I just got back from seeing An Inconvenient Truth with spork_incident, and it was everything I had hoped for and more. Gore has been presenting and fine-tuning this message for a long, long time, and his presentation is inexorably logical and organized. And alarming, as indeed it is meant to be.
I found myself thinking, "We are so screwed," over and over and over again. I knew things were bad, but I had no idea just how bad. And despite his assurances that we have the capability right now to fix the atmosphere's CO2 imbalance, I think we're in some serious trouble, for two primary reasons.
1) CO2 and glacial/arctic ice levels are so far out of their normal equilibrium right now that I believe we are bound to experience some nasty climate effects, even if we were to jump into a full-blown program of robust countermeasures this very day.
2) The political will is simply not there. Nor will it ever be there until the balance of power shifts from the corporations to the citizenry. And even then, that citizenry must be informed and motivated. As long as a voting majority of Americans view environmentalists as a bunch of wild-eyed tree-hugging loonies who want to stifle industry and take away our jobs, nothing positive will happen. So, once again, we need a media that doesn't solely represent corporate and Republican interests.
Yes, theoretically our elected officials could see the light and dedicate themselves to saving the planet, political consequences be damned, but, well... no. Very little in their past behavior suggests that this is likely ever to happen, not until saving the planet becomes congruent with saving their own asses. If the polls get up to somewhere on the order of "70-80% in favor of not letting the Earth turn into Venus," maybe then we might see the government show some "leadership" on the subject. Either that, or Halliburton and Exxon/Mobil start investing heavily in environmental technologies.
One of the interesting devices Gore used to make this overwhelming and abstract issue more "relatable" (aside from a very funny quasi-Simpsons cartoon) was to use tragedy and near-tragedy in his own family as metaphors for our current situation. He talked about his six-year-old son's brush with death as a way of illustrating the profundity of almost losing something that you cherish, and how that kind of experience can change your life and sense of purpose.
More powerfully and aptly, he talked about his older sister's death from lung cancer caused by smoking, and his father's decision to stop growing tobacco soon afterward. All the rationalizations his father had used to justify making money from tobacco simply fell away when he experienced that shock. Not only did his beloved daughter die a horrible death, but it was indirectly by his own hand. Gore implies that we haven't yet had that shock to snap us out of our senses and jolt us out of our comfortable rationalizations, but the fact is that we have. Hurricane Katrina was our wake-up call, and America slept right through it. And before that, the tsunami in Southeast Asia (of course, that didn't really count, because it was Over There). The Earth is sounding ever-louder alarms, and We. Are. Not. Listening. I can't begin to imagine Al Gore's frustration as he desperately tries to alert us to our peril, and is perpetually ignored and marginalized by the mainstream and the conventional wisdom.
I will close with the Upton Sinclair quote that Gore uses in his presentation, which completely and perfectly explains our government and our media, on this issue and all others:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."