A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes-in moments private and public, funny and poignant-as he pursues the empowering notion that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion. … (the) former vice president invites us along on an inspirational journey across the globe that delivers the tools to heal our planet. The question is: Will WE choose to take the baton?
(From Rotten Tomatoes website – accessed 8/8/2017
Some reflections by Ben-Zion Weiss PhD follow:
This film I found even more powerful on a second viewing. What the film presents is a lot of news footage as evidence of climate change. However it also joins the dots between a number of stories of extreme weather patterns that have appeared in the evening TV news as separate disconnected events. In the news there’ll rarely be any reference to their relationship to global warming events with the rise of ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, increased precipitation leading to ‘rain bombs’ and numerous other ways in which things are being affected by climate change.
A major part of the story, which makes the film engaging, is Al Gore’s passion and years of experience in drawing attention to these vital issues, which leads to struggles with despair, as well as moments of great hope, as at the end of the Paris Conference COP 21. This question of hope is big one for me as it also motivates me to take action year after year knowing that I can make a difference because I’m connected to the world. This was the great lesson I learned from my training in Joanna Macy’s workshops in the 80s on Despair and Empowerment in the Nuclear Age.
The challenge for us humans in this time is to move beyond the illusion that we can control the natural world, even though we are ourselves fully a part of that world. It’s like our autonomic nervous system that keeps our life functions going without our conscious control. Of course we have some control of our behaviours like speech and thought. However with feelings this control is much more challenging and with our gut instincts we can either feel them or not, but we can’t control them.
If we then relate that to the bigger picture of the world:
How can we control the weather patterns? Or the billions of reactions of nuclear fusion that go on in our sun that creates the heat and light that radiates to the Earth our Mother, as Aboriginal peoples call her. As humans we have a choice – we can either use that heat and light from the sun for our living purposes, including generating our energy needs or, we can ignore it and even hide away from it so it doesn’t seem to impact on our life.
When we use the Sun, that some Aboriginal people call our Father, we can choose to use him directly by walking in the sun to feel its warmth, and receive the vitamin D we get from sunlight. We can use it to grow food and other plants in our gardens and farms, or dry our clothes, tan our skin, take photographs with natural light and so many other things. Or we can use it indirectly by lighting a fire with the wood that the Sun helped grow into a tree. Or by burning the coal or oil that lies underground that was made by the ancient Sun millions of years ago when it helped grow the ancient forests that were buried and transformed over time into fossil fuel.
Now, when we are directly engaged with the Sun’s energy, we are more likely to be conscious of the benefit we get from the Sun and we are aware of the effects on us, such as when we’re sun bathing on the beach, we know there’s a safe limit. But, when we live more indoors and use the ancient Sun’s products like fossil fuels, to warm and light our houses and buildings, we are more likely to overlook these connections. This is where the major issue of climate change comes into the picture. For when our ancestors lived in Africa for some 200,000 years, there was a sense of balance between our breathing in of oxygen and then our breathing out of carbon dioxide. This CO2 the ancient forests could breathe in and convert back to O2 through the process of photosynthesis by using the Sun’s energy.
At that stage we had already mastered fire, but we were also aware of the need to maintain a balance with the natural world as indigenous people have been doing for thousands of years. While Aboriginal people in Australia used fire stick farming to create their form of ‘natural’ agriculture, they did so with respect and deep understanding of the natural world. Consequently, they were able to survive on this very arid continent for as long as they did in some kind of harmony. With the arrival of the Europeans over 200 years ago this balance with the ecology has been seriously compromised.
Because the Europeans chopped down massive numbers of the trees to make space for houses, schools, factories, shops, hotels, offices, roads, community centres and religious centres, the balance was destroyed out of their ignorance. They brought systems of agriculture, transport and urban living that could no longer be balanced by the natural world in Australia, which is now seriously compromised as a result. Evidence of this is everywhere with desertification, salination, greatly reduced river flows due to damming and irrigation systems, as well as pollution of water ways that can no longer be safely consumed by humans, extinction of animals and plants – the list goes on.
It is a microcosm of the planetary wound that has come from the industrial revolution in more recent times. The chopping down of forests all over the world came from the beginnings of urban civilization 1000s of years ago and the need for timber to build houses, ships, temples and other buildings and artefacts for our human use. This wounding of our planetary life support system has led some scientists in recent years to name this period of geological history as the Anthropocene. This is an important moment in human Earth relations, because even though in our post-modern, post-industrial world we may feel disconnected from the natural world, we are clearly not disconnected, in fact we are actually having an ever greater influence on the natural world through technology and greatly increased human population.
The planetary wound needs healing! Just as our sense of disconnection from nature needs healing. Because we are nature, we can’t be disconnected from nature. But we can feel disconnected by the illusion created by so much of our contemporary lifestyle where the electronic media, technology and architecture have interrupted the direct contact we once had with nature on a daily basis. Thus in healing our planet we also need to heal ourselves, by regaining our sense of connection to nature and by using as much natural and renewable energy and other materials as we can. The film shows that the development of cheaper solar technology and wind technology is creating a global revolution in energy production that is all part of that healing process.
Whatever policies and practices that can encourage this process of healing our planet we need now to adopt. As the film shows the Paris climate conference COP 21 offers us some real hope that there is now also the political will. That was missing 10 years ago when Al Gore made his first major film on this issue, An Inconvenient Truth.
See the trailer at: