On Saturday, December 16, 2006, Americans gathered in homes to see the truth. In more than 1,930 homes Americans gathered together to watch former Vice President Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. This nationwide house party was organized by Al Gore.com and MoveOn.org, along with sponsorship from JohnKerry.com, Working Assets, Sierra Club, StopGlobalWarming.org, League of Conservation Voters, and Rainforest Action Network. In Corona, California, Saveelah Talib opened her home to 30 people. Her family room was soon filled with students, activists, educators and concerned citizens. All the chairs were filled, young people sat on the floor at the front and late comers stood at the back. But all were mesmerized by the film. Audible gasps and comments were heard as telling moments revealed themselves in the movie.
Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is an entertaining mix of autobiography and global warming documentary. The movie takes you on a personal journey through Gore’s life, his political ups and downs, his personal joys and tragedies. Gore begins by admitting that he feels he has failed to get his message across. For Gore the issue of global warming is a moral imperative. A message he must get across. The group at Saveelah Talib’s Home was receptive to the message. They were of a like mind and laughed together when Gore shared a story from his childhood. “I had a grade school teacher who taught geography by pulling a map of the world down over the chalkboard. I had a classmate in the sixth grade who raised his hand and he pointed to the outline of the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa and he asked, ‘Did they ever fit together?’ and the teacher said, ‘Of course not, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.’ That student went on to be a drug addict and a ne’er-do-well. The teacher went on to become the science advisor to the current administration.” Throughout the movie Gore does not shy away from dealing with the arguments of his critics. He confronts head-on the arguments against global warming in popular articles on the subject while making it clear that in professional, peer review journals, there is no debate; the science is all on his side.
A documentary about a slide show might sound boring, but it is kept entertaining with lighter moments like balancing a scientific discussion with a humorous cartoon explanation. The cartoon, Global Warming—or None Like it Hot, explains global warming and the failure of government to deal with the issue. Gore introduces us to the teacher and scientist who inspired him to take on the issue of global warming. In 1957, Rodger Revelle was the first scientist to propose measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It was few years into his research when Gore, a college student at the time, saw his measurements and his predictions for what would happen to the earth. Gore followed the issue and when he went to Congress in the 1970’s he held the first hearings on global warming. He was disappointed that the Congress did not embrace the issue with the same passion he had, but it did not deter him from his work, a work he has continued to pursue for thirty years.
A poignant scene in the movie reveals Gore’s personal connection with the issue of global warming. Al Gore shared, “April 3, 1989. My son pulled loose from my hand and chased his friend across the street. He was six years old. The machine was breathing for him. We were possibly going to loose him. He finally took a breath. We stayed in the hospital for a month…He was so brave. He was such—He was such a brave guy. It just turned my whole world upside down and then shook it until everything fell out. My way of being in the world, it just changed everything for me. How should I spend my time on this Earth? ...The possibility of loosing what was most precious to me. I gained an ability that maybe I didn’t have before. But when I felt it, I felt that we could really loose it, that what we take for granted might not be here for our children.” This experience solidified his commitment to spreading the message of global warming and saving the Earth.
This may be an inconvenient truth, one that will require us to change our way of life, but the movie draws again from another autobiographical moment from Gore’s life to illustrate how tragic it can be if one wakes up too late to an issue. He shared how his tobacco growing family woke up too late. “Starting in 1964, with the Surgeon General’s report, the evidence was laid out on the connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. We kept growing tobacco. Nancy was almost ten years older than me, and there were only the two of us. She was my protector and my friend at the same time. She started smoking when she was a teenager and never stopped. She died of lung cancer. That’s one of the ways you don’t want to die. The idea that we had been part of that economic pattern that produced the cigarettes, that produced the cancer, it was so, it was so painful on so many levels. My father, he had grown tobacco all his life. He stopped. Whatever explanation had seemed to make sense in the past, just didn’t cut it anymore. He stopped it. It’s just human nature to take time to connect the dots. I know that. But I also know there can be a day of reckoning when you wish you had connected the dots more quickly.” Gore’s slideshow makes it clear we don’t have much time to connect the dots or we will face our day of reckoning.
Watching this movie in a group setting made it clear that the other we connecting the dots at the same time you were. You got it, they got it, it was time to do something. Following the movie, Johnny Cruzen, a climate scientist, updated us on where global warming is now. He explained the principles of global warming, what we could do as individuals and how we could work to influence others on this important issue. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, why we were there and why we cared about this issue, discussions would breakout. We would laugh as we tried to get back on track introducing everyone. They handed out postcards for us to write to Congress. We filled them out telling Congress how we felt about this important issue. The learning, the sharing and the motivating one another is what grass root movements are about. This was an evening well spent.