(2007) More than fifty people, many of them scientists and experts on the environment, appear on camera in interviews along with gorgeous images of nature and its degradation, reminiscent of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. The Earth is "our only home," says Leonardo DiCaprio, co-writer, producer, and narrator.
Filled with thousands of words and pictures, each worth another thousand words, this documentary film of the converging crises, most manufactured by our species, on our fragile planet, from filmmakers Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, attempts to "lift levels of awareness" with testimonies of impending doom, announcements of innovative technologies - waste-free industrial systems with 100% recycling (Ray Anderson); chemistry mimicking nature's recipes and methods (John Todd); homes as single, integrated systems - capable of addressing the multitude of problems we've created, and recommendations for personal and community action.
Saving the environment isn't really the objective; saving ourselves is. With out-of-balance materialism, human beings are disconnected from nature and reality. The beauty of the world is being lost in mankind's conquering and possessing the Earth. Generations forward will be screaming back at us, demanding to know: "What were you doing?"
This isn't like religion (Stephen Schneider) where you have a choice to believe or not in climate change; this is physics and chemistry - it's happening now and fast. "A chunk of ice shelf nearly the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada's northern Arctic, another dramatic indication of how warmer temperatures are changing the polar frontier, scientists said Wednesday [9/03/08]," reported the Associated Press. "We are in the environmental age," says DiCaprio, "whether we like it or not." Your home is about to be destroyed, and you have no insurance and nowhere else to go. If you have children, you've condemned them to homelessness or worse. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the pollution.
We're seeing the weather extremes across the globe - hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, shrinking icecaps; we're witnessing severe symptoms of the planet's dis-ease: atmospheric temperatures rising from carbon emissions, deforestation, soil degradation, expanding deserts from exhausted land, melting sea ice and permafrost. This isn't a hoax. "The evidence is now clear," declares DiCaprio.
Our water and foods are being poisoned, says Jeremy Jackson. Dr Andrew Weil speaks of cancers from chemical exposure. Over-fishing and by-fishing are depleting the oceans while mercury and other heavy-metal pollution is poisoning people who eat the fish; ocean stagnation and dead zones are killing the seas.
Overpopulation, mentioned only twice, deserved far more emphasis. Human beings needed 100,000 years of breeding to reach one billion people; in another 130 years the next billion appeared; the third billion were on the planet in thirty years; we're now approaching seven billion. Without technology the world's human population could not have exceeded one billion. "Too many people are using too many resources too fast," says Thom Hartmann. Worldwide governments should be imposing a cap-and-trade system on reproduction: every healthy person at birth given a voucher for reproducing once may either use it or sell it, followed by sterilization.
No current living system is stable or improving with the ongoing "destruction of ecosystems," asserts Paul Hawken. David Orr thinks the planet is rapidly approaching a tipping point where the climate will race out of control. Worst case scenario, says physicist Stephen Hawking: Earth becomes like Venus with surface temperature of 250º C. Others who are more optimistic expect the planet will be just fine without us.
Nevertheless, the message isn't apocalyptic enough. We don't have decades to decide what to do and begin doing it. The Titanic has already struck the iceberg; our civilization is sinking. We have the tools and imagination to redesign our society and the means of communicating the distress, but a superiority complex (Hartmann) has produced an unhealthy attitude of greed, selfishness, expectations of immediate gratification - a thinking disorder (James Hillman) that has us living in disharmony with the planet: "We don't need nature."
Following the industrial revolution, breaking the human pattern of dependence on natural rhythms, economics and politics have taken precedence over the biosphere. The US is borrowing a billion dollars a day from the rest of the world, much of it for energy, says former CIA director James Woolsey: we have made ourselves vulnerable to potential enemies (China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela), endangering national security. Our laws, domestic and international, favor corporate power. "You're either property or you're person," says Tom Linzey: "Nature has rights too."
Corporate lawyers and politicians manage to trump science and obstruct public opinion with bad public policy, giving economic growth preference over quality of life. The real difficulty we face isn't a lack of technological know-how but a lack of courageous leadership. Our only hope is to "change the object of desire," says Nathan Gardels, "from well-having to well-being."
Having "too narrow a scale of thinking," says Joseph Tainter, most people lack awareness and miss the big picture. I feel as though I'm driving responsibly on a freeway, going the speed limit in an electric vehicle, while nearly everyone else is passing me in gas-guzzling SUVs. This is the "extinction crisis for Earth" (Peter Warshall) from which we can only escape if we redesign ourselves and our civilization with justice, fairness, science, technology, and nature incorporated into the new creation.
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