Friday, July 21, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth", a very American story.

Last week, I finally got a chance to see Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” on global warming. What is interesting the most, I think , is not so much what Gore is saying – which a lot of us already know (After all even the National Academy of Sciences said that the data are "additional supporting evidence ... that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." see our post here) but how he is saying it.

The greatest quality of the 96-minute film is that it shows the link between concerns for global warming (typically a more liberal cause) and the “love of the land” (something most Conservatives relate to). Al Gore takes us back to the farm where he grew up for instance and shows us pictures of very American moments in nature, commenting in a very soothing voice. Even more than his convincing PowerPoint presentation, it is this stress on a very American theme if any which may explain his current success. It is now the fourth-highest grossing documentary in the US market.

The movie is also about personal redemption and the story of Al Gore a man who is rising again after defeat.

"I am Al Gore," goes his introductory line, "I used to be the next president of the United States."

He also stresses the many obstacles he faced in the early battle he fought for the environment, including his disappointment in Congress and elected officials, echoing the current general distrust of Congress in the US. His words were not bitter tough.

Now, from the reaction of the audience in the theater (that was in Harvard which holds a liberal community already favorable to his views), you could tell that emotionally involved. In the end, they even applauded (which is beyond comprehension to me since the movie people were obviously not there)

The conclusion of his documentary is upbeat and optimistic and that too is a very American theme. Despite the Bush administration lamentable record, Gore gives us some hope – he counts 221 US cities that have "ratified" Kyoto, pledging to curb their greenhouse emissions.
Also, in the credits, small acts of faith are proposed by taking steps. It should be noted that most of the crowd did stay to read the credits – even though they don’t seem to do it everywhere in the US.

One of the many suggestions is the use of the thermostat for better use of air-conditioning or heaters. The irony though is that I was freezing cold in the theater.

In the end, it seems gor is able to sell the them quite well to the American audience yet I am not sure that it'll be enough for the American people - even those who see the movie - to change their habits. I think that natural disasters such as Katrina or the heat-wave this summer will have far greater impact and then, people wll start to listen and put pressure on their politicians.
I am not sure the current grass-root movement, if there is any, is large enough. A good start would be to honor the movie by making changes in the theaters where it is playing. Is it so hard to turn down the air-conditioning a tiny bit? I suggested it to the theater people but they seemed clueless, as if I were from another planet.

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