Making the Grades
Regardless of your political leanings or your interpretation of the scientific evidence, it's hard to refute Al Gore's passion for environmental issues, particularly global warming. Since losing the 2000 American presidential race to George W. Bush during a highly debated election, Gore has refocused his efforts and traveled around the world speaking on the topic.
Now he's put his Power Point presentation on film, presumably to augment his ability to get the message out to more people. The documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, depicts Gore addressing a crowd of rapt audience members in a darkened hall. Cut into the lecture are clips of the former politician talking openly about family tragedies including the death of his older sister and his son's serious injuries following an automobile accident. Gore also wanders through the picturesque Tennessee countryside where he grew up as a child. That tie to the land seems to have sparked his passion for the natural world.
Gore relies on slick charts, moving graphs, an occasional joke and even cartoon characters to convince viewers of the validity of the scientific findings. Although some will debate the conclusions, changing weather patterns, glacial melting and the disappearance of huge bodies of water still indicate some disturbing worldwide environmental trends.
At one point, Gore gives into self-indulgence, reflecting on his disappointing political loss. As well, he turns the camera on the current administration, commenting on what he considers a lack of political will. Unfortunately, making this a political issue only adds to the controversy and takes the focus off the problem.
Gore hammers home his point-of-view for nearly an hour and a half before getting to the real crux of the presentation -- what people can do. And after seeing chart upon chart of radically rising carbon dioxide levels, it's nearly inconceivable anything can be done to reverse the process. When Gore does finally get around to suggestions for individual, community and countrywide changes, they come across as almost an afterthought, mostly rolling during the film's credits when audience members are walking out.
Unfortunately, pigeonholing this film as a political rant rather than a discussion starter is a disservice to the documentary. On an issue of this magnitude it's easy to pick political sides -- blaming governments, abdicating one's personal responsibility or jumping blindly on a bandwagon -- instead of taking a candid and informed look at both sides of the debate. Agree with him or not, Gore puts his personal clout to work for a purpose he believes in. Now all he needs to do is trade in the limo we see him riding around in for a more efficient compact car.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about An Inconvenient Truth.
What scientific evidence does Gore use in his presentation? Can statistics be modified to fit a speaker’s objectives? How do you determine if his information is correct?
What does Gore mean when he says it is our moral imperative to make big changes?
Are individual efforts important in affecting global change? What things could you do to help save the planet? For suggestions, check out http://www.climatecrisis.net.
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to An Inconvenient Truth.
Environmental changes affect the yearly journey of Emperor Penguins in the South Pole in the documentary March of the Penguins. In fictional films, meteorologists chase tornadoes across the Midwest in an effort to study the eye of the storm in Twister. A sudden temperature drop triggers an ice age that covers much of North American in the film The Day After Tomorrow.