Sunday, February 10, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth

After reading through the posts on An Inconvenient Truth, I thought it was really interesting how varied everyone's opinion was on the movie. I wasn't sure how I felt immediately after watching it- as most people seem to agree, Al Gore's purpose in creating public awareness of global warming seems to be generally altruistic in nature. His path from Revelle's classroom at Harvard to environmental campaigning to public speaking on global warming is well outlined, and I appreciate his desire to promote public environmental awareness. That being said, I feel as though this message may have had a more meaningful impact for me coming from someone else.

Gore, while a Harvard graduate, received a plethora of poor grades during his tenure there, including a D and a C+ in two different natural sciences classes as well as a C- in an economics course. I feel as though some of his shortcomings are reflected within his movie. While I still found An Inconvenient Truth overall informative, I have a problem with some of the analogies he uses to break down the science for the general public. When comparing sea-based ice and land-based ice, he compares sea based ice to an ice cube floating in a cup of water. The land-based ice is likened to the top cube in a stack of ice cubes within a cup of water. While I understand what he's trying to say (although even this analogy was poorly constructed), his next statement caused me to consider ejecting the movie and forgetting everything I'd listened to for the previous hour. Apparently, the ice cube on the top of the stack (land-based ice) will cause a cup of water to overflow when it melts, while the floating cube (sea-based ice) causes no water level displacement. I do understand what he means to say (land-based ice has significantly more volume than a single floating iceberg, causing a greater water displacement when completely melted), but what he says is just astoundingly, unbelievably dumb. Earlier in the movie, Gore has another stroke of genius when he explains with a straight face that plants exhale carbon dioxide in the fall and winter.

Additionally, Gore has come under criticism for what appears as apathy regarding his own personal greenhouse emissions. He was decried by his own alma mater's newspaper last year for being an environmental hypocrite. The Harvard crimson op-ed points out that Gore's Tennessee mansion used more than twice as much energy in one month (granted it was August in Tennessee) as the typical American household uses in one year. Though less alarming in contrast, Gore took another PR hit last year when serving Chilean sea bass, an endangered and overhunted species, at his daughter's wedding rehearsal dinner.

I do think that a movie like An Inconvenient Truth has been a long time coming, and I appreciate Gore's efforts to help us see the error of our ways. However, given his credentials (or lack thereof) I can understand why many people becoming skeptical when his name is accredited to environmental information. It's kind of sad that the way our society works, the news from a mediocre politician with a weak education
has a much more significant impact than the message from countless brilliant scientists and researchers.

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