Ben Ray: Why “An Inconvenient Truth” Didn’t Actually Accomplish Anything

Allow us to present the best reason imaginable to take action on Earth Day. Instead of merely attempting to raise awareness: the single biggest contribution to the climate change debate, “An Inconvenient Truth,” did that well, shouldn’t it be time to go further?
Crud. Image from bulldog1

Since the film came out in 2006, the world climate crisis hasn’t been affected one bit. So what’s the solution?

Nobody is going to argue that there is an awareness issue anymore, at least on a global scale: we all know this is going on, aside from a few wingnuts who think it’s all a cover for the coming socialist coup. With that being the case, it’s far more important to begin to focus on action, which can take two different forms; to use Gore’s terminology, we’ll call it “changing light bulbs,” and “changing laws.”

Changing light bulbs is local action and something that still doesn’t happen enough. The problem with this sort of local, consumer-driven action, is that it so rarely happens in American life, and when it does, it’s with objects that require little sacrifice and have high “flash” value: organic foods, hybrid cars, and the like. This isn’t happening in the most critical areas. Actions such as turning off computers overnight, changing to CFL bulbs, buying local goods are simply not happening because of a lack of awareness on a local level of what conservation can do, and because cultural leadership in the movement has yet to emerge.

No Cultural leadership? This article opened with a teaser about Al Gore–obviously there’s a cultural leader, right? Not quite and that’s why it’s so important to change legislation.

Mr. Gore isn’t the cultural leader on conservation for the same reason that he’s not President. No, not the Supreme Court, although that’s technically correct: it’s the fact that he doesn’t connect with the average citizen. He’s too smart, too distant, and too different for most of us. What we need is for all of our neighbors to take up the cause at once, just like learning how to use facebook. At that point, it’s non-political, it’s social and the impact is far more easily seen.

As things stand, many consumers loath to take action because it’s hard to drive home that “every little bit helps” without a unifying figure that they can latch on to. The only solution is to affect global change first and then find the support.