1. Alan J Hesse
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. Monday, 27 April 2020
I just watched a documentary called Planet of the Humans by Micheal Moore and Jeff Gibbs.

I think anyone who is actively trying to do their part to fight global warming should see it. It has shaken me up pretty badly, and it has a direct impact on my work with climate change education. As an author of educational graphic novels about environmental issues and climate change I need to be super careful with the information I pass on to the younger generations.

I’m not saying that after seeing the film I'm going to stop believing in green technology, but it does raise many questions about apparent climate solutions that I, along with millions of others including the youth activists, have taken as gospel.

It is healthy to question what appears as a truth, and this is what this film does. I think we need to take the messages in this film seriously and be careful with what we take at face value.

I still believe renewable energy is the way to go, but just because something like solar power is fashionable right now does not mean it does not have a dark side. At the end of the day, I think the best take-away we can hang on to from the documentary is the solid validity of what in climate-change terms is called ‘no regrets’ actions: these are actions that, whatever the situation, will always be good to do. E.g. plant trees (in the right place, at the right time, with the right species), reduce our consumption habits, save water, stuff like that.

For me the documentary drove home an uncomfortable fact that I think plenty of people, including myself, already know but avoid facing up to: as a species, humans need to change. I'm talking transformational change. Its not enough to merely switch to cleaner technology, for the reasons that the film exposes. If that is all we do, its basically the same as kicking the same old can further down the street. The solution does not lie in technology alone, because the problem is deeper than that: the real problem is humans' continued, unchecked consumption of what are in fact limited resources. Those of us who work and try to live in the bounds of sustainability already know this, and the bottom line is hard to swallow.

Our planet can't take it anymore.

After watching the documentary you may feel, like I do, that the very least we need to do right now is simply be wary about cheerfully jumping on the renewables bandwagon as the perfect solution to all our problems. It is more complicated than that.

Watch it if you can, and share what you think. I had tears in my eyes and it deepened the low-intensity, background climate anxiety I started feeling three years ago.
Ultimately, the film set me back in the sense that my confidence in certain public figures, organizations and the promise of green technology has been shaken. I am seeking the truth, reliable sources of information that I can in turn safely and responsibly transmit to other people, including children.

But I also feel hope and enthusiasm for the challenge we face. If there are flaws in the renewables energy sector, as there are bound to be in anything new, it doesn't mean we can't fix them. Bottom line: renewables are not yet perfect, so we must be wary of touting that technology as THE perfect solution: it is not.

We must be especially wary regarding the politics and economics behind the renewable sector. Corruption lurks everywhere, and that includes the Green Economy. We need to do a lot more than just rig up some solar panels; the first thing to do is get our facts straight. Seek the truth.
Cutting down forests to create biomass as renewable energy is NOT a solution - quite the opposite. The fact that there are powerful lobbies promoting this is of great concern; in the grand scheme of things it is an example of the regrettable imperfection of the renewable revolution. We must acknowledge the imperfections, reject them and loudly, but still keep on moving forwards towards sustainability in the best ways we know how.

I wanted to share my tumultuous thoughts after watching the documentary. Looking forward to comments!
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
I agree the Documentary “Planet of the Humans” provides a lot to think about and that is what we as a society need to do. It was nicely put together, but it seemed to be missing part of the story, in order to paint a bleak picture of the current situation. There are however important nuggets that need to be learned by everyone.

The film suggests that what is lacking is a systemic view of the issue, and that is definitely true. Many of us who work on climate change issues have become siloed in our own particular niches that we don’t see the larger interactions within the system. There are efforts to address this, which are not mentioned in the film, such as increased scope 3 reporting, lifecycle analysis, and the circular economy movement which could have provided some hope at the end of the film. Instead the film spends some time on some of the problems with solar and wind, and a large focus on issues with biomass energy production. I would like to have more information on their sources for the emissions data.

Another lesson that we should learn from the film is to question what we are told. Few information sources undergo the rigorous review of the IPCC reports and even they have problems from time to time. What we hear about renewable energy may not be complete. The scenes about the biomass industry were the most concerning, it seemed that states are doubling down on the technology, without making sure the feedstocks make sense. Throughout the film I was constantly reminded of Duncan Austin’s recent paper “Greenwish: The Wishful Thinking Undermining the Ambition of Sustainable Business” where he describes a new perspective on business actions with regards to climate and environmental issues (highly recommended reading). Mr. Austin explains that companies may be working in good faith to make reductions, but can’t deliver because they are counting on factors which don’t exist or are not reliable. Maybe it is the same for the major environmental organizations in the documentary. They could be malicious and are purposely ignoring the externalities of the actions they propose, or maybe they are just taking and suggesting actions that they hope will solve the problem without the whole picture.

One final concern about the film is that it doesn’t provide enough of the data and methodology for the reported outcomes. The audience needs to understand what is going on and what can be done, but without deeper information the picture is bleak and we seem doomed. If that is what people take away then why should they try to do the right thing at all. I believe that Michael Moore doesn’t believe we are doomed. He seemed to be saying such in a recent interview about the film on the tonight show with Stephen Colbert and that leaves me with hope.

It does drive home the urgency and the fact that solutions won’t be painless or will permit consumption as usual, but then we have known for years that the throwaway culture is not sustainable. The problem is well put in a quote by John Maynard Keynes: “The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let them forget the old ones.” People think that growing is the only way to be better and that includes growth in consumption. We need to find a way to all forget that notion. Perhaps the current pandemic will help in that matter. I can only hope.

