Last Christmas, I was given the documentary The 11th Hour as a gift. I admit that I was somewhat skeptical of its legitamacy – as much as we all loved Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, I wasn’t sure how credible a documentary created by a movie star would be. It was also wrapped in something called BioFilm that sounded kind of sketchy (admittedly, I don’t know what the plastic was made of, but chances are that it’s corn ethanol – not the greatest of fossil fuel replacements).
However, when I watched the film, I was utterly engrossed. My favourite thing about the 11th hour is that most of the dialogue and narration comes from interviews with incredibly articulate experts. This film featured scientists, authors, First Nations leaders, CEOs of green businesses, and national security officials. David Suzuki, Stephen Schneider, Paul Hawken, and Stephen Hawking were just a few of those interviewed.
The 11th Hour dicusses many different aspects of environmental depletion, sociology, and solutions. It opened with a sort of celebration of life and the beauty of nature. I believe it was Paul Hawken that said something along the lines of, “In your body, right this very second, there are three (something with a lot of billions and trillions) things happening at once. That’s a three with twenty-four zeros after it. Right this second. And in the next second, as you sit there on the couch, one hundred times more things are happening than there are stars and planets in the universe. And that is what we call life.”
The section on climate change was brief, but quite well done. Most of the time was devoted to talking about possible impacts – how warming would affect our water security, food security…..However, Stephen Schneider delivered a fantastic quote that’s quite relevant to this blog:
“Some scientists are amazed that in the media debate and in Congress there are people who stand up and say, “I believe” or “I don’t believe in global warming,” as if it were some sort of object of religion, instead of based in evidence.”
(Check out the post Making Up Your Own Science for more on that topic.)
Following the climate change discussion were small sections devoted to forestry, aquatics, biodiversity, and hyperconsumerism. However, the discussion on extinction was so compelling to me that it dwarfed all the previous discussions. The film explored how extinction is inevitable to a species, that the demise of an entire species is as natural as the death of a single organism. It’s no secret that humans will eventually become extinct. The question is how our actions today are affecting when that extinction will happen, and how many other species we are taking down with us.
The last third of the movie was devoted to possible solutions. I applaud the filmmakers in this decision. The first part of the film was pretty darn scary, and ending on an optimistic note made me feel more motivated for action. And what an optimistic note it was! The film discussed how our current system of economics discourages environmental action, and how we could reinvent our economy so that it is more in tune with sustainability and quality of life. It discussed biomimicry, a principle of design which mimics nature, such as the incredibly strong spider’s silk, the structural (rather than pigmented) colour of the blue morpho butterfly, and self-cleaning leaves. “The generations alive today,” Paul Hawken said, “will have to reinvent everything…..what a great time to be born, what an opportunity.”
The 11th Hour ended on such a hopeful note that I felt myself becoming more optimistic. There is time to solve the problem of climate change. If our global carbon emissions drop to zero by the middle of this century, we will never pass the 2 C warming which is estimated to be a tipping point. Some warming is inevitable, but we still have time to stop it getting out of control.
In the Discover article on climate change this June, the panel of scientists was asked how hopeful they were that humanity could solve the problem of climate change. Most of them answered that they felt very sure that we had the resources and technology to drastically reduce, or even eliminate, carbon emissions. But they weren’t so sure that we had the will. The world has known about this problem for over 40 years, but little has been done.
But to think that we still have a chance…..no matter how small….it makes me want to grab on to that chance and run with it and do all that I can to make it come true.
If it clashes with the economy, we’ll reinvent the economy. If the oil executives get mad, we’ll pay them a lot of money to develop wind power and geothermal. If the skeptics continue to argue, we’ll say to them, as we should be saying now, “The stakes are too high to base our actions on the best possible scenario.”
The fact that there still is a tangible chance, however small, that we could fix the problem of climate change altogether, is so exciting that I feel obliged to pursue it.