Planet of the Humans
April 24, 2020 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Planet of the Humans is a documentary film by an environmentalist questioning the environmental movement and whether the proposed solutions are actual solutions. Directed by Jeff Gibbs. Produced by Ozzie Zehner. (YouTube video 1hour 40min).

Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day — that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road — selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America. This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It's too little, too late.

Removed from the debate is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business. Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, “green” illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end—and we’ve pinned all our hopes on biomass, wind turbines, and electric cars?

No amount of batteries are going to save us, warns director Jeff Gibbs (lifelong environmentalist and co-producer of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine"). This urgent, must-see movie, a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows, is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.
posted by phoque (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

And to quote a great comment from the Guardian:

The problem with this sort of critique is that, while it’s important to question the prevalence of ‘greenwashing’ and lazy, inadequate ‘solutions’, what lots of people take away from this (as evidenced BTL) is that environmentalism is itself a ‘con’. This is actually the opposite of the point the film is making- it’s about commercial opportunism- but people want to hear that AGW is all made up by Them to oppress us, and that’s what they’ll take from this.

posted by lalochezia at 1:12 PM on April 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

Another sharp critique of the film from an environmental reporter and analyst, "The wheel of first-time climate dudes. Or, alternatively: Why I don't want to review Michael Moore's climate change documentary."
posted by PhineasGage at 1:34 PM on April 24, 2020 [12 favorites]

the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption

we did it 🎉
posted by theodolite at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

It's sufficiently bad that I frankly suspect it's some kind of astroturfing or agent provocateur effort.
posted by aramaic at 2:16 PM on April 24, 2020

Another eco-bro trying to hide his lip-smacking glee at the unfortunate requirement for genocide far away from where he lives.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2020 [12 favorites]

It also seems particularly tone deaf to yell "don't trust the activists and experts, they're all liars and shills! Kill the Sacred Cows! Down with Fake News!" at this particular moment in history. You think Drs. Fauci and Birx and all the epidemiologists are having a rough time convincing people that because they've spent their entire careers studying a field they should be taken seriously? That's climate scientists for the last 30 years.
posted by gwint at 2:41 PM on April 24, 2020 [11 favorites]

a recent (pre-lockdown) moment between two friends comes to mind. One was waxing on and on about the crises of our time, climate change etc, ultimately coming to the conclusion that the only hope for humanity was de-population -- one way or another.

"So you've decided to kill yourself," said the other. "That's a noble thing. Can I have your albums?"
posted by philip-random at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2020 [22 favorites]

"This box contains a button. If you push it, you solve climate change. BUT! Somewhere, someone you don't know..."
posted by gwint at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak, and the reduced travel and activity, has got me thinking about how practical it would be to cut back on a lot of "economic activity" while still feeding, clothing, housing and caring for everybody. We seem to be managing to do those things now (not great, but managing). And yes, we're incurring infrastructure and inventory debt, not to mention debts that are "purely financial." But at some level we could do all the necessary things with a lot less resources and effort. The problem, it seems to me, is that so much effort is going toward building up dragon-hoards of treasure for about 10000 people and those in their immediate orbit. What if we didn't need to do that?
posted by sjswitzer at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2020 [11 favorites]

(With obvious caveat that we aren't feeding, housing, clothing and caring for everybody. But we weren't before either.)
posted by sjswitzer at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

We could easily learn to be a lot poorer. Not going out so much, not driving everywhere. "You want us to go back to the Stone Age!" No, the late 19th C, only with modern medicine (I live in Canada...), energy efficient homes, effective public transit, and the Internet. Is that too much to ask?

And, given that "work" is a drain on some sectors of the economy, probably a UBI. I'm thinking about people who work for Walmart part-time, but are getting welfare because they don't earn enough to survive at their jobs. Why are we subsidizing Walmart when we could be subsidizing workers directly?
posted by sneebler at 4:49 PM on April 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

Bill McKibben's response.

I haven't seen the film yet (it's been that kind of week). I count Bill as a friend, as we lived in the same Vermont town for years, worked on the same projects (rural broadband), participated in town governance, talked about ecology and politics. He blurbed two of my books. He and my wife were both in our town's fire department together. I am in awe of his work, his vision, his selflessness - he's a hero to me.

