First of all, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is a fantastic movie. There are a few graphs that will haunt you (at least if you believe the film is mostly accurate) and a few scenes that should have you looking at the world a little differently (I keep thinking what San Francisco would do with the Embarcadero under about 10 feet of water). It also shows you how little production polish is needed to convey a message powerfully. But that being said, I have two major gripes…
First of all, I was pretty dismayed by the call for action at the end of the film. The film conveys that this is an immediate problem that requires revolutionary thought and action (the urgency of which I think few people were aware of walking into the film). I expected an equally compelling call for action… but what did we get? A call for individuals to conserve?!? To ride a bike instead of drive?!? This is the same tired message that environmentalists have been touting for decades and it has never worked.
Individuals don’t act on this issue because you’re asking them to make difficult sacrifices without any guarantee of others doing the same. It’s like telling someone that they must go on a diet to lose weight, but the results of their diet depend directly on the actions of everyone else in their neighborhood (or in the world). You might eat carrots for a month, but if Bob your neighbor’s been drinkin’ a six pack of Bud every night… well, sucks to be you. It’s all just too difficult and indirect. Hell, this was one of the primary complaints about Kyoto. Hey, what difference does it make if we follow this protocol and China doesn’t?
The only way to coordinate the activities of millions (actually billions) of people is through coordinated government intervention. Conservation is part of the message, but it must be coordinated conservation if it is to work, especially I the time frames that Al is talking about. And the only way you can really ensure coordinated conservation is to pass laws that clearly establish penalties for bad behavior and rewards for good behavior. A carbon exchange (as well as exchanges for other greenhouse gases) seems like the best I’ve heard and at least worth a shot. But asking Bob to quit driving his SUV on the off chance that everyone else in the world decides to do the same… Good luck, it just won’t happen fast enough. And it’s not even worth clouding the message with such a comical suggestion.
(BTW, the carbon exchange would probably also result in some welcome side benefits such as massive investment in technologies that could reverse current greenhouse gas emissions. Make anything profitable enough and people will find a way. After all, we don’t just have to curb current emissions; we have to fix the damage already done.)
Anyway, the point is that there should have been a nice simple message. “We’ve come up with a great piece of legislation (I think Gore knows how to do this). This piece of legislation does X, Y, and Z. (Again, the greenhouse gas exchange would be a good start). If you believe that this global warming thing is real and a big problem, tell your local congress people that they must vote for this piece of legislation. Get your friends to write the same letters. Don’t try to run for office (another suggestion in the film); you won’t win (98% of incumbents are reelected; it’ll simply take too long to change the composition of Congress). Just get everyone, including the company you work for, to put pressure on your local representatives to pass this specific piece of legislation.” No lifestyle change, no impossible diet, just a nice simple message that is easy to remember and relatively easy to execute on.
My second gripe is why the hell Al decided to distribute this film the way he did. Again, nothing revolutionary about that abysmal strategy. I mean, Gore started Current TV, right? He supposedly understands this whole new media business and the power of individuals to spread the message. And he opens his movie on 77 theater screens!?! This movie is not about making a profit; this movie is about getting the message out. Why would he possibly open this film on such a small collection of theater screens?!? He got tremendous press buzz leading up to release and the buzz is now beginning to fade right as the film is finally reaching a decent number of screens. It’s like he’s tried some terrible hybrid release strategy; borrowing from old release timetables and new viral marketing techniques. “Hey, let’s try to grow the film virally, but make it extraordinarily difficult to find and watch.” This isn’t a new nightclub or a Sidekick 3, this is supposed to be a call to action.
Gore should have released this film as a high quality download via the Current TV website, climatecrisis.net, an-inconveneint-truth.com, etc... He then should have published a low quality version for free with every major streaming video platform available (YouTube, Google Video, Brightcove, etc.) Include a link with all of these videos back to the high quality version at Current. If he wants to make some money for charity, solicit money for versions of the movie as DVD and sell right through Current or Amazon, or whatever. Release in theaters at the same time, you’ll still sell the same number of tickets (probably more). Whatever you want on the theater side, just get massive Internet syndication working as quickly as possible.
Remember Al, time is of the essence.