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Al Gore’s movie

An Inconvenient Truth, the film version of Al Gore’s Amazing Traveling Global Warming Slideshow, presents a compelling, if at times oversimplified, portrait of a popularly maligned, often misunderstood subject. Glaciers, once believed impassable, are melted to reveal warm valleys; figures, once believed impossible to know, are shown as demonstrably poignant symbols of the sins of our past. This much, anyway, it does for Al Gore’s reputation; Global Warming it treats almost as simply, thoroughly, and well.

The bulk of the film is the Global Warming Show, which features Gore standing in front of a of a Toastmaster’s wet dream of a projection system and using Powerpoint Keynote like Rembrandt with a paint brush. He even operates heavy machinery! Image from the BBC. And the slideshow is frightening: charts and graphs showing correlations between carbon dioxide levels and temperature, such as the one at left, are so much more ominous when they are twenty feet high. Riggs Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska, image from coasttocoastam.com Likewise depressing are supersized images of glaciers sixty years ago versus images of glaciers today (Right: Riggs Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska). The big screen is better suited to the juxtaposition of images as well as good for communicating what it means that mile-thick ice shelves are melting in Antarctica.

The big screen also is a pretty good vehicle for Al Gore. Spliced into the slideshow presentation is footage of Gore at home, Gore at work, Gore talking about his past. The Gore Narrative, according to the movie, is uncomplicated by nuance or by nostalgic reminiscence. It’s developed through shots of Gore not only typing furiously on his MacBook, walking through airports and brooding in the backs of Lincoln Continentals, and talking forcefully on his brain tumor about Big Oil stooges in the Department of Energy, but also chatting idly as he drives to his family farm, talking seriously about his family’s greatest trials, and staring sadly at the tobacco racks in a ramshackle barn. Through it all Gore comes across as a warm, generous Tenesseean; a passionate, committed environmentalist; an idealistic, principled politician; a hard-working, studious, clean-cut believer in US leadership in the world. It’s enough to make me almost want to apologize for not voting for him in 2000—almost, I say, because I buy the story that this Gore isn’t the same as the one who ran for President in 2000. This Gore’s a casual dresser. This Gore also remembers what it’s like to grow a beard.

More importantly, this Gore knows how to deliver a message with clarity and passion, which is important, because if Gore had displayed half the charisma in 2000 that he has shown in recent years, there would have been no popular/electoral split of the vote. If you never saw his speeches in 2004 (the time of the beard), you missed seeing him speak boldly, concretely, and clearly about American foreign policy. He’s transformed himself from a staid statesman to an elder visionary. It’s a similar transformation to that which Newt Gingrich is currently peddling, but—and I admit perhaps it’s because my politics are closer to Gore’s—I find Gore’s more believable. Gingrich still does the bidding of the inner circles of his party (besides, he’s always been a scary mofo. Did you see what he wrote this weekend? 1 and 2). Gore’s done some time outside, and he plays a maverick fairly well. Can you imagine HC inviting him into her circle, now, what with her own presidential aspirations in full flower?

I take from the movie that Gore’s public persona is still one that insists his listeners be lifted up to his level of discourse, but that he no longer presumes the rightness of the words themselves will suffice—perhaps because he’s learned that one need not actually understand or even engage the “fuzzy math” of public policy to win debate points by ridiculing it with quips about calculators. Al Gore, by the makings of An Inconvenient Truth, is Everyman’s favorite professor.

What the future holds for Gore is anyone’s guess. He regularly pushes aside questions about running for President, as he did this month in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. But whether he runs or not, I like him a lot better now than I did six years ago, and I like him much, much better than HC.



Agreed. And while part of our nation’s frustration with Gore is his annoying tendency to exaggerate, I think we all have to admit that more times than not he’s been right. Of course he didn’t “invent” the internet. But he did co-author the legislation that made it available to the public, precisely because he saw (in the late 80’s) what it could do. I suspect that he’ll have a high-ranking cabinet post in President Warner’s administration come Jan. 2009.

martin peretz of tnr says he’s prime choice for 2008

Unless Warner were to get a heckuva lot of votes in the general election, I doubt he’d ask AG to be in his cabinet.

2: Don’t you ever worry that Peretz is insane?

look at you getting all bush in your use of language!

wonder, worry, and sometime convinced

I found out last night that Abilene, TX is actually playing Al Gore’s film. I look forward to seeing the slideshow.

It’s a fine show, Tr. (I’d make it T, but that one’s claimed.) Be sure to tell us what you thought after you see it.

Well I think most folks liked Jimmy Carter better after his Presidency than before too. I confess that I did not vote for AG either and probably would not in the future (and I will not for HC). Call me a born again skeptic. I know folks value systems can change (that is why I am a Christian) but I have deep reservations about most any politician.

I have not seen Gore’s movie. I did read his book several years ago (Earth in the Balance). I share with him a genuine concern for God’s good earth (I do not worship the creation but we are charged with caring for it).

Being something of a historian I know that even during “recorded” history the Earth has cycled through warming and cooling trends. The last “little ice age” around 1000 A.D. and its subsequent warm up obviously have nothing to do with humanly generated greenhouse gases.

I have two friends (well I actually have more but) one is a PhD in Chemistry and the other is PhD in Geology. Both work in private industry (one here in Milwaukee-Chicago Metroplex, the other in WVa). My Geologist friend tells me that Earth has done this thing for “millions” of years and the Chemist sort of agrees with him.

