'11th Hour' offers solutions to inconvenient truths

"The 11th Hour" is as stirring and effective a documentary as was the Al Gore environmental epistle, "An Inconvenient Truth." In fact, "Hour" devotes a good third of its footage to exploring possible solutions. And yet it has not captured the attention of audiences in nearly the same way. It's possible that the issue of the week or month has morphed (likely several times since "Truth" was released) into something else, and the notoriously short attention span of the public has shifted to a new issue du jour. Or, the audience for such films is suffering from catastrophe fatigue.

There is also the possibility that this is an issue &

degradation of our biosphere &

which is impossible to think about without concluding that the changes required are so revolutionary that they will not be forthcoming. As a species we simply can't make the necessary adjustments in time. Hence, films such as "Truth" and "Hour" are, in essence, eloquent eulogies for our species and our planet.

Nevertheless, both films are hopeful, insisting that the window of opportunity is closing but isn't closed. There are no shortages of metaphors. Let the Polar Bear be the canary in the mine shaft. At the same time, experts opine that it can take from 30 to 40 years for measurable change to occur regarding attitudes and behavior. But, as "The 11th Hour" points out, we don't have that much time.

Films such as these can say, over and over, that your planet is in distress. We are at a crossroad moment in our history. The oceans are threatened; coral reefs are dying; ocean species are overfished, some on the verge of collapse; the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere is accelerating; and temperatures are rising (a change of one or two degrees can be disastrous). Yet we continue to deplete our planet's resources with no end in sight while struggling to make the connection between our voracious consumerism and the impact it has on our global habitat. We still think of ourselves as a species apart and seemingly cannot comprehend, fully, that all life is interconnected. We are part of nature and it is part of us.

Both films make solid cases for mankind to say, in effect, stop everything. Convene an emergency United Nations forum on climate change and begin the search for meaningful solutions. Step way beyond Kyoto. Bring everyone on board, for the reality is that the global environmental trends are catastrophic. We cannot continue to do business as usual.

But there has been no such worldwide alarm sounded. It's a puzzling and strange reaction to a problem that will make our children's children not only face a world far less secure, but one that could, if trends continue, bring everyone on the planet to the edge of extinction. Is this not the ultimate definition of Homeland Security?

Perhaps it's understandable to respond to global warming and all of its implications for the biosphere with a sense of impotence. The problem is daunting. But that seems out of character for Americans &

the technology exists to reduce our energy footprint significantly; it's the will which is absent. As pointed out in "The 11th Hour," when America was attacked at Pearl Harbor, and joined England in the battle for Europe, we retooled the entire country in a matter of months, putting the nation on a wartime footing in short order. It was an astonishing response to a genuine threat.

The threat to our planet is no less exigent, but it is not perceived in the same way.

One reason it isn't, as proffered in "The 11th Hour," resides with the leadership of our nation which is in the hands of multinational corporations such as Exxon Mobil whose wealth and influence is staggering and who are not in the business of putting themselves out of business. It is they, and not Washington, who are shaping our response (or lack thereof) to global warming, not our leadership and not the environmental movement. Until that changes, we will continue to lament our situation, continue to make documentaries demonstrating the dire consequences with only marginal effect.

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