The Messy World of Movements
After hearing mixed reviews about “Planet of the Humans” – released by Michael Moore on Earth Day, I had to watch. So, here’s a quick review:
This film has certainly caught some of our Big Green friends with their pants down, and while singling out these groups and individuals was probably unfair, the script is generally quite accurate.
I say unfair because, while many national environmental NGOs have been promoting some shitty things for years, like biomass burning, fracked gas, waste incinerators, carbon trading (and the list goes on), the Sierra Club and Bill McKibben are far from the worst culprits. There are wealthier, more influential NGOs whose hands are far dirtier. And these folks that director (Jeff Gibbs) goes after, have tried in recent years to make up for their past stupidity and misguided (usually misled by funders) support for a number of polluting industries.
That said, I couldn’t help but smile when Gibbs referred to “The Logging Conservancy”, because that’s what some other, very big greens like The Nature Conservancy continue to do – where much of our grassroots movement time is wasted getting them out of the way, so that we can deal with the polluting, extractive industries they provide cover for.
The first half of the movie is flimsy (boring, really), with timeline inaccuracies around the transitions from coal to gas and biomass, some misleading perspectives on wind and solar, as well as some cringe-worthy moments involving hippy academics dropping Malthusian, population bomb mumbo-jumbo.
Perhaps most egregious is what is lacking in the film. Where there are thousands of Environmental Justice organizers from Black, Brown, Indigenous, Migrant and Poor White communities across the U.S. – folks who have, most directly and successfully, been fighting the dirty energy industries on the frontlines for decades, the best Gibbs can do is interview a visiting activist from India? Really? And while Vandana’s brief spot is a good one, this lack of representation from the climate justice movement is the biggest miss of the plot!
Perhaps, if Gibbs had taken the time to meet with our movements working directly on the frontlines of climate chaos, collaborating with allies in labor and social justice movements to advance Just Transition strategies that serve people and planet, he would have discovered a more positive, hopeful and inspiring way to end the film.
Overall, I’d say this Earth Day release is only worth watching if you’re keen to know the complexities, contradictions and internal conflicts of our environmental movement.
However, unless you’re already an activist, don’t look to this film to provide any direction or clarity on the global ecological mess we’re in.
And if you are already active in our movements, I’d recommend skipping to around the 55-min mark where Josh from Energy Justice Network takes the film crew to look at the biomass incinerator in Vermont. The film only starts getting informative after that point..