My question is this: how much of this warming is caused by humans and how much is the natural cycle of the earth?

I am 100% in favor of alternative fuels. When the FAA recently made a ruling on the Windmills … I contacted my senator(s) and congresspersons. I am for clean water.

I do remain a cautious skeptic as the reasons for the warming or cooling trends on the earth.

Bobby Valentine

In response to your ?, BV—does it matter? a) if humanity has not and is not causing global change on Earth, then the melting glaciers and ice caps cannot be slowed or stopped, climactic changes—the extent of which we certainly can’t know, since it involves both air and water currents—will be swift and decisive. Millions of people and species will probably die because of it. Think how many men and women and children live in flood plains and near oceans who subsist on little more than a trust that the seasons of Earth are predictable, that God will deliver the rains, or the tides, or the fish in spring. When that Earth becomes unpredictable, however…

b) If humanity does cause these things to happen, and we did nothing but pump more of the gasses and pollutants into the air and into our streams, when we could have done something to slow or to stop the changes we wrought, then humanity, and to an overwhelming extent industrialized humanity, will have been responsible for millions of deaths (as I hinted at above).

In other words, if the possibility of millions dying regardless makes the question of why kind of silly and beside the point, when the real question is, what are we going to do to make it better?

Beyond that (and this is an open question), how, when you see photos like this photo, can you be skeptical of humanity’s ability to alter the world? I mean, that picture is of something that once was a mountain—it had an entire watershed around it, upon which life depended and cannot and will not ever depend anymore…

That the comment above is dire is purposeful; that it was rushed is because I didn’t have much time to write. I am genuinely perplexed by the forms of doubt that exist around notions of climate change. One of the biggest, and most puzzling, is yours, BV, in that it offers global fluctuation as a good enough reason to do nothing, or at least, not to worry about the potential ramifications of human-caused change. Fine. But as I see it, that still leaves you (I presume) accepting the evidence that the global climate is changing. As I see it, global climate change is a BIG deal not to be accepted blithely—it affects everyone, everywhere in terribly profound (and in many cases terrible) ways. To take one potential example, storms like Katrina could become a norm on the coasts of all continents. Think of the refugee crisis that caused in this continent. Billions more than live on the gulf coast live on the coasts of India and Africa and Asia—their deaths by storm and/or emigration from those areas would create incredible strains upon the ways of this world, and those are strains for which we are now unprepared.

There certainly are many reasons we are unprepared, but one reason is definitely because some are paid well to make others doubt the evidence in front of them.

BTW, is your geologist friend in WVa a miner?

Now my beloved brother Greg. If I did not know any better I would think you wrote your response to me in haste. I never said, nor do I believe, that human beings do not have a radical effect upon God’s good earth. I have not and do not excuse the mindless RAPE of the Earth. I do not know where that impression came from.

My point was that what is happening is far more complex than any mere mortal can divine. That cars burning fuel makes smog is a given . . . I live in Milwaukee and I see smog every day. I stated that I am a big supporter of alternative fuels and remain so. I use public transportation as often as I can. I even ride my bike to the office (now that is an alternative fuel, :-)

But our failure to understand the process does not mean we do not come up with plans whereby resources are used in a God honoring way. We are called to be caretakers of God’s garden not destroyers of it.

My geologist friend works in Chicago and is not a minor. My Chemist friend lives in WVa is also not a minor. Spin is placed on everything whether it is by those who down play climate change or those who play it up.

But you and I, I hope, agree that we need to have policies . . . AND individual habits that honor God through taking care of his world (please see the 2nd to the last chapter of Kingdom Come!).

Bobby Valentine

Indeed, we do agree—which I knew before I wrote. I should say I appreciate your patience, too, and explain myself: your question, I think, reminded me of other peoples’ doubts, which frustrate me, because often people use doubt as excuse. You were doing nothing of the sort.

I try, try, try, and sometimes often I fail, not to be a blowhard…

To other matters, other reviews:

from realclimate.org

David Remnick, in The New Yorker (h/t Kottke)

(more to come)

More reviews:

An interesting one, from grist, in which Al Gore goes to Wal*Mart. (The W*M cheer: creepy. As green as W*M wants to be, I see no mention that it intends to change its philosophy on giant parking lots.)

Marcotte at Pandagon wonders about Gore’s appeal (in two different senses) and briefly about what to do with a climate-change argument with those who believe Earth is less than a million years old.

Roger Ebert

William Booth at the WaPo describes Gore as “part Cassandra, part Willy Loman.”

Ezra Klein on Gore

Pam at BlogHer was bored.

Wunder Blog says “meh.”

And for good measure, so as not to disappoint the GW doubters/haters: Junkscience

Lindzen for the WSJ/OpinionJournal argues about what agreement means

oh but walmart has an ex-nun now helping massage it’s image… of course, they will soon be greener than nader

That Gore@Wal*Mart appearance has moved from grist to Salon, and now it’s at Tapped.

ABC news discovers that some some scientists doubt climate change because they’re paid to.

For analysis and a series of other links on the story, see also CJR Daily.

the alaska clan of my family, despite living seaside, all look forward to the warming of the globe with much anticipation. they hope that this might mean a warmer place of habitation for them… though, as gore himself says, it’s climate change, unpredictable, dangerous, climate change, not global warming.

That seems pretty silly. I mean, even if Alaska’s warm, who needs 23 hours of sweaty day—or for that matter, 23 hours of balmy dark?