy and his opinion).
  • most amazing point, that I wish he’d spent more time on: how standard economies and off-set purchases can reduce incredibly the amount of CO2, down to 1970 emission levels. that is HUGE! I can’t find this graph online but for it alone I think I’ll buy the associated book.
  • I am so glad he didn’t spend a lot of time on carbon sequestration. I really don’t think it’s a final solution for global warming – the repercussions haven’t been explored, and I am not sure that it will really FIX the CO2. Most of all, though, I feel strongly that it is a solution that will allow American and other rapidly developing nations like India and China to continue to move full strength ahead and damn the horses. There needs to be a cultural shift to new (existing!) technologies and more efficiencies, and I worry that carbon sequestration will be seen as a magic bullet to avoid any related (and probably slight) inconvenience. We’ve always been a big fan of the magic bullet approach – for example, our wholesale push to a hydrogen economy when there are plenty of actually feasible fuels out there that can be used to replace gasoline.
  • I wish he had spent a couple of sentences on the (um) “snowballing” effect of tundra thawing (releases a lot of trapped CO2 into the atmosphere) and coral reef bleaching (reefs are the ocean’s lungs, and fix a lot of CO2).
  • I also would have appreciated a more thorough statement on us car manufacturers – he said that they claim they just can’t produce vehicles that are as efficient as european (or canadian) models, but us mfgs ARE producing cars for sale in canada and europe. GM = Opel, for one. they CAN do it, they just don’t want to in america because they don’t have to. it burns my britches!
  • ethanol got a shout-out but not biodiesel! sad!
  • oh, and GOD. what a huge catastrophe is coming if the oceans rise 20 ft and 100 Million people are displaced on top of the loss of arable land and fresh water supplies diminishing. yikes.
  • the Katrina footage made my heart sink. how could we do that? how could we allow that to happen?

Seriously, y’all, go see the movie. As I said to a friend – it’s not just two thumbs up, but if I had opposable big toes I’d put them up too. it’s whiz bang great. And the science is TIGHT!