Watch more films about environmental issues at the first-ever Earth Focus Environmental Film Festival in Los Angeles this weekend.
The new documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” is a powerful follow-up to the 2006 Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth." Like its predecessor, the film follows former-Vice President Al Gore in his tireless campaigning for climate action. While the first “An Inconvenient Truth“ lasted for a wearying 97 minutes and left you feeling overwhelmed, by contrast the sequel leaves you profoundly hopeful.
The best moments in “An Inconvenient Sequel” are when the film puts a human face on climate solutions. You meet Dale Ross of Georgetown, Texas – the mayor of the reddest city in the reddest county in Texas – who now runs his town entirely on renewable power. You meet the people of Tacloban City, Philippines – who lost their homes to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. You witness their amazing spirit as they fight for survival. You meet hundreds of bright-eyed students, participants in Gore’s climate leadership course.
The filmmakers are on the right course when they elevate everyday people because you don’t need to be a Nobel Prize-winner to make a difference. However, the focus on Gore, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, is my quibble with this film. Essentially a biography of Gore, the documentary falls victim to the great man theory of history. Despite Gore’s musings on social movements, at its core, the film suggests that the most important form of climate activism is performed in the corridors of power — an inherently disempowering message for the general public.
Regardless, “An Inconvenient Sequel” is a wonderful trip to foreign lands, amazing visuals of Greenland’s melting glaciers. Gore imparts brilliant new facts and ideas and you can’t help but be wowed by his eloquence and grit.
But ratchet your expectations; “An Inconvenient Sequel” may not inspire activism. As the director of a climate change organization in Los Angeles, I think about winning new adherents all the time. I’ve arrived at the curious conclusion that only activism, not films about activism, leads to increased activism.
So let me tell you about a few climate actors – not the professional performers appearing in film – working here in Southern California.
There’s local scientist Riley Duren, who is figuring-out how to remotely measure greenhouse gas emissions. This could be revolutionary – and curtail misreporting and cheating. A group led by Heather Rosenberg is creating a new certification system for homes, similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), to help building owners and operators mitigate climatic impacts. This system could save millions of lives. There’s an Orange County entrepreneur, Mark Herrema, who is making furniture out of the gassy residue of sewage and in the process, stopping climate pollution. There’s a brother and sister, Sarkis and Klara Moradkhan, developing a synthetic resin that once applied to streets and roofs can cool down an entire city neighborhood. I even know a few climate activists who hold public office.
Seeing “An Inconvenient Sequel” might inspire you – but you need to take the next step. Inconvenience yourself and get involved.