A look at the state of the global environment including visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet's ecosystems.A look at the state of the global environment including visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet's ecosystems.A look at the state of the global environment including visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet's ecosystems.
So far, the process can still be slowed, perhaps reversed--but not for long. We have the technology, though nature itself rather than any man-made "thing" is the greatest resource, and the solution is in harmonizing ourselves with it, not further dominating it. In a few years, we will have reached the point of no return. This is not just the 11th hour, but the last few seconds of the sixtieth minute of that hour. Within this new century, if nothing effective is achieved, planetary damage will be dramatic and total in every area. It's impossible to predict, but extreme disaster could come very rapidly, once the balance is decisively tipped in the wrong direction, and it will happen everywhere. Nowhere is safe from it.
As one reviewer has said, if we don't slit our throats after hearing the first half of this story, some "intriguing options" are suggested in the last third Various speakers believe that while humanity may not survive, without a reversal of the trend, life on earth probably will. (Welcome to Insectopia.) But surprisingly enough, though everything we do has to be changed radically and totally, things won't necessarily look wholly different. The difference will be inside. An 85% efficient train car looks just like a little old train car, only its interior works will have changed. A wholly self-sustainable skyscraper still looks on the outside just like a skyscraper: the new Bank America building in New York resembles the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, only with more glass.
Not only are the technologies all available, but there are many plans about how to use them, and doing so can be immensely profitable even for existing businesses, if they alter their products and raw materials. The obstacle is resistant mindsets, and above all a lack of leadership. There's another obstacle--well, many; and they're mostly in the United States. The large corporations in whose interest it is to go on gobbling fossil fuel (or as writer Thom Hartman calls it, "ancient sunlight"), rule our world, and our American leaders are their marionettes. The average working guy doesn't think beyond the morning traffic report. We all need to learn to care. Dippy as it sounds, all we need is love. And we can act fast when we want to--look at the American performance in WWII.
Al Gore has greeted The 11th Hour as a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth. In a sense it is that. In David Guggenheim's Oscar-winning film Gore demonstrates why and how global warming is a reality and a cause of grave concern. The 11th Hour sets this event in a larger context, warns further of the urgency of acting now, and, unlike Inconvenient Truth, goes into detail about practical solutions. The 11th Hour, unfortunately, isn't as polished and effective as An Inconvenient Truth. The latter is unified by Gore's personality. DiCaprio provides an appealing sort of youthful everyman voice (even a Hollywood superstar becomes an everyman in this context), but he doesn't hold The 11th Hour together. Though the range of expertise is impressive and valuable, structurally there is a dauntingly rapid succession of different faces. Even during the 11th hour of 11th Hour new speakers keep appearing and it's difficult to take in all the names and credentials first time through. Luckily there are a few strong and unmistakable voices, like the broadcaster David Suzuki; Stephen Hawking; Mikhail Gorbachov. The soft southern accent of Interface founder Ray Anderson, a "good" corporate CEO, is familiar from the Gore film.
Sometimes information and animated diagrams go by with ridiculous speed. It's as if the filmmakers were a little terrified of omitting something. This will work fine on a DVD where you can freeze-frame to check things out; it doesn't work so well in a theater. Speeded-up urban sequences look like some sloppy version of Koyaanisqatsi. These flaws make one nostalgic for Gore's measured tones. His detractors called Inconvenient Truth "a glorified Power Point lecture." But that's much better than sounding, as DiCaprio occasionally does, like the narrator of some high school educational flick.
Consequently it's not too surprising that 11th Hour has fared less well critically than Truth, despite some significant champions--the critics of some of the major US papers, and smart writers like Andres O'Hehir of Salon.com, David Edelstein of New York Magazine, Jonathan Rosenbaum of The Chicago Reader--and one could go on. Ultimately, the film's weaknesses don't matter, because its content is too important and smart to dismiss.
Attacking The 11th Hour feels unwise--like killing the messenger. Conners and Peterson and DiCaprio and all those bright people are saying things we need to hear. Is the quality of this movie really such an issue? The far more significant issue raised is this: sure, we can "vote" by buying low-watt bulbs and recycling and reducing our individual "carbon footprints." But to act collectively, we'll need that so-far-missing leadership. Where is it going to come from?
- Chris Knipp
- Sep 3, 2007