Directed by Davis Guggenheim. US. 2006.

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"The moon stays bright when it doesn't avoid the night" - Rumi 

Although the Bible says "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free", in today's media-dominated corporate America, knowing the truth and informing others about it may only lead to personal attacks, thwarted careers, and deep denial, especially if that truth threatens powerful interests. David Guggenheim's film of Brother Al's Traveling Salvation Show, An Inconvenient Truth, does not hold back, however, from telling us unpleasant truths about the effects of global warming, including the fact that ten of the past fourteen years have been the warmest in our history. Brother Al of course is Al Gore, former candidate for U.S. President in 2000 who lost the election to George W. Bush by a hanging chad.  

The film features a warmer and more spontaneous Gore who, in recreating the multimedia presentation he has shown all over the world, takes a passionate stand on the environmental issue he claims should have the highest priority in our political agenda. In his slide show, Gore displays the disappearing snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the shriveling lakes in Africa, and the disappearance of glaciers in Glacier National Park. He asks us to look at unprecedented hurricanes fueled by warming currents in the Gulf of Mexico, temperatures in excess of 120 degrees, and an increasing envelope of air pollution in Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Shanghai, China. The film is a personal essay that includes reflections on his sister's death from lung cancer and his son's automobile accident at the age of six. It is also a spirited call to action.  

While it may be uncertain whether mankind is simply contributing to very long-range climate instability or is solely responsible, Gore presents a strong case that the environmental choices we have made have contributed to the current climate crisis. He also doesn't hesitate to point out that the U.S., with 5% of the world's population, contributes 30% of the total CO2 emissions and that the present administration has filled high environmental positions in his government with representatives from the oil and gas industries. According to Gore, if we do not reverse the current trends, our future may see an increase in deaths from global warming to 300,000 a year, the rise of sea levels that could inundate coastal cities, an increase in heat waves and droughts, new diseases and crop-attacking pests, and an extinction of species and disruption of existing habitats.  

While some may scoff at the dire warnings, history abounds with evidence of sudden climate changes that may have wiped out entire species or even civilizations. While suggesting that political action could force manufacturers to curb pollution and persuade Detroit to manufacture more fuel-efficient cars, Gore's message is mostly directed at each individual and the energy choices they must make. The closing credits also list hundreds of things that each of us can do. Political will, Gore says, is a "renewable resource" and,

if given the proper respect, the film can be an important catalyst for change. 

The reality, however, is that we live in a world filled with fear, greed, and corruption and it may require more than correct energy choices to effect change. The crisis it seems is not only in our atmosphere but also in our values, in the things we hold to be important and unimportant, which are reflected in our economic system. We cannot simply sit back and "go gentle into that good night", but must "rage against the dying of the light" whether it takes the form of environmental choices, political action, or simply an expanded awareness of our potential for love and compassion. An Inconvenient Truth entreats us to "reach the candle in the heart of man, waiting to be kindled" and, in our own way, to re-light the flame before it is extinguished forever. 


Howard Schumann
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