Last night I sat down to watch Michael Moore’s latest documentary. I watched it after reading and hearing about blistering criticism-taking aim at the facts, the message and… the people behind the film.
While there are some out-of-date and exaggerated claims in the film, particularly with respect to some forms of green energy, the film does make many valid points and has created a shockwave across the environmental movement.
The film calls into question the ethics of some of the biggest environmental NGO’s in North America. It criticizes their sources of funding, their nuanced approaches to important issues and their willingness to compromise. It criticizes these big groups for promoting alternative energy while completely neglecting and avoiding the subject of reducing consumption and changing lifestyles to adapt to the fundamental limits of our ecosystems and our planet. Similar criticisms of big environmental groups were made in the film Cowspericy which pointed out that most big, well-funded environmental groups choose not to speak against the consumption of animal products supposedly not to anger or alienate their donor and support base which consumes these products on a daily basis in many cases.
The overall arguments advanced by the film are correct; replacing all of our energy consumption with renewable energy will have consequences on the environment. For example, producing and operating electric cars do in fact pollute the environment. Solar panels require resources to produce, land to be set up on and even if we sacrifice significant portions of land to solar farms, the energy produced will be limited.
The film strikes a nerve with many older and moderate environmentalists like Elizabeth May who attacked Michael Moore in a long and rambling blog post which contained few arguments and came off as an angry tirade against anyone who calls into question the Eco-Capitalism she and others have been preaching for decades. Given what May has said about the film, anyone referencing the issues raised in it will be demonized by her and her entourage in an attempt to shield the Green Party members from questioning the party’s current eco-capitalist policy agenda.
This clash of eco-capitalism vs de-growth and eco-socialism is reaching new heights with this film. Many older and somewhat more moderate environmental leaders have, over the past decades, attempted to tell people that the environment is compatible with capitalism and that we can even profit from the crisis. They tell people that we will not have to change our lifestyle or consume less, that technology alone will save us and protect our lifestyle. Case in point, many environmental groups and progressive political parties are unwilling to increase the carbon tax price; they campaign on environment but cheap fossil fuels at the same time. You cannot have both. Choices have to be made.
In defence of the eco-capitalists, it is always easier to tell people that the fight against global warming and environmental degradation can be easily fixed. However, this approach makes it so that the population is not being urged to consider more radicle solutions.
In my view, the environmental movement needs to abandon eco-capitalism as quickly as possible and begin addressing these issues from an intersectional perspective. We need global wealth redistribution, which is proven to reduce birth rates. We need to drastically reduce our consumption beginning with a rapid phase out of private vehicles, a reduction of our consumption of animal products and a reduction of our consumption of consumer products and air travel.
“Planet of the Humans” is a must watch documentary for any environmentalist. It should be taken in from a critical perspective (as should all information) and I encourage people to read what the film’s detractors have written about it. People should not accept everything that is said without question but many valid arguments are made. As stated in the film, the filmmakers hope to spark critical discussion and analysis of where the environmental movement is heading. While this may be uncomfortable for many current environmental leaders, who are inherently afraid of being replaced by more radicle activists, the film raises many necessary conversations. The fact that prominent environmental leaders like Elizabeth May and Bill McKibben are responding with personal attacks on the filmmakers or even calling them alt-right, a term used to describe people like Steve Bannon and his racist views, (trust me Michael Moore is the polar opposite of alt-right) or that people are not smart enough to understand the film rather than countering most of the arguments advanced shows that they feel threatened by criticisms of eco-capitalism and that these issues need to be discussed.