The drive-by journalism of “Planet of the Humans” offers an incomplete picture of renewable energy
Update: YouTube has removed “Planet of the Humans” due to a copyright violation claim by photographer Toby Smith, who says the film used his footage without his full approval.
In the beginning, the provocative documentary producer Michael Moore must have thought he was being prescient. But instead of inflaming the masses, his new documentary “Planet of the Humans” has set Moore’s own reputation ablaze – and scorched the very crowd who have stood behind him for thirty years.
Produced by Moore and directed by longtime collaborator Jeff Gibbs, the film was officially released on Earth Day, and…yup: it’s an unabashed (with Moore, it’s always unabashed) attack on the green movement. The filmmakers argue that 50 years after the first Earth Day, the quest to save the planet has been a colossal failure. People like Al Gore and Bill McKibben, early advocates for alternative, non-carbon energy sources, were all but in cahoots with the Koch Brothers and other diabolical champions of industry. The result? Brace yourself: solar power is costly and inefficient, electric vehicles are merely the dependent offspring of carbon-belching super industry, and biofuel was a waste of time from the start.
This from Michael Moore — the goofy, bespectacled dude with the always-on baseball cap who brought us “Roger and Me” on General Motors, and its then head-in-the-clouds chairman Roger Smith. Later Moore won an Academy Award with “Bowling for Columbine”. His George W. Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” just added to his fame. His familiar use of the sledgehammer notwithstanding, he made documentaries with heart.
No longer. Moore and Gibbs conclude the “infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide. Less is the new more.” Gibbs has gone on to say that the global population needs to “shrink”.
There are so many misleading statements and factual errors in “Planet of the Humans” that protests have erupted from just about every corner of the environmental and political landscape. Scientists, politicians and citizens groups have decried the film for its misinformation.
The facts clearly show that despite the tradeoffs, solar and wind power are more cost-effective, and obviously cleaner, than fossil fuels. We’re not there yet, but technology has bought us time, at the very least.
All the untruths in the film undermine the reasonable points Moore and Gibbs might have made. It is true that 50 years after Earth Day, the planet is still warming far too fast. Not enough has been done, and the renewable energy industry is replete with contradictions and political horse-trading. And sadly, celebrity activists do not always serve the climate movement.
At the same time, “Planet of the Humans” has served to enable the anti-green lobby. The film’s twisted take on the climate movement affords an opportunity for the corrupt operators at the edges of global finance. Moore is aiding and abetting the dark forces we’ve always known him to attack. He has become the champion of himself.
I find this all very sad. I first met Moore almost 40 years ago in Flint, Michigan, when he was the fiery editor of a tiny muckraking newspaper that chronicled the devastating economic impact of the loss of auto jobs in Michigan. His populist investigations quickly made him the darling of the liberal left. He was an inspiration to many young investigative reporters, myself included. His searing sarcastic wit added panache to his anti-establishment rage.
Perhaps his fame and fortune marginalized him, turned him into a drive-by journalist…in an Uber. Nihilism is not the answer to our climate problems. The 21st century is no place for angry white men brandishing big wooden clubs and beating their chests.
Instead, the answer lies in all the climate work “Planet of the Humans” conveniently ignores. It’s the adult stuff. It’s boring. It’s technical. And it takes years of incremental progress to achieve. It also begs for the presence of the old Michael Moore, the dogged advocate for the working class who would rightly call out those climate leaders who get too comfortable with the greedy, power hungry landlords on the proverbial hill.
In producing “Planet of the Humans”, Moore is now part of the problem, not the solution to climate change. He sold out just as the tide was beginning to turn in favor of the planet.