So I'm predisposed to not like this movie. I will give it a watch as soon as I can, so I can do it justice and also respond more substantially in this thread.
posted by doctornemo at 5:21 PM on April 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

Ketan Joshi: A reheated mess of lazy, old myths
posted by zompist at 6:05 PM on April 24, 2020 [10 favorites]

The end of zompist's link addresses a frightening idea that I've heard everywhere since always and even believed at face value until I examined the likely origin, the motive, and the ultimate outcome of holding that belief.

Rhetorically gathering all our planet's various woes under the umbrella problem 'Too Many People' is the first part of the first step in a process that ends with the bulldozing of bodies of brown people into mass graves. It has happened before, like, a hundred times. And if there's anything I've learned from the past 4 years it's that there is nothing intrinsically noble about the present that prevents the atrocities of the past from happening again. The proverbial eternal vigilance is necessary, but I fear it may not be sufficient.
posted by Horkus at 7:23 PM on April 24, 2020 [10 favorites]

The more I think about this asinine film, the angrier I get, and frankly at this point in the week I'm inclined to believe that anyone who's seen the film and still supports/endorses this POS is a closet Nazi or so spectacularly naive and ill-educated on the topic as to be a Nazi stooge. The whole thing is so spectacularly dishonest -- the makers should just go ahead, don their fancy little deaths-head cap, goose-step around in public with an Iron Cross on their chest and be done with it.
posted by aramaic at 8:18 PM on April 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Horkus, it may be relevant that Hitler was a Malthusian-- he thought that there wasn't going to be enough food to go around, so he wanted to reserve it for the Germans he preferred.

He didn't have much access to brown people. He put a lot of white and whitish people into mass graves.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 9:52 PM on April 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ketan Joshi (who is writing a book about climate justice): Planet of the humans: A reheated mess of lazy, old myths
posted by gwint at 10:15 PM on April 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

I am so relieved to see the many criticisms of this film here. A friend sent it to me and became very insistent that I watch it. Without knowing its content I said it was too depressing for Earth Day (I am already dealing with depression, avoiding TV news etc.) and maybe would look at it later.

This sent her off on a rant about solar power, wind power being no solution, and some really scary stuff about Zero Population Growth and how we should all advise our grandhildren not to have kids! We are both grandmothers of young children. I came back with the obvious, that it was sounding like eugenics which always leads to Old White Men deciding who can reproduce, and she started to go on about "social engineering" being a positive thing, and other stuff that sounded very unlike her usual liberal point of view. Yes, she did accuse me of "having my head in the sand" and other insults.

It did reek of Fascist thinking to me, and now I do not intend to watch it, nor to engage in further discussion with this friend on this subject. I find it alarming how this film can influence someone who is otherwise smart to uncritically embrace the whole thing.

Thanks to those who posted the Ketan Joshi article here.
posted by mermayd at 5:28 AM on April 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

Ground level gets about 1kwH/M^2 per day from the sun. That is a lot of energy. The theoretical potential represents more energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) 67 than worldwide energy consumption in the year 2001 from all sources combined (430 EJ)68. [Via] There are some alternative photovoltaic systems in the lab that do not use coal, and photosynthesis can break the water molecule using only energy from the sun - so hydrogen is obtainable without burning fossil fuels.

While fracking is horrible and natural gas indeed releases carbon, nowhere did they mention it releases less carbon than coal and oil. We haven't had a huge breakthrough like fusion, so transitioning to less and less carbon is the next best thing.

Technology will be the solution to the problems of technology. A great deal of human history has been the battle to insulate ourselves against uncaring nature. The question is how do we simplify and remain comfortable without wrecking the fine balance of the tiny biosphere? The pandemic is teaching us things we can do without.

So-crazy-it-might-work dept. - "potential energy" battery: solar-powered motor-generator hoists a weight during the day, releases it back overnight, generating power when partner panels are not. Very loss-y due to friction but powered by the sun, so it's not a "perpetual motion machine" and can afford to be inefficient. Obviously not practical on a very large scale, but hey, they said they wanted something that doesn't use chemicals! Also, running a power cable from eastern Europe to USA could provide solar power to whichever side is in night. Not to mention encourage peace.

