On Earth Day 2020, Jeff Gibbs, Ozzie Zehner and Michael Moore released a strong attempt to save environmentalism from the pipe dreams and lies of “green growth” addicts. Other activists and blogs have been sending the same message to limited audiences but this film got wide attention, helped by its free YouTube presence. It was welcomed by deep ecologists who can’t support Man’s latest and largest assault on open space, built with fossil fuels at every step. But big environmental groups are trapped in funding cycles with mega-sprawl developers, compelling them to pan the film.
Given their addiction to technological growth, critics of the film ganged up to call it “outdated” and “dangerously” misinformed. Some even claimed that Gibbs is a fossil fuel shill and barely watched it. There’s bad press from prominent scientists like Micheal Mann but others have yet to weigh in (James Hansen’s opinion would be interesting since he’s scoffed at “100% renewable energy”). Critics cite relatively minor technology improvements that happened during the film’s pre-production years, and they assume wind & solar can do far more than physically plausible. They list incremental solar efficiency gains and somewhat cheaper wind turbine materials, missing the point of how they’re built and the vast acreage they occupy. Today’s energy sprawl will look quaint if a full Green New Deal (Mark Jacobson style) ensues.
In 1973, Oregon Governor Tom McCall warned that “…the future must be protected from the grasping wastrels of the land…” but today’s clean-techies are embracing that same disregard for nature on an unprecedented scale. They say it’s being done for “the planet” but it’s really an effort to reduce CO2 for civilization’s sake (more on that). Since the year 2000, the scale of landscape and seascape industrialization has grown by millions of acres due to wind & solar sprawl, including all the areas these projects can be seen from. The visibility of wind turbines can’t be compared to other structures not nearly as tall, bright or numerous. Solar has a lower profile at ground level, but even when photovoltaic panels could technically be built on roofs and parking lots, open space gets developed for expediency, like the upcoming 7,100 acre Gemini Solar Project near Las Vegas. It will supply a city that should only be a fraction of its size, given local resources. To stay viable, Las Vegas is also grabbing water from distant valleys and represents everything wrong with urban sprawl.
Obsession with Man’s carbon (vs. landscape) footprint has distracted many younger people born into the mantra of climate change as Public Enemy No. 1. They’re willing to dump former environmental concerns and develop the hell out of nature if they can brand it “clean energy.” In a YouTube review supposedly debunking the film, someone says it’s “disturbing” when people compare mountaintop wind projects with coal mining damage, as if wind power is more sacred than any mountain. Climate concerns have drowned out land ethics and open space is for sale more than ever. If people really want to save the planet, they should realize that CO2 isn’t the fundamental problem, and helping modern economies doesn’t mean expanding them.
Other films like The 11th Hour (2007) also have anti-growth themes but fall back into “clean energy” rhetoric without examining its hypocrisy. They walk right to the edge of full disclosure then decide to not offend gluttonous people too much. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017) was full of green-growth doublespeak and Planet of the Humans showed that Gore himself represents prevailing power. Filmmakers tend to close with hopium after showing grim montages, which robs their story of integrity and leads to environmental complacency. Gibbs’ film was notably lacking in that tactic and many are grateful for it.
Strong and weak points of Planet of the Humans (2020):
What it did well:
- Questioned our addiction to economic growth and technological fixes.
- Explained why “100% renewable energy” is a deception on many levels. It’s a present and future lie based on carbon credit manipulations.
- Strong critique of desert solar projects, showing old how ones are abandoned and new ones physically deteriorate.
- Revealed that “biomass” often means cutting more trees and comprises the bulk of “renewable energy” now. Old forest industry propaganda plays into that.
- Successfully rattled arrogant clean-techies, and reached a bigger audience than Doomers have managed to. Let’s hope it’s not a temporary boost.
What it left out:
- It should have shown the full scale of wind energy sprawl plus more coverage of wildlife impacts, noise and shadow flicker.
- More time could have been spent discussing human overpopulation, though they probably knew the Social Justice crowd wouldn’t like it.
- Nuclear energy, namely SMR, wasn’t presented as a low-sprawl alternative to wind & solar invasions. Safe(r) nuclear may be the only reliable way to offset electrical-generation from fossil fuels, but not their other uses.
- The somber orangutan scene was powerful, but could have been shortened as part of the larger context. That sort of thing was happening long before “renewables” started plundering nature.
Given the time limits of a feature film, they did well enough with their focus on energy issues, so those aren’t big criticisms. Author’s overall rating: 8/10
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