More than two decades before its release, An Inconvenient Truth's lesser-known precursor was If You Love this Planet (1982), a short film by Terri Nash about nuclear dangers. It was so impressive it was even labeled in the United States as "political propaganda." It was also a documentary based on a lecture similar to a slide show, given to a university audience by Dr. Helen Caldicott (at State University of New York at Plattsburgh), with stock-shot images showing the consequences of the nuclear bombings in Hiroshima in 1945. Similarly, If You Love this Planet was also the winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary (in 1982).
Other films that have created or fed public debate about environmental hazards include Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow (2004), which depicted a catastrophic global warming scenario. A Canadian documentary titled The Refugees of the Blue Planet (co-directed by Hélène Choquette and Jean-Philippe Duval in 2006) focuses on people around the globe who have had to move because of climate change. However, none of these had a social impact like An Inconvenient Truth, which was even presented in universities and colleges, mainly for debates in social sciences courses.
An Inconvenient Truth received countless reviews and criticisms; it brought the issues of global warming and climate change to a wider audience, especially in high schools. In Canada, the film was offered for free in some video rental stores by owners who believed the film had to be seen by everyone; in this case, the environmental cause seemed more important than profits from rentals. It is one of the few DVDs sold on the Amazon.com website that got more than 1,000 reviews.
However, some critics were perplexed, especially by the use of the term truth in the movie, because the whole issue is part of an ongoing debate. For instance, in the Canadian newspaper the National Post on May 19, 2007, Kevin Libin explains that the "Al Gore movie is too one-sided to be taught as fact"—most students who watch the movie in class cannot find two sides of a debate in the film. In fact, Libin's article gathered most of the previous criticisms that were expressed about An Inconvenient Truth. Libin wrote that most scientists do not agree with Gore on the predictions related to climate change, and some terms such as science, facts, truth, and global warming, do not have a single definition. Furthermore, schoolchildren are seen as too "credulous" to challenge the film's message.
Some Canadian academics, such as Professor Tim Patterson (from Carleton University), would even label this movie as "propaganda." Thus, some opponents argue that the documentary An Inconvenient Truth should not be used as a tool for environmental education because it is not neutral. On the other hand, other critics argue that An Inconvenient Truth illustrates what has become "politically correct" in the debate surrounding global warming, or could provide "facts, arguments and bullets" for anti-American ideologies linked with environmental issues. But Gore had already addressed his potential critics in his film, when referring to the "so-called skeptics." Some Republican voters have identified the film with the Democrats.
Despite its critics, An Inconvenient Truth was seen by millions and won two Oscars in 2007: one for the Best Documentary Feature, and a second Academy Award for the Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) given to singer Melissa Etheridge for her theme song "I Need to Wake Up," which plays during the final credits. The film An Inconvenient Truth was subsequently translated (in subtitled or dubbed versions) in many languages. Its DVD version gave an even wider audience to what was seen in the beginning as "just a slide show." The international success of An Inconvenient Truth proves that whenever scientific debates are brought to a wider audience in the public sphere, science itself can become an issue linked with many other debates: social, ethical, economical, environmental, and political. On Friday, October 12, 2007, Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were given the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, with a medal and award of $1.5 million.
SEE ALSO: Clinton Administration; Global Warming; Gore, Albert, Jr.; Media, TV; Public Awareness.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Alliance for Climate Protection, www .climateprotect.org (cited August 2007); An Inconvenient Truth, www.climatecrisis.net (cited August 2007); Al Gore, Jr., Earth in the Balance: Forging a New Common Purpose (Earthscan Publications, 1992); Al Gore, Jr., An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007); Al Gore, Jr., www.algore.org (cited August 2007); Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth, film (Paramount, 2006); Kevin Libin, "So How did An Inconvenient Truth Become Required Classroom Viewing? Even Climate Change Experts Say Many of the Claims in Al Gore's Film are Wrong," National Post (May 19, 2007); Sylvie Mathé, ed., Antiamericanism at Home and Abroad (Publications de l'Université de Provence, 2000).
Yves Laberge Université Laval
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