“You know there’s no going back without seeing some sort of major die-off in population. There’s no turning back.” – scientist approvingly interviewed by Gibbs
Michael Moore’s new film, Planet of the Humans, has become a viral sensation, with over five million views on YouTube in less than two weeks. Millions of those viewers are either smug oil and gas boosters or outraged renewable energy supporters. Everyone calm down and let’s talk about what Moore is really up to, which is much worse.
For starters, this is really director Jeff Gibbs’ project. He has been interviewing wind and solar opponents for years. In fact, one of the most important criticisms of the film is that he uses interviews from a decade ago as if they were current commentary. A lot has changed since 2010, as it turns out, a fact he mostly ignores.
Then there’s Moore. He burst onto the public stage with 1989’s “Roger and Me” about his crusade to get GM CEO Roger B. Smith to account for closing US auto factories and transplanting the jobs to low-cost Mexico. The film was full of stunts, like Moore camping out in front of GM’s Michigan headquarters and yelling at Smith’s office using a bullhorn. He successfully applied the formula to a string of popular movies – calling them documentaries does a disservice to actual documentary filmmakers – over the next 30 years.
He’s a muckraker and it’s not hard to see why he was attracted to Planet of the Humans. But the film is not about renewable energy. This will come as a great surprise to Bill McKibben of 350.org and the Sierra Club, two among many environmentalists and organizations who howled with outrage over their treatment.
So, what is Planet of the Humans about? The answer begins around the 44-minute mark.
“Every expert I talked to wanted to bring my attention to the same underlying problem,” says Gibbs as the film’s narrator. “There are too many human beings using too much, too fast. As a global community, we really have got to start dealing with the issue of population. Population growth continues to be the not the elephant. The herd of elephants in the, in the room.”
The solution to over-population, a greedy consumer culture, and disregard for the planet’s ecosystem?
“You know there’s no going back without seeing some sort of major die-off in population. There’s no turning back,” says a scientist.
“We have ignored the warnings, and instead all sorts of so-called leaders have steered us away from the real solutions that might save us,” says Moore in the movie’s press release. “This movie takes no prisoners and exposes the truth about how we have been led astray in the fight to save the planet, to the point where if we don’t reverse course right now, events like the current pandemic will become numerous, devastating and insurmountable. The feel-good experience of this movie is that we actually have the smarts and the will to not let this happen – but only if we immediately launch a new environmental uprising (emphasis added).”
Who would pay $13 to see a movie about why hundreds of millions – maybe a few billions? – of humans have to die to save the planet? Sounds like a guaranteed box office flop.
The better strategy is to hide the real message in a more sensational story, like wrapping your dog’s medicine in a tasty treat.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Gibbs intones, “Why are bankers, industrialists and environmental leaders only focused on the narrow solution of green technology? Is it the profit motive? And why for most of my life, have I fallen for the illusion green energy would save us.”
This is a straw man argument. No one believes humans and the planet they inhabit will be saved by renewables. Nor do they believe the global energy system will ever likely be powered 100 per cent by renewables.
Humans are also doing other things to clean and heal the environment. For example, charitable foundations spend billions to protect fragile ecosystems like the Great Bear rainforest on Canada’s West Coast.
We don’t do it fast enough and, true, we will have to seriously grapple with over-population and ecosystem collapse in the near future. A “major die-off,” however, seems a tad extreme and unlikely to attract much support from the average movie-goer.
There is an audience, however, for wind and solar bashing. For example, take radio host Danielle Smith’s column in Friday’s Calgary Herald, “New documentary kills off the sacred gods of environmental movement.”
“Behold the underlying truth: The backbone of green energy is fossil fuels,” she writes. “The more green energy we use, the more fossil fuels we will need.”
The former far-right Wildrose Party leader’s argument is painfully thin. She gloats about the part where Prof. Sheldon Solomon likens the environment movement’s belief in green technology to a faith: “It’s like the right has religion and they have a belief in infinite fossil fuels. Our side says, ‘Oh, it’s going to be okay. We’re going to have solar panels. We’re going to have wind towers.'”
Gibbs and Moore – aided by fossil fuels mouthpieces like Smith – are attacking the environmental movement’s moral high ground. Why? Because if Greta Thunberg and David Suzuki are no better than the Koch Brothers, that opens the door for a third option – depopulation measures, the “major die-off.”
Unfortunately for Planet of the Humans, “green technology” is not about faith, it’s about math. The chart on the right shows how costly wind and solar were a decade ago when Gibbs appears to have shot most of his interviews versus today’s costs. Now, compare the new renewables to new combined-cycle gas power generation at $44 per MWh and coal at $66. The reason is obvious why over two-thirds of 2020 global power generation investment will be in renewables, according to the International Energy Agency.
Moore has been accused before of fudging the facts to advance his narrative, but his reputation has survived the criticism. This time it may not. Sooner or later, the audience will understand that the humans destined for a “major die-off” may include them or their loved ones.
No wonder Moore and Gibbs resorted to sleight of hand instead of being upfront about their real agenda.