Politics, greed, bumps along the road - all of that begs the question of whether or not we can do even do it. The missing half of this film would have explained that it is at least theoretically possible to provide clean power to the world, hence not at all foolish to be hopeful. All of Moore's other films end with examples of empowerment - why not this one? We're good at inventing things - all we have to do is re-invent everything. It should be kind of fun, actually.
posted by AppleSeed at 8:31 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

The "empowering" message my friend has taken from this film is that we need to limit population growth by any means. Here are a couple of her statements:

"We need a major societal shift that looks down on families with
> children instead of applauding them."
" future generations need to learn that bringing
> children into the world is to wish them lives of misery."

"unless we stop procreating threr's no hope. I think anyone who loves their grandkids needs to impress upon them that their lives depend on zero population growth."

She never said anything remotely like this until viewing "Planet of the Humans." She had 4 children and has 3 grandchildren. This is a dangerous film for the half-informed.
posted by mermayd at 9:21 AM on April 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

The thing that always roils me, when it comes to all the Zero Population Growth flabber, aside from its advocates' lack of commitment to contributing to that depopulation that they so crave, is that people, and particularly the readymade victims for this kind of agitprop, are also woefully and often willfully uninformed about what actually happens to populations when they stop being starved of food, energy, control over their lives, mobility, and fiscal resources, which is that population growth slows down, stops, and often reverses, and that's precisely what's happened to much of Europe and is projected for China and India, to name a couple sources of first-world gnashing of teeth. But instead, we get a million variations of how humans are a cancer, humans are a scourge, humans are horrible and the world would be better without us, which seems to me just a kind of sick self-hatred on a level previously only attainable through religion.
posted by sonascope at 10:37 AM on April 25, 2020 [9 favorites]

They're also ignorant of what happens to populations when they shrink and therefore age rapidly. You know how health care costs and pension spending seem to get harder to afford? That's what happens with the very modest aging that we've seen. What does a society look like when more than half of them are retired? Completely fucked.
posted by atrazine at 3:05 PM on April 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also. It's always people who've already had children or who don't want them anyway who say this stuff. No-one ever says, "I want children more than anything but I've chosen not to have any.".
posted by atrazine at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

But there are plenty of societies where people have chosen to have less kids, one assumes to do other things with the extra time and resources this gives them. Happily this is often after more women get better access to education and birth control, so there are ways to reduce population and have the world be better in other ways too.
posted by biffa at 6:23 AM on April 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've finally watched the whole thing. I had to rewatch some bits to be sure of them.

It has a few big ideas which it tries to weave together:
-biomass is really bad
-major environmental leaders and groups are corrupted by big money
-humanity is a threat to the world and needs to be wiped out, er, cut back, or control itself
-alternative energy sources are really bad

I can see a neoprimitivist argument linking all of these together. Or maybe a version of sneebler's call for us to return to "the late 19th C, only with modern medicine (I live in Canada...), energy efficient homes, effective public transit, and the Internet [plus] probably a UBI." But Gibbs does none of that. In fact, as several critics point out, we see him happily driving places fairly often, including the movie's opening scene. It leaves a viewer who might be persuaded by some of the points totally flummoxed as to what to do next.

As a documentary film, it was very frustrating. It's clearly a polemic, without giving opposition any serious treatment or presentation. At times it slows down to ogle pretty or terrible images for a while while the narrator... intones... some... words. (And I really disliked Gibbs' narration. Gah.)
posted by doctornemo at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Been seeing a lot of people in my life who really ought to know better posting this movie, with comments about how ooh it's so insightful and brave and aren't I brave for watching this difficult thing? Grateful for the resources in this thread to push back.
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:53 PM on April 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ketan Joshi has a detailed critique. Planet of the humans: A reheated mess of lazy, old myths.
All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient

It is clear that Gibbs has been trying to make this documentary for a long, long time.

“He is currently working on a film about the state of the planet and the fate of humanity”, read his bio, in 2012. ...

The extreme oldness of this documentary stands out. In one instance, he tours a solar farm in Lansing, Michigan, in which a bemused official states that a large farm can only power ten homes in a year.

It is the Cedar Street Solar Array, a 150 kilowatt 824 (that’s small) panel farm in downtown Lansing. Guess when that bad boy was built? 2008. Twelve years ago – an absolute eternity, in solar development years.
posted by russilwvong at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our local ecofascist recommended this highly, which says everything I need to know about it. Basically: older white guy refuses to accept anything but a suburban car-dependent lifestyle for anyone, not just for himself. Therefore genocide, because he doesn't believe it's possible for humans to live differently.
posted by asperity at 9:40 AM on April 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

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