Michael Moore Photo: Invision/AP
entertainment

New Michael Moore-backed documentary tackles alternative energy

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By LINDSEY BAHR

What if alternative energy isn't all it's cracked up to be? That's the provocative question explored in the documentary "Planet of the Humans," which is backed and promoted by filmmaker Michael Moore and directed by one of his longtime collaborators. It premiered last week at his Traverse City Film Festival.

The film, which does not yet have distribution, is a low-budget but piercing examination of what the filmmakers say are the false promises of the environmental movement and why we're still "addicted" to fossil fuels. Director Jeff Gibbs takes on electric cars, solar panels, windmills, biomass, biofuel, leading environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club, and even figures from Al Gore and Van Jones, who served as Barack Obama's special adviser for green jobs, to 350.org leader Bill McKibben, a leading environmentalist and advocate for grassroots climate change movements.

Gibbs, who produced Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11," didn't set out to take on the environmental movement. He said he wanted to know why things weren't getting better. But when he started pulling on the thread, he and Moore said they were shocked to find how inextricably entangled alternative energy is with coal and natural gas, since they say everything from wind turbines to electric car charging stations are tethered to the grid, and even how the Koch brothers are tied to solar panel production through their glass production business.

"It turned out the wakeup call was about our own side," Gibbs said in a phone interview. "It was kind of crushing to discover that the things I believed in weren't real, first of all, and then to discover not only are the solar panels and wind turbines not going to save us ... but (also) that there is this whole dark side of the corporate money ... It dawned on me that these technologies were just another profit center."

Both know the film is going to be a "tough pill to swallow." It was a difficult eye-opener for them as well.

"We all want to feel good about something like the electric car, but in the back of your head somewhere you've thought, 'Yeah, but where is the electricity coming from? And it's like, 'I don't want to think about that, I'm glad we have electric cars,'" Moore said. "I've passed by the windmill farms, and oh it's so beautiful to see them going, and don't tell me that we've gone too far now and it isn't going to save us ... Well, my feeling is just hit me with everything. I'm like let's just deal with it now, all at once."

It's part of the reason why they had to make it independently. Gibbs said he tried for years to get an environmental group on board to help offset the costs, only to be turned down at every door. He was further disheartened when, in the film, he approaches people like Jones, McKibben and a local Sierra Club leader, and asks them about their stance on biofuel and biomass. Biomass, like wood and garbage, can be used to produce heat and is considered a renewable source of energy. It can also be converted to gas or liquid biofuels that can be burned for energy.

He finds every one ill-prepared to comment on their stance about the biomass process, which the documentary says requires cutting down enormous numbers of trees to produce the woodchips that are converted into energy. Neither Jones nor McKibben responded to request for comment from The Associated Press.

"I like so many people in the film and I'm one of those people who wanted to believe all of these years that that was the right path," Moore said. "(But) I refuse to let us die out. I refuse to let this planet die."

They were even nervous to show it to the festival crowd, where they expected maybe a "50-50 response." Instead, they got a standing ovation. And there were even members of The Sierra Club there.

"It's up to people who actually share the same values to sometimes call each other out and bring out the uncomfortable truths," Gibbs said. "This is not a film by climate change deniers, this is a film by people who really care about the environment."

Although the findings will be disheartening, both Gibbs and Moore say they hope that it inspires people to reset and start thinking differently.

"Now we can begin to come up with the right solutions that might make a difference ... The film doesn't have the answers but it will get us asking a better set of questions," Gibbs said. "I really do trust that when millions of people are discussing an issue, answers will emerge ... This is what we do as humans, we solve problems, but we've got to have the right questions."

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©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


15 Comments
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"This is not a film by climate change deniers, this is a film by people who really care about the environment."

I hope so.

There's limited time left to find a solution to the reliance on fossil fuels.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

All my friends on FB are environmental extremists. Either extremely Green or absolute deniers of global warming.

There's very little balanced, civil, or nuanced conversations about this. (Or for most other things for that matter).

