Global warming is 'inconvenient'

Hannah Selinger - Raw Story Columnist
Published: Friday April 21, 2006

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It requires no real knowledge of the planet or of the environment to grasp that global warming is upon us. Pair the Winter-That-Wasn’t-A-Winter with this week’s soaring temperatures—we northeasterners know that eighty degrees in April is not normal—and you have on your hands one rapidly baking earth. It also requires no real knowledge—of politics or anything else—that the spikes in the thermostat will not make front page news this year. The icebergs may be shrinking, but there is no subject more consistently avoided by our laissez-faire government than the one that could bring human life to a grinding halt.

This week marks the beginning of the Tribeca Film Festival, a Robert DeNiro-sponsored project that began in the wake of September 11, as an attempt to revamp a neighborhood devastated by tragedy. One film that will not be making an appearance in the festival is, as New Yorker editor David Remnick boldly asserts, possibly the “most important” film of the year. “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary featuring everyone’s favorite elected non-president, Al Gore, is exactly the kind of film to which we should be devoting our attention.

The inconvenient truth, of course, to which the film’s title refers, is the irrevocable damage already done to the planet. Global warming is inconvenient, as is the knowledge that only grand changes in the way we live can do anything to slow the process. For decades, Americans in particular have been hellbent on ruining the world in a myriad ways. We drive large, gas-guzzling cars with no regard for the eventual scarcity of fossil fuels. We mass-produce and mass-discard, and we do it with less foresight than a seven-year-old exhibits before hopping on his first bicycle without a helmet or training wheels. Since the 1970s, we have essentially worked to insure existence’s failure.

And so, Gore’s film comes at a time when we wait with bated breath to see what the juggernaut of global warming will next affect. We have already seen hurricanes get worse, and not even the most qualified scientists can predict what changes are in store if the world keeps heating up, as it seems destined to do. But if we’ve already affected change—if the wheels have already been set in motion by our own indiscretions—then maybe the only way out of this nightmare is to start changing immediately.

Such things are easier said than done. “The catch, of course,” David Remnick writes, “is that the audience-of-one that most urgently needs to see the film and take it to heart—namely, the man who beat Gore in the courts six years ago—does not much believe in science, or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep. Inconvenient truths are precisely what this White House is structured to avoid and deny.” Any why wouldn’t they want to avoid and deny such truths? Curbing global warming means an end to corporate pandering and it also means a drastic reappraisal of How We Live. Curbing global warming means trading in the Hummer for a Toyota Prius and forcing large companies to take responsibility for the waste they produce. Such changes come at a price. The president has a reputation for protecting the interests of the richest Americans, and most of the richest Americans, it must be said, are not interested in protecting the world, especially if protecting the world means digging deeper into their pockets.

If integrity were the issue—or if the president possessed even an iota of integrity—the world-at-large and its perpetuation would matter more than tax breaks and the evangelical vote. But if hubris is the administration’s greatest sin, then certainly lack-of-foresight would be its second greatest. Because President Bush and (technically) President Gore do not see the world the same way. To Bush, there will always be snow at Christmas and there will always be leaf-peeping in October, on those long, lonely roads up to the compound in Kennebunkport. But to Gore, the reality is that someday we might have to explain to our children and grandchildren what winter was, if, in fact, we are able to survive the uprooting.

We are sitting on a time bomb, and the man with the power to disarm it wants nothing more than to deny its very existence. The President has proven time and time again that he will take no one’s advice but his own; he dismisses charges from retired generals that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should step down; he consistently dodges any and all responsibility for the quagmire in Iraq. He seems to believe that his political position affords him the right to do whatever he desires, no matter what consequences his desires have on the rest of the world. His actions are diametrically opposed to those of the man who could have been president instead, the man who, as Remnick describes, “is a symbol of what might have been, who insists that we focus on what likely will be an uninhabitable planet if we fail to pay attention to the folly we are committing, and take the steps necessary to end it.”