At an astroturf event ironically entitled “Less Talk, More Action” where an audience of nearly 6,000 – most of whom were university and college students – were treated to nearly five hours of talk and actually no action, Al Gore convinced me of why I should boycott An Inconvenient Truth. Despite doing a favour for some former friends and programming the über-hyped film this year at a political film series, I have never been a fan of the slide show doc.
Don't get me wrong, it's great that Gore's efforts to alarm the global North to the perils of global warming have been effective – if you consider people talking about it effective. Where Gore and An Inconvenient Truth fail miserably is in inspiring anyone into any concrete action to actually radically transform consumptive behaviour, and hey, maybe even shop less.
That a white, male member of the American corporate elite brings “a grassroots message” to the college kids of the North via personal jets and limos is bad enough, but what Gore said at this latest conference warrants outright boycott (and a small, insecure “boo” from me – the seemingly only detractor in the audience of pumped up college kids).
Gore told the crowd at the end of his mixed-media powerpoint/Apple computer advert that it is time to look to the business world, and “I know it's controversial, but one company that I've been meeting with has shown remarkable innovation and promise in realizing that sustainability and profit are not necessarily at odds.” And what is this magnificent, progressive company pray tell? Why, it's none other than Wal-Mart…
See, Mr. Gore has recently been hired by a whack of mega-corporations, including Wal-Mart, to “consult” them on how they can go on being global-sprawling forces of resource extraction and consumer inspiration, all the while promoting a sustainable vision. This hypocrisy is interlaced throughout An Inconvenient Truth as well. Watch the film again (as I'm assuming you've already seen it once), does Gore mention shopping and the need TO STOP CONSUMING NEEDLESSLY? Does Gore mention real hard-hitting ways in which the average schmoe can reduce their footprint in a meaningful way? Does Gore advocate for the dismantling of car culture? Does he go after the biggest polluters – the megacorps?
The answer is no, and it is no because Gore represents corporate culture — always has, always will. While Gore and Clinton were in office, car engine sizes went up, way up, and efficiency went down. Oil consumption rose under the Clinton administration, and ask most American environmental groups about that government's green record and they tell you it was dismal.
Gore himself has been found to use nearly 20 times the average energy to “run his household,” something he says is A-OK because he offsets this waste with energy credits. The message here: if you're rich (and white) you can just keep on over-consuming and leaving a big-ass nasty eco-footprint on this here planet. As long as all you college kids know that it's your future, so you need to ACT. And what can you do? Um, how about changing a few light bulbs?
Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth are the usual activist marketing hype that we have seen with Fair Trade coffee and recycling: spokespeople who do not lead by example leading “movements” empty of real behavioural/attitudinal change, and based entirely on “change through consumption.”
An Inconvenient Truth may have started the popular discussion on climate change, but if that discussion leads the affluent and apathetic global North to believing their contribution to change can come through light bulbs, energy credits and long, vapid, speeches about “Less Talk, More Action” then I'd say we may as well throw the doc in the old SUV DVD player, sit back and enjoy the ride as things continue to get warmer and warmer.