I watched this movie, (it’s available free on YouTube) by Jeff Gibbs and produced by Michael Moore, as there have been appeals from the Green movement to take it down and, who knows, maybe they’ll succeed. While the film is, as critics say, no doubt hurtful to efforts to lobby for greener solutions, I think the central thesis of the film is correct, that without addressing the root causes of our environmental problems – overpopulation and unrestrained economic growth – any technological fixes we try to find will not work. (Update: See George Monbiot’s critique of the film.)
The main problem is capitalism, and our dependence on its fruits. Without addressing it, greener energy production, even if it turns out to be better than the dismal examples shown in the movie, is only going to increase demand. Just as improving the roads to avoid traffic congestion encourages more people to drive to work rather than take the bus, so the traffic congestion remains.
As a species we expand until it is no longer possible to meet our demands. When we reach that point, it seems than we will not gently restrain ourselves but, like the boom and bust economy, reach a point of total breakdown. That will be a tragedy, a holocaust, for our ourselves or our forebears, as well as for most of the larger life-forms on the planet, because it will coincide with the collapse of the entire biosphere.
It’s capitalism that is driving us to the apocalypse, of course, but turning capitalism into a scapegoat is not the solution. Our economic system is a product of the way we are. It’s something more fundamental that we need to change. And yet, if we can learn anything from ecology, it is that systems are intertwined and that no one of us exists in isolation, independently from the whole. So it is not as if I, as “an individual” can change anything. We effect change as a group, as a race, as a species, and in conjunction with every other species.
The film says that change can only begin with awareness. Awareness, if it is integral, and not just intellectual, can bring change. We’ve got to start somewhere. Let’s start by admitting that we exist in symbiosis with other species in a biosphere that has enough for all of us, if we only limit our share to that which we actually need, and leave enough for everyone else. If we don’t do that, we will soon reach a stage where we will have less than we need (and then we will die). But what constitutes a “need”? If we are asking that question, it probably means we are so remote from our actual needs that we have forgotten. We can begin by reducing our consumption and finding out for ourselves.