An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary, an instrument of public education and a clarion call. The former presidential candidate and life-long environmentalist Al Gore has been taking his slide show on the science of global warming on the road for a long time. With Guggenheim’s film, Gore’s presentation goes from garage band to Live Aid. Or, a better comparison might be to the soccer World Cup, though – a universal topic with global appeal, recognized and sought out everywhere, except in the U.S., where too many people are still debating whether it even exists, let alone is worthy of serious attention.

For decades Al Gore has been passionately committed to the issue of global warming. Instead of the stiff, awkward politician he became known as, Gore certainly appears more relaxed and in his element as public lecturer; he comes across as a favorite professor. He appears to be precisely the sort of person right-wing media watchdog groups have been enlisting students to spy and report on in college classrooms over the past few decades, to "document" the "vast liberal conspiracy" to brainwash America’s youth. Here he is, out in the open, smiling, joking, presenting an undeniable wealth, or burden, of scientific fact. All of his evidence points, overwhelmingly and incontrovertibly, to the fact of global warming, the science of it, and to some obvious and inescapable conclusions of where this trajectory, unimpeded, will lead.

Gore has also learned and grown a great deal since his early days, and especially in light of his experience in the famously "stolen presidential election" of 2000. Now he is free to speak the truth, as he sees it, opening the door of the documentary to the moral dimension in which it seeks to function. The personal experiences that contributed to Gore’s involvement and commitment to environmentalism are spelled out, as are his experiences in the partisan political arena. Gore’s populism appears to be real–he knows the obstacles that he, and the people of the U.S. and the world, are up against in the political arena. And he pulls no punches in identifying them or documenting how they work. An Inconvenient Truth becomes his instrumental response, how he counters and surmounts such snares.

Gore’s multimedia presentation is like a rock concert: ever-changing visuals and on-stage mini-shticks that draw the audience into a mountain of scientific data, anecdotes that connect the dots and make the larger picture clear, decades’ worth of data compiled into basic, recognizable patterns. Gore recognizes and explains the current dilemma, the gap that lies between the scientific community and mass-mediated popular culture. Not one single scientist disputes any of the facts Gore presents. There is no doubt that cataclysmic global warming is happening. However, roughly half of the U.S. mass media’s "coverage" has towed the right-wing political line that there is serious questioning about the science, that it is "pseudoscience," that global warming is mere opinion. This would suggest that many, while denying indisputable scientific fact, still cling tenaciously to the right-wing "spin" (a kinder, gentler word for propaganda) that global warming is a left-wing political scare tactic. Gore addresses head on this propaganda machinery.

These are scary times we live in. If nothing is done, the world will change profoundly. It already has, and symptoms of that change are now occurring with regularity, all over the world. In a time when more than half of all college students in the U.S. cannot distinguish between a rational argument and mere opinion, the times may be even tougher than suspected. When the Vatican exiled Galileo for daring to utter the heresy that the earth moves around the sun, it could do nothing to alter the scientific fact; life went on without Galileo and eventually the truth became accepted. However, attempts to discredit the messenger (Gore) or his "heresy" (the fact of global warming) will lead to far more catastrophic consequences. As Al Gore repeatedly stresses, this time the sky really is falling and we need to start dealing with reality while we still can.

Les Wright