The kids and I went to see Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth this evening. It was — as one review put it — “a deluxe filmed version of the ‘slide show’ Gore has been presenting and refining since 1978, in which he concisely lays out the case that our carbon-dioxide emissions trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere are systematically destroying the environment”. I had seen a version of the slide show some time ago, so the content of the film was not a surprise to me — though it was eye-opening for the kids. I came away with a few thoughts:
Admiration for the presentation skills Gore has refined. As someone who has to do a lot of presentations (and sometimes even has to use PowerPoint), I know how difficult it is to get across complex ideas. Larry Lessig is the best presenter I know in this respect. Gore comes pretty close.
Nice to see that he uses an Apple PowerBook and Keynote.
The ‘personal’ bits in the film — digressions about the accident that nearly killed his six-year-old son, and the lung cancer that killed his sister — don’t really work.
Towards the end — when he gets to the pitch that global warming is a “moral issue” — Gore becomes eloquent and almost moving. Why oh why wasn’t he like this when he ran for president?
He had some nice quotes — e.g. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so” [Mark Twain] and “You can’t make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it.”[Upton Sinclair]
The film contained a clip of George W. Bush discoursing upon Gore: “This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we’ll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man.”
One fascinating insight. He reported a survey of nearly a thousand peer-reviewed papers on environmental science which looked for evidence of scientific disagreement about the reality and causes of global warming. This turned up precisely zero articles disagreeing with the mainsteam scientific consensus. He then quoted a survey of coverage of global warming in the mainstream media. 53% of the sample either claimed, or conveyed the impression, that there was serious disagreement in the scientific community about the issue. If true, this highlights a serious problem with journalism.
My kids were the youngest people in the (Cambridge) audience. They tell me that none of their respective social circles had heard of the film, and they doubted if any one of their friends would go to see it. Sigh.
I think Larry Lessig was on to something when he started a scheme which enabled people to sponsor other people to go see it.
My kids also made the point that they are all required to watch Schindler’s List — for very good reasons. They thought that An Inconvenient Truth should be required viewing in UK schools. They’re right.