Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Plague Times Diary (24) - On YouTube - Barrie Pattison grapples with PLANET OF THE HUMANS (Jeff Gibbs, USA, 2020)

I watched Planet of the Humans with more than a little curiosity finding it treated questions that troubled me forty years ago when I researched a local solar power documentary. All I had was two days in the library and a chat with a West Australian academic. My colleagues laughed my concerns off and blazed ahead with the project. The new film comes from possibly the most respected brand name in non-fiction film and they deployed serious resources to their production. It is already stirring up controversy. I wonder how many of the attacks on IMDb come from fossil fuel PR?

Planet of the Humans (title lettering styled after the Planet of the Apes series) is co-produced by Michael Moore and directed, part-edited and part-shot by his longtime associate Jeff Gibbs.

After some unremarkable personal appearances by Gibbs we get a clip of Frank Capra’s 1958 TV Movie The Unchained Goddess already on about fossil fuels and climate change and a quote from the same period by Rachel Carson followed by a clip of Barak Obama announcing his Green Energy Stimulus.

It mainly is a glummer affair than the documentaries that made Moore a top seller though there are touches that show the old style, like the beleaguered science fair hand saying that the organisation rep will have all the facts, cut to her saying she doesn’t have all the facts and the film crew off at Earth Day finding that the conspicuous solar panels are for show while the event’s current comes off the fossil fuel grid.

It’s not long before we get to Moore’s Michigan home state and start seeing electric vehicles gulping down grid current.

The notion the piece hammers is “It’s not possible for industrial civilisation to save us from Industrial Civilisation.” Biomass (think wood chips), the hope of the side, comes off as a feeble if profit making response. One commentator says that if they cut down all the trees in America to produce it, it would only power the country for a year. They get stuck into the carbon foot print of wind and solar farms saying that “You’d be better off burning the fossil fuels.” Deeply disturbing images show giant wind turbines collapsed after only twenty years and desert areas devastated by displacing Joshua trees and cacti for solar mirrors. One interview subjects sees the pattern of extinction of species in the partnership of science and capitalism. “Infinite grown on a finite planet is suicide.”

The film aims to blow the notion of sustainable development out of the water and it gets a long way towards it, taking celebrated ecologist heroes like Richard Branson and Al Gore down in the process. On TV John Stewart skewers Gore by pointing out the money he got from his TV deal comes from the Emirates’ petro dollars. Of course familiar villains like Goldman Sachs and the Koch brothers get another serve.

The makers have added captions to the end naming Eco celebrities who have scurried to distance themselves from projects treated in the film.

I don’t know all that much more than I did forty years back and critics have pointed out that the piece doesn’t cover reformed nuclear energy (can they get rid of the waste yet?) or for that matter hydro, thermal and tidal. They hold back from advocating the logical demand - fewer people using less. Me, I’m inclined to believe Michael Moore and Frank Capra.

Moore has put this one up on YouTube thirty days for free (don’t know how many are left). I can’t see Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro or Scott Morrison tuning in but I think you should. It holds attention and at very least it can’t be a bad thing to shake up an orthodoxy which already looks like turning into a religion.

Editor's Note: This movie has also been noted by Peter Hourigan in an earlier Plague Times Diary which you can find if  you click here 

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