"The 11th Hour", released a few days ago by Time Warner, is an ominous, end-of days guilt flick about the environment. The film was created by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a younger, better looking version of Al Gore, and equally convicted of mankind's ecological suicide.
Last summer, Mr. Gore bludgeoned the industrial world over the head with his own guilt flick, which ended up making $50 million dollars worldwide. Half that amount is an exorbitant sum for a documentary, but Gore has always been more successful at business than politics. He convinced Hollywood to give him an Oscar. Later this year, Sweden is expected to give him a Nobel Prize.
Since "Earth in the Balance" was published in 1993, the subject of environmental relief has propelled itself into the mainstream agenda, superciliously bulldozing over any naysayers. A recent Newsweek cover story derides global warming critics as brainless zealots. The author, Sharon Begley, maintains a blog called Lab Notes in which readers can find more of the same.
However, as activists begin to overreach, messages begin to collide.
The 11th Hour, among other things, begs the citizenry to use less wood. Why not pack your lunch in plastic containers instead of paper bags every day? On the surface, this seems simple enough. After all, trees eat carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. The more trees, the cleaner the air.
Conservatives rebut this by deferring to the marketplace. Certainly the lumber industry cares about future earnings, so why don't they take better care of their product? It turns out they do. Weyerhaeuser plants more trees than they cut down each year as do Miller, Appalachian, Pacific Lumber and all the rest. According to the US Forest Service, American forests have grown by 15 million acres since 1920. According to UN studies, global forests have grown nearly 100 million acres over the past decade.
Conservative rebuttals are unnecessary. Liberal factions are also appalled with the film. Patrick Moore is the chief scientist at Greenspirit Strategies in Vancouver and one of the founders of Greenpeace. He disliked the film so much he wrote an editorial for The Sun referring to it as "another example of anti-forestry scare tactics". He derides the creators of 11th Hour for not heavily promoting the use of wood. In fact, Moore claims that using wood for everything would "solve many of the world's sustainability challenges".
Here's the science. If trees are not harvested, they eventually die. Rotting trees release all their stored up carbon dioxide back into the environment, but harvested trees - ones that are cut down and turned into coffee tables - retain their carbon forever. The other way trees are eliminated is through forest fires. Burning wood releases carbon, so active forest management greatly reduces the volume and severity of fires.
Moore emphasizes his point by demonstrating that young trees absorb vastly more carbon dioxide than old trees. Since young trees grow much faster than old trees, the harvesting cycle is key to stopping trees from rotting, burning and slowing carbon absorption.
It would appear that DiCaprio's quest for environmental sainthood sank before it even managed to set sail.
Greenpeace has been busy fighting other liberals too. Television ads are set to run accusing Ted Kennedy of impeding environmental progress. Kennedy opposes the Nantucket Sound wind farm, and Greenpeace believes it's because the wind farm fouls his beautiful, front-porch view.
Kennedy has always been too wealthy to be a real environmentalist, but he's made the necessary promises from time to time, reassuring the fringe that he values their cause. Now they have called his hand, and his bluff is quickly falling apart. A year ago, Greenpeace set up web pages, blasting him the first time around. The ads furiously badgered him with "it's not about the view from Ted Kennedy's porch" and "why [Ted] are you trying to stop alternative energy?". The textual abstract even mentioned that George Bush had come around.
Kennedy's nephew, Robert Jr., is an ardent environmentalist and has been for decades. But he also opposes the wind farm for "potential pollution". Exactly what pollution he is referring to is unknown.
The value and efficiency of the wind farm is irrelevant. Kennedy has not minded damaging the economy in the past, and his oppositions here do not deal in financial inadequacies.
While it does not harm Ted Kennedy to dodge the eco-draft, his followers are beginning to stagger. They need lots of ammunition to convert the undecided masses and this deprives them greatly. Surely, Kennedy knows this; yet still he is content to block the effort and absorb whatever criticism he must.
Speaking of deprived supporters, Presidential hopeful John Edwards leaps into the foreground. A few days ago, Edwards told a group of auto workers that "Americans should give up SUVs". He did not beat around the bush, and he didn't offer exceptions. Both of which seem very odd, considering Edwards has not one, but two SUVs himself. Supporters quickly boosted Edwards' sanctimony by saying that his Ford SUV is a hybrid (gaining a mere 5 miles per gallon) and his other SUV "he uses less often now". When asked about his energy-gulping, 28,000-square-foot mansion, Edwards routinely insists that he's worked hard all his life and won't apologize for his lifestyle. Whether intended or not, this of course implies that the American middle class should change their (much-smaller-than-28,000-square-foot) lifestyles because they haven't worked hard all their lives.
The hypocrisy from Kennedy and Edwards is not new. Kennedy, for example, routinely pontificates on homelessness, yet he has never done anything for the homeless. He calls it a "center issue" and blames Republicans, but what of his many, lavish homes sprinkled around the country? For men like Edwards and Kennedy, the only real issue is power; everything else either helps or hinders that. So liberals should not be surprised that Kennedy lies to them now about the environment.
Edwards, Kennedy and DiCaprio are not the exception but the rule. Lessons from Clinton, Kerry, Clooney, Huffington and thousands of others could also be easily had just as they could from conservatives and centrists. The motives of wealthy activists are suspect inherently because politics is a rich man's game. By nature, those with money and connections have no need for sweaty causes.
The eco-war is very real, and battles are being won on both sides.
Currently, the messages from the right are simple and consistent - wear whatever T-Shirt you want but leave your grubby hands off the marketplace. The messages from the left are as diverse and confused as the people supporting them. The environmental war chest is being emptied just to cover the infighting.
Over the past decade, wealthy elites have drowned their liberal guilt by financing films to "expose political corruption" or "save the environment" or "take back America". They figured out early on that America's fixation with Hollywood and entertainment was a valuable tool. Since wealthy elites and liberal guilt will always exist, we can expect a few of these films every summer.
Overall, the left is far behind with their message. It may seem that environmental woe is a center issue, but the naysayers are too resolute and too simple in their criticism. At the very least, the environmentalists must regroup and ensure that their disciples are all on the same page - particularly the ones making movies.