I hope this doc sheds a little more of a balanced light on these things and doesn't become a polemical commentary since things aren't that clear-cut and simple.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The problem with Moore's films is that they are so filled with misleading or false information (that is easily disproven) they will only appeal to the already converted, while at the same time giving ammunition to those who disagree. He is really not a person I would want on my side in any debate.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Toasted HereticToday 07:39 am JST"This is not a film by climate change deniers, this is a film by people who really care about the environment."

I hope so.

There's limited time left to find a solution to the reliance on fossil fuels.

Many CDs I own from the early 90s say 'we have 10 years to change the Earth'. The 1991 Gulf War resulted in lots of oil in the sea and sky. But nooooo, America just wanted to celebrate it's 'victory' over Iraq. Other oil accidents resulted, and in one instance the media coverage focused on berating Pres. Obama because he said a swear word referring to an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.

Will we ever learn?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm sure there's a ton of insightful, eye-opening, news to many data to be revealed in this movie.

But I for one, amongst a multitude of others, never have thought electric cars, solar panels, wind generators etc would actually "save the planet".

Not because of any disbelief in the science of climate change or for the lack of wanting a cleaner environment, but because the patterns set in motion, whether natural, man-made or a combination, will take decades / centuries to play out.

But my faith in the new technology is about moving forward. An electric car with a minimum of moving parts compared to an internal combustion  is progress. As battery tech becomes better - and it will - advantages will be even greater. The IC engine has seen relatively little basic change in 130 years. Simply the raw burning of an oil product under pressure to create an explosion to push down a piston. It's time has come. Other innovations like fuel cells will also progress rapidly - not tomorrow - but over the ensuing decades.

The Technology of Energy harnessing operations (wind, water, sun, sea ...) will also improve incredibly over this century. Thinking 50 to 100 years+ ahead is necessary.

It all has to start somewhere. We are literally in the infancy of alternative energy provision, so there will be huge costs, plenty of  mistakes made, doubters, scams, Greedy Incs, failures, etc etc along the way. This is the nature of human technological innovation and development.

Without the first steps in alternative cleaner energy being made, we will be locked into a conundrum controlled by the forces of the said Greedy Incs and Govt speciousness.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If I recall, some 1st world countries use 80% wind for their power generation. Wind is easier as the common person could learn and have materials to build. Solar is a bit harder. Geothermal depends on where you live (and common folk can't dig that deep), hydroelectric if you live on a river or fast brook.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Last sentences referring to indie generation, not by govt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting and thought-provoking, and about time someone took a long hard look at this. Looking forward to seeing it, if they ever show it in Japan.

In the same way that most people eat meat but allow some distant organization to do the slaughtering for us, by driving an electric car we could be assuaging our own individual or family or business conscience, merely hiding the responsibility elsewhere though, actually doing almost nothing more for the planet.

Well, whichever way the truth really lies, it is important to go round the back of the rosy glow and dig out the real facts. Good on Mr Moore.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My brother drives an SUV that can run on biofuel. He gave it a shot, because why not, it's better for the environment. His gas mileage dropped like a rock. He had to go back to regular fuel simply because of the cost.

Progress is great, but you have to make it affordable to the average person if you expect them to adopt it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In what way is biofuel better for the environment?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem with Moore's films is that they are so filled with misleading or false information

Always and every one of his movies.

(that is easily disproven) they will only appeal to the already converted, while at the same time giving ammunition to those who disagree. He is really not a person I would want on my side in any debate.

Moore doesn’t make movies to entertain, he makes movies to stir up baseless controversies that have been disproven again and again, take your pick. And for all the bluster of Moore, he loves these socialist countries so much, my question is, why doesn’t he move to any of these countries that he loves to talk about and give his money to them, it should make him proud, but he’s still here, talking garbage as usual.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There's limited time left to find a solution to the reliance on fossil fuels.

According to proponents of the Green New Deal we have 10-12 years left. Moore had better lay off those cheeseburgers for more than one reason.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Moore doesn’t make movies to entertain, he makes movies to stir up baseless controversies that have been disproven again and again, take your pick. 

He makes movies to entertain, stir up controversy and make money.

That’s part capitalism.

These supporters of Socialist Don are a threat to freedom.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Moore mixes some facts with a lot of fiction. It made for good entertainment but thats all. Hes full of it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hes a charlatan and a fake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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