the planet’s getting pissy

Al Gore impressed me last night, both in person and in the film AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. The premiere was held at the Director’s Guild of America and it was a well-heeled, sophisticated crowd (I showed up in a long black halter dress and funky earrings, eschewing jeans this time); the atmosphere the most urbane of any LA premiere I’ve been to. My gaze kept landing on these knock-out, older women — the kind of women who make you think, if middle age can look like that, stylish and elegant and naturally sexy without trying or needing to compete with the eighteen-year-olds*, then I look forward to it — and then after a moment I’d put names to the faces: Laura Dern, Meg Ryan, Sharon Stone.

“Sharon Stone is absolutely stunning,” I felt compelled to point out to my husband.

“But she’s also kind of crazy,” he felt equally compelled to point out to me, “which detracts from it.”

While I was standing by the aisle seats trying to locate my husband in the theatre, Al Gore walked past, dressed in black with his hair brushed back — he made eye contact with me, smiled and winked — I’d never seen him in person before, but this seemed so Gore-goes-Hollywood that I was bemused. And cynical.

But when he took the stage before the film’s premiere, he was amusing, engaging, a forceful and experienced speaker. Made us laugh. I sat there thinking, Where was this guy during the election campaign? He struck me as a man just now coming into his own, and that impression of him carried right through the film — Al Gore comes off very, very well in this documentary, likeable and reasonable and highly knowledgeable — and maybe a big part of that is because, instead of dismissing him as a left-wing alarmist environmental nut, people are beginning to realize that everything he’s been saying about global warming for years is…how you say… coming true . (And also possibly because he’s finally figuring out how to get his personality out of his own way.)

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH is a compelling, riveting, intelligent film, that tries to make the issue of global warming as apolitical as possible, despite the politics swirling around it — Gore’s point, and the movie’s point, is that this is a moral issue, not a political one. Gore calmly and methodically makes the case for global warming and deconstructs the case against it — proving there is no case against it, other than the doubt that’s been deliberately seeded in the public’s mind in order to, as an infamous memo put it, “reposition global warming as theory rather than scientific fact”. (It’s the popular press articles that quibble over whether global warming is just another of nature’s cycles or something considerably more alarming. The actual scientific community is not in dispute about this). Gore also dismantles this idea that we have to choose between the environment or the economy — already we can’t sell US cars in China, he points out, because US cars do not meet Chinese environmental standards. Protecting American auto companies from environmental regulations is not exactly helping them to prosper.

Doing the right thing is what moves us forward.

Which, for me, was one of the saddest and most disturbing things laid bare by the film: how society continues to react to proven scientific truths it finds inconvenient and unpleasant, how that science gets spun into just another belief system, an opinion, a ‘theory’, even a ‘crackpot’ one. (You can just imagine in Galileo’s day: “we must reposition the earth-around-the-sun thing as theory rather than fact…”)

Science doesn’t care if you believe in it or not, if your salary depends on denying it. It will do its own thing regardless. Glaciers melt. Sea levels rise. Storms gather new levels of fury.

*A seeming rarity in these here parts.

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