Wednesday, June 07, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I tried to go in to Al Gore's new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, with the mind of a skeptic and came out almost completely won over. This hour-and-a-half riff on a lecture about global warming that he's done for audiences around the world, by his own estimation, more than a thousand times is surprisingly affecting and hit me with an emotional appeal I wasn't at all expecting. Now I'll admit I do cry at movies once in a while, but I didn't realize I'd end up with tears after this one. I came away with a greater respect for the guy who still jokes that he used to be the next president of the United States.

Some have criticized the film for its minor forays into the life of Gore and his family as being campaign-bio fodder, but I didn't feel they were entirely out of place. They brought out Gore's own vulnerabilities, and his own struggles with the tall orders he's making in the movie about the actions that need to be made. The part where he spoke about how his family used to live off tobacco crops was especially effective, I thought. That and all the driving around he does in the movie sort of highlight the fact that he's not a saint or absolute sage; he just wants people to realize the gravity of what he's been captivated and horrified by, lo, these 30-plus years. One of the emotional focal points of the doc is an image of Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts. It's one of those iconic images so widely reproduced that you forget when and how it was made, but seeing it again, it really made sense to me when Gore asserted that "the modern environmental movement" would be born partly out of the understanding that basically all of human history had occurred in a space that could now be contained within one frame of one photograph. Powerful stuff.

(On a related note, I came across this really interesting video of Gore and his family from 2000. I don't remember the backstory about who filmed it or why it was ultimately scrapped, but it says DNC/Spike Jonze on it. Could Jonze have been behind it?)

If there's anything negative about this experience, I'd just have to reiterate something I heard on an NPR analysis of the doc: If Gore has been such a passionate advocate for action on global warming all along, why couldn't he have done, or didn't he do, more while he had all that access to the White House for eight years?

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