I would love to hear other people’s reactions, especially if they have more information on the emissions of the industries in question.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 1
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Thanks for your really thoughtful and insightful response Michael; this is exactly the sort of reaction I wanted. I also feel the need to know more about the methodology and sources behind the film's allegations. I am a big fan of Michael Moore's work and I consider whatever he does to be a trusted source in itself. But as you say, one of the main lessons of this documentary, is precisely that we need to always question the seemingly flawless. To always question the status quo is the very essence of scientific enquiry, and indeed personal growth. Let's hope we get more reactions from readers.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 2
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I think it's appropriate to cast a critical eye over the renewable energy industry, but the assessment needs to fact based.

My impression of Planet of the Humans is that it set-out to prove a deliberately controversial (ie. marketable) point of view, rather than making a sincere effort to find the truth. The film does raise some important and legitimate concerns, but it also includes a lot of logical fallacies, outdated information, and distortions.

Here are some critiques of the film's claims:

https://reneweconomy.com.au/michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-a-reheated-mess-of-lazy-old-myths-95769/

https://www.vox.com/2020/4/28/21238597/michael-moore-planet-of-the-humans-climate-change

https://medium.com/@btincq/10-reasons-planet-of-the-humans-gets-everything-wrong-on-climate-and-energy-400f04b3b2ee

https://www.thesolarnerd.com/blog/planet-of-the-humans-debunked/

http://masspeaceaction.org/skepticism-is-healthy-but-planet-of-the-humans-is-toxic/

https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/why-planet-of-the-humans-is-crap/

https://theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/28/climate-dangerous-documentary-planet-of-the-humans-michael-moore-taken-down

https://350.org/response-planet-of-the-humans-documentary/
Adam Thyer, Founder at GreenExecutive
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 3
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Thanks for your useful comments and links Adam. I am struck by the minefield that one is required to traverse to find real, unbiased information. It makes educating oneself and others that much harder to achieve, and when it comes to gets kids involved, the stakes are even higher.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 4
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Alan J Hesse, environmental problems and their solutions are extremely complex. The issues that need to be understood are technical and multidisciplinary. Even if someone is a world class expert in their field, they are still unlikely to have a deep understanding of the full picture because the issues span most aspects of nature, science, technology, politics, business, economics, health, and society. It's all interconnected!

One of the main reasons that I created GreenExecutive was to have a place where experts from all the relevant disciplines can offer their perspectives and collaborative on solutions. We already have an impressive range of experts on the platform. Hopefully over time, more of them will find time to contribute to the discussions.

I wouldn't get too despondent about Planet of the Humans. Its attempt to discredit solar and wind (currently the most important sources of renewable energy) was simplistic and wildly inaccurate. The links I posted above explain what they got wrong. That said, I think there are some issues raised in the film that warrant concern. In particular, I question the wisdom of biofuels and biomass power unless it's sourced from waste. I also agree that consumption and population growth are elephants in the room. Corporations and governments are often strongly opposed to doing anything about the former and many people refuse to even talk about finding solutions to the latter.
Adam Thyer, Founder at GreenExecutive
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 5
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Just read another nicely written article debunking Planet of the Humans:

https://www.thenation.com/article/environment/planet-humans-film-moore/
Adam Thyer, Founder at GreenExecutive
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 6
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Thanks Adam, I completely agree, and seeing the large number of reactions debunking the documentary is reassuring, even though it does pain me to see Michael Moore, who's other work I respect very much, put a foot wrong. When I was watching the video I did feel surprise at the claims being made, and I agree that their facts must be quite out of date. I share the concern though about the murky goings on behind biomass use...not something I know much about. Time to move on, I think!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 7
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There is a very real risk that this documentary is going to create division in the environmental movement. I therefore think it's important for people to know how dubious many of the claims are. Towards that end, below are a couple more stories debunking the film. The first is written by 350.org founder Bill McKibben who was demonised by Jeff Gibbs. The second is by Dana Nuccitelli an environmental scientist, writer, and author of 'Climatology versus Pseudoscience'.

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/political-commentary/bill-mckibben-climate-movement-michael-moore-993073/

https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/05/michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-documentary-peddles-dangerous-climate-denial/
Adam Thyer, Founder at GreenExecutive
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 8
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Hi. I can also recommend reading Bill McKibben's personal response in the Rolling Stone:

https://t.co/ScBWwMzoYK?amp=1

Best regards
Sven Harmeling
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 9
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Michael Moore has positioned himself as an individual fearlessly speaking truth to power. So it came as an enormous shock to discover that he's now spreading lies in support of the fossil fuel industry. I guess only he knows why he sold-out like this. It's not like he needs the money, he already has a net worth of $50 million! But whatever his motivation, he has made a film that attempts to discredit renewable energy with lies, distortions, and dated information. It's already been seen by millions thereby weakening the environmental movement and strengthening support for fossil fuels.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 10
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One of my favourite journalists George Monbiot has also written a story debunking this movie:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/07/michael-moore-far-right-climate-crisis-deniers-film-environment-falsehoods
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 11
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I note that a lot of right wing trolls and science deniers are now using Planet of the Humans as evidence that renewable energy and the environmental movement are some kind of scam.
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 12
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Jessica Martin, I'm seeing the same thing. So many threads about climate change on Facebook, Twitter, etc, now have denialists referring to Planet of the Humans as yet another excuse to do nothing. It has now had almost 8 million views on YouTube. The damage that Michael Moore has done to support for clean energy is incalculable!
  1. more than a month ago
  2. Climate Emergency
  3. # 13
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Here's another story highlighting the numerous inaccuracies and misconceptions of this documentary:

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/29042020/inside-clean-energy-michael-moore-planet-of-the-humans-review
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