Last night I went to see An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s new documentary about the perils of global warning. I drove, of course, since that was more convenient than taking two buses. Then I saw the film in a theatre that, like most, was over air conditioned. Then I drove home depressed. Still, I recommend seeing it.
The film’s main point is that we humans need to wake up to the effect we’re having on the planet. As a parent, I couldn’t watch without wondering what kind of world my children will live in, not to mention my grandchildren. Even if my own children are not directly harmed by rising sea levels, the way children in Bangladesh will be, it’s clear that changes in the planet’s climate will affect everyone in ways we can hardly imagine. We’ve known this for awhile, just as we’ve known that cigarettes are harmful to our health. Gore uses this analogy in what I thought was one of the most moving parts of the film. When Gore tells the story of his big sister who died of lung cancer after years of smoking, he adds that his own family grew tobacco for years after the surgeon general’s warning about cigarettes. Only after his sister died did Gore’s father decide to quit the tobacco business. In reference to a government official with close ties to the oil industry, Gore quoted Upton Sinclair: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on not understanding it.”
On the way home, the friend I went with said, “So what will your family do?” We already use energy efficient light bulbs and buy our electricity from renewable sources. We keep our heat low in the winter and don’t have an air conditioner. And I always try to remember to click “reply” on those environmental e-mail campaigns. Still, it doesn’t feel like enough. We drive our car more and faster than necessary. We eat food imported from long distances. We’re addicted to our lifestyle as surely as my dad was addicted to the cigarettes that killed him.
This post is about as depressing as the movie, and I’m feeling the need to end on some note of hope, which brings me back to the children. Recently Megan suggested parking at the far end of the Kohl’s parking lot to reduce our affect on global warming, and this morning the Kindergarten is selling popcorn to raise money for the rainforest. Megan says she wants to buy ten bags because she cares about the environment that much. I guess that’s a start.