Sunday, June 18, 2006

Truly and Warmly: See This Movie

Paul the Spud, Mr. Shakes, and Litbrit at the Chicago Shakes Sis/An Inconvenient Truth Afterparty

[Note: Cities and opening dates for An Inconvenient Truth can be found here. Al Gore appears on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight (Monday 6/19); he is also scheduled to appear on The Charlie Rose Show today (Monday 6/19); check your local listings for times.]

Although it has been a couple of weeks since I attended the Chicago screening of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, I wanted to remind everyone about this wonderful movie, which only just opened here (the Tampa Bay area) this weekend.

My admiration for Mr. Gore is no big secret: I believe him to be an exquisitely intelligent and passionate man. But his subtle, reserved manner has resulted in these qualities being all too difficult for the casual observer to discern amid the blinding primary colors and deafening din of Pablum-slurping, mud slinging, and propaganda catapulting that were, and are, the nature of politics and political campaigns in this country.

By and large, however, this is not a movie about Al Gore. It is a ninety-minute wake-up call to the residents of Planet Earth--a carefully laid-out, thoroughly illustrated, and, oftentimes, humorously presented case for seizing the day and changing our atmosphere-damaging ways while we still have time (though not very much of it) to pull our civilization back from the brink of certain catastrophe.

And certain it is. As Gore points out, the scientists are unanimous, and there is no longer any question as to whether global warming is real. It's real, alright. As to the catastrophic events that await, if we do nothing, the only question we face is a sobering When?

Listen: I live in the bullseye. I'm tired of people saying "Oh, there have been previous years in our history when several hurricanes hit Florida and other Gulf states, one after the other." I will submit that those storms, as bad or as frequent as they were, were not as consistently, horrifically powerful as the ones we've been seeing lately. These are storms that float off the coast of Africa like puffy Pac-man ghosts, bounce their way across the Atlantic, building strength and wiping out a few Caribbean islands along the way, at which point an awful lot of them hit the golden jackpot: the bathwater-warm Gulf of Mexico, a body of water whose temperature has, in recent years, risen quite dramatically. One only need watch a couple of Weather Channel specials to know that warm water is to a storm what a nitrous boost is to a race car, namely, rocket fuel.

In 2004, the hurricane threats (and actual strikes) were so frequent, and so unrelenting, we simply left the plywood panels on the windows, turning our formerly light-filled house into a hot, dark, and horribly depressing mushroom cave. Our floor was a tangled snakepit of extension cords connecting the refrigerator, the television, and a handful of fans to the generator we were immeasurably grateful to own. No power meant no pump, which in turn meant no water. So in order to flush the toilet, one first had to go for a little walk, bucket in hand, and bring back some (hopefully) tadpole-free lake water with which to fill the tank. And consider 2005: not only was it the hottest year on record, but it marked the first time in history that there were so many hurricanes and named storms, we exhausted the very alphabet and began naming them after Greek letters, finally stopping at Zeta, the twenty-seventh of the year.

I've lived in Florida since 1974; prior to that I lived in Central America, and before that, the Caribbean--hurricane zones all. I've never seen anything like it.

Sadly, increasingly-fierce hurricanes are only part of the ugly picture that global warming paints. Ice caps and glaciers are melting. Rivers are drying up. Entire ecosystems are affected, and despite what the naysayers would have us believe, none of this is "a part of nature"; quite the opposite, in fact, as An Inconvenient Truth will show you again and again.

We can do something about it. We can understand why this is happening, and we can--we must--make vital and empowering changes if we, and our children and grandchildren, are to live in a world that even remotely resembles the one we knew as children.

Go see the